Minda Honey has had a relationship advice column for several years with Louisville’s alt-weekly, LEO Weekly. More recently though, she’s begun thinking about what it might look like to launch her own publication, something she described as “new, different and fresh.”
“I just started crunching the numbers on what if I matched the rates of some other outlets, like how much money would I have to fundraise to do something like that,” she said. “And it didn’t seem like it would be an impossible amount of money to collect.”
In early July, she began fundraising, and is nearly three-quarters of the way to her $10,000 goal, funds that will go toward the creation of Taunt.
“The name Taunt… it’s a dare to local media to do better,” she said.
Why She Thinks Louisville Needs Taunt
Questions about how much it would cost to start her own publication didn’t come entirely out of the blue for Honey, who also directs Spalding University’s BFA creative writing program.
Her column had been on hiatus since late March. She said she understood that LEO was dealing with financial hardships because of the pandemic.
“So I said ‘no problem, just let me know when you’re ready,’” she said.
On June 5, LEO Weekly shared a link to a what-to-do-in-Louisville-this-weekend story on social media that said: “Protest for Black lives, then relax with a martini.”
Honey learned about it after returning home from protesting. She said she saw comments from local Black activists on the post go unanswered. So she took to her Ask Minda Honey Facebook page to point out how insensitive and disrespectful it was to conflate an uprising against racial injustice and violence against Black people with leisurely sipping cocktails.
“How is Cosmo going to have more nuanced coverage of the largest civil rights movement in the history of the world than the supposedly alt-weekly in one of the city’s at the heart of the movement?” she wrote.
LEO edited and then removed the post, and, that same day, managing editor Keith Stone wrote an apology on the website that same day with the headline, “We Screwed Up And We Are Profoundly Sorry.”
Stone told WFPL they’re working to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.
But Honey isn’t so sure it won’t.
She and Stone both said they messaged about it on Facebook, and Honey asked Stone whether LEO has ever had Black leadership and whether it ever will. Because that’s how you keep this from happening, she said.
Honey said she didn’t get a response to that for weeks, while Stone said he thought that Facebook conversation had ended.
On July 1, Honey posted on her personal Facebook timeline announcing Taunt.
As to Honey’s query about Black leadership at LEO Weekly though, Stone told WFPL “it is absolutely true” that the media outlet has not had representation in its upper ranks. But he said LEO did hire Talon Hampton, who is Black, in January as art director.
“It’s a priority for us and something that we’re working on,” Stone said of LEO’s hiring practices.
Stone said he also wishes Honey success with Taunt.
“I think more media in town is for the better,” he said, “with different perspectives and different writers and more eyeballs on culture and government.”
‘Different way to make it happen’
Honey said she’s staying focused on the larger issue of not enough Black representation, not just at LEO Weekly, but “across media and across publishing.”
“So at some point, if you are the type of person who usually benefits from these opportunities, you have to be willing to step aside,” she said. “Or if you’re someone that’s traditionally denied those opportunities, you have to figure out a different way to make it happen.”
She said, as a Black woman, she doesn’t look like a lot of the people running the big media companies. And she hasn’t had the “access and opportunities necessary to work up [the] ranks in a more traditional manner.” But that doesn’t mean she’s unqualified, she said.
“And it doesn’t mean that I have to continue to wait for someone else to proclaim that I am because I have the support of our community and they’re making it possible for me to maneuver around gatekeepers and to also help others do the same,” Honey said.
She hopes to debut Taunt this fall with six digital issues, each with its own theme.
“These are big, broad themes,” Honey said. “However, what I’m going to be looking at are the stories that don’t usually get told beneath those things, and who the storytellers are.”
She wants the people behind Taunt to better reflect the community. She also wants it to be an outlet for her to work with and coach early-career writers, as well as commission local artists and photographers. And in terms of how things get covered, she said they’ll be transparent about what biases the storytellers she hires might have.
“We all have biases and we’re all bringing those biases to our work, from the words that we choose to the stories that we choose to tell to the angle that we tell those stories through,” she said. “So isn’t it more beneficial to be transparent and then let the reader decide if they want to trust you.”
Louisville nonprofit Queer Kentucky is the fiscal sponsor for the endeavor.
Beyond the initial six issues, Honey said that’s TBD.
“If the readership is there, if the financial support is there… then we can go from there as a community and decide if we want to continue,” she said.
Whether or not the six issues are the extent of Taunt’s lifespan, Honey hopes it will provide leadership and vision in cultivating a more diverse and inclusive media landscape in Louisville.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify Queer Kentucky’s relationship with Taunt. It was also updated to clarify the timeline of the LEO Weekly post and apology, and Honey and Stone’s Facebook exchange.