Norm Kent to Launch New Gay Paper in Wilton Manors

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A month ago, when the owner of the South Florida Blade declared bankruptcy and suddenly shut down the paper, there were fears that local gay media was dead.

But soon, two publications will be vying to fill the Blade's void.

Florida Agenda, owned by Oakland Park-based Multimedia Platforms, began publishing in November and employs much of the old Blade staff -- including editor and former Real World star Dan Renzi.

And next month, Norm Kent, the outspoken Fort Lauderdale lawyer and former publisher of the Blade's predecessor, the Express Gay News, says he's launching a new weekly, South Florida Gay News.com.

"I'm sorry I ever sold the paper," Kent says. "I'm back and I'm not selling this one."

In the three years he owned the Express, Kent distinguished the paper by focusing on investigative news --  such as the alleged harassment of gays by the Broward Sheriff's Office at John U. Lloyd State Park in Dania Beach -- rather than advocacy or simply covering the party scene.

But in late 2003, he sold the Express to Window Media LLC, the nation's largest chain of gay and lesbian newspapers. He says he thought he was making the right choice at the time -- both for the paper, which could benefit from corporate funds, and for himself.

"There were a million reasons," Kent says now. "I was given a very lucrative offer."

From the beginning, there were  fears about Window Media's financial solvency. Some readers complained that, under Window's ownership, the Blade ran too many puff pieces, and was reluctant to publish negative news about its advertisers.

Now that Window Media has closed shop, Florida Agenda has forged its own path under Multimedia Platforms. The company's founder is Bobby Blair, previous owner of Buzz magazine, and the Agenda's publisher is Mark Haines, of the online bar guide Mark's List.

Kent, meanwhile, is ready to strike out on his own again. He says his paper will begin publishing in January.

"All I can hope to do is deliver a credible publication that people are proud of, that they want to read," he says.

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