Bay Windows and the South End News are put up for sale

Well, this is sad news, but not exactly shocking. Sue O’Connell and Jeff Coakley are putting Bay Windows and the South End News up for sale after 18 years of ownership. Sue and Jeff were both colleagues of mine at The Boston Phoenix. They’ve had a great run, and of course Sue has gone on to considerable success as a host at NBC 10 and NECN as well as at GBH News. Here’s the announcement.

BAY WINDOWS AND SOUTH END NEWS ARE UP FOR SALE!

What a time to be alive.

It doesn’t matter if you read this phrase as a meme or think we’re quoting Drake, this really is an amazing time to be alive.

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing will become clear, if it hasn’t already: we’re living in a new world. This means new ways of doing business and accessing health care and education. Innovations in art, cultural, and culinary spaces. Wholesale reimaginings of community life and work space.

Nothing will ever return to “normal.” Nor would we want it to. Over the past year, movements for social justice based on race have accelerated. Our schools, businesses, nonprofit institutions, government agencies, elected officials, and community-based organizations are incorporating demands for change. In many cases, they are leading it.

In these times of change, we invite one more. After publishing Bay Windows and South End News for 18 years, we are putting both publications up for sale.

The business of local news has changed in the two decades we’ve owned both papers. But the news and its importance to the community has not. That is why we are inviting community leaders, business owners, nonprofits, educational institutions and others to consider purchasing Bay Windows and South End News, either separately or together. We are committed to thinking creatively and working with potential buyers to provide an equitable path to ownership.

Models to consider including nonprofit conversion, government support, a public and/or digital media merger, and community ownership.

When we purchased Bay Windows and South End News in 2003, we’d like to tell you that we did it out of a high-minded commitment to the vital role that community newspapers play in our communities. But that would not be true.

We bought these papers because we thought it would be fun.

Was it? Absolutely.

Almost immediately after purchasing the papers, Bay Windows became the primary source of news and information related to the political, legal, and public opinion battles being waged to bring marriage equality to Massachusetts. This role was similar to the one the paper had played in its early years as a source of information about AIDS that could not be found anywhere else. Since its founding, the paper has been home to information about political, arts, entertainment, and cultural news relevant to the LGBTQ community.

South End News has played the same role in the life of the South End, a neighborhood that has shaped the city of Boston’s nonprofit sector, biomedical research, culinary scene, and arts and cultural offerings. It has also been home to groups and individuals who have played influential roles in Puerto Rican, Black, and LGBTQ activism in the city of Boston.

Over the past two decades, we have met business owners, nonprofit leaders, artists, activists, chefs, politicians, city employees and community members. It has been the experience of a lifetime.

Now it is someone else’s turn.

We can promise you three things: It will take a lot of work to make it work. You will exercise great influence in the South End and the state’s LGBTQ community. And you will have fun.

Want more information? Email Jeff at jcoakley@baywindows.com or jcoakley@southendnews.com.

LGBTQ history group to honor Susan Ryan-Vollmar

Susan Ryan-Vollmar
Susan Ryan-Vollmar

I am incredibly excited about this: On Wednesday, October 5, my friend Susan Ryan-Vollmar will be honored by the History Project for her pioneering leadership role in the history of the Boston LGBTQ community.

Susan, who currently runs her own communications consulting business, is a former news editor of the Boston Phoenix and a former editor of the LGBTQ paper Bay Windows. We worked together at the Phoenix for many years, and her time as news editor was the most rewarding and fun period of my 14-year stint.

It was Susan who oversaw Kristen Lombardi’s groundbreaking 2001 coverage of the pedophile-priest crisis in the Catholic Church. It was Susan who led the charge in the Phoenix‘s reporting on same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. And it was Susan who excelled at finding the lede in my stories—usually in the third-to-last paragraph of a 3,000-word screed.

From the press release:

From her role in helping bring to light the Boston Archdiocese’s coverup of the sexual abuse of children by priests, to her role as editor of Bay Windows during the public debates on marriage equality in Massachusetts, and her support of LGBTQ movements and issues, Susan displays a consistent dedication to advocacy for the LGBTQ community and a passion for uncovering and exposing the truth. The History Project celebrates the often unacknowledged lives of LGBTQ people throughout history; as the world celebrates those who built upon Susan’s solid, quieter work, we are thrilled to honor her as a true HistoryMaker.

The event will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at Club Café, at 209 Columbus Ave. in Boston. I’m honored to say that I’ll have a small role. You can buy your tickets by clicking here.

Governor’s daughter comes out

Bay Windows breaks some pretty big news today: Gov. Deval Patrick’s 18-year-old daughter, Katherine Patrick, has come out as a lesbian, right before this weekend’s Boston Pride parade. Katherine tells editor-in-chief Laura Kiritsy:

As private of an issue as it is, we’ve sort of had to come to terms with the fact that we are a public family and there you give a part of yourself away. And we also … wanted people to know that it’s not only something that we accept, but it’s something that we’re very proud of. It’s a great aspect of our lives and there’s nothing about it that is shameful or that we would want to hide.

Two interesting side notes: the governor did not know about his daughter’s sexual orientation until after last year’s battle over marriage equality; and he makes the common-sense point that he was uncomfortable about talking with Bay Windows because he wouldn’t do an interview to announce that his daughter was straight.

Big changes at Bay Windows

Bay Windows editor and FOMN (Friend of Media Nation) Susan Ryan-Vollmar is leaving the weekly newspaper and taking a top communications job with the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation.

Susan, with whom I had the pleasure to work at the Boston Phoenix for a number of years, will be succeeded by Laura Kiritsy. Like Susan, Kiritsy will edit both Bay Windows, which covers the gay-and-lesbian community in Greater Boston, and an affiliated neighborhood weekly, the South End News.

Here is the press release:

Bay Windows and South End News co-publishers Sue O’Connell and Jeff Coakley are pleased to announce that Laura Kiritsy has been named editor-in-chief for both newspapers. Former editor Susan Ryan-Vollmar will formally step down next week to take a position with the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation.

Kiritsy has been with the company since 2000. In 2002 she was named Associate Editor. Kiritsy’s tenure has been distinguished with important coverage of Beacon Hill politics. During the 2004 Constitutional Convention — the first of many to deal with the issue of civil marriage rights — Kiritsy broke the news of state Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera’s decision to come out publicly. She also broke the news of state Rep. Gene O’Flaherty and state Rep. John Rogers’s decisions to oppose any attempts to amend the state constitution to ban the marriages of same-sex couples. Her ongoing coverage of the New Hampshire presidential primary received national attention.

In 2004 she was awarded the Sarah Petit Memorial Award for Excellence in LGBT Media by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. She also holds three awards for excellence in coverage of social issues and general news from the New England Press Association.

“Laura is uniquely qualified to edit both of our newspapers,” said co-publisher Jeff Coakley. “Her work is a critical component of what we do, and we’re looking forward to what she will accomplish with both papers and their websites.”

“Her weekly column on politics is a must-read for local activists and political insiders,” said co-publisher Sue O’Connell, who added that Kiritsy planned to continue writing the column.

Kiritsy said she was “honored” to be named editor-in-chief of Bay Windows and South End News. “I look forward to continuing the tradition of commitment to quality community journalism that has long distinguished both papers.”

Ryan-Vollmar was editor-in-chief of both papers for three years. During that time Bay Windows and South End News won 14 editorial awards from the New England Press Association including a special award for Bay Windows’s extensive coverage of the civil marriage rights debate.

“Susan Ryan-Vollmar raised the bar on what could be accomplished by a small, independently-owned publication covering a crucial local issue — gay marriage — that also held national importance,” said O’Connell. “Her work on the historic same-sex marriage battle was the best in the country.”

Bay Windows is New England’s largest weekly newspaper serving the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. South End News is a general-interest newspaper serving the South End neighborhood in Boston.

At the Phoenix, Susan was instrumental in overseeing Kristen Lombardi’s groundbreaking coverage of Cardinal Bernard Law’s involvement in the pedophile-priest scandal, as well as the Phoenix’s own coverage of same-sex marriage.

She also excelled in finding my ledes, usually buried about three-quarters of the way into a 3,000-word piece.

Susan’s move is a huge loss to the local media scene, but also a great opportunity for Laura, whom I do not know well, but who’s clearly accomplished a lot in the past few years.