Out in Jersey editor shares tips on publishing

Toby Grace, editor of Out in Jersey magazine, visited the College on Sept. 26 to share tips with journalism students on how to start careers in publishing, an industry with an uncertain future.

Grace, a graduate of the College, was invited to speak by Ed @ TCNJ, a networking group for students interested in magazine editing. His publication is the only magazine in the state written for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.

“From the beginning, we focused on putting out a quality publication with a long coffee table life,” Grace said. Out in Jersey was founded after Grace and publisher Peter Frycki bought the rights to a magazine for the Trenton Gay and Lesbian Civic Association. He stressed how important it was to have “something to get started with.”

Grace also stressed the constant challenge to develop articles about the most important issues for the LGBT community, “what we think they need to know.” The magazine receives hundreds of press releases for each issue, many of which are promptly dismissed, such as a book about how to raise gay dogs.

“No matter what we do, we’re not going to make everybody happy,” Grace said.

Out in Jersey introduces a “flexible blend” of advocacy and reporting, serving as the voice of the state’s LGBT community. The magazine uncovered several hundred police entrapment cases in Palisades Park, N.J., and was able to take the matter to the State House. Within a few months, the corrupt judge behind the cases was reassigned.

In another case, the publication assisted two victims of continuous harassment and vandalism from members of the local fire department. Grace noted how critical it is for a publication to maintain a strong connection to the community it is covering.

While the magazine has regular writers, editors and contributors, they all work from home and most of the layout is done exclusively online.

“The advent of the PC made us possible,” Grace said. Positions at the magazine are on a volunteer basis and only layout editors and photographers receive small compensation.

Even Grace doesn’t get paid for his work. “We do it because we want to,” he said. “We believe in what we are doing.”

Kim Pearson, associate professor of journalism, said, “At a time when there is a lot of turmoil in the industry, especially in print publishing, I think there is a lot that aspiring journalists can learn from the Out in Jersey business model.”

Grace also discussed the “balancing act” involved in determining the content-to-advertisement ratio for each issue, for which he has set a strict limit of 64 pages. Each issue costs between $10,000 and $12,000 to print, costs that are recouped through ad revenue. However, he cautioned that many publications become ad-dominated. “People don’t pick us up to read the ads,” Grace said. He hopes to one day be in the position to pay staff members.

Given the current state of the industry, Grace said he might eventually publish only a six-page issue, comprising advertisements and previews of online content. The magazine’s Web site, outinjersey.net, is constantly updated with news and reviews of books, movies and plays. However, he does not want to give up on paper issues.

“Without being on paper, you lack a certain seriousness,” he said.

The site also features opportunities for readers to get involved with the stories. “You never hear enough, good or bad, from the public,” Grace said when discussing the blogs on the site. “You still need that personal interaction.”

“(You need to) look at a mixed menu of options,” Grace said when advising students on beginning a career in journalism. “By and large, print publication is a dinosaur.”