The Advocate has garnered the reputation as the news magazine of national record for the gay and lesbian community. The first issue of The Advocate was published in the summer of 1967, and released under the September 1967 cover date. The magazine was an offspring of the Los Angeles Personal Rights in Defense and Education (PRIDE) newsletter. PRIDE members Richard Mitch, Bill Rau, and Sam Winston collaborated on the initial design of the news magazine. The inspiration for the magazine came from Richard Mitch's 1966 arrest in a police raid at a Los Angeles gay bar. The mission of The Advocate was clear and straightforward: It was to be a written record for the gay community of what was happening and impacting their world. The first copy, titled The Los Angeles Advocate, was 12 pages long and sold for 25 cents in gay bars and shops in the gay neighborhoods of Los Angeles. The first run of 500 copies was surreptitiously produced in the basement of ABC Television's Los Angeles office … late at night.
The following year Rau and Winston purchased the publishing rights for The Advocate from the PRIDE organization for one dollar. Gay activist and author Jim Kepner joined the staff and the goal was set to make the magazine the first nationally distributed publication of the gay liberation era. Within two years The Advocate had captured enough readership to move from a bimonthly to monthly publishing schedule. In April 1970, the title was shortened from The Los Angeles Advocate to The Advocate, mirroring its national focus. Five years later, David B. Goodstein purchased The Advocate and maintained control until his death in 1985. While Goodstein's wealth bolstered the stature of the magazine, he often proved to be a troublesome leader. When he moved the magazine's home base from Los Angeles to the gay mecca of San Francisco, the publication lost its political edge and adopted more of a commercial tabloid format. After noted gay author John Preston joined the staff as editor and Niles Merton assumed the role of publisher, however, The Advocate soon emerged as the "journal of record" for the gay community. Many other publications—gay and mainstream—began citing the news magazine as their source for information.
Near the end of Goodstein's tenure in 1984, The Advocate returned to its original home of Los Angeles where it met with some debate and rancor from loyal readers and staff when it was redesigned as a glossy news magazine. During the next ten year period the magazine would go through numerous editors, including Lenny Giteck, Stuart Kellogg, Richard Rouilard, and Jeff Yarborough. Each sought to bring a fresh spin to the publication which was being directly challenged by the burgeoning gay and lesbian magazine industry. When Sam Watters became the publisher of The Advocate in 1992, the magazine moved to a more mainstream glossy design, and spun off the sexually charged personal advertisements and classifieds into a separate publication.
Because it covered very few stories about lesbians and people of color in the 1970s, The Advocate has been criticized by gay and "straight" people alike. It has met with criticism that its stories focus predominately on urban gay white males. Indeed, it was not until 1990 that the word lesbian was added to the magazine's cover and more lesbian writers were included on the writing staff. The most grievous error The Advocate committed was its late response to the impending AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) crisis during the 1980s. Undoubtedly, when The Advocate moved from a hard edged political gay newspaper to a mainstream glossy news magazine, minus the infamous "pink pages" which made its so popular, many original readers lost interest.
In retrospect, no other news magazine has produced such a national chronicle of the growth and development of the gay community in the United States. The Advocate was a leader in the gay rights movement of the 1960s, and throughout its printing history has achieved notable reputation in the field of gay journalism, oft cited by those within and without the sphere of gay influence.
—Michael A. Lutes
Ridinger, Robert B. Marks. An Index to The Advocate: The National Gay Newsmagazine, 1967-1982. Los Angeles, Liberation Publications, 1987.
Thompson, Mark, editor. Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate History of the Gay and Lesbian Movement. New York, St. Martin's Press, 1994.