Dull New York Blade

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Dull Blade

If you were looking to build a strong, local news-focused, free gay weekly in the gayest and most media-saturated city in America, what would be the best way to go? Maybe you merge with a larger newspaper conglomerate, significantly cut back coverage of local news and culture, lay off or scare away talented editors and writers and cut your freelance budget, while announcing what a tremendous service you're doing for gay New Yorkers.

That's been the m.o. since Window Media, an Atlanta-based company that owns six gay publications, bought the Washington Blade and its younger sister publication, the New York Blade, last May. The New York Blade, which had trouble standing out in the gay media market, will now drop back from a weekly to a biweekly schedule on May 17, according to Chris Crain, Window Media's editorial director.

To add to the Blade's troubles, Paul Schindler, editor-in-chief of the biweekly LGNY, is retooling his paper this month. Community Media, LLC, which owns the community papers The Villager and Downtown Express, is acquiring LGNY, which will become Gay City News as of May 10. "We've always seen a need to better capitalize the newspaper," Schindler says. The acquisition allows Schindler to buy 100 new street boxes for his renamed paper, which he hopes to take weekly as early as June.

When Window Media bought the New York Blade last year, it invested in a newspaper that had never turned a profit. Don Michaels, the former publisher in New York, recently told DC's Metro Weekly that it was never successful financially.

Blade readers have always noticed a prevalence of reprinted DC-based stories in the New York edition, and a tendency to focus on celebrity culture to the exclusion of New York City politics. Crain claims that in the biweekly Blade editor Inga Sorensen will now "have greater editorial resources at her disposal than any editor in a competing gay publication," but recent developments at the two papers suggest otherwise. Four journalists have left the Washington Blade in frustration since the sale to Window Media. Meanwhile, "the arts editor position up here in New York has been eliminated," says an insider at the paper. And rumors abound concerning the New York Blade's financial ill health. Crain dismisses them, insisting that recent cutbacks have been "small, but nothing drastic."

Even so, gay publications are functioning in a peculiar marketplace. All types of papers and magazines have watched their ad revenues plummet over the last year, and the New York Blade, which claims an audited circulation of about 40,000, was struggling well before Sept. 11. Gay issues appear with increasing frequency in mainstream publications, making it all the more imperative that a gay publication distinguish itself in its coverage. But the New York Blade simply became a smaller, dull facsimile of Window Media's other papers.

"If you're producing a gay-specific product, you have to give readers a reason to pick your paper up," Schindler says. "New Yorkers are especially fussy." It remains to be seen if his rejiggered paper can do that.

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