Last year at this time, I predicted that 2017 would bring new attacks on the LGBTQ community from an adversarial Trump administration. Sadly, I was right.
Among those attacks we’ve endured this year: an attempted ban on transgender military service; a rollback of LGBT civil rights protections at the Justice Department; sending an attorney to a federal court to argue firing people for being gay is legal; and new “religious freedom” guidance that green lights the denial of services to LGBT people. Earlier this month, the administration said it supports the right of business owners to post signs in their windows announcing they won’t serve gay customers.
These attacks and other factors led to quite a year for us at the Blade as our work took on new urgency. Thank you to our readers and advertisers for your support this year. As has been my custom in this final issue of the year, a look back.
First and foremost, we published 52 issues of the Washington Blade while feeding our digital and social media platforms 24/7.
Early in the year, we began eyeing a new opportunity in Los Angeles, the second largest market in the country, and one that was underserved by alternative media. In partnership with gay media veteran Troy Masters, we launched a sister publication, the Los Angeles Blade in March. A diverse cross section of LA residents — from longtime activists to young digital media entrepreneurs to the West Hollywood mayor — turned out for our launch party in West Hollywood. In sharp contrast to Trump’s attacks on “fake news,” LA residents and businesses welcomed the Blade enthusiastically. Shortly after, we were thrilled to welcome veteran journalist Karen Ocamb to the LA team as news editor. Together, Karen and Troy are proving a dynamic duo, breaking important stories in LA and helping us build this exciting new enterprise.
Meanwhile, back in D.C., we kept busy covering the Trump administration, with our political reporter Chris Johnson toughing it out in the White House briefing room each day, sometimes going weeks without being called on as officials try to ignore and suppress alternative voices like ours in favor of outlets peddling alternative facts instead.
With our international news editor Michael Lavers at the helm, we undertook a deep dive into the plight of LGBTQ people in Latin America and the Caribbean, visiting Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Cuba, Chile, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic. We enlisted new contributing writers on the ground in those countries to continue our work. We published more than 100 news stories and op-eds from thought leaders in the region, often in both English and Spanish and I’m excited to announce that we will expand that project in 2018, starting with a January visit to Puerto Rico to cover the ongoing hurricane recovery effort and the Trump administration’s shameful neglect of the island.
In D.C., longtime senior news reporter Lou Chibbaro Jr. continued his unparalleled coverage of our local community, with plans to kick off 2018 with a comprehensive and disturbing report on the unsolved murders of local gay and transgender residents.
When word got out that the Baltimore Sun planned to shutter the 40-year-old City Paper, we started meeting with key players in Baltimore and decided the city needed an independent voice. To that end, we launched the Baltimore Beat in November, a new general interest alt weekly giving voice to the city’s underrepresented communities.
In other highlights: we won multiple awards for our journalism and our design thanks to the creative team of Jim Neal and Tiara Slater; we gave back to our local community by sponsoring a range of events and organizations, including Capital Pride, SMYAL and the D.C. Gay Flag Football League, among many others; we contributed to organizing the National Equality March, which brought thousands to D.C. on Pride weekend to protest the Trump administration; we hosted a singles party in February, brought comedian Kate Clinton to town for a Pride show; attended the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, interviewed scores of artists and celebrities thanks to the hard work of Joey DiGuglielmo and Mariah Cooper. We documented D.C.’s LGBTQ community in thousands of photos and videos thanks to photo editor Michael Key; kicked off the summer beach season with our annual party in Rehoboth; honored the Best of Gay DC in our annual special issue and ever-growing party; and broke innumerable stories about the LGBTQ community here and abroad. And it was all made possible by the tenacious work of our sales and marketing team, led by Lynne Brown, Brian Pitts, Stephen Rutgers, Phil Rockstroh, Joe Hickling and our friends at Rivendell Media.
As always, thank you for reading and supporting the Blade(s) — and now the Beat. The world needs more independent, alternative voices and we look forward to another busy year in 2018. Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season.
Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.