9.25.14 Editor’s Desk

By : Steve Blanchard
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SteveBlanchardHeadshot_137x185There have been a string of changes at Watermark recently, from our layout design to how our paper is printed, bound and delivered.

But no change is as great or as surprising as the news our founder, Tom Dyer, shared in this space in the last issue—he has stepped down after 20 years as this newsmagazine’s publisher.

The staff here was aware of the announcement and he prepped us for it over the summer when he shared that the very capable Rick Claggett would step into the publisher role.

But it came as a surprise to many of our loyal readers. In this space, Tom shared his reasons behind his decision and expressed excitement for the future of the publication he created two decades ago. During our anniversary party Sept. 13, he told those in attendance that Watermark grew beyond his expectations into an entity he never could have imagined! It has undergone numerous redesigns and has been led by several editors before me. And who could have imagined web apps and smart phone versions of websites back in 1994, the year Watermark was founded?

Change is sometimes challenging, but it typically results in something stronger and better. And that’s exactly what we’re expecting with Watermark. Which is why I’m excited to announce our next change, which involves our WAVE Awards.

The Watermark Awards for Variety and Excellence are our annual readers’ choice awards. Typically, our online ballots are launched in late September or early October and we ask our readers to choose everything from their favorite restaurant or hotel to the best bartender or local television personality. It’s a popular process and an even more popular issue when we showcase all of the winners.

I’ve already received a few emails and Facebook messages asking me about the 2014 awards, so I thought it was important to share here that while the WAVE Awards are definitely coming, the ballots won’t be up until after Jan. 1.

Why? We wanted to include an entire calendar year in the annual process.

Say, for example, you open a business in late November and it’s everyone’s favorite new hangout. Using our old formula, the WAVE Awards would have passed by and you would either have to wait a whole year to gain that recognition or simply be missed entirely. By launching our open ballot in January, the entire 2014 calendar year can be considered.

Like in years’ past, there will be two rounds of voting. Our online, open ballot will ask for write-in candidates in each category. When that round closes, we’ll release the top vote-getters and ask readers to select their favorites of the favorites listed.
Come spring 2015, we’ll announce our winners of the 2014 WAVE Awards and we’ll throw our popular WAVE Award parties, complete with plaques for first-place winners and certificates for the top three, in Orlando and Tampa Bay.

Change can be a challenge, and shying away from tradition can be uncomfortable. Believe me, we’ve all had to make adjustments in the Watermark offices this year as we continued to thrive along with the fluidity of change.

More changes, no doubt, will continue. Some are already in the works, others will be come as we keep up with the times. But the mission of the news magazine and website remain the same—to report on the LGBT news that is important to our state and our regions and to bring an LGBT perspective that is difficult to find anywhere else.

There is a lot to celebrate in our community. Not only is marriage equality making advances across the country and right here in Florida, but local organizations and events are hitting milestones. As Watermark celebrated its two decade milestone, the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival was gearing up for its 25th festival. And in Orlando, Come Out With Pride prepares to mark its first decade the first week of October, the same time as TIGLFF.

Watermark will continue to be at events throughout the state and report what’s happening—whether it’s good news or bad.
But we will—and must—celebrate our community. And I, for one, am still just as excited for our annual poll as I was last year, if not more so.

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