I have a general policy of always speaking to reporters who call me for comment because my own livelihood depends on people being willing to talk to reporters. So, when Washington City Paper editor Erik Wemple called me up to ask me last week about the sudden closure of the Washington Blade and the statement I had put out on behalf of Metro Weekly I had no hesitation to talk to him.
Unfortunately, Erik decided that our Metro Weekly statement was “grave dancing” because, after I expressed my condolences for the Blade staff and congratulations for their accomplishments over the years, I included a sentence mentioning some pride in my own publication: “All of us at Metro Weekly take great pride in serving our community, and we look forward to continuing our growth as the source for local LGBT news, politics and entertainment.”
Even accounting for the heightened emotions running through much of our LGBT community over the Blade’s closure, it takes an extreme level of sensitivity to read that sentence as “grave dancing.” Believe me, if I had intended to grave dance, it would have been a far more obvious and memorable statement.
What is obvious is that the story attempts to create some sort of public cat fight between Kevin Naff and myself, one that neither Kevin nor I are interested in having. This is what Kevin said to me via e-mail as a statement in response to the City Paper story:
"Erik's story was a transparent attempt to create tension that simply does not exist. I spoke to Erik and told him I wish Metro Weekly all the best; I never denigrated MW or Sean."
Both Kevin and I tend to aver publicly that there’s no “rivalry” between our publications -- or between us and the new DC Agenda. Those statements should be taken with a grain of salt because there is no way for two publications serving the same community with similar (though not the same) focus to not be in competition for both stories and advertising. What I -- and, presumably, Kevin -- mean by that is that we’re not spending our every business hour focused on cutting the other’s throat.
Sure, there’s competition. Sometimes there are bumped shoulders and bruised feelings. This is natural. Anyone who has dealt with editors and publishers (gay or straight) knows that you’re dealing with a lot of big, ambitious egos. Put them all in the same sandbox and there will be some occasional friction.
In other words, not that big a news story. And certainly, in this case, not an accurate reflection of either my intention or sentiment when I released the Metro Weekly statement.
As for my policy of always talking to reporters, it’s still in place, even for Erik -- who, I should point out, has treated me fairly in the past -- though I will probably be a little less forthcoming, since even when you try to say something nice, it may be better to say nothing at all.