The Word’s Mr. Ted Fleischaker

Recently, Alex and I found ourselves somehow in the middle of two Gay Media Guru’s located in our very own Indianapolis. Bil Browning, co-owner and blogger of The Bilerico Project, had approached us about being their local “gossip columnists”, which is now one site where we currently write and have enjoyed all of our experiences with them so far. A few months later, we were contacted by Ted Fleischaker, owner and publisher of The Word(the midwest gay newspaper), to be his new gossip columnists taking over his personal gossip column. After some consideration, we had to decline as Ted explained we had to be careful what we wrote always considering his advertisers. Although we don’t necessarily agree with this, we do understand that in his business, it’s vital to keep the advertisers happy. Nonetheless, we found ourselves discussing why both disagreed so much about getting information out to all of us and why they felt paper vs cyberspace was better. And really…what made each of these men tick. They were both awesome enough to grant us with an interview and what we found was that both are pretty genuine guys who just feel pretty passionate about their own ventures. Bil’s interview can be found on The Bilerico Project/Indiana. We have honored Ted’s wishes by posting his interview here instead of on The Bilerico Project. Although it’s long, we’ve written exactly as it was given to us. Good Luck to both men…we feel you both have your place!!!

1. What is your full name and position?
Ted Fleischaker (yeah really Ted, not short for anything since mom and dad said the last name was daunting enough to spell) I’m owner, publisher, do delivery for and clean toilets at The Word & Up Down Town. I started the Word in 1991. Up Down Town (the straight paper many don’t even know I own) in 1993.

2. Do you consider yourself a gay role model/leader and if so, why?
Nope. Not at all. We have no “leaders” in the community as we all are entitled to different views and directions. The only way I’d like to be a role model is with business. There were five other gay newspapers when I started in 1991, and I have managed to make it, while the rest have gone into the history books. The most recent competition here died in 2005. I chalk that up to my dad instilling a sense of business which remains the same — gay or straight — of sales, working with customers and listening then matching what they say to what they can afford. It’s also why we collect over 97% of the bills and have no debts. I tell folks that my success is because I do not drink and I mean that. Sadly, some of my 1990s competition were alcoholics or used drugs. It’s hard to do business when you go out at 12.30 a.m. and are wasted before you get the contract signed! I have daytime office hours and stick to them so I am here for the customers and readers.

3. What is one movie that has drastically impacted your life?
Thoroughly Modern Millie. It was corny, 20s musical humour but has more truisms than any other film. That said, I rarely go to the theatre and can’t recall the last full movie I watched at the cinema, on DVD, VHS or TV! I just would rather watch documentaries or news plus I fall asleep after a half hour so I’d not want to snore and disturb someone in the next row!

4. What is a book you are currently reading and what is the last book you read?
Now: Charlie Connelly’s “Attention All Shipping” dubbed as “a journey round the Shipping Forecast” which is broadcast five times a day on BBC Radio 4.
Last one: “Along Lost Lines”. About the old rail lines which have closed in the UK with photos of the final trains and what the same spots look like now.

5. What did you want to be when you were 10?16?
At 10 I don’t recall, but by 14 a journalist and newspaper man. In junior high I was getting mail copies of The Miami News (it closed in the 90s) sent to me and at lunch in the junior high cafeteria I always was reading a paper!

6. If you could only listen to one CD for the rest of your life and it couldn’t be a mixed CD, what would you listen to?
Vivaldi Concerti / Fabio Biondi leading Europa Galante

7. What is something about you that we wouldn’t know by looking at you?
That for years in my 20s, 30s and 40s I did extreme sports. I have a gold medal from 1988 for biathlon, was a certified downhill ski instructor and raced dirt motorcycles and rode crotch rocket Ninjas until about 5 or 6 years ago.

8. What is your attitude towards the issue between blogging verses newspapers?
Long answer here but honestly, there’s no similarity. They are not competition because the business models are totally different. Newspapers, especially specialist papers like The Word and ones like The Jewish Post, The Criterion for the Catholics, The Recorder for the Black community, etc., thrive because of what they offer in the way of accurate reporting, news that’s directly of interest as well as the unique place they hold in their respective communities. They are also trusted by advertisers for these very qualities. The dailies are folding because too many are corporate owned now and they had a business model based on page after page of department store, classifieds and car ads. Now that there’s way fewer department stores (think Macy’s everywhere, whereas before Indianapolis and every city had many) and car firms on the rocks, that income has vanished along with the classifieds they depended upon which have moved to Craigslist and elsewhere — often online and for free.

Blogs meanwhile have very little hard news value to most in the community and generally are regarded as comedy, rants (sorry!) , politics or complaints/personal attacks to be posted by people with axes to grind or one point of view that no mainline news organisation would print. They have it over newspapers because they are immediate, but so long as there are CNN, BBC News and all the TV and newspaper news sources out there, I don’t see anyone going to a blog for real, hard news. They might visit daily or even several times a day to see one writer’s “take” on what’s up and where and when, but only after the person reads the mainline take in the daily paper or hears it on CNN or in the case of our community reads it in The Word or sees it on our site. There is also the issue that blogs for the most part operate free and therefore are not governed by economics of keeping advertisers happy and presenting all points of view — even if some of the views disagree with their owners’ ideas.

In addition, bloggers and their contributors are for the most part unchecked sources. The reliability of what’s printed is always up for question and unless a source can be proven to be authoritative and accurate — along with being immediate — people assign it to a secondary or lower level. This is not to say blogs are bad as we all want our opinions and views out there, but it is to say that much of what’s posted has little hard news value, but is instead commentary ON the news or someone’s way to “get back at” or “attack” someone or something involved in or reporting the hard facts.

9. Who has been your greatest influence, besides a family member or close friend?
The late Dr. Jack Fought. He was head of the journalism and communications department at Bradley University from where I have my journalism degree. He taught accuracy, fairness, charity and how to handle everything from deadlines to controversies. His words have taken me a long way and we remained friends until his death in the 90s.

10. If you had to donate $1 Million to the charity of your choice with no stipulations, what would it be?
WQXR, the Classical Radio station based in New York City. It was recently saved from changing formats by becoming public and deserves my support.

11. Greatest local performer?
I work with them all, am friends with many of them, so won’t play favorites.

12. If you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
Winston Churchill. Quotable, practical and interesting. He won WWII you know!

13. If you could have sex with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
Ivan Howard, my husband. I’m totally happy after 17 years. Just wish we had time for it a bit more often with our schedules.

14. Number one item on your Christmas list this year?
Being Jewish I don’t have a Christmas list…but for Chanukah and New Year’s probably a wish that I could sell the house my dad left my sister and I in Kentucky, so she and I don’t have that on our mind or plates in 2010. It’s rented but still a lot of bother and cost to deal with. A buyer please Santa!

15. Is there an afterlife?
Nope. You better have fun while you are here cause after that it’s just the cemetery or the crematorium!

16. Three major political issues facing gay Americans today?
a.) Getting our own shit together and reminding folks who place themselves as “leaders” that most of us did not nominate, hear from or vote for them to speak for us. And getting that message out to the political powers that be.

b.) Reminding the larger community that we are here, are not going anywhere, that we always have been here and we always will stay here. Also, that we don’t rape kids, stalk people or “turn someone gay.” We have no “gay agenda”, aside from jobs, love, paying bills and voting just like everyone else struggling in this economy. We really are your co-workers, neighbours and go the the PTA and sit next to you, so please don’t demonise us!

c.) Getting full national health care for all, so that regardless of marital status or relationships we all have our own coverage and equal access to care.

17. The major pop culture issues facing gay Americans today?
Just one: Learning to communicate again. We have all become so into texts, FAXes, instant messages, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, e-mails, etc etc. that we do not know how to really talk face-to-face and communicate anymore. For any understanding within or outside the community that needs to be resolved. Real conversation, I feel, would solve 85% of the ills of the world if we could but only turn off and learn to talk again.

18. Any comments on The Bilerico Project?
With the blog Bil has finally made himself somewhat “famous” which has been his life’s goal. He and I had a few dates 17 or 18 years ago and he also dated Ivan my partner and introduced us (on a 3-way phone call), so we go back a long way. From the beginning, Bil wanted to be “famous”. The first recollection I had was a black and white photo of him the Evansville paper ran standing alone, picketing Kmart there in the early 90s with a sign that said AIDS=DEATH. Bil has always wanted to be in the media as the “community leader” and the “spokesman” and has done a lot of posturing to get his 15 minutes of fame extended…and at that he has succeeded.

I do find it sad that he has some major axes to grind against folks he feels have stood in his way (including me), and for that I am sorry, but many of us have long memories. We also know that he’s never really, truly done the “homework” to deserve the status he aspires to. Last we checked he was never elected to head any major political action group like HRC, IE, Fairness Campaign, Tri-State Alliance etc. (save for ones he, himself started for the purpose of self-PR). Also, he and his partner and their blog have never been seen that I can recall as sponsor of or major donor to anything in the community — not IYG, Grande Masquerade, AIDS Walk, Pride, DEFA Fund, Bag Ladies nor anything else. He shows up on his blog to “snipe” at the community events he feels don’t fit his mold and says to the general press he’s a “community leader” but I have never seen any evidence of any genuine volunteerism, work or involvement where he was a worker bee and not the person in charge.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I did not say it’s rude of him to attack and allow libel to be posted against The Word and me personally all the time. I am not certain what he thinks he has to gain with posts saying we’re on “media death watch” and allowing folks to call what I publish “The Turd” because personal attacks merely lower the attacker and do nothing else. He’s been told by many of his own bloggers that very same thing, yet it’s such an obsession that he continues to do it. I think it’s time he considered moving on from the attacks, doing some good and positive things in the community and not trashing a media source which advertisers and readers respond to; which is what I own. I also see few/no local ads on Bilerico and it’s usually also the same folks posting over and over and over, which shows me and the community’s real leadership that locally his base of support is small. Most just laugh at his rants about The Word and me or my poor cats. As my dad taught, every knock is a boost so I really appreciate the free PR he gives me when he “goes off”. It is, however, time he grew up a bit and moved on to some real news as his trash talking is really not helping his credibility.

19. Long or short showers?
Too long, but partner Ivan is very patient and stays in with me till the end so he can squeegee the shower door. Our shower has two heads and fits both of us, and he designed out condo with that feature! Does he know me or what?

20. Boxers or Briefs?
Stanfield’s (from Canada) briefs. They fit best and no they didn’t pay me to say that!

Thanks Buddy!!! We really appreciate it and wish you all the best!

Eyes Open, We’re Watching!!!