Nation's Oldest Gay Newspaper Closes

The Washington Blade, an influential newspaper that serves Washington, D.C.'s gay community, was shut down Monday when its owner, Window Media LLC, ceased operations. The paper's editor, Kevin Naff, says the staff has met and laid out plans for a new publication.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Business troubles have led to the sudden shutdown of a chain of gay publications. In Atlanta, staffers of the gay and lesbian weekly Southern Voice arrived at work yesterday morning to find a locked door and a sign posted outside saying the business had gone under, same for the South Florida Blade. And here in Washington, it was curtains for the oldest gay newspaper in the country, The Blade, a free weekly that just celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Kevin Naff was The Blade's editor. He's here in our studios. Welcome to the program.

Mr. KEVIN NAFF (Former Editor, The Blade): Thank you.

BLOCK: How did you hear that the Blade was shutting down? What were you told?

Mr. NAFF: I arrived to work Monday morning, about 8 o'clock, and was met by two representatives of the company who had come in from Atlanta, and they informed me that we were shutting down effective immediately.

BLOCK: And what did they tell you about why that was?

Mr. NAFF: All I know is what I was told, which was that the company had been forced into Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which of course is liquidation.

BLOCK: The company here is Window Media?

Mr. NAFF: Yes.

BLOCK: And were there any clues that this was coming on?

Mr. NAFF: Well, there were clues, you know, there were problems, obviously, financial problems, but no one could have foreseen a complete shutdown like this. I think worst-case scenario we were expecting was maybe a Chapter 11, where we could have reorganized and emerged, but this was a total shock.

BLOCK: What was that day like yesterday in the office?

Mr. NAFF: It was - obviously, it was awful. We've got people who have worked there literally for 35 years, have devoted their careers to the Washington Blade. Everyone was very upset, but the tone of the day started to change late afternoon. As word got out, the response from the community has just been completely overwhelming. And we've had offers for free office space, free legal services, free Web site development, writers who want to write for us for free. I mean, I couldn't have foreseen, you know, the outpouring from the community. So it's really been incredibly gratifying and really helped turn our spirits around.

BLOCK: Hmm. You know, it's fascinating to think about the evolution of the Washington Blade over the last 40 years. I have a printout of the very first edition, Volume 1, Number 1, from October, 1969. It's just a typed-up, one piece of paper, The Gay Blade called then, just after Stonewall, I think.

Mr. NAFF: Yes.

BLOCK: And you know, the concern then was: Is the government running a security check on you? Are you being blackmailed?

Mr. NAFF: And to go from that in 40 years to now we have an openly gay man running the Office of Personnel Management.

BLOCK: For the federal government.

Mr. NAFF: Which is the federal government's, you know, basically HR department, is pretty remarkable.

BLOCK: And here in Washington, the City Council about to approve, it seems, legalizing same-sex marriage.

Mr. NAFF: Right. Who could have imagined 40 years ago?

BLOCK: Well, what happens now with The Blade? Is it going to rise again?

Mr. NAFF: The Blade will not, but the staff will. We have already met to lay plans for a new publication. I can't announce the name just yet.

BLOCK: Oh, please.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NAFF: But we're working on it. We will be putting out a modest publication this Friday. It might look similar to the very first one on that mimeograph machine´┐Ż

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NAFF: ´┐Żbut it will be something as a placeholder. And then the hope is that for the following week, we'd be back to a professional printing press and a full run.

BLOCK: What do you think the niche is that The Blade is filling, has filled for 40 years? What would be lost if The Blade were gone?

Mr. NAFF: Oh, gosh, you know, the mainstream media obviously is doing a better job covering LGBT issues, but they've got a long way to go. And The Blade has been for 40 years, was the place to go for everything from where to find a gay lawyer who specializes in the unique needs of gay couples to what's Congress doing on our issues, what are these politicians saying about us. So it's a wide range of stuff that still is woefully under-covered, I think, in the mainstream media.

So the mission stays the same, the people stay the same, the name will change, but everyone's really enthusiastic and excited, and we're ready to come back.

BLOCK: Kevin Naff was editor of the now-defunct Washington Blade, which will be reborn under a name to be announced soon.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.