December 30, 2020 at 8:43 am EST | by Kevin Naff
Surviving a year like no other
2020, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

How to make sense of the year that was 2020? As one prominent editor put it, we’re covering the 1918 pandemic, the Great Depression, the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and a presidential election all at once.

And as journalists, we didn’t always have the luxury of doing our jobs virtually. Blade reporters and photographers were hit with rubber bullets and pepper spray during White House protests over racial injustice. Our work critical of the inept, corrupt Trump administration was often met with derision, crude insults, and even threats. Our intrepid White House reporter, Chris Johnson, refused to switch seats with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins under reported Secret Service threats, as Trump wanted to punish CNN by moving its reporter to the back of the room. Johnson held firm and refused to move, winning praise from his CNN colleagues.

Meanwhile, we fought for the release of one of our own from ICE detention, Yariel Valdés González, a gay Blade contributor from Cuba who was imprisoned and held in inhumane conditions after legally applying for asylum. The Blade’s tireless Michael K. Lavers documented every step of Yariel’s case until he was finally freed in March.

When the Trump administration unlawfully ignored a Blade FOIA request, we joined the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and filed a lawsuit. The Blade filed a FOIA request for emails within the Department of Labor related to the Trump administration’s proposed rule change allowing a religious exemption in employment non-discrimination requirements for federal contractors. After a year of ignoring the request, we took action to force the release of emails that will shed light on the motivation behind the proposal and whether it was to enable anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the name of religious freedom. As of mid-December, the administration was forced to release more than 100 pages of heavily redacted emails. The case continues to unfold as we seek answers to these important questions.

And the Blade itself was not immune from the devastating impact of COVID restrictions and shutdowns, though we toughed it out and never missed a week of publishing our now 51-year-old print edition in addition to regular digital updates. As our annual Pride events and Best Of party were canceled, our events team, led by marketing director Stephen Rutgers, pivoted and produced a series of successful, informative virtual events. When the Blade sales team was faced with the unprecedented closure of city businesses, they worked overtime to find new sources of advertising and revenue. Our sister paper, the Los Angeles Blade, soldiered on as well, led by publisher Troy Masters, also never missing a week of publishing amid nearly a year of lockdowns.

None of this would be possible without the support of our advertisers, sponsors, and donors. Thank you for recognizing the importance of an independent, free press and supporting the work of the Blade. As we begin to clean up from the wreckage of the Trump administration, it will be critical to have the voice of the LGBTQ community inside the White House asking questions and holding the new administration accountable for the many promises it made during the campaign.

If you’re able and so inclined, please consider a donation to the Blade Foundation to ensure the queer community’s place at the table remains secure. Go to bladefoundation.org to donate.

Again, our sincere thanks to all of our readers, advertisers, and supporters for helping us to navigate this painful year. And remember: until the vaccines arrive, wear a mask and practice social distancing. Those of us with personal experience with this disease know how highly contagious and painful it can be. No holiday celebration or New Year’s party is worth contracting COVID. Stay safe and we look forward to celebrating the end of this nightmare in person sometime soon in 2021.

Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at knaff@washblade.com.

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2021. All rights reserved.