The Bay Area Reporter newspaper and online news outlet this year celebrates a half-century of serving Northern California’s LGBTQ community with a “50 Years in 50 Weeks” retrospective.

It’s a big deal that any independent media outlet can mark a significant anniversary this year, as the COVID pandemic has put extra strain on publications in an already tough, competitive industry. It’s even more of a big deal for an outlet covering queer news and culture.

The Bay Area Reporter – the B.A.R. for short – started in 1971 as a “bar rag” weekly newspaper covering San Francisco’s gay bar culture and grew over the decades into one of the most influential LGBTQ news publications in the country. Its publishers claim the B.A.R. has the largest readership of any US LGBTQ news outlet and is also the longest continuously published.

On this week’s Out in the Bay, news editor Cynthia Laird and publisher Michael Yamashita recount the publication’s founding 50 years ago, high and low points of queer civil rights reflected in the B.A.R.’s coverage, and the challenges of staying alive and vibrant today.

See the Bay Area Reporter‘s 50th Anniversary and its 50 Years in 50 Weeks editions with historical articles, photos and more, under its online 50th Anniversary tab. See current and recent coverage on the B.A.R.’s main page and on its Facebook page.

You can also see past B.A.R. articles, photos and advertisements – including racy gay classified ads – that illustrate how things have changed over the decades in a fascinating online exhibition, Stories of Our Movement: The Bay Area Reporter at 50. The exhibition was curated by long-time photographer Rick Gerharter and is hosted by the GLBT Historical Society.

Publisher Michael Yamashita was born in Hawaii and graduated from Santa Clara University. He joined the B.A.R. as a copy editor in 1989, was named general manager in 1995 under founding publisher Bob Ross, and was named publisher in 2013. In 2017, after acquiring all shares held by investor partners, Yamashita became the first gay Asian-Pacific Islander owner-publisher of an LGBTQ newspaper. He serves on the board of directors of the California News Publisher Association and the National LGBT Media Association.

News Editor Cynthia Laird has been with the Bay Area Reporter for 25 years. A graduate of Cal State University Sacramento with a degree in government-journalism, she started with the B.A.R. as an assistant editor in 1996, about a month after the paper’s 25th anniversary. Since becoming news editor in 1999, Laird has worked to include more articles pertaining to LGBTQ communities of color, the transgender community, queer youth, and more.

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