Last Wednesday, as we were sending our 11th Annual Spring Arts Preview to print, I got word that I.M.P. — which runs the 9:30 Club, The Anthem, and other prominent concert venues — was canceling its entire slate of March shows due to the ever-growing coronavirus pandemic. Their announcement was sobering, unnerving, and, it turns out, prescient.
Over the next two days, my inbox flooded with emails from arts and cultural organizations — including the biggest of them all, The Kennedy Center — noting that they were either canceling or postponing productions and events until further notice. In the week since, the situation has only worsened. Theaters canceled the remainder of their seasons. Bars and restaurants were instructed by Mayor Bowser to shut their doors. Cities across the nation ground to a halt, as businesses either moved to telecommuting or just closed indefinitely. It’s all for a good cause: Let’s do our best to stem the spread of COVID-19, let’s keep our city — our nation — as healthy as possible, let’s keep our health services from being pulverized by overwhelming demand. Let’s, as they say, each do our part to “flatten the curve.”
“We’re all in this together” seems cliche, but it’s a cliche that has never been more resoundingly true. We all have a responsibility to humanity to keep each other safe — we have to do the right thing. And a bit of pain now will hopefully be lessened by the actions we take in this moment. Can humanity rise to the occasion? I hope so. I pray so. We must also look out for each other in ways that are challenging and extra-compassionate. We have encountered a massive boulder, and we must all work together to roll it up a very steep hill and push it off the edge, so it tumbles into oblivion.
It would be all too easy to use most of this space to criticize the Trump administration for their clear and obvious mishandling of the crisis at the onset, or, even to this day, President Trump’s abhorrent, blatantly racist assignation of COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus.” I’ll save that outrage for another time, though I will admit that I am finally encouraged that our government appears to be doing the right and responsible thing.
I have been publishing a print edition of Metro Weekly since May of 1994 — nearly 26 years and more than 1,250 physical issues. So it took a lot of intense soul-searching over the weekend to come to the point where I could be at ease with the idea of suspending the print edition for a spell, shifting the emphasis to our already robust website and our fully interactive Digital Edition that can be viewed interactively at www.issuu.com/metroweekly (follow us there to be alerted when new issues drop), and which can be downloaded to phone or tablet, or browsed in home offices, or swiped through while relaxing in bed.
When you get down to it, it’s not the vehicle that matters, it’s the content. And I like to think our content matters. Quality has always been of paramount importance at Metro Weekly and that’s certainly not changing now. If we are asking you to invest your time with us, we’re going to do our best to make it worth your while.
That said, I want to thank our staff and freelancers, who have been astonishing in adapting to this new normal and fully understanding of the sacrifices involved. I applaud them. They are a selfless group who understand that now, more than ever, it is our job to provide meaningful, informative, and entertaining content. They have been — and are — nothing short of extraordinary. Metro Weekly is lucky to have this particular group at this challenging moment in time.
As some of you know, we have been publishing a digital version of Metro Weekly for a few years now, which replicated the weekly print magazine. This new Digital Edition, however, has required a gradual ripping up of the floorboards as we create something a bit different, a bit new. We are still in the midst of a reinvention, and with each passing week, we hope to offer interesting new ways to engage with and explore the magazine. Watch for clickable links, both in content and to advertisers (and support those advertisers as best as you can).
I personally invite you to be part of our journey as we explore this new version of Metro Weekly. When print returns — and it will return — it’s our hope the Digital Edition will remain as its own standalone entity, with many of the things we create over these next few weeks becoming permanent fixtures that you look forward to reading.
As editor, I have decided to maintain some semblance of familiarity in the Digital Edition. Out On the Town may be on hold for the moment, but Spotlight is firmly in place, its purpose in a state of evolution. Last Word remains a permanent fixture at the back of the magazine, of course, and Todd Franson has devised a novel way to keep Scene alive with something called Selfie Scene (it’ll debut in next Thursday’s issue). Please sign up for our email at www.metroweekly.com/join to be kept informed of how you can contribute to many of the exciting new sections we have planned!
It’s important to note, I think, that while we will be reporting on COVID-19 and its impact on our local, national and globally impacted communities — LGBTQ and beyond — we’ll also be looking for ways to help you cope with what might be an extended period of self-isolation. Content can’t all be persistently grim or we’d all go mad with despair. So it is our intent to find ways to engage you with interactivity, to find ways to make you smile, and to surprise you. It’s also important to note the Digital Edition’s direct link to our website — www.metroweekly.com — which we are ramping up with even more daily content, as well as our social media outreach on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Please follow us on all three, if you aren’t already — your support means everything to us.
The underlying philosophy behind Metro Weekly has always been one of community service. That’s more vital than ever — and we hope that both the Digital Edition and the website will provide you ways to both support and gain support from our extraordinarily strong, amazingly resilient LGBTQ community. We intend to keep our quality high, find interesting interviews for you to dive into, and maybe even plumb into our archives with some special editions for you to enjoy during this period of mass hibernation.
I encourage all merchants, theaters, restaurants, bars — everyone, everywhere — to join in our bold new experiment. When you post something to Instagram, tag us @metroweekly and we might add you to our ongoing story. Or send a story idea to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are open to any and all ideas, because with the print edition on hiatus, the Digital Edition allows us to explore the world beyond our DMV boundaries. Yes, our primary focus will remain the local LGBTQ community, but digital has no borders or confines, and so we welcome any and all communities that need a place to find comfort, solace, and refuge in a good read.
The situation we are all in is a profoundly negative one, to be certain. It’s one we don’t know the eventual outcome of. And that uncertainty is stressful, to say the very least. But at least Metro Weekly is in a position to help.
We can help inform you.
We can help entertain you.
We can help enlighten you.
We can be a companion when you need one.
We can be a tiny sliver of good in a world suddenly and starkly turned upside down. Add us to all the other slivers of good out there — and there are thousands upon thousands of them — and you get one heck of a formidable slice. It’s that slice that will nourish the world in these seemingly impossible times.
In short, we are here for you. And thank you for being here for us.
Please stay indoors, wash your hands, FaceTime your friends and family, and most of all, please, please, please stay healthy.
Publisher / Editor-in-Chief
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!