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The recent upheaval at the LGBT newsweekly Chicago Free Press has inspired Gay Chicago magazine to introduce a new feature, "Gay Chicago Newswatch," by former Free Press news editor Gary Barlow. The "Newswatch" column debuts in the December 31 issue, hitting the streets and the Web today. And then next month, says GC owner Craig Gernhardt, "I'm bringing Amy Wooten aboard to help cover political races." Wooten, former senior writer at Free Press, was one of several editorial staffers to walk out at the Free Press earlier this month.
Founded in 1976 by Gernhardt's father, the late Ralph Paul Gernhardt, Gay Chicago is known principally as a nightlife and entertainment guide, and though it has regularly carried community news, wire-service stories, and obituaries, it has steered clear of politics. But with important elections looming next year, Gernhardt says he wants to "offer hard-core reporting. My goal is to give the gay and lesbian community proper news coverage from quality writers on a timely basis."
Gernhardt also intends for Gay Chicago—the city's oldest LGBT publication—to make political endorsements in next year's hotly contested primaries. "Gary and Amy made endorsements at Free Press," he notes. "These are people whose judgment the community has relied on over the years." Barlow and Wooten will work with an advisory committee of community activists to make endorsements in closely watched races for U.S. Senate, Cook County Board president, and the state legislature.
Free Press publisher David Costanzo, meanwhile, says he's committed to keeping his publication going. "We don't have an issue this week--we've traditionally never published between Christmas and New Year's," he says. Instead, he's using the hiatus to look for a new graphic designer. "We have plenty of people we can use in a temporary way until we get a full-time person hired," he says. One of the new designer's first jobs will be to bring Free Press Web site up to speed (it hasn't been updated since December 17). "That's the one piece we're struggling with," says Costanzo. "But the newspaper has always been our flagship product." Costanzo adds that once the designer's position is filled he will focus on hiring new editorial staff; meanwhile, he says, he can put out the paper with freelance contributors, including columnist Paul Varnell, who returned to the fold in December after being abruptly laid off a month earlier, and real estate and travel writer Kerrie Kennedy, who also edits Go Guide, a monthly lifestyle magazine published by Free Press's parent company, Rainbow Media. Costanzo says the next Go Guide will come out on schedule this week.