Out Front Magazine looks to the future under new female ownership

By Esteban Fernandez

//Addison Herron-Wheeler and Maggie Phillips at the Out Front office. Photo provided by Herron-Wheeler. 

After 44 years of telling stories from Denver’s queer community, Out Front Magazine has a new milestone to celebrate. As of October 2020, Addison Herron-Wheeler and Maggie Phillips are the magazine’s first female owners since its first issue in 1976.

“When I started six years ago, it was definitely more geared towards gay men. There was some inclusivity but definitely not enough,” Phillips said. “I’ve seen it evolve for the last three years to be way more inclusive of all of the rainbow.”

Herron-Wheeler and Phillips are taking ownership of a space that, despite its overall marginalization, is still the domain of cis-gendered white men. Out of the many LGBTQ+ focused publications in the United States, Philips said only eight or nine are owned by women. The lack of representation among media ownership impacts the type of stories that publications like Out Front produce. 

The same eyeball calculus that drives mainstream press organizations like The Denver Post or Colorado Public Radio also plays a part in Out Front’s decision making. Phillips said that today, the outlet’s readership is roughly split down the middle between men and women. There’s also a decent chunk of non-binary readership. Although the readership statistics Out Front uses to track engagement doesn’t take into account non-binary people, that demographic does comment and leave posts on published articles. Phillips said she knows that the magazine is starting to make a real impact in the community to make everyone feel included. 

That drive toward inclusivity was never a given, especially since 80% of the readership used to be men. Herron-Wheeler said that when she started as editor, there was pushback against her efforts to expand Out Front’s scope past its usual confines. 

“I definitely had to fight some battles in terms of female representation, making sure that we are catering to women, to people of color, to trans people, to really the whole spectrum instead of just cis gay men,” Herron-Wheeler said. 

The civil rights movement over the summer also helped with Out Front’s mission to become more intersectional. As the George Floyd protests drove a reckoning over inclusivity and representation in newsrooms around the country, the magazine made a conscious effort to highlight a lot of people of color. Besides their ongoing coverage, they also looked at past coverage and found any place where the magazine had fallen short on diversity. The goal was to focus on people and the achievements that Out Front wanted to highlight but also make sure intersectionality was part of the discussion. 

Although it’s not the publication’s place to dictate trends, Herron-Wheeler did say it was their job to reflect what they see. She said they often received comments from readers saying they didn’t see themselves in the pages.

“I know when I came on board, I felt like I wasn’t seeing enough bisexual representation,” she said. “And I think that through trying to make sure all the voices are heard, we’ve been able to better reflect what’s been going on in the community, which is now a lot more intersectional.”

Pushing for more inclusivity in Out Front’s pages also influences the community in turn, she said. 

Among the changes Herron-Wheeler and Phillips plan to bring to the outlet is the move to a 12-issue cycle instead of producing 24 per year. The move ensures that Out Front’s staff can pay more attention to detail and style. This saves them from the crunch of having to put out two magazines a month. They also plan on expanding digital offerings as well. Currently, the publication is in the process of revamping its podcast, previously known as “The OUT ‘cast.” The new name, “The OFM Podcast,” is more in line with the revamping of the brand that Herron-Wheeler and Phillips are embarking on. It’s produced by Ray Manzari, one of their writers, and will explore the many voices of Denver’s queer community.

The first issue under new management has already been released. A restock is planned for the middle of the month for those that miss out on picking up a copy. The magazine can be picked up at Out Front’s headquarters at 3100 North Downing St., or at any location shown on the map on their website

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