You would think with the mainstream print media industry collapsing that news that The New England Blade, an alternative gay paper in Boston owned by HX Media, closed its doors this week would be another sad story of of a publication caught up in the financial crisis tsunami. But it turns out that it’s not the market that killed the New England Blade, it’s HX CEO Matthew Bank.
In 2006 the paper, then called IN Newsweekly was sold to HX Media, best known for it’s New York based bar rag and tendency to fire people en masse. IN’s then editor, Fred Kuhr, soon found himself in charge of a paper which often failed to pay its contributors and was pressured to focus on “lighter, fluffier” stories.
Joe Siegel, a former writer for the paper, has the whole gory story, complete with tales of how HX hiring a convicted felon to act as publisher and how reporters and staff never received their paychecks:
“At the end of the year, Kuhr and two other writers requested a meeting with HX’s CEO, Matthew Bank, to discuss their concerns regarding the paper’s deteriorating quality.
When Bank ignored the request, the three longtime writers terminated their involvement with IN newsweekly.
In February, IN Newsweekly was rechristened The New England Blade. [Former associate publisher Bill] Berggren doesn’t mince words when it comes to HX: “I was sorry to see that the agenda of the new owners was business first, people second. They changed the name of a New England institution with a 15-year history, and then bullied their advertisers, community activists, and staff.”
HX Media’s been a source of constant drama over the past few years. Its attempt at a Philadelphia publication failed and just last week, the magazine fired one of its top sales staff.
What are we supposed to say to all this? Hey owners of gay publications, stop trying to turn everything into a watered down version of Us Weekly with more pectoral shots! Just because they call you the “gay mafia” doesn’t mean you should run your businesses like you’re in the mob, you know? Honestly, we love the shady, duplicitous self-serving practices of the folks who decide ala Charles Foster Kane that “it would be fun to run a newspaper.” It’s just sad that in real life, the staff and the readers are the ones who wind up suffering.
So long New England Blade. You deserved better.