Bob Ross (1934-2003), along with Paul Bentley, founded San Francisco’s Bay Area Reporter on April 1, 1971. Bentley sold his interest in 1975. Ross set the highest professional standards for the newspaper and, by 1979, Mayor Dianne Feinstein was asking Ross and San Francisco Sentinel publisher Charles Lee Morris to investigate the city police department’s response to riots following the sentencing of Dan White for the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and openly gay Supervisor Harvey Milk. One of Ross’s most trying times was how to respond to the AIDS crisis beginning in the early 1980s: He decided in 1983 to extensively cover the story. That year, BAR reported that 40 percent of all persons with AIDS were members of minority groups, demolishing the idea of AIDS as a gay white disease. In 1984, as tensions emerged between health concerns and preserving a culture of sexual freedom (the latter supported by his editor, Paul Lorch), Ross sided with health regulations. Lorch left the newspaper. Today, BAR is one of the two oldest weekly LGBT newspapers in the United States, with a circulation of about 29,000. From 1985 until 1998, Ross also published 20 issues of Gay Comix. When Ross died in 2003 of diabetes complications, he left an estate of more than $11 million in addition to the Bay Area Reporter itself. Before his death, Ross established the Bob Ross Foundation to give money to a wide variety of Bay Area causes, ranging from AIDS organizations to the San Francisco Ballet. Earlier this year, it was estimated that the foundation will give away all of its money by 2023, including proceeds from a legal requirement that it sell at least 80 percent of the Bay Area Reporter by 2016.
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