What’s up at The Skinny?
Jess McCabe // 24 June 2008
Scotland’s freesheet The Skinny has dropped its LGBT section, and replaced it with a much-smaller, less gay section named “Deviance” – which has been put down to an editorial push to make the listings-based mag more mainstream.
As the editor, Nine, says herself in the article introducing the re-launched section, the move has been unpopular:
Hello and welcome to the Deviance section. It used to be the LGBT section, but now it’ll be covering a broader range of topics along the gender & sexuality spectrum. And, having conducted numerous behind-the-scenes focus groups, I’m all too aware that some of you are going to be less than thrilled about this. So I’d like to take the opportunity to say sorry; but also, tough. I hope your fears will be unfounded and that you’re going to enjoy the read.
There’s a good chance that she’ll produce some excellent copy, as I hear only good things about her journalistic integrity and ability. However, there are obviously some significant issues with branding your LGBT section as “deviance”, however trendily it’s done. Nine explains (a little apologetically, to my mind):
So do we really think you’re a ‘deviant’ if you’re queer or trans or a sex worker, if you’re into bondage or you’re asexual or you have a thing for Tesco checkout assistants? No. Deviance is subjective; no-one’s got the final say on what is ‘normal’. Nor do I subscribe to the belief that everything and everybody featured in these pages is by default edgy and groundbreaking – but I’m looking to see more honest and less sensationalist coverage than we routinely encounter in the press. Maybe it’s more about redefining ‘normal’ rather than dwelling on ‘deviance’. But Normal would’ve been a crap name.
Normal would have been a crap name on many levels, of course, but there’s always the option to opt for something else entirely!
On top of the dodgy naming decision, there’s the fact that while the remit of the section has been greatly expanded, the space devoted to it has also been cut from two to four pages, to one page an issue. Does this represent a sidelining of LGBT issues? A source close to the Skinny told me: “LGBT was gay-centric yes, but it was also the most politically written part of the paper. It was the only dangerous journalism they had.” My source adds: “They were more afraid of alienating straights than they were of losing a gay audience.”
Not good, not good at all.
Meanwhile, The Skinny publishes this extremely one-sided article on the push for the UK to adopt the ‘Swedish model’ (which criminalises men using prostitutes while removing all legal sanctions against women involved in prostitution). The article quotes only two people, both campaigners against this legislative approach. Not a word on what the “radical feminist” supporters of this approach think, except mediated through the words of those on the other side of the argument. It doesn’t bode well for balance in the forthcoming controversial issue of The Skinny dedicated to sex work.