By LYNNE BROWN, KEVIN NAFF & BRIAN PITTS
On Nov. 16, 2009, we walked into the Washington Blade’s offices in the National Press Building and were quickly intercepted by the parent company’s two remaining executives, ushered into a conference room and told the company had filed for Chapter 7 liquidation. They voided our paychecks and gave us until 3 p.m. to clean out our offices, surrender our keys and leave. By their thinking it was over.
That scene played out 21 more times as the rest of the staff arrived on an otherwise mundane Monday morning. The events of that morning have haunted and motivated the Blade staff ever since.
In the immediate aftermath of the bankruptcy, the Blade’s staff stuck together. We are proud to report that we never missed a week of publishing LGBT news. That is a credit to a cadre of volunteers, contributors, advertisers and vendors. Save the Blade efforts arose online. Donations came in from readers all over, the largest from Mr. Henry’s Capitol Hill lunch crowd. People helped us with office space and distribution. It was uplifting.
To mark the one-year anniversary of Window Media’s collapse — and the Blade’s rebirth — Lou Chibbaro Jr. undertook an extensive investigation into exactly what happened. His report is published this week. The bankruptcy raised many questions that we are still attempting to answer. Why was the company shuttered when there were multiple cash offers on the table for its various assets? Who authorized the bankruptcy? Was it legal and properly executed? What happened to the Blade’s extensive online archives?
The answer to that last question is particularly frustrating. The Blade’s online archives held about eight years worth of articles, photos and video content compiled by our staff, regarding your life, your history.
In an instant, those archives were wiped out by a website hosting company that hadn’t been paid. Window Media’s former executives were aware of the situation, but failed to act responsibly. No one took action and those one-of-a-kind electronic archives are gone.
What a difference a year makes. On the first anniversary of our 40th year of publishing, today we are excited to announce the next chapter in the Blade’s story: formation of the Washington Blade Foundation for Education and Research. The primary mission of the Foundation is to preserve the paper’s 40-plus years of archives. In addition, the Foundation will fund academic research into LGBT topics and support the work of young LGBT journalists with scholarships and other resources. And, of course, we will rebuild the lost website.
From 1969 forward, the Blade’s mission to cover gay content exclusively has resulted in a body of work that is vast in every sense of the word. Through the Foundation, we will work to recreate those lost archives and to digitize and make publicly accessible the Blade’s full 41 years of coverage.
We have assembled a top-notch group of trusted local professionals to serve on the Foundation’s inaugural board of directors. Joining the board are: Colleen Dermody, an experienced marketing executive and proprietor of Out to Market; Peter Rosenstein, an LGBT activist and Blade contributor with a background in non-profit management; Khadijah Tribble, a non-profit executive with years of experience in LGBT and HIV/AIDS topics; and Mark Meinke, an archivist and historian known for his work with the Rainbow History Project.
To learn more about the Foundation and make a tax-deductible donation that will help to preserve and digitize the Blade’s archives, visit washingtonbladefoundation.org.
Thanks again to all who have supported our efforts during the past year. We now invite you to join us for the next chapter. Please contact us with suggestions or if you want to get involved in the Foundation’s work.