In 1976, Don Michaels was in Buffalo, where he was Mattachine Society president and a self-described “full-time gay activist” managing a gay community center and editing a small gay newsletter, when he and his partner, John Yanson, decided to move to Washington, D.C. In 1977, Michaels started working for The Blade, then a monthly, volunteer-produced newsletter founded in 1969. Michaels became the Blade’s first paid employee, at $314 per month, and was named managing editor in January 1978. Increased advertising meant increased staff, and the Washington Blade became biweekly in 1979 and then weekly in 1983. In November 1981, Michaels was named publisher, a post he held for more than 20 years. Starting in 1997, the firm also published the New York Blade, which folded in 2009. Michaels has said of his journalistic philosophy, “It was a goal of mine to record what was going on in the community and concerning the community. To be a newspaper of record was the main thing I was interested in.” Thus, his Washington Blade strived for nonpartisanship and objectivity, did not publish editorials or advertorials, and resisted advertiser and activist influence on content. It covered all GLBT news it could on Capitol Hill, elsewhere in Washington, and much of Virginia and Maryland; its political and government news eventually matched and then exceeded The Advocate’s. Michaels himself kept a low profile, intentionally avoiding the spotlight, while managing an increasingly professional newspaper, that he and two others sold to Window Media LLC.
Photo by Patsy Lynch