OpEd: No Robert Boo We Are Not ‘Fake News’

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I had an interesting conversation with a local businessman while we were discussing his advertising contract. He complimented SFGN, saying that he had been foolish for not advertising in it for years.

"I just assumed gay men only read bar guides, but one month with you taught me how wrong I have been. My business has virtually doubled."

No, I cannot and will not guarantee signing an advertising agreement will double your business volume, but I can guarantee that your ad will be seen and read, and the person reading it will have a credit card in his pocket. Our demographic parallels the American marketing age- 35 to 54. Our readers hire lawyers, buy homes, and go out to eat.

Our readers also know good deals when they see them, so promoting a 2-for-1 in your nightclub or restaurant won’t hurt you. It will enhance your business, while you contribute to sustaining a product which provides our LGBT community with actual news, along with a host of opinion pieces that generate honest discussion and legitimate debate.

Therefore, it was shameful for the CEO of the Pride Center to deride an SFGN columnist in our bi weekly newspaper, the Wilton Manors Gazette, for publishing ‘fake news.’ No, he was not. Sal Torre was publishing a real opinion piece, one that apparently set Boo’s hair afire, so much so he needed 2,000 words and 2 pages to reply.

And he got it. Where? No, not in the Pallette, Wired, Hot Spots or that worthless, crappy, gay magazine ripping off the LGBT community, Metro Guys. He got it in SFGN, because I am neither afraid of criticism or controversy.

Shit happens, even in the gay community. We have to report it, and we do, all our warts and wounds. Transparency is a disinfectant. Look, I want to see all our businesses and bars prosper and grow. I would love to see everyone celebrate and promote their success on our pages with their paid ads. But I am not going to roll over for any of them.

Never have and never will, and that includes nonprofits, whether it was Pride South Florida or the Pride Center. All the good they do, and all the great people they have working and volunteering there does not exempt them from honorable criticism or public debate. And trust me, along with operating one of the best pride centers in the country, they have great people working there.

Hell, when I was in charge of Pride Fort Lauderdale, my own newspaper criticized me and the organization. Even I am not exempt.

However, our columnists, and this community have an absolute right to engage the Center’s decision makers, and call into question the determinations they make on our behalf. That is diversity, that is democracy, and that is what we have a right to expect.

Last month, this newspaper wrote about the closing of a local and very popular bar, Tropics, which catered to an older crowd. It was a bit of an institution on Wilton Drive. It is encouraging to hear it is reopening soon. It was discouraging to have the former owner, whose carelessness drove it into the ground, attack SFGN as one of the reasons it collapsed.

No, SFGN did not shut it down. We were not the ones who failed to pay the rent, defaulted on the lease, or violated alcoholic beverage laws by unlawfully acquiring liquors from other than legitimate sources. No, Mr. Padgett, you did that on your own. We celebrated your opening, wrote about your parties, reviewed your restaurant positively and advertised your business. We did our job. Don’t go on Facebook after you close and blame us for writing about your failure.

I hope you heard those words, Matt Golunga. I would like to see every nightclub in town thrive, including your new place, Johnson's. But how dare you publicly and personally accuse me of causing your business opening to be postponed or delayed. Are you kidding me? I wasn't the one who put the red tag and stop work order on your structure for failing to get a permit in May. Our newspaper simply reported your actions were not in compliance with the local statutes, and as a consequence, you were cited.

I am not the one that held up your health license and inspection the last three months either. That's on you, man. You finally opened last weekend. Good luck. I hope you make it. There are quite a few bars on Wilton Drive. It’s a tough market. You have your work cut out for you. My suggestion is you ought to make friends, not enemies. Own up to your errors, don’t pass them off on me.

Our goal is to cultivate business relationships, develop partnerships, and report on the many great things our hospitality industry does. Think about the Manor toy drives at Christmas, the Alibi's underwear contests for Poverello, the Boardwalk's benefits for Miss Florida, or Hunter's 'Dog Days' for Abandoned Pet Rescue. We have written about all of them. We promote. We publicize. We illuminate. That's what we do.

But we also don't live in a vacuum or publish with blinders on. So if there's a shooting in your club, the cops raid it for drugs, or you get sued for screwing an employee or beating up a patron, guess what? Sad though it may be, there's a story you may not like coming your way. It's not because we relish 'eating our own.' It's because truth matters, and that applies to non-profits as well.

It is why 7 years ago SFGN exposed the leader of Pride South Florida for embezzling funds when there were people in the group that sought to cover it up. Our efforts led to him getting arrested, jailed and paying restitution of $35,000 before he died this year. That is why we exposed the Brian Neal Foundation, scams at Wilton Station, and leaders who lie rather than lead. That is what a newspaper does, regardless of who advertises in it. It is what my business partner, Pier Angelo Guidugli and I committed to 8 years ago, and we have stayed true to the principle.

Let me share the reality of owning a community newspaper this way. We cover the news. We don't cover it up. Has to do with something I learned 55 years ago when I read my first Spider-Man comic book: 'With great power comes great responsibility.' I hope we do it right. With a talented associate publisher at the helm, Jason Parsley, we do our damnedest every week.

SFGN uses the power of the press with restraint and caution. But to our many advertisers, you do and will get bang for your buck. We are read online and in print, picked up at hundreds of locations in 4 counties each and every week. Try us. See for yourself.

I hope that Tropics can emerge again, and that Johnson's becomes a popular and lawful speakeasy. We will be glad to write again about both. They can each enhance our lives and provide you with a memory down the road.

To our many readers, whether you are looking for a bottle of liquor or a lawyer, to buy a home or get a massage, patronize our advertisers – or at least the ones in Hotspots! Both of our businesses reinvest in our community, and so do you when you invest in us. You help make free LGBT publications possible, thus enabling all of us to portray our lives professionally and in print, online and on the web, illuminating who we are and what we do. And be proud. We showcase a lot more good than bad- because that is who we are.

 


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