The founder of the Philadelphia Gay News will be inducted into the LGBT Journalists Hall of Fame this week.
Mark Segal will be honored at the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association’s annual conference, which begins today in Boston.
Segal, who remains the newspaper's publisher and is also a "New Voices" columnist for Philly.com, said he was “in shock” when he learned about the honor.
"I'm proud of my journalistic background, of what I've done, but the road ahead is quite long," he said. "I’d rather look forward than backward."
Segal founded PGN in 1976, making the newspaper one of the oldest LGBT publications in the United States. Also being inducted into the hall this week is Bob Ross, the late founder of San Francisco's Bay Area Reporter, another early LGBT newspaper.
"These two men created two of our most well-respected and enduring LGBT publications in the country and also bravely showed mainstream publications how to give our community the thoughtful respect and coverage it deserved at a time when only stereotypes and shallow reporting were the norm," NLGJA president Jen Christensen said in a statement.
Segal got his start as a gay-rights activist, and began the newspaper to promote discussion about LGBT issues.
"I felt there was a need for some mechanism of communication within our community," he said. "We needed to spread information, debate the issues."
Segal said he's proud of the publication's work reporting on issues that other outlets were slow to write about, like homeless gay youths and the AIDS epidemic.
"Nobody would cover" the early years of the AIDS crisis except the LGBT press, he said. "Those who were stricken needed to get information. And they got it from us. We covered every drug, we covered every study that was being done."
In the paper’s early days, Segal said, an anti-gay group once came in overnight and destroyed the office’s electrical and plumbing systems. Now, he says the paper gets "incredible" support and Philadelphia is recognized as one of the nation's most LGBT-friendly cities.
Segal won't be the only Philadelphian in the hall of fame, which was established in 2005 and has honored 23 journalists thus far. In 2008, Gail Shister -- a former Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter and television critic who now teaches at Penn and writes for tvnewser.com and Philadelphia Magazine’s Philly Post -- was inducted.
Segal said he didn’t know quite what to expect when he launched PGN, but the accolades have surprised him.
"By all religions, we were immoral,” he said of the early days for gay activists and publishers. "By law enforcement, we were illegal. In the media, we were invisible. That's where we started. How far we would go, none of us knew."
Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.
Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.