The only newspaper to focus on Spokane’s gay community was unable to publish Wednesday, adding another setback to the paper’s growing troubles this year.
Since Fred Swink became Stonewall News Northwest’s publisher last month, the paper has faced staffing issues and what Swink called an attack on its Web site.
Swink said Stonewall News’ Web site was dismantled by a “disgruntled staff member” who managed the site and laid out the print edition. He said the staff member, whom he declined to name, made editorial changes without consulting Swink and used Associated Press stories without attributing them or subscribing to the service.
Former arts and entertainment editor Christopher Lawrence identified Stonewall News’ previous publisher, Mike Schultz, as the person who worked on layout and the Web site.
Schultz, Stonewall’s publisher for two years, confirmed that he took down the Web site. He said it was not included in the sale of the newspaper.
“They were on loan to Fred Swink as a courtesy,” Schultz explained. “It would be fair to say that courtesy has expired.”
Schultz said Swink’s other assertions are false. Both he and Swink decided that Schultz should separate from the paper after a disagreement about the layout.
Schultz shut down Stonewall in May, citing financial problems and a lack of community support. He had taken over the paper from its longtime publisher John Deen, who died earlier this year. Swink, a recent Chicago transplant, purchased the paper in June.
The paper is an important part of the local gay community, said Lawrence, chairman of the board at OutSpokane, the nonprofit that runs Spokane’s Pride Parade and Rainbow Festival. “It helps us see ourselves as a very diverse community,” Lawrence said of Stonewall. “We don’t just go to bars. We don’t just do drag. We don’t just wear leather. We live on farms. We have families.”
The newspaper will resume its bi-weekly publication schedule and will publish its next edition in two weeks, Swink said.
Wednesday’s issue was supposed to feature a tribute to Jan Loehr, an activist in the gay community and a co-founder of the Swan newsletter. Swink sent out an e-mail Tuesday morning explaining the situation and bringing attention to Loehr’s memorial service, planned for 6 p.m. July 30 at the Unitarian Universalist Church.
Despite not being able to publish a print edition, two local gay advocacy groups, the Inland Northwest LGBT Center and Inland Northwest Equality sponsored a reception Wednesday to help Swink get acquainted with the community. At the reception, Swink said he wants to focus on more local news. He is also working on establishing live chats through the paper’s Web site. Attendees at the meeting described Stonewall as a lifeline for the community and are encouraged by Swink’s ideas.
“I understand that he wants to make it more community related, and I appreciate that,” said Rhonda Brown, who offered to be a contributor to the paper. “Now, we’ll wait and see, and hope the community gets behind him.”