With this issue Watermark celebrates 25 years of publishing, 25 years of sharing information and helping to build a community. I am beyond proud to be a part of this organization.

As I sat down to write this column, I visited the words of Founder and Guiding Light Tom Dyer as he shared his thoughts on the 20th Anniversary of Watermark. It’s funny to see how much has changed, and how little has changed. We still operate with a small, dedicated staff who are as passionate about their work as they are talented. Watermark still focuses on local community news in its pages, offering a voice to stories other publications will not; and at times we still walk the fine line between financial gain and commitment to community partnerships.

The main difference, however, is how we get the job done. Tom referenced the changing times in his last “Publisher’s Perspective” with Watermark. The internet created a need for immediate information, a task difficult for a bi-weekly publication. Watermark adapted and with the help of then Art Director Jake Stevens created a website to bring breaking news to the community as it unraveled. Our partnership with the National LGBT Media Association and the Associated Press help provide us the resources for that content, navigated by our Bureau Chiefs Jeremy Williams and Ryan Williams-Jent. Of course this change in times may double the work load, but it doesn’t distract us from our core purpose.

Watermark made a conscious decision to not enter the rat race of news. Where we would like to be the first to break stories, and in some cases we should, Watermark would rather tell the full story. We have the opportunity to document the history of our community, to tell our stories from our perspective. We made it our goal to tell the stories that affect the nation, but to do it through the eyes of our local community. That is what sets us apart from everyone else. We can take the time to write about local artists and community leaders. We have the pages to talk about what smaller organizations are doing, what fundraising events they are hosting and provide them the advertising space to do that. We do not have an agenda other than reporting facts and sharing information to make our community stronger.

Watermark is your LGBTQ life, wherever you fall on the spectrum. Watermark is the voice of the LGBTQ community and that is vital. This makes Watermark more important than any one person. It’s bigger than its founder; it’s bigger than me or anyone who has graced its pages. It’s a collective, it’s all of you. That’s why it’s important for you to be active in it. If you have news you think we should report, tell us. If you have a compelling story you think the community needs to hear, tell us: call us or send us an e-mail. Social media is a great way to air your thoughts, but it’s easily missed in a busy feed. Reach out directly. I also encourage you to support our advertisers. Even if you like to read our articles on your phone, pick up an issue or flip through it on our website. Our advertisers are how we keep our voice alive; supporting them is the only way to ensure that voice is always here.

Watermark is currently at a staff of nine, split between two major areas: Central Florida and Tampa Bay. I’d like to thank them for their hard work. 25 years ago, there was a finite number of events and organizations to cover. Today our team attends events and covers stories for an ever growing list of organizations and celebrates with all of you at an ever growing calendar of events.

Thank you Jeremy Williams, our Central Florida Bureau Chief and only editorial staff member for the area. The tragic attack at Pulse has put a spotlight on Orlando and Jeremy has not skipped a beat in covering the evolution of the community. Thank you to his Tampa Bay counterpart, Ryan Williams-Jent. Ryan has been instrumental in improving our voice within the Tampa Bay community. Thank you to our sole Creative employee, Dylan Todd, who has not only stepped up to fill very big shoes, but has added his photography talents to our list of services we offer. Thank you to our Senior Account Mangers Sam Callahan and Russ Martin, and Account Manager Brianna Rockmore whose hard work keeps the lights on and the doors open. Thank you to Sales Director Danny Garcia for being a true team player within the walls of Watermark. Thank you to Kathleen Sadler, our Business Manager, for literally everything. Nothing happens at Watermark without Kathleen and her work is much appreciated. Thank you to Tom Dyer whose advice and guidance are still very much part of Watermark. Finally, thank you to our readers and community for giving us purpose.

We strive to bring you a variety of stories, your stories. I hope you enjoy this look back on 25 years of Watermark.

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