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DC Agenda Surfaces to Save the Blade

November 25, 2009

Guest post by Anna Clark These days, if you visit www.washblade.com, you’re confronted with a deadening page of code, pockmarked by words like “unexpected error” and “invalid.” “Unexpected error”—I’ll say. It’s a sorry state of affairs for the once vibrant “news source of record” for the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community. The Washington Blade was one of the longest-serving LGBT newspapers in the nation, and the second-largest in circulation. Founded in the wake of the Stonewall riots, the Blade just celebrated its 40th anniversary last month … only to have its parent company, Window Media, abruptly file for bankruptcy weeks later. Besides the Blade, the bankruptcy forced other LGBT papers, include Atlanta’s Southern Voice and the Houston Voice, to also close up shop. You can listen to veteran Blade reporter Lou Chibarro, Jr. talk about reporting for the paper over three tumultuous decades on NPR’s Tell Me More; he was interviewed just weeks before he was out of a job. So what the heck happened? The details are unclear; few people are talking. San Diego Gay & Lesbian News reports that there were signs of trouble last February when a major stockholder in Window Media liquidated his assets, putting the Blade and all other publications owned by the company into receivership … but, especially because of its reputation and the strong community surrounding it, few thought the newspaper would go under. Indeed, just a week before the Blade closed, Rachel Maddow gave a shout out to the paper for breaking the news that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will very likely be included in the 2010 defense authorization bill. “We were ushered out the doors of our offices with no severance, canceled paychecks and more questions than answers about why this was allowed to happen,” is how former Blade editor Kevin Naff describes the last day. Now, even the Blade’s archives are nowhere to be found online. There’s hope, however: staffers aren’t letting go easy. Just last week came word that the passionate reporting of the Blade will have a place in a new paper. This next incarnation is called The D.C. Agenda, and it’s buoyed by a team of people that—for now—are all volunteers. Indeed, the spanking-new Agenda is already publishing news both online and in print. Lynne J. Brown is at the helm as publisher. According to the current masthead, Brown is one of only five women on a fledgling staff of seventeen. This points to what at least one former staffer called a weakness of the Blade—and what, we hope, will evolve in its new incarnation. For The New Gay Agenda, zack, the former Blade staffer, wrote about this last May, when speaking of the paper was in present-tense:
Most egregiously, the Blade treats women, transfolk and people of color as mere offshoots, something to be covered once every month or so and forgotten about in the interim. I once had to write an article about non-white social life in the city which compressed our entire Hispanic, Asian and Indian queer life into 650 words. I had to watch time and again as hot men were used as cover images for co-ed events.
In Naff’s piece outlining the resurrection of the Blade in its new form, he explicitly speaks of improving upon the paper’s core coverage by widening its tent:
The former staff of the Washington Blade remains united and DC Agenda represents our effort at continuing the important mission and work of the Blade. It will grow and evolve to include a much larger and more diverse group of voices. But the core of the Washington Blade’s work remains unchanged. We will cover Congress, the White House, the LGBT rights movement, the D.C. marriage fight, local hate crimes and other political issues important to the LGBT residents of the city.
It’s got good intentions, talented people, pride, and history—but the D.C. Agenda does need resources to help bridge this rocky transition. Folks who want to back them up can visit www.savetheblade.com to donate funds that will help pay for printing, distribution, equipment, and other expenses. Businesses might also consider advertising in this publication that has demonstrated its devoted audience. Anna Clark is a 29-year-old freelance journalist and fiction writer living in Detroit. Her articles have appeared in AlterNet, The American Prospect online magazine, Utne Reader, RH Reality Check, Common Dreams, Writer's Journal, Women's eNews, and other publications. She blogs at Isak, a literary and social justice website. She studied writing at the University of Michigan and Warren Wilson College's MFA Program for Writers.
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