I was as shocked as anyone else when the Washington Blade closed its doors on Monday, Nov. 16. That day will go down as a day of mourning for the LGBT community.
I knew that the Blade’s parent company was experiencing financial difficulties. But I also knew that the Washington Blade was profitable even if no one was getting rich. Running a newspaper these days can be a bleak business but the online edition of the Blade had been attracting more than 250,000 visitors a month.
There are other newspapers and magazines for the LGBT community, but none with the news coverage that the Blade had. So I was heartened when I first heard from Lynne Brown and Kevin Naff, the publisher and editor of the Blade, that the staff was hanging tough and would begin a new locally owned paper. Though some may miss the old name and some will have to reset the homepage on their computers, it really isn’t the name that matters.
The heart and soul of a newspaper is its staff and we in the LGBT community were fortunate that for the more than 40 years that the Blade published the staff was great and cared so much. I know it’s because of them that the new DC Agenda will quickly become successful.
Many of the staff who are writing for the DC Agenda are institutions in our community. The first week after the Blade closed I attended a meeting between the LGBT community and the Metropolitan Police Department. The first thing I noticed wasn’t who was there, but that Lou Chibbaro Jr. wasn’t! Who was going to ask the MPD and the community to comment on the pertinent issues raised at the meeting? What came to my mind was the saying, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
I have always enjoyed reading Chris Johnson’s columns on national issues and reading about people, food and arts events in the Out in DC section edited by Joey DiGuglielmo. I read other LGBT publications in the District and Kerry Eleveld at the Advocate online, but no one covered the news, especially the local LGBT news, in the same way as the Blade’s staff. So when it was announced that the entire staff was staying with the DC Agenda, I knew that something exciting was happening.
I was a longtime contributor to the Blade and it has been an outlet for my writing and my opinions. I am always amazed at how many people stop me on the street and share thoughts on what I write. In Europe a couple of years ago, a friend of a friend was introduced to me and said, “You look so familiar.” It turned out that they recognized me from the airbrushed photo that appeared with my Blade column.
And, believe it or not, I really do appreciate readers’ comments, especially if they aren’t personally nasty but manage to stick to commenting on the issues I write about — whether they agree with me or not. The Blade published opinion pieces on all sides of an issue. They wrote about Republican Sen. Larry Craig’s wide stance and made fun of it, but then did a positive story on a gay Republican running for office in Virginia. I know that the new DC Agenda will have the same journalistic ethics and fair reporting that the Blade always did.
I have enjoyed reading the first condensed issues of the new paper that the staff put out. It was incredible how fast they got to work again, even as they are working as volunteers. I look forward to continue seeing many of the old bylines and I am sure as this new venture grows new names will be appearing.
I am glad there will be both a hardcopy and online newspaper. I am old fashioned and still read a newspaper with my coffee in the morning. I looked forward to Friday mornings with the Blade and now I will have the same feeling about the DC Agenda. During the day, I go online to get the latest news and since day one I have seen that I can continue to do that with the DC Agenda.
I know that the LGBT community has already shown that it will support this new venture. Both the readers and the advertisers will do so because they realize that we need it. We can’t rely on the mainstream media just yet to get our news right and advertisers need a place to share information with a targeted audience. The DC Agenda will be a success because it will represent the heart and soul of our entire community. It will be our new newspaper of record.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime local LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist.