Nominated for Editor of the Year at the Irish Magazine Awards, Brian Finnegan reflects on the massive journey GCN has taken since it was first published 28 years ago.
Yesterday I was at the Today FM studios to contribute to an item on The Matt Cooper Show, when one of the researchers said to me: “My first piece of writing was published in GCN”. It turned out she’d written a review in one of our annual youth issues, which she proudly told me she still keeps to this day. It was one of the many stories of personal connection with GCN I’ve heard over my years as its editor, and as always I found it very moving. I always get emotional when I hear how instrumental this little publication has been in so many people’s lives, in so many ways. I get emotional, because GCN changed my life too. My own first piece of writing was published in it, sewing the seeds for my career as a journalist, and through it I gained confidence as a gay man that I was missing.
In a country where new magazines come and go overnight, and some beloved ones remain national stalwarts, GCN is among the latter. In publication since 1988, it began its life as an eight page black and white broadsheet with a cover price of 20p, created by activists Tonie Walsh and Catherine Glendon. Its remit, in a world where the Internet didn’t exist, and a country where homosexuality was criminalised, was to create a sense of community for lesbian and gay people (bisexual, trans or intersex people didn’t have a look-in then), giving them information about what was happening culturally, socially and politically.
Twenty-eight years later, GCN continues to fulfill the same role, although it has also changed radically over that time. I came on board as editor in 2003 at a key moment in its evolution, when the publication had secured investment from Atlantic Philanthropies so it could try and become a commercially viable. The Celtic Tiger was roaring, but GCN was at death’s door. It needed a new vision and a total overhaul if it was going to tap mainstream advertisers and survive.
I was charged with the difficult task of straddling the divide between a high-end consumer magazine and a free community publication. The first thing I did was turn it into a full-colour monthly magazine, with big production values and professional journalism. Along with an incredibly creative staff and bank of freelancers, I filled it with a mix of features, interviews, opinion and snippets that were about lifestyle, culture, entertainment, politics, and most importantly the evolution of Ireland’s LGBT community at a time of huge change in this country.
Back then it was my insistence that LGBT people interviewed in the magazine would be photographed, and that they would be smiling…
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