I was going to recount last week’s schedule and try to express the many steps it takes to get a project completed, and illustrate patience, but during my three meetings in three different cities in one day, I received an email that changed the course of this week’s column.
PGN was informed that we are journalistically one of the top-10 weekly newspapers in the nation. Not one of the top-10 LGBT weeklies, but top 10 of any kind of weekly. No other publication serving the LGBT community has ever reached this level of professional achievement. You already know you’re reading the nation’s most award-winning publication serving the LGBT community, which is consistent every year.
So this column is dedicated to PGN’s staff. But I’d like to focus on one story that explains the excellence of the PGN editorial staff: the mysterious death of Nizah Morris.
This story, which has been picked up nationally, has its roots in this office, and it continues to be this paper that fights for Nizah’s family to find the truth and peace. We’ve covered her story for more than 10 years and continue to do so, to this day. To us, Nizah has become a close friend. What you most likely don’t know is how difficult that piece of journalism is, and who is responsible.
Tim Cwiek is a unique kind of reporter. He is demure, almost shy, but when he is on the trail of a story, he’s like the proverbial dog with a bone. Over the years, my editors have received more calls about Tim’s work than any other reporters. I always ask two questions at the root of journalism: Did he misquote, or are there any facts in the article that are wrong? The answer has always been the same: The quotes are correct, and so are the facts.
On the Nizah story, this publication has literally been to several courts, filed right-to-know requests, asked various justice offices why they were not investigating, demanded to see files in numerous offices, and searched and discovered where files were hidden, misplaced or shuffled around. And we’ve done that for 10 years. No other LGBT media outlet in this nation has spent the time or resources on one story. What makes it even more impressive is that each time officials try to cover up or attempt to end the investigation, Tim discovers fresh, new information. Tim should also be recognized for his work on the Boy Scouts; it was he who made the media around the nation realize how invasive the discriminatory nature of that organization is. Again, another story that he has worked on for more than 10 years. Tim is an impressive journalist, and we are proud of his work.
But it’s not just one person or issue; it’s the entire group and the daily gathering of new information and new issues that PGN brings to the community. Victoria Brownworth actually spent days and nights sleeping in city parks with LGBT homeless to give our readers an example of their day-to-day living. She also was the first to showcase pumping parties and, let’s not forget, lesbian nuns.
This all takes resources, and PGN has a staff of 15 people who all are offered benefits. It’s up to our advertising department to make it possible for editorial to have those resources, and there again, this publication has been served well. Our advertising staff takes pride in bringing the resources to this publication, and pride in what they bring to the community.
Early in the HIV/AIDS saga, a $900 phone bill arrived on my desk. That bill — an inordinate amount of money at that time — resulted in the first story in any media on discrimination against gay men by insurance companies worried about insuring AIDS patients.
Like all news media, there’s an editor overseeing the work of our reporters. As publisher, I’ve been blessed with editors who understand the cannons of journalism and who allow reporters like Tim to exercise the skills he has learned for almost 38 years.
Last Saturday, I was at Rutgers University in beautiful New Brunswick speaking on a panel of LGBT media at the Society of Professional Journalists conference. As I spoke about LGBT media and PGN, the audience was witnessing a man who has pride in his work, but more so in his staff. n
Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at [email protected].