Earlier this week at PGN, we received an email from Ken Miguel, the national board president of NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, that we have been selected for NLGJA’s 2023 Legacy Award for our “tremendous contributions to the world of journalism and the LGBTQ+ community.”
“The Legacy Award was created to recognize an outlet, publication or news organization that has exhibited innovative, high-quality and sustained news coverage of the LGBTQ community over an extended period of time,” the email read. “The outlets, publications or news organizations that are recognized with the award have exemplified the association’s mission to promote and foster fair and accurate LGBTQ news coverage. Our selection committee feels that the Philadelphia Gay News is an exemplary candidate for the award, and it would be our great pleasure to recognize the work that the paper has done throughout its lifetime.”
After reading the email, my memories started to flow. When we started PGN, we didn’t realize that we were pioneers in a new profession to bring quality journalism for the local LGBTQ+ community. And while doing so, we were going to be out, loud and proud, and we had to make that clear with our very name: GAY.
Back when we began in 1976, no professional journalism organization would allow us to become a member. Our battles only continued from there. The postal system wanted to label us and other LGBTQ+ media as pornographic. Politicians did not want to speak with us for interviews. Mainstream advertisers did not want to advertise with us. During the HIV/AIDS crisis, critics would often call us the “Philadelphia AIDS News.”
We’ve learned to innovate as our community changed. When we noticed an issue with homeless youth, we sent a reporter to spend a night on a park bench with them. We also sent reporters to meet LGBTQ+ refugees and sneakily got into a military base where they were being held. Many recall our bold feature on lesbian nuns and our battle to get then-Sen. Barack Obama on the record about LGBTQ+ rights during his first campaign for president.
There are so many others accomplishments but we like to stay present and on the cutting edge. This includes our Family Forward column, which is about the challenges of a lesbian couple — including their engagement, wedding, birth of their three children, and raising their LGBTQ+ family. It’s the only column of its kind in LGBTQ+ media. That’s innovation. And in many ways, it shows how our community has changed.
Thank you NLGJA for allowing us to celebrate not only our work, but our passion. We are truly humbled by the honor and to share it with our community who have traveled this road with us.