Photo courtesy of MAD magazine.

New Yorkers love their Sunday New York Times. At least, they used to.

In its heyday, the paper had a dozen sections and seemed like it weighed 20 pounds. You could spend a day reading it. Many people did. 

For the past 40 years, Prakash Rao has operated a tiny, little newsstand in Greenwich Village on the same corner of Christopher Street and West 7th Avenue South. It is directly across from a neighborhood institution, Village Cigars. Same owner. Same newsstand. 

In the 1970s and 80s, Prakash Rao and his partners had to come in on Saturday evenings around 5 p.m. to start collating the separate sections of the Sunday Times, patching them together for sale. It was no easy task.

On any given Sunday morning, Prakash would sell 2,800 copies of the New York Times on a Sunday morning. It took some work. But times change. Ask Blockbuster Video. The world is becoming a digital universe. 

On Sunday, June 30, the day of New York’s 50th Stonewall Parade, I went into the Village. It was packed. Gay heaven. Men and women and rainbows everywhere, iPhone in their hands. There was Prakash, too, his newsstand open, his papers out front. 

I was worried with such a historical event unfolding I would be too late to score a copy of the NY Post, Daily News, or NY Times; that everyone before me would have bought them out. My fears were unwarranted. 

“We sell less than a hundred copies a week of the Sunday Times,” Prakash told me. “People don’t buy papers the way they used to.”

“In the past,” he added, “there would be lines to get the Sunday Times. We couldn’t put them together quickly enough.” Yes, the past. The world the way it once was. 

Every time I hear of another newspaper closing, a little part of me dies. Without journalists calling truth to power, corruption thrives like an untreated fungus. Accountability is lost, and power abuses the public trust. Dissent is never given a voice.

Without a local newspaper, sexual predators are not exposed. Charities designed for you line individual pockets instead. City commissions run roughshod not only over your lawns, but your rights. A fighting, local newspaper is the guardian of your liberty.

For years, I have heard from some business owners on the Drive in Wilton Manors that “We don’t need to advertise. We are already here. People see us.” And they did, until the city undertook a construction project that cut off even the limited parking and access consumers utilized. 

Who do you think were the first citizens and businesses to protest; to demand that SFGN should do more articles revealing just what the hell was going on? You guessed it. 

Somebody broke into a local store recently, and raided their cash register. What paper do you think wrote about it online? Not the Wall Street Journal. The culprit has now been apprehended.  

When hate crime suspects were introduced at a SAVE fundraiser as “wrongfully accused” last month, it was not the NY Times that caught and exposed the rather shocking surprise. It was SFGN, a print newspaper supporting you in a digital world.

Years ago, the directors of Pride South Florida were woefully mismanaging their budget. No one wanted to touch the topic. We did. The late executive director wound up with a jail stint, and the local pride group recovered thousands of dollars in restitution.

When we went after another publisher for a fundraising fraud, many said we were simply jealous. When he went bankrupt leaving 300 creditors out a total of $6 million, the newspaper won a Florida Press Association award for exposing it. 

When one of the persons named in our Out50 spotlights was exposed in 2017 for having wrongfully accosted boys decades ago during his tenure as an educator in a prep school, it was SFGN’s associate publisher, Jason Parsley, that wrote about it, albeit painfully. 

That’s what we do, even if it unfortunately involves sexual predators inappropriately working in a community center. 

Last week, MAD Magazine, born in 1952, called it quits.  Yes, that MAD Magazine.  After six decades of unapologetically irreverent cutting and caustic satire, no more new content will be coming your way. As fast as someone could build something up in Americana, MAD editors would humorously find a way to tear it down.

Joe Raiola, a man who spent 33 years as both a writer and editor for Mad Magazine wonderfully remarked after the announcement, “Kids generally understand that people are full of shit… Mad confirmed everything that I was thinking but wouldn’t say to anybody else: Everyone is full of shit—and you can’t trust anyone.” He is spot on. 

On another front, earlier this month, The Vindicator newspaper in Youngstown, Ohio celebrated its 150th birthday. They won’t be having any more. This paper reaches 100,000 readers a day online and in print. It is shutting down next month.

Here is what columnist Tom Jones wrote:

“Soon there will be a void, and we’re left to ask: Who will cover possible corruption in city hall? Who will make sure the school board is treating teachers and students well? Who will be the watchdog keeping an eye on the police, district attorneys and other government agencies? Who will be the voice of a community?” 

Jeffrey Epstein may not like it, but we need the Julie Browns of this world and the Miami Herald more than we need the likes of him. This month, as you pick up the summer copy of the MIRROR, our annual Guide to the Drive, or this week’s 497th issue of SFGN, think of what you are getting that most gay communities in America are not. 

The South Florida Gay News is a voice and a vision for our lives, our loves, and our losses.  Sometimes, the news we bring you will be celebratory and laudable. Other times, it may be critical and lamentable. But it is real news, and we are proud to be by your side.