Ahead of the gathering, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman proclaimed Aug. 30, 2019 as “Watermark Newspaper’s 25th Anniversary Day” in St. Petersburg. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor joined him, proclaiming it “Watermark Publishing Group Day” in Tampa.
Watermark celebrates its silver anniversary with a look back at the LGBTQ headlines of the past 25 years
For 25 years, in nearly 700 issues, Watermark has been telling the stories of Central Florida and Tampa Bay’s LGBTQ communities.
First premiering in Orlando in 1994, and then expanding into Tampa Bay in 1995, Watermark now covers more than a dozen counties across the state. We can be found in many Florida cities including Daytona Beach, Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Sarasota—and thanks to WatermarkOnline.com, we have developed an international audience which relies on us for news, politics, sports, arts and entertainment as it pertains to the LGBTQ community.
As a child of the 1980s and 90s, I struggled to understand what it meant to be gay. I had heard the perspective of my church, of course, but that message was not exactly positive.
There was no Google search and there weren’t any websites for me to turn to for advice, opinions or factual information about who gay people were. So like many of those from my generation, I relied on the books on my parents’ shelves and the resources at the local library. And when I would read those I felt as though I was in a spy novel, sneaking out whatever information I could in short bursts before my curiosity was discovered.
Watermark began covering Tampa Bay’s LGBTQ community in 1995, not long after its 1994 founding in Orlando.
It was more than a decade before I would move to Florida and more than two before I would be fortunate enough to become Watermark’s Tampa Bay Bureau Chief, but it’s a decision I’m very thankful that our founder Tom Dyer made just the same.
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.
Watermark is in the midst of celebrating 25 years in publication. It’s a huge milestone for many reasons that I will get into in my next column, so stay tuned. However, I bring that up now because—in preparation for the celebration—I am going back through the years and highlighting some of the stories we’ve covered.
You may have noticed these pages popping up toward the end of the past two issues, covering 2014 and 2015. Tom Dyer had done a similar retrospective for the 20th anniversary, so I wanted to carry on the tradition leading up to our 25th anniversary issue slated for late August. In this issue we reflect on 2016, a devastating year in so many respects.
ORLANDO | Sasha Garden, a 27-year-old transgender woman, was found dead in the parking lot of a Holden Ave. apartment complex in Orlando July 19.
At that time, Garden became the fourth trans woman murdered in the state of Florida and the 16th trans person taken by violence in the U.S. Those numbers have now climbed to a known five in Florida and a known 22 in the U.S., and in many of these cases local authorities have not turned up any suspects or made any arrests.
Once upon a time I was a young 20-something twinkie gayling; working, playing and having a pretty fun and carefree life. I had a good job (actually using my degree!), lived in a cute one-bedroom apartment in downtown Orlando and was a little social butterfly most evenings out and about.
SIDE NOTE: How did many of us function as a 20-something going out about five days a week? Anyway, the last thing on my mind during this phase of my life was planning for the future, thinking about retirement and what to do with my possessions should I meet my demise.
Watermark Film Company’s new documentary ‘Greetings From Queertown’ shines a light on Orlando’s LGBTQ history
From KKK members threatening Pride-filled parade marchers to a sea of red shirts ascending on Disney World for Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom to standing “Orlando Strong” around Lake Eola, Central Florida has come a long way for the LGBTQ community. It’s a rich history that Watermark Film Company plans to detail in their upcoming documentary, “Greetings From Queertown: Orlando.”
Spearheaded by Watermark owner, publisher and editor Rick Claggett, director/producer Sandi Hulon, director of photography Tye Belcher and others from Team Watermark, the film company was created to share the story of “Queertown.”
ORLANDO | Watermark Film Company premiered the first trailer to its documentary film “Greetings From Queertown: Orlando” at a private fundraising event at The Venue in Orlando Aug. 23.
Watermark Film Company was launched by Watermark Publishing Group owner Rick Claggett as a way to create, produce and distribute films that inform and educate audiences on the LGBTQ experience, according to a press release.
I haven’t always loved my job. Who loves anything all of the time? Even a parent who loves their child might want to slap them “into the middle of next week” occasionally. So I hear. I don’t have children, but I have adorable dogs that drive me crazy as much as they warm my heart.
I remember I was at a low point in 2004 with my career at Watermark. The repetition of an administrative assistant position with a local niche newspaper was taking its toll on me. I was young, stupid and combative. Up to this point, I never held a job for more than a year and a half and I was currently over two years at Watermark. I was starting to get antsy, so I looked for another job. Walt Disney World accepted me to their entertainment team as a production assistant and I took a few days off at Watermark to enroll in the Disney training class known as Traditions. The only thing left to do was put in my notice and leave.
Other than founder Tom Dyer, there is no other person more synonymous with the Watermark name than current owner/publisher/editor Rick Claggett.
Rick recently entered his 16th year with Watermark turning his love for Central Florida and Tampa Bay’s LGBTQ communities into his life’s passion of telling their stories, but that wasn’t the direction he originally saw his life moving.