As managing editor at Retrograde Communications, Savas Abadsidis ’96 helps guide the most prominent publications of the LGBTQI community. Retrograde is a modern editorial services and content development agency whose clients include the magazines Plus, The Advocate and a handful of Here! Media’s other sites as well. Abadsidis is part of a tightknit team of contributors developing content and devising the magazines’ digital identities while keeping the print editions relevant in a still volatile and declining media market.
“In many ways the incoming administration has breathed new life into our mission,” he says. “We’re seeing some market shifts as people are realizing that accurate, accountable journalism and content comes at a cost.” He cites Teen Vogue’s remarkable pivot in 2016 in publishing some of the best political reporting in the country.
After writing for The Advocate sporadically for years, Abadsidis was recruited in 2016 by the magazine’s new editorial director and Retrograde CEO, award-winning journalist Diane Anderson-Minshall, whom Abadsidis has long admired. Having succeeded in increasing HIVPlusMag.com’s readership, he now helps set the broad-scope strategy of the publications, leads staff meetings and manages day-to-day operations, as well as penning articles like a recent feature on a high school student’s efforts to cure HIV.
“For something like Plus (the print version of HIVPlusMag.com) which is a health and medical magazine, we look to package it at that place where Hollywood and activism dovetail, which are myriad,” he says. Recent issues have featured FOX’s Empire star Jussie Smollett talking about “his activism in the HIV and Black and gay communities — where there is currently a real HIV crisis, especially in the south.” The next issue is about aging with HIV and features many long-term survivors including cover subject and Olympian Greg Louganis.
“HIV is still a big deal and until everyone realizes that I won’t stop talking about it,” Abadsidis says, pointing to a recent CDC study showing HIV infections highest spike is among 13 to 24 year-old, gay identified males. “Thirteen! — how crazy is that? I mean, if that isn’t a call to action, then what is?”
2017 also happens to be The Advocate’s 50th anniversary, something Abadsidis is proud to be part of. “It’s a real honor to be honest,” he says. “I can’t imagine anywhere else I would rather be right now.” In addition to being at the forefront of issues affecting the LGTBQI communities, the suite of magazines are, he says, “part of ‘The Resistance’” — a whole tag that drives political reporting. “We’re addressing important conversations that aren’t being discussed elsewhere — everyday. There’s never been a more important time for good, trustworthy journalism than now.”
“It’s funny,” he says. “I find myself writing and having many of the same or at least very similar conversations that I had when I was at HWS. I found an article recently that I did for Waves that word-for-word addressed the same issues we’re facing now; you’d just have to swap out the players.” In terms of [my activism as an undergrad on issues ranging from economic justice, racism, to HIV, and progressive] politics, “I haven’t changed much. Ask Jodi Dean or Craig Rimmerman,” he says laughing. “There’s definitely a through line you can follow from my days at the Colleges to me now.”
“That,” he says, “should tell everyone the value of the Colleges’ education.”
Just a few months after graduation, Abadsidis became founding editor of the A&F Quarterly, Abercrombie & Fitch’s controversial signature magazine, and held that position through the publication’s seven-year run. Since then he has been executive editor of Marc Ecko’s lifestyle magazine Complex, co-founded B magazine for gay youth, and served as chief media strategist for Connected Health Solutions Inc., a progressive new-media public health company. His writing has also appeared in The Huffington Post, Maxim, OUT, Interview, The National Herald (Greece’s leading newspaper) and Fangoria, among other publications.
As a student at HWS, Abadsidis majored in English and comparative literature, and was a writer and editor for both Thel, the Colleges’ student run literary magazine, and Waves, a bi-weekly political magazine. He served as chair of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Friends Network and revived the Colleges’ queer community which was “sort of dormant at the time.” In addition he was appointed and served as the student representative on the English Department Hiring Committee, lived in the Writer’s House, and rowed on the Hobart crew team. “Hobart and William Smith is a place where you can really make an impact. That in turn, impacts you.”
The photo above features Savas Abadsidis ’96 on the Quad at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1994.