Commentary

Lesbian reporter fired by prominent queer publication for being too old

Longtime activist and digital media leader Mike Rogers, co-owner of news site RawStory, was even more blunt.

“It is astonishing to me that a publisher would say they basically fired someone so they could hire a younger person,” he said. “How can we expect new generations to learn about our past if we do not have seasoned reporters producing content and educating younger LGBTQ people?”

Ocamb, for her part, agrees with that assessment. “I think Bobby Blair’s comments were both sexist and agist,” she said. “But he doesn’t really know me. We never actually met so I don’t know if he knows or cares about my history with LGBT media.”

She defended her digital bona fides. “It’s a history that includes the digital transformation in media. I have been blogging since 2007 with The Bilerico Project and Huffington Post and I had my own successful blog, LGBT POV, where I gave a lot of young people the opportunity to post their first pieces.”

Ocamb added that age is not relevant to reaching a younger audience through digital media but that journalism experience is. “I came out of mainstream broadcast journalism and shared several ideas for producing unique news webcasting. So I do not think one’s age automatically renders someone digitally incompetent.”

Blair’s comments may have put his company in a dangerous legal position. “The only upside to the situation is that we now know Mr. Blair is an ageist who it appears may have broken the law,” Rogers added. “Not only is that outrageous, I would be shocked if that is legal in California.”

In California it is illegal to discriminate on age in hiring. This includes hiring a younger job applicant over a more qualified older employee just because the other applicant was younger; denying a promotion to an older worker, and hiring a younger person to fill the position; and engaging in acts designed to encourage older workers to quit.

In 2005, a federal court ruled in favor of a 63-year-old former employee who was replaced by a younger worker after the company announced its intention to “hand-pick employees whose mindset resides in the 21st Century.” After asking the employee if he was ready to retire, his supervisor sent an email to the company’s human resources department saying the man wouldn’t be able to “adapt to a rapidly changing business environment and new company management style.”

“It’s very clear that Frontiers will not be the trusted publication we have known for years, and never benefit from Karen’s smarts and archival knowledge,” Witeck said. “It’s all about trust and expertise – which Karen Ocamb owns in giant measure.”

Los Angeles may be known for the worship of youth and beauty, but Blair has effectively killed the one thing left that a storied publication like Frontiers can still bank on in a digital age – their reputation.

Attempts to reach Blair by telephone and email for comment on this story were unsuccessful. It is unknown how many other staff members of the company’s print publications were laid off or terminated or what their ages are.

UPDATE: Peter Jackson, President, & Group Executive Publisher for Multimedia Platforms Worldwide, responded to this article by posting a statement in the comments section. He did not attempt to contact the author to answer any questions, request any corrections, or lodge any complaints.

MMP ANSWERS “INFLAMMATORY” ARTICLE BY COMPETITOR

A report published today by our business rival Q.Digital regarding the layoff recently of our long-time journalist Karen Ocamb is inaccurate, inflammatory and malicious.

Multimedia Platforms Worldwide (MMP) purchased Los Angeles-based Frontiers magazine, a biweekly print and online magazine now in its 35th year of publication, late September 2015 with the goal of improving its value and importance to readers and advertisers, as we have with our other media brands in New York, Florida and other markets across North America.

Like any well-run public company, we carefully reviewed Frontiers’ operations, researched the market and developed a strategic business plan to streamline and improve efficiencies – thereby securing the magazine’s stability and future. Regrettably, that included the tough decision to cut three staff positions, including Ms. Ocamb’s position as news editor.

We lead the chorus of industry professionals who sing the highest praise for Ms. Ocamb’s work as a journalist spanning three decades in LGBT media. Her expertise in political reporting and in-depth social analysis, specifically from an LGBT perspective, is unequalled in the industry.

However, as a digital-first multimedia company whose major overall focus is entertainment and lifestyle, not politics or hard news, we must align and balance our human resources and budget with the demands of our readers and customers if we are to operate as a viable entity. These are routine, internal business decisions made by businesses daily.

Any suggestion that Multimedia Platforms Worldwide applied ageism to force Ms. Ocamb out of the company is ludicrous. We are an equal opportunity workplace and, in fact, have no fewer than three other employees senior to Ms. Ocamb who serve in other prominent positions within the company.

We find it distasteful that Q.Digital, a company on whose websites Ms. Ocamb’s writings have appeared, should use this opportunity to fan the flames of discrimination.

We call on Q.Digital for an unconditional apology and withdrawal of the article in question.

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