Shoutout Aims to Fill a Void in Portland's LGBTQ Coverage
Marty Davis, a self-described "old corporate America person," traded her suit for a pen in 1995.
"I realized I was doing soulless work, and I [couldn't] do soulless work anymore. So I quit the corporate gigs and took this funny little part time job at Just Out selling ads," she says, referencing the queer Portland newspaper that ran twice a month from 1983–2011 (and then in a somewhat compromised format until it folded in 2013). "I took this vow: 'These people are weird, I'm not getting emotionally involved. This place is weird.' And then a few years later, I bought [the newspaper]."
Davis owned and published Just Out from 1999 until 2011, when the recession forced her to sell it. Now 71, she's been essentially retired for the last decade, and last month, she launched a new digital LGBTQ publication called Shoutout, hoping to fill the void Just Out left behind.
"There's been a gap of 10 years where my community's stories aren't getting told: our celebrations, our losses, our successes. There'll be a little dibble here, a little dibble there, but there's no one place telling stories," she says. Davis spent a few years as a nomad, and while she traveled the country, she'd get word that queer Portland cornerstones were closing—CC Slaughters, Embers, Hobo's—with little to no fanfare. "That would just be it. It just broke my heart that we weren't honoring our history."
So on January 4, she started what she's careful to call a passion project: Shoutout, a Facebook-only publication that features original pieces by a team of volunteer writers and also collates LGBTQ stories from other local outlets. To date, they've profiled people like Rusty Tennant, who helms Fuse Theatre Ensemble's OutWright Theatre Festival, and Daniel Quasar, the designer behind the Progress Pride Flag; Poison Waters produces a weekly Q&A column with local drag artists. To supplement the stories, Shoutout's feed is littered with links to events and festivals, and signal boosts for local LGBTQ orgs, which gives it the feel of a community bulletin.
On the vision board, Davis says, is Them, a national queer publication whose coverage strategies she'd like to localize. She's not necessarily interested in investigative deep-dives ("I don't have a Nigel Jaquiss") or platforming ultra-high profile events. She wants to fill gaps. "I don't want to repeat what people are seeing in their news feeds all day long, HRC or Basic Rights Oregon. We'll talk about their events, but it's gonna be our original work that's gonna make us stand out."
There are no immediate plans to move Shoutout from Facebook to its own site, though it's not out of the question in the future. "I'm not a real tech savvy person. My goal is [to] make it successful so people are aware of it, and then maybe in a year or so, somebody will come by and say, 'Hey, I'll take over for now,' and then they can do it," she says. "I'm old. I'm old to be starting something, but I want to get it started." For now, her major goals are cultivating a core group of 5 or 6 writers to contribute at least one original piece per month, and to grow Shoutout's audience. At press time, the page was nearing 2,100 likes, and Davis says posts can clock as many as 4,000 impressions.
Where coverage leads, she hopes, community will follow. She laments the decentralization of Portland's queer scene in recent years. Policy victories like marriage equality contributed to a sense that the community had "climbed to the top of the mountain," she says, and the recession devastated small, queer-owned businesses. She fears that, without something like Shoutout, the contributions of Portland's LGBTQ elders will be lost to time. "We can't let people with lifetimes of activism and work be forgotten," she says. "You need somebody with a pot of glue to put things together. I guess I just want to be a pot of glue."