For most of my life, I've had a print paper, a physical product, to show for my efforts each week. I've got far too many copies of Outlines, Windy City Times and even Stars & Stripes, where I worked for many years, in boxes, serving not just a record of the work but as a diary of moments of learning.
The yellowing souvenirs remind me of the state of the world on each of those publication dates and the state of my understanding at those times. One gay newspaper in one big Midwestern city founded in turbulent times and published through decades of change has meant more to me than an index of the headlines would show. Remember the times:
While LGBTQ+ people were right to be afraid for loss of jobs and family, the front pages of Windy City Times and Outlines showed how nontraditional lives could be lived and challenges overcome.
While some people died from a misunderstood disease and others turned heartless out of fear, Outlines and later Windy City Times had headlines about, on one side, ineffective treatments, privacy, stigma and quarantine and, on the other, protest and a historic volunteer response. Each new year's headline for Coming Out Day or World AIDS Day had a different tone and reflected an evolving world.
In 2014 and 2015, Windy City Times had headlines about homeless LGBTQ youth. During that winter, community members stayed out all night in the snow to learn firsthand about that hardship.
When LGBTQ+ kids suffered bullying or neglect by government agencies, they saw respectful attention paid in the pages of Windy City Times.
When Chicago's gay community had internal struggles, Windy City Times helped the self-examination begin, challenging leaderships and supporting the new insights in service of all stakeholders. The paper sometimes took the hit for exposing difficulties but those challenged organizations later became partners again for the larger vision.
And during each and every Pride celebration since 1985, Outlines/Windy City Times recorded our community speaking out and showing up in words and photos. Thousands of photos. Because, let's face it, our community is pretty interesting to look at.
In 1994, shortly after completing 20 years in the military, my learning curve was steep when I started with Outlines. One good lesson was that people with means would write checks and those without would volunteer time. And I didn't know that what it took was some clear-eyed community journalism showing people where the needs were and where their money or time would do the most good.
As director of circulation, I learned a life lesson in loyalty from our drivers. We've been lucky to have a dedicated team of delivery drivers with us through every season, every Pride and every deep winter storm. Each of our current drivers has been getting the paper out regularly and reliably for nearly 20 years, including the major-event winter storm of 2011 when we knew the storm was coming, went to press early and, as it turns out, were the only newspaper available in news boxes on the publication date. Reaching each newsbox involved digging through a snowbank to clear a path to it.
Our deepest appreciation for years of behind-the-scenes heroics goes out to Allan Zlatarich, John Collins, Vee Sonnets, Sue Landon, Dan Noone and Ashina Hamilton.
If you're reading this in print right now, it's because our drivers have made their last regular delivery of this community newspaper, undeterred by the risks and obstacles of COVID and downtown protests
So, as Windy City Times goes out of print, I'm having another learning moment. I realize that it was comforting to think that the information, voices and viewpoints committed to paper were firm and complete and fully represented their moments in time. I realize that it was a triumphant and hopeful act to place those newspapers in the news boxes. I realize that I'll miss the concreteness of a newspaper, with a certain weight for postage, a certain heft for delivery and a certain inherent optimism.