Column: Happy 5th Anniversary

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It is a pleasure to celebrate with you SFGN’s Fifth Anniversary. How did it all start? In the late summer of 2009 I had some legal matters to discuss with my attorney, Norm Kent. That day, in his office, he told me he was considering starting a gay newspaper. I have always been militant and the idea appealed to me. According to him he needed four partners. I offered to be one of the four.

I soon found out I was the only sucker in town who had taken the bait. But I was still intrigued. We agreed to be 50/50 partners and took a huge leap of faith. The first issue came out January 25, 2010 and the rest is history. It has been a thrill seeing this newspaper grow and become a credible, respected, voice of the community. This is due to the hard work and dedication of our great staff and the support of our loyal advertisers and readers. I am very proud of SFGN and I look forward to another challenging five years. It will not be easy.

The same way video killed the radio star, the Internet, readers’ apathy and economics are killing newsprint. Americans spend over 250 hours a month watching TV and surfing the Web. Newspapers are no longer the predominant go-to news source; the Internet overtook newspapers as a news outlet a few years ago. Your browser, or a host of apps, can in fact replace print news. (but thanks for picking up this publication).

The irreplaceable role of newspapers, to dissect, stimulate, expose, organize and analyze the public debate, is threatened by a free for all chaos. Some of the largest websites are aggregate news sites, meaning they simply pull news from other sources.

Newspapers all over the world are suffering, or closing, and reporters are dwindling through downsizing. Who will dig up corruption, white-collar crimes, exploitation, abuse of minorities, political scandals, and big business cover-ups when there are no more reporters?

Who will listen to whistleblowers and question authority? Fact finding has been replaced by the hearsay of a blogger with a grudge. Editorials can stimulate thinking and generate proposals for progress, change and reforms. The founding fathers called newspapers "the market place of ideas.”

Politicians, business leaders, the Church, and now even terrorists, resent being exposed and would not mind seeing the newspapers go the way of the Long Playing records. Napoleon once said: "I fear the newspapers more than a hundred thousand bayonets.” Nowadays terrorists react to lines drawn on paper by pencils. On January 7, 2015 Islamic “Extrements” stormed the Paris offices of a satirical newspaper killing 12 people. Al Qaeda repeatedly threatened “Charlie Hebdo” for publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, among other controversial sketches, calling them blasphemous but at the same time ignoring the real pornography of how their religion treats women and gays.

Newspapers are the watchdogs for the public interest. There is a saying in Latin that goes: "Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes ?" – “Who Will Guard The Guards?” With the cacophony coming out of thousands of bloggers, or flimsy social media outlets, good critics and good reporters are an endangered species. Everybody is a blogger or a twitter and nobody reads anything of substance anymore. In the UK, The Commission of Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society, has branded the majority of online news as little more than "recycled 'churnalism.'"

The preservation of this invaluable freedom of expression tool has been successfully demonstrated in the European union where Governments have extended media support to all daily publications — regardless of the newspapers' political affiliations. While we take for granted all of our publications, gay rights activists in Uganda are risking detention, violence and death threats for launching an LGBT magazine called Bombastic. Their aim is to “share the realities of being gay in Uganda.”

In the past month a team of 130 volunteers handed out thousands of copies and are planning to publish the groundbreaking title four times a year. You can pick up SFGN, She, HotSpots, or any other gay newspaper, all around town, without fear. The Ugandan volunteers have already been detained by the police and threatened with court actions for trying to give their community a voice and a platform denied them by mainstream media and their homophobic Government.

In this country many think that reading and supporting a newspaper is a thing of the past. Gov. Sarah Palin made it very clear that she did not read newspapers. Why should she? She can get all the news she needs from Tweety Bird.

At SFGN we are trying to prove that it’s still doable. We have featured international, national and local news, entertainment and theater reviews, editorial columns, breaking stories, exposed crooks and injustice, made you part of all this by allowing your comments to be read by all as if it was an open forum. Yes, today we are giving ourselves a little pat on the back, seems self-serving but I like it!

We believe in what John Stuart Mill said: “if we silence an opinion, we may silence the truth.” Otherwise the landscape of America will soon resemble the 2007 movie "Idiocracy": a sarcastic comedy film where an average guy wakes up 500 years later and finds that everything has been dumbed down to the point that he is the smartest guy on the planet. Without doubt an uninformed and ignorant society is easy prey for dictatorship.

Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter — Thomas Jefferson, 1787.


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