Birthed with the gay rights movement after Stonewall, the Washington Blade was 40 years strong just a week ago. Older than some of its readers, it seemed a permanent fixture of the D.C. landscape.
Last night, 60 or so people stopped by the Hard Rock Café to give their condolences to the storied weekly newspaper, which abruptly closed on Monday morning. The paper's owners, Window Media, declared bankruptcy in connection with defaulted loans from the Small Business Administration.
''Lots of times you don't get to say goodbye in these kinds of situations,'' says Michael McGrath, who had worked in the marketing department at the Blade earlier this decade.
But the event, originally planned weeks ago as a promotional Blade Tweetup – organized through Twitter – wasn't just a wake. It became a christening party for a new publication to be launched tomorrow, Nov. 20, by the Blade's immediate past editors.
''My immediate reaction was to go away and hide,'' says Blade editor Kevin Naff about his ''worst day ever'' on Monday. ''I realized I couldn't run and hide. We have to honor the role the Blade played in our community and keep it going.''
The new publication will be named the DC Agenda.
''The word agenda has been used against [the gay movement] so much, we liked the idea of reclaiming it,'' says Naff.
According to Lynne Brown, the former Blade publisher: ''Our agenda is to continue putting out quality, trusted journalistic news that Washington, D.C., people, it turns out, love and want. The outpouring of support has really moved me to tears.''
That support was in effect Wednesday at the Hard Rock, where many former Blade employees and freelancers were in attendance, including several who helmed the paper back in the '80s. McGrath was just one of several who told Metro Weekly that he'd be happy to help ''in whatever capacity'' to help establish the Agenda.
Brown says they've got a team of ''experts'' already working out the kinks in establishing the new venture and ensuring that the Blade story and photo archives are salvaged. Right now, everything associated with the Blade except for the staff's personal belongings is in limbo, tied up in bankruptcy court. That includes the name.
For now, those working to shape the Agenda are doing so as volunteers. The new publication has received donations of office space and equipment. For Friday's inaugural edition, Naff and news editor Josh Lynsen were planning to pull an all-nighter Wednesday night.
The first edition, will be far more widely available online than in print. Naff says there will be only a few stories in total, focused on political news and developments, both local and national, plus a front-page introduction from him. Brown and Naff both say they've lined up ''many'' advertisers for the new publication. The Gay Men's Chorus of Washington was the first to actually cut them a check, delivered at the Hard Rock party.
Naff says he expects the Dec. 4 issue to be the first full-fledged edition on newsprint. Until then, the plan is to print on eight pages of regular office paper. Distribution details were still being determined as of Wednesday night.
The plan harkens back to the first editions of the Blade, printed as one-sheet flyers. Says Naff, ''It's not going to be a mimeograph, but it will be close.''