Wednesday, January 30, 2008

HX Media Threatens Legal Action Against Former Associate Publisher

The drama surrounding the Boston-based IN Newsweekly and HX Media continues to rage with CEO Matthew Bank threatening legal action against former associate publisher Bill Berggren. Bank told Bay Windows in an article published in last week's issue he has already contacted Massachusetts lawyers after Berggren and two former accounting executives, Matt White and Beau de Mello, allegedly deleted contact lists from IN Newsweekly's computers before his Jan. 2 termination.

"Those contacts definitely were the property of IN Newsweekly and HX Boston (the local subsidiary of HX Media," Bank told the newspaper. "We are definitely contemplating all possible remedies for what we consider to be the theft and destruction of that information."

IN Newsweekly further provided Bay Windows a series of e-mails from mid-December suggesting Berggren began telling his advertisers about a new publication, N'Touch New England, he plans to launch. The troubled weekly also pointed out to Bay Windows that White reserved a domain name for the new newspaper on Dec. 6. Berggren denied Bank's allegations in an e-mail to Boy in Bushwick earlier this morning. He further pointed out he had contact information for various advertisers in his personal phone book.

This revelation is the latest in a series of controversies to rock IN Newsweekly and vis-a-vis Boston's LGBT media. Rhode Island correspondent Joe Siegel and columnist Chuck Colbert ceased contributing to IN Newsweekly late last year while former editor-at-large Fred Kuhr resigned at roughly the same time. Former associate publisher Tony Giampetruzzi is among the nearly half a dozen new writers currently providing content to the newspaper. And Bank recently announced he plans to change IN Newsweekly's name to the New England Blade in the near future.

The situation will clearly remain fluid but the fact remains: IN Newsweekly and HX Media will almost certainly continue to lose market share and credibility as these revelations and even potential lawsuits continue to become public. LGBT publications admittedly serve a specific audience each week. Some readers seek out reporting on local LGBT news and politics while others may want to know which go-go boy or drag queen will perform at the local gay bar on Friday night and yet even more want a combination of both. IN Newsweekly, in theory, serves that purpose for those who read it each week. But these latest revelations arguably leave this reality in doubt.

Monday, January 28, 2008

LGBT Voters Debate the Candidates, Issues

With voters in nearly two dozen states going to the polls on the media-dubbed Super (and even Duper) Tuesday next week, this writer found today's article on gay Democrats in the New York Times particularly interesting. The movement for LGBT rights collectively recalls how social conservatives successfully used marriage for same-sex couples to drive their supporters to the polls in 2004. The scene at the LGBT Community Center in lower Manhattan was one of despair and even emotional devastation as this writer recalls his coverage of that night for the New York Blade. This election cycle seems vastly different as LGBT activists and pundits express optimism at the three leading Democratic candidates who support the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' a bill which would add sexual orientation to the federal non-discrimination laws and opposition to the so-called Federal Marriage Amendment.

Neither U.S. Sens. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or former U.S. Sen. John Edwards support marriage for gays and lesbians but to assume LGBT voters would determine their support of a particular candidate based on one issue is simply foolish and arguably insulting. LGBT voters, like many Americans, concern themselves with pocketbook issues, the war in Iraq and other so-called mainstream issues that arguably transcend political affiliation or partisan politics. The fact LGBT issues have not dominated the political discourse of this campaign cycle is certainly no coincidence with a struggling economy, an unpopular war and other issues. But LGBT voters, such as those profiled in the Times and others across the country, will continue to make their choices. Some will undoubtedly focus on LGBT issues while others may choose to look at the bigger picture... let the games really begin!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dr. King: An LGBT Rights Activist?

The debate over whether late civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr., would have advocated on behalf of LGBT rights remains alive among many circles inside and outside the movement for LGBT rights. This writer thinks he would have based on statements made by his widow, the late Coretta Scott King, and others close to him that suggested he would have indeed brought LGBT Americans into his broader message of equality and human dignity. Panelists at a forum sponsored by WNYC and Civic Frame at the Brooklyn Museum this past weekend seemed to agree as they discussed Dr. King's legacy. Hindsight is almost always 20/20 -- as perhaps suggested in my article for EDGE New York on the forum -- but it remains relatively clear he would have become an LGBT rights activist. His faith and tradition of non-violent struggle would have almost certainly have mandated it.

With social commentators, politicians and activists continuing to debate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., nearly 40 years after his death, many maintain the late civil rights icon would have advocated on behalf of LGBT people. Panelists who participated in a forum moderated by WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer and Civic Frame President April Yvonne Garrett at the Brooklyn Museum on Jan. 19 to examine King and his impact seemed to agree.

Corey D. B. Walker, assistant professor of Africana studies at Brown University, said he feels King certainly included LGBT people in his broader message of equal rights. Walker further added King’s own faith would have mandated him to do so.

"King felt religion compelled him to act in a certain way because he felt human dignity was being violated," he told EDGE in a pre-forum interview. "What we see with King is... the extension of rights to communities throughout the American nation."

Eric Gregory, assistant professor of religion at Princeton University, agreed.

"King never used his faith to exclude anyone from the American promise," he argued. "King’s love should stand against vicious homophobia, discrimination and hypocrisy in high places and bigotry in all sorts of sacred places."

Gregory further concluded the black church remains a crucial institution to carry out what he categorized as King’s LGBT-inclusive vision. Walker criticized it for the homophobia that remains prevalent in many historically black congregations.

"A lot of work needs to be done in the role of the black church to develop a much more progressive stance with gays and lesbians in society," he said. "It doesn’t portray the essence of Dr. King’s beliefs."

Academics and especially LGBT activists are quick to point out King’s widow, the late Coretta Scott King, and their eldest daughter Yolanda were vocal supporters of LGBT rights. King famously drew parallels between the Civil Rights struggle and the movement for LGBT rights during the opening speech of the National Lesbian & Gay Task Force’s 2000 Creating Change conference in Atlanta. And she also spoke out against the proposed Constitutional amendment to ban marriage for same-sex couples in a 2004 speech she delivered at Richard Stockton University in New Jersey.

Bayard Rustin, the chief organizer of King’s 1963 March on Washington, was openly gay. He remained one of King’s leading advisers throughout the Civil Rights Movement.

Anti-LGBT organizations, such as Concerned Women for America, and some within the black church have criticized LGBT activists for using King’s messages and rhetoric to advance marriage for same-sex couples. The movement continues to grapple with the effectiveness of this strategy but Gregory said it does raise some questions.

"How to appropriate King and his legacy is a contentious and controversial plain," he said.

Walker singled out presidential candidates during a discussion focused on how King exerted his influence as a political strategist. He argued they fell prey to using religion to gain votes and political power. And Walker concluded this strategy fails to take King’s legacy into account.

"In many ways, the religion King was talking about is an inconvenient religion," Walker said. "We don’t see that religion in any of the candidates."

Walker further concluded King’s political legacy compels elected officials, candidates and those whom they represent (or want to represent) to expand equality to all Americans.

"King forces us to look at humanity," he said. "King forces us to look at the complete human being."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heath Ledger Found Dead in New York Apartment

The news of Heath Ledger's sudden death inside a Soho apartment yesterday afternoon came as a complete shock to this blogger and millions upon millions of others who had followed his career over the last eight years. I remain glued to local television stations here in the city and blogs, such as TMZ and E! Online, to attempt to gain any further news (or understanding) behind his passing. The news certainly came but it failed to bring any understanding.

Ledger's performance as Ennis del Mar in 'Brokeback Mountain' certainly touched millions of gay men and others who took so much away from the Ang Lee film. Cherry Grove resident Rodney Giles is one such person. He presented his one-man show "Brokeback Mountain and Me" at the Island Repertory Theater Company on the island last summer but he told this writer in a pre-performance interview for the Fire Island News Ledger and co-star Jake Gyllenhaal's character, Jack Twist, had an immediate impact.

"Having had to live that kind of life -- not even able to acknowledge who you are to the closest people in their life -- is one of the themes of the story which resonate the most with me," Giles said. "Jack and Ennis have a living presence in my life."

Giles is certainly not alone. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which heavily promoted 'Brokeback Mountain' upon its release in Dec. 2005, issued a statement hours after Ledger's death.

"Heath Ledger will forever be remembered for his groundbreaking role as Ennis del Mar in 'Brokeback Mountain,'" the media watch dog stated. "His powerful portrayal changed hearts and minds in immeasurable ways."


Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King's Legacy to Us All

Nearly 40 years after his assassination, academics, pundits and other observers continue to debate and examine the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I attended the "Embracing the Radical King: Prophetic or Passé?" forum sponsored by WNYC and the Civic Forum at the Brooklyn Museum yesterday. I walked away with a clear understanding the late civil rights leader would have certainly included LGBT people in his broader vision to secure equality for everyone. I also concluded this legacy is desperately needed in this divided world which so often lacks basic compassion and human dignity.

My own life contains examples of this indignity. My grandmother, for example, refuses to acknowledge her great-grandson because her granddaughter, my cousin, had him out of wedlock with a black man. She considers herself an adherent Catholic but
has no problem telling her granddaughter that her newborn son is not welcome inside her home. This appalling rejection is an affront to the love and compassion Dr. King and others spread through their faith.

Another example remains a born-again Christian friend who routinely asks me how it feels to live a so-called alternative lifestyle. He's in prison for 10 to 20 years so perhaps he has a lot of time on his hands to think about these theological questions but I can't help but think that Dr. King would not approve of the way people who claim to be good, virtuous people of faith subjugate those who choose not to subscribe to their narrow ideologies.

As a white gay man born and raised in New Hampshire, some may ponder how Dr. King's legacy impacts my life. But as a white gay man born and raised in the Granite State, his legacy provides a path upon which anyone who believes in true compassion, equality and human dignity should follow. This message transcends race, sexual orientation, gender identity, cultural and faith backgrounds. It even includes my grandmother who continues to deny her bi-racial great-grandson and my born-again Christian friend who uses his new found faith to question my sexual orientation.

Friday, January 18, 2008

New York Pays Homage to Mel Cheren

Hundreds of LGBT New Yorkers and others from around the country and beyond paid tribute to Mel Cheren, affectionately known as the "Godfather of Disco," at a memorial service at St. Peter's Church on Lexington Avenue last night. LGBT Community Center executive director Richard Burns, Taana Gardner, Kenton Nix, Dawn Tallman and Jeannie Hooper of WBAI were among those who paid their respects to a remarkable man who obviously touched so many people in this city and around the world with his music, his philanthropy and his love.

The disco music that greeted my editor and I and others inside the sanctuary seemed all too appropriate for a man who certainly left an indelible mark. As a relative newcomer to New York, I never had the good fortune to meet Mel or to even learn about his life and many accomplishments until after his death last month. But those who paid homage to him proved loud and clear that he really did make a difference. His spirit was certainly present in St. Peter's last night as friends, former colleagues and others honored him through song, prayer, tribute and even disco ball earrings. And it will hopefully remain alive and well in the years to come.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bushwick Gentrification Continues

I have certainly seen the impact of continued gentrification on Bushwick since moving into the neighborhood in July 2004. The city and private companies have renovated a number of buildings within my immediate area while the racial composition has also changed. The influx of young artists has also transformed the neighborhood into something that can resemble Williamsburg of the late 1990s or even the East Village a few years before that.

Gentrification remains a highly contentious subject for those who move into a new neighborhood and especially for those who have lived in an area, such as Bushwick, for decades. And recent comments about my recent story for EDGE New York proved these trends continue to generate controversy. The saying "first the artists, then the gays followed by everyone else" is perhaps an inappropriate cliche to describe Bushwick's continued transformation. But the neighborhood continues to change for better or worse depending upon each person's perspective.

Bushwick is certainly not unique among New York neighborhoods that continue to evolve from their historic or long-standing identities. It remains important, however, to acknowledge those who either put a particular neighborhood on the map or struggled to hold it together during rough times. A need to simply live in the city's next 'it' neighborhood, such as Bushwick, without truly understanding its identity and those who created it is simply tragic.

Monday, January 14, 2008

IN Newsweekly Continues to Struggle

With my health finally back to normal after nearly a week of fighting a particularly virulent stomach flu, this blogger can finally return to providing regular commentary and writing. One thing that apparently continues rather unabated is IN Newsweekly's troubles.

Sources in Boston told Boy in Bushwick in a number of e-mails over the last several days three sales representatives have left the troubled weekly since HX Media CEO Matthew Bank fired associate publisher Bill Berggren earlier this month. Ad sales remain precariously low while former Washington Blade publisher Jake Spencer has taken over the newspaper's day-to-day operations. And former columnist Chuck Colbert maintains Bank still owes him more than $2,000.

Friends and contacts in Boston have also confirmed IN Newsweekly's ever-shrinking page count (and reputation) in conversations over the last couple of weeks. And I even saw it for myself in the South End during Christmas. The lessons from this continued downfall remain painfully obvious for the broader LGBT media genre -- respect and timely pay for contributing writers and the need for publishers to consider demographic and geographic factors before entering into a new market. Hopefully other LGBT publications and publishers will heed the lessons HX Media has apparently failed to learn...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bushwick Emerges As City’s Next Artist Colony

Below is another story out of Bushwick to share on this rainy Friday morning from Jefferson Street. The neighborhood has certainly changed dramatically since I moved here from New Hampshire in July 2004. The influx of artists into the once-crime ridden swath of North Brooklyn is indicative of that change. Problems -- a surge in street crime, a lack of quality housing and gentrification itself -- remain issues about which locals and some so-called carpetbaggers are concerned. The neighborhood itself continues to change despite all of them. Stay tuned...

Bushwick sculptor Kim Holleman considers herself something of a pioneer. The Florida native moved into the once crime-ridden North Brooklyn neighborhood in 2000. She said the area’s large Puerto Rican population initially attracted her to Bushwick. Holleman added her neighbor’s laid-back attitude towards her and her work have enhanced her art.

"I can do what I want in my space," she told EDGE in a recent interview. "If I need to drive my truck onto the sidewalk to unload lumber, I can do that."

Holleman is one of a number of artists from across the city and beyond who have flocked to Bushwick in recent years as hipsters on 10-speeds, collegiate skateboarders in Maria Hernandez Park and expansive thrift shops have appeared among mom-and-pop bodegas, auto body shops and local teenagers playing handball. These new residents frequently point to the abundance of former warehouses and factories
converted into studio and performance spaces; the neighborhood’s relative affordability compared to neighboring Williamsburg and Manhattan; its proximity to the city via the L and JMZ subway lines and a creative energy they contend exists only in Bushwick. These factors have incubated one of the city’s newest and arguably most vibrant artist enclaves.

Writer and blogger Hrag Vartanian has seen this transformation first hand. He moved into a loft on the corner of Willoughby Street and Wilson Avenue in the heart of Bushwick in June 2000. Vartanian, who is the communications director for a Midtown non-profit, affectionately described Bushwick as East Berlin when he first moved into the neighborhood. He maintains the isolation (compared to Manhattan) and even an abundance of natural light in his loft remain two of Bushwick’s many draws.

"It definitely felt remote," Vartanian said. "I wanted that for myself and for my writing."

Sculptor Paul Oestreicher stumbled upon his studio in an old knitting factory on Grattan Avenue in early 2006. He pays $1,125 a month for an 850 square feet space. Oestreicher’s previous studios were on Lorimer Street and Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg. He noted other artists have followed him southeast on the Hipster Highway since he moved in two years ago.

"I’m looking out my window when I’m in there and see building after building becoming artist’s studios," Oestreicher said. "It’s really neat because I see an artist’s enclave starting up here."

Stephen Brock, a barista Wyckoff-Starr, a coffee shop on Wyckoff Avenue that opened in the fall of 2005, agreed. He moved to nearby Troutman Street from his native Cambridge, Mass., a year ago. Brock initially described Bushwick as barren but quickly took note of the artists from around the world drawn to Bushwick as opposed to nearby Williamsburg, Park Slope and other one-time Brooklyn artist havens.

"People from Europe and South America come here to find their own corner of New York tucked away from everything else," Brock said. "It feels like a different world."

Once symbolic of the urban decay that categorized wide swaths of North and Central Brooklyn during the 1960s and 1970s, Bushwick has begun to re-emerge from decades of spiraling crime and blight. The Bushwick Starr, a full-scale performance venue on Starr Street, opened in 2001 while Chez Bushwick opened on Boerum Street a year later. The 20,000 square foot workspace and studio 3rd Ward on Morgan Avenue is another of the various artists’ venues that dot the Bushwick landscape. But some remain wary of the prospect of crime in the once-troubled neighborhood.

New York Magazine published the account of a former Bushwick artist who was violently attacked inside the Morgan Avenue subway station. And an unknown assailant mugged this writer near his Jefferson Street apartment in July 2006.

North Brooklyn claims the city’s highest crime rate despite historically low statistics across the five boroughs. Increased gang activity in Bushwick and surrounding neighborhoods has almost certainly contributed to this recent spike. Brock concedes crime may discourage some artists who may want to move into the neighborhood. He added, however, others may feel attracted to an area, such as Bushwick, that has yet to undergo significant gentrification.

"There’s a kind of romantic feeling in a place that’s in the early stages of development," Brock said.

It is the very thought of gentrification about which Holleman worries most. She described the current influx of sculptors, painters, musicians and others into the neighborhood as Bushwick’s second wave of artists.

"These aren’t the real people who altered the spaces and made the community what it is," Holleman said.

She added she wants Bushwick to maintain its own identity.

"I don’t want the original community that was here to ever go away," Holleman said. "I don’t want to homogenize anything."

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Obama Is True Candidate for Change

Note: This endorsement reflects only the opinion of this writer and not the various publications to which he contributes.

Even though I no longer live in New Hampshire, I remain keenly interested in the state's first-in-the-nation primary. I have particularly enjoyed hearing anecdotes from friends and sources, especially those who had never been to New Hampshire before, about their experiences in my home state and particularly my hometown of Manchester. People truly cannot fully understand the spectacle that is the New Hampshire primary until they experience it first hand.

That said; Granite Staters finally head to the polls today after months (and even years) of campaign speeches, rallies and other events across the state. In talking with friends and family in Manchester and in other parts of the state, I have tried to get a sense of which candidate's vision for the country most accurately reflects my own progressive politics. I have tried to gain some insight into which candidate has the best chance to win the White House in November. And, perhaps most importantly, I have tried to secure a sense of which candidate has the most integrity and conviction to lead the American people for at least the next four years. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois is that candidate.

New Hampshire voters, like many others across the country, want a new beginning after seven years of the Bush administration and the partisan politics from both sides of the aisle that have paralyzed Washington. Sometimes it is necessary for a relative Beltway outsider to take office in order to shake-up the political status quo or to simply restore hope and faith into a system that many wrote off long ago as inefficient or corrupt. Obama exudes an optimism that inspires the legacy of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and others who sought a new direction for the country. He dares to express his hope for a so-called post-partisan brand of politics which will actually deliver tangible results to the American people tired of political inaction in Washington. And Obama consistently inspires people as an effective orator. All of these things are necessary traits for any great president.

Obama has certainly made some mistakes on the campaign trail, such as his decision to include "ex-gay" gospel singer Donnie McClurkin at a South Carolina campaign event last fall, Others, such as the Rev. Irene Monroe, have criticized Obama for not supporting marriage for same-sex couples based upon their religious affiliations. These decisions and positions certainly cost him some support among potential supporters but I truly feel Obama will include LGBT Americans in his broader vision to restore hope in this country.

This country desperately needs a new direction. And Obama remains the only candidate who can bring about the change for which so many yearn.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A New Hampshire State of Mind

With the gaggle of candidates, media and pundits currently running around New Hampshire ahead of tomorrow's primary, I felt it necessary to step back and acknowledge the satirical insanity of the whole process. This thought manifested itself in the below satire posted on EDGE New York this morning. I spent the weekend fighting a particularly nasty stomach flu but the the primary remains a particularly peculiar political institution which seems to galvanize the local, regional and even national partisan consciousness every four years. Enjoy!

As a native Granite Stater born in Nashua and raised in Derry and Manchester, I must confess that I once stood on a street corner in the Queen City shouting "We’re freezin’ for a reason," in support of U.S. Sen. John McCain [R-Ariz.]. This masochistic act of partisan loyalty (or insanity) took place in sub-zero weather ahead of the 2000 New Hampshire primary but my fellow campaign volunteers and I mirrored the enthusiasm the maverick GOPer brought to the state with his victory over President George W. Bush -- and the extra credit my high school American government teacher gave to anyone who volunteered for a campaign was an added incentive.

The political spectacle that is the New Hampshire primary is a fortunate or unfortunate part of live in the Granite State every four years depending upon who provides the commentary. Many Granite Staters take the state’s unique status very seriously while others, including my parents, would rather see the gaggle of candidates; media and pundits leave the state tout suite. We at EDGE, especially this native Granite Stater, recognize the need to have a bit of fun with the primary and so we have compiled a list of 10 things our politically-inclined readers should know about the storied New Hampshire primary.

1) Manchester is not Manhattan or Washington by more than a long shot. Bars close at 1:30 a.m. and the Red Arrow Diner, a popular hang-out for many of the candidates, remains the only eatery open 24/7 after Bickford’s on South Willow Street abruptly closed its doors more than a year ago. On the bright side, however, beers cost between $3 and $4 and mixed drinks are typically around $5. These prices are certainly a bargain for any urbanite who happens to find themselves in the Queen City on a cold January night.

2) This past month was one of snowiest Decembers in state history so any campaign volunteer who offers to help the tired Granite State voter shovel the snow at the end of their driveway is virtually guaranteed a vote for their respective candidate. Think independent voters!

3) The millions spent on political advertisements are much better spent on helping hard-working Granite Staters pay their bills. My parents in Manchester, for example, would potentially consider supporting a particular candidate who would extend this simple but necessary act of economic charity to them and other potential voters.

4) New Hampshire voters will certainly ask volunteers why they support their particular candidates. New Yorkers canvassing in support of U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton [D-N.Y] or native North Carolinians campaigning in support of former U.S. Sen. John Edwards [D-N.C.], for example, gain additional brownie points if they can talk about their hometown candidate and the accomplishments they feel he or she has made during their time in Washington. Anyone who arrogantly assumes a Granite Stater will support their respective candidate without a specific explanation will soon find themselves out in the cold faster than a Yankees fan supporting the Bronx Bombers during a World Series game at Libby’s in Durham.

5) Not everyone in New Hampshire wears red flannel shirts or considers cow-tipping a fun way to spend a Friday night. The bovine community extends its thanks in advance.

6) Check any resemblance of the Beltway at the state line. The fine residents of my home state will welcome the opportunity to show anyone the way back to Washington who foolishly thinks he or she can impress New Hampshire voters with condescending stories of partisan politics on the Hill or back-room dealings (or trysts). People choose to live in the state because it is not inside the Beltway.

7) The issue of taxes galvanizes Granite Staters like almost no other issue does. New Hampshire has no state income or sales tax. Any candidate - think billionaire Steve Forbes and his Flat Tax proposal - who dares to campaign in support of enacting these levies has immediately committed political suicide in New Hampshire. And even worse, voters will try to exile these unfortunate political souls to the so-called ’tax and spend’ haven to the south - Massachusetts.

8. Wool socks are a definite necessity for anyone who wants to canvass around the state. A source affirmed their value in an e-mail to me from Manchester over the weekend. January is cold in New Hampshire and it actually does snow Mary and Ethel!

9. Christmas is a time for family (or family drama), friends and for me at least a healthy serving of egg nog with a pinch of nutmeg and a nip of Bacardi. More than half a dozen political ads on WMUR immediately before the Walt Disney World Yule tide extravaganza certainly puts a cramp in many New Hampshire resident’s festive style. And they certainly fail to garner any additional support among the already weary potential voter.

10. New Hampshire residents will almost certainly take a collective sigh of relief after the remaining gaggle of candidates, media and pundits descend upon Nevada, South Carolina and other states -- but 2012 is just four short years away!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Politicians Descend Upon New Hampshire

Boy in Bushwick scored a few political brownie points last night with his predictions outside of his assertion former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson [R-Tenn.] would drop-out after a disappointing showing in Iowa. But the political frenzy shifts to my home state of New Hampshire.

If the conversation with my mother last night in Manchester is any indication, she and her fellow Granite Staters are in for a long and dizzying ride until next Tuesday's primary. And a number of LGBT New Yorkers are planning to head up to New Hampshire this weekend to campaign in support of U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton [D-N.Y.], former U.S. Sen. John Edwards [D-N.C.] and other White House hopefuls as indicated in the story I posted on EDGE New York yesterday. I join the legions of other journalists, pundits and others who will watch New Hampshire closely over the next few days.

Party loyalists contend not even feet of snow can stop them from supporting their candidates in the last days before the New Hampshire primary.

With less than five days until New Hampshire voters cast their voters in the first-in-the-nation primary, a number of LGBT New Yorkers plan to hit the Granite State stump in support of their respective candidates.

Daryl Cochrane, a resident of Hudson Heights in upper Manhattan, plans to go door-to-door in Manchester as part of U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton [D-N.Y.]’s last-minute efforts to court undecided voters. He volunteered for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean in the days leading up to the 2004 New Hampshire primary. Cochrane told EDGE in a recent interview from his Chelsea office that he looks forward to going back to the Granite State.

"It’s a unique experience because we are in close vicinity as New Yorkers and are able to do it," he said. "I certainly want to go and do as much as I can to support her [Clinton]."

National Stonewall Democrats board member and Queens resident Melissa Sklarz plans to canvass neighborhoods in Concord, the state capital, in support of Clinton. She said she feels she and other New Yorkers can effectively discuss how she feels the former First Lady has done for Empire State residents since they first elected her in 2000.

"I can give the good people of New Hampshire some good experiences about Hillary in the Senate," Sklarz said.

The Clinton campaign has chartered several buses to bring volunteers from the city to New Hampshire tomorrow afternoon. But some politicos, such as Sunnyside, Queens, resident and NSD board member Jon Winkleman, plan to go directly to the Granite State from Iowa.

He told EDGE during a brief telephone interview in Des Moines hours before Iowans arrived at the caucuses that he looks forward to joining Sklarz and others in their attempt to highlight Clinton and her record.

"It’s really important for New Yorkers to go out and stand up and say, this is what Hillary has done for us," Winkleman said.

Kevin Jennings, founder and executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, has also traversed the Hawkeye State over the last few weeks but in support of U.S. Sen. John Edwards [D-N.C.]. He plans to arrive in New Hampshire tomorrow to begin going door-to-door and calling potential voters. Jennings, himself a North Carolina native, asserted his belief as a New York resident that the 2004 vice presidential candidate is the best hope the Democrats have to reclaim the White House in November.

He even maintained the more than three feet of snow on the ground across most of the state would not stop him and his fellow volunteers.

"I’m happy to get soaked socks in New Hampshire if that’s what it takes to help people hear Sen. Edward’s message," Jennings joked.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Iowans Go to the Caucuses

Today is the day Iowa caucus goers cast the first votes of the 2008 presidential campaign. Candidates on both sides of the aisle have spent an unprecedented amount of money in what amounts to the longest campaign in American history. The rhetoric has dominated the Iowa (and New Hampshire) political landscape in recent weeks and pundits continue to serve as political armchair quarterbacks but today the voters begin to finally have their say.

I am not going to make any like-minded predictions as to who will come out on top in Iowa or disclose which candidate I plan to support -- this former New Hampshire voter is all too proud of his independent politics. But it does appear as though former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson [R-Tenn.], who largely failed to live up to the media-induced hype surrounding his campaign, will conclude his White House bid due to probable lackluster showing in the caucuses. Congressman Dennis Kucinich [D-Ohio], who support marriage for same-sex couples and other progressive ideas, urged his supporters to back U.S. Sen. Barack Obama [D-Ill.] if he fails to garner sufficient support going into tonight. Others, such as U.S. Sens. Christopher Dodd [D-Conn.] and Joe Biden [D-Dela.], are also expected to succumb to low poll numbers and dwindling support in the Hawkeye State.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee remain engaged in a battle royale to the end. Both men, who are quick to point out their real or perceived socially conservative credentials, are almost certainly far too right to garner widespread support beyond Iowa and potentially South Carolina. I echo others who predict Huckabee will soon fade into political oblivion as his apparent inexperience becomes more and more known. Romney will continue to flip-flop until former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani once and for all solidifies the GOP nomination. I could be wrong but stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A Second Boston Massacre?

The new year brings even more HX Media and IN Newsweekly related developments as CEO Matthew Bank, partner David Unger and former Washington Blade publisher Jake Spencer reportedly fired a long-time Boston staffer this morning after eight years with the newspaper.

This termination -- and expected resignations to follow -- comes on the heels of a press release former IN Newsweekly editor-in-large Fred Kuhr, former Rhode Island correspondent Joe Siegel and columnist Chuck Colbert distributed [see below]. Colbert maintains HX Media still owes him more than $2,300 after he received a long-awaited check late last month. It appears as though the pressure against Bank and company is mounting but their apparent silence remains telling of potentially deeper problems with their gay media empire. But the reality remains, however, that mistreating long-time contributors who helped to establish the reputation a given newspaper, in this case IN Newsweekly, is completely unacceptable if not absolutely appalling to anyone who values quality journalism with an ounce of integrity. Let's hope Bank and company begin to acquire some in their future dealings with their ever-shrinking pool of staffers and contributors.


Four longtime contributors to IN Newsweekly cite lack of payment and new editorial direction, style for walkout

BOSTON - Four longtime contributors to IN Newsweekly, including former editor Fred Kuhr, have either formally resigned or stopped contributing to the newspaper after the new publisher repeatedly failed to pay them in a timely manner and ignored concerns over its new editorial direction.

The group - which also includes Cambridge, Mass.-based columnist and reporter Chuck Colbert, Rhode Island correspondent Joe Siegel, and religion columnist Rev. Irene Monroe - contend that these issues began last year after New York-based HX Media purchased IN Newsweekly. Previously, the newspaper was owned by local publisher Chris Robinson.

Under HX, the writers' paychecks were delayed for months after their work appeared in the newspaper. They were also troubled by the apparent new direction of the newspaper, which sacrificed hard news coverage in favor of more focus on local clubs and nightlife. Additionally, the new owner and editor repeatedly ignored the writers' concerns over this new editorial focus.

Kuhr, who was hired as IN Newsweekly's news editor in 1998 and was promoted to editor-in-chief in 2002, resigned late last month. “Under new ownership and a new editor, the newspaper has taken a new direction, and it is one in which I see less of a role for myself to play,” Kuhr said.

The group also wrote a joint letter to HX Media CEO Matthew Bank last month seeking a face-to-face meeting to discuss their various concerns. He failed to respond to the request.

"The letter sent to IN Newsweekly management was strongly worded, but left open wide a door for communication and resolution. Communication and resolution is what we ultimately sought, but management's silence left us no other choice,” says Colbert, who has written for IN Newsweekly for over a decade and maintains that HX Media still owes him more than $2,300. “The lack of response to our collective letter as well as my own letter to Editor William Henderson and HX Media CEO Matthew Bank points, once again, to the nature of the problems - heavy-handed and top down management, along with strong-armed editor/writer relationships, all of which is counterproductive to morale, especially in our industry and craft. Never in my 15-plus years as a freelance journalist have I ever been treated with such disrespect and lack of basic courtesy."

Siegel, who covered Rhode Island for five years, adds, “An attempt was made to address the paper's ongoing problems and to work together with HX management to make IN Newsweekly a higher quality publication. We were asking for some explanations as to why there was suddenly less money available for writers while at the same time advertisements were being placed for new positions. The lack of response was dismaying and emblematic of a lack of vision for the newspaper.”