A changing Blade over 50 years

by Joe Siegel
The Washington Blade is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. In its April 12 issue, the newspaper featured the many different logos the newspaper has used over the years.
What began in 1969 as a one-page, monthly newsletter compiled by volunteers and based in an activist’s apartment, now has 17 full-time employees and a sister newspaper in Los Angeles.The newsletter, known then as the Gay Blade, was published monthly. The 500 copies were distributed to the city’s gay bars.
Original editor Nancy Tucker left the Blade in 1973. Pat Price, who used the pseudonym Pat Kolar, took over as editor. It was also the first time in the Blade’s history that stories contained bylines, although nearly all of them were pseudonyms.
The Gay Blade officially changed its name to the Blade in November 1975 and the newspaper also became incorporated as a non-profit corporation under the mantle Blade Communications Inc.
The paper took the title of The Washington Blade in 1988.
“While the name has changed a few times in 50 years, the mission of delivering quality journalism for the LGBTQ market has always been the same,” said editor Kevin Naff.
The Blade was purchased by Window Media, a gay-owned media company, in May 200. Chris Crain, a co-founder of Window Media, became the Blade’s executive editor and William Waybourn its publisher.
The Blade re-incorporated as a for-profit, employee-owned business and changed its name officially to the Washington Blade.
In November 2009, Window Media’s parent company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy; the Blade offices were shuttered. Just four days later, the Blade staff published the first issue of the DC Agenda, a weekly placeholder publication.
In the spring of 2010, business partners Naff, Lynne Brown, and Brian Pitts purchased the Blade’s assets from the bankruptcy court and re-launched the Washington Blade brand. The new parent company was Brown Naff Pitts Omnimedia (BNPO).
In 2012, a new logo was unveiled. Blade appeared in a larger font with the word Washington streamed along the top. The words “America’s LGBTQ News Source” appeared below.
In 2017, BNPO launched the Los Angeles Blade, a sister publication headed by publisher Troy Masters, later adding veteran journalist Karen Ocamb as news editor.
Keeping the Blade fresh has been a top priority for Naff and his colleagues. The changes have been key to the paper’s survival in the midst of an evolving media landscape.

“My business partners and I have worked hard over the last 10 years to keep the Blade relevant by engaging with new technologies and diversifying our revenue streams,” Naff explained. “We have launched a sister paper in Los Angeles, created a non-profit entity, spun off a boutique marketing firm and created an events business, among other ventures. We, of course, still believe in the power of print, but now our advertisers have many new ways to work with us and to reach our growing audiences in print, online and mobile.”

Volume 21
Issue 2

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