"It’s not as easy as you’d imagine to convince large organisations or corporate to market products within the gay community," Rice said."The Star Observer has long prided itself on being the Australian gay and lesbian community's journal of record, and it does its share of investigative reporting. But it has been vulnerable to legal threats. In 2009, the Sydney Star Observer, as one of the pre-merger papers was called, reported on the circumstances surrounding a police officer who was suspended for telling a man in custody that he was "rooting a bloke", a reference to the incarcerated man's transgender partner. The police officer brought a defamation suit against the paper and others in a protracted legal case, and the Star Observer's publishers eventually settled. And Crikey understands there may be other legal threats to the paper. In an interview, chairman Sebastian Rice said the costs of legal advice had already been incurred. “There’s a series of legal cases we’ve worked through or almost worked through. [The crowdfunding campaign is] to help us get through the ongoing threats.” The money, if successfully raised, will also help restructure the business. A failure to raise it could be dire -- potentially leading to job losses or the scaling back of coverage. “If we don’t end up raising money … we’ll still be facing these threats and won’t have the money to help us do that,” Rice said. “That will have an immediate effect on how we can deliver services into the future. We’re a small organisation. We rely a lot on people who work very long hours and often volunteer significant amounts of their time.” The Star Observer has expanded its coverage and brief in recent years, becoming national in focus and vastly growing its audience through its website. But it’s been forced to make do with fewer resources. It’s funded almost entirely by advertising and so has been vulnerable to the shrinking ad rates plaguing the media industry. And while the paper has expanded and the number of advertisers willing to book ads in the gay publication is growing, its national audience requires national advertisers. And this can be a tough ask.“It’s not as easy as you’d imagine to convince large organisations or corporate to market products within the gay community,” Rice said. Still, when Crikey spoke to him, Rice was hopeful of raising the money. "We have a significant reader base," he said. "We have 100,000 online readers a month. And the circulation for our printed magazine is another 13,000 or so. None of these readers would normally pay anything to enjoy our product. But we're confident there's enough grassroots support out there for people to contribute some pocket change." The campaign has so far raised nearly $10,000, with 16 days left to run.
Star Observer turns to crowdfunding as legal costs threaten its future
A series of legal settlements and threats have pushed Australia's oldest gay newspaper to the brink.