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New era for the SGN: Renee Raketty succeeds Mike Schultz as publisher

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Renee Raketty — Photo by Nate Gowdy
Renee Raketty — Photo by Nate Gowdy

The staying power of the 50-year-old Seattle Gay News has been proven yet again. Effective July 1, longtime SGN writer and current editor Renee Raketty will be its new owner and publisher, following the departure of Mike Schultz, who is moving to California.

"I'm really honored to have the opportunity to fulfill this role as publisher," Raketty said. "I have had a number of roles over the years at the SGN, so this paper has a profound place in my heart. There is no higher privilege than to serve your own community and share their stories with the world."

Raketty will be the third SGN owner since the passing of the newspaper's longtime owner and publisher, George Bakan, on June 7, 2020. Upon his unexpected loss, Bakan's daughter Angela Cragin inherited the paper and ran it primarily from her home in Eastern Washington, in order to continue her father's legacy and save the SGN from closing. She also brought in a young and diverse crew of writers who contributed substantially more original reporting.

"She did a fantastic job of helping the newspaper get back on its feet, especially at the time when COVID was rampant and advertising dollars had basically dried up," Raketty said. "She proved to be a very effective leader, and I know her personality really appealed to a lot of people in our community. I'm so grateful to Angela, and I'm sure George would be proud of her too."

Raketty was instrumental in working with Cragin to keep the SGN on track. She wrote stories, assisted with editorial decision-making and helped secure a new SGN office on Capitol Hill.

Cragin stayed the course, but after three years of unexpectedly dedicating herself to this work, the mother of three was ready to focus back on her own family and career.

Gay ownership returns
Enter Mike Schultz, a successful accountant and businessman who has much experience in LGBTQ media, having published Stoneway News Northwest and Q View Northwest in Spokane (2007-2010), and Coastal Pride in Grays Harbor County. He added the Seattle Gay News to that list on Oct. 1, 2023.

Schultz was quite familiar with the SGN from having lived in Seattle during the 1980s. He said he recognized then how important the paper was, especially amid the devastation of the AIDS epidemic. The SGN was at the forefront of this turning point in Seattle's LGBTQ community.

"Living here, that was my connection. It was going to the bars, or you read the Seattle Gay News to really know what was going on," Schultz said in a 2023 Seattle Times story about taking ownership of the paper. "That was the beginning of the AIDS crisis. That stuck with me: its value and relevance and how it literally saved some people's lives."

For the second time, the SGN was saved when Schultz took ownership last year, something that Raketty found to be a true blessing.

"Like Angela, if it weren't for Mike, we would not be here," she said. "He applied a lot of practices that streamlined the way the business is run, and I am grateful to him for allowing me to retain all of those practices that he incorporated into the paper."

Under his leadership, the SGN was elevated in numerous ways. For example, Schultz broadened its reach with new distribution sites in Spokane, Bellingham, and Ocean Shores; he upgraded the SGN's sales and marketing infrastructure; and he took on the ambitious task of creating an online archive of every issue of the SGN going back to its formative years in the mid-1970s. (Schultz has generously ensured that the archives will continue to be available free of charge at http://www.SGN.org.)

When Schultz announced plans to relocate to Sacramento to be closer to his family, discussions began about the future of the paper. While the terms of the agreement have not been disclosed, Raketty described Schultz as "incredibly collaborative and forthcoming."

Thus, Schultz's Stratus Group LLC will officially pass the torch to Raketty's Prism Pride Press LLC.

Mike Schultz, Maggie Bloodstone, Renee Raketty at SGN Headquarters in Seattle — Photo by Steven Sanford  

"Renee always brings to the table a depth of community and contributor engagement that comes from her experience, local roots, and understanding of the SGN's nuanced relevance and value," Schultz said. "Her pivot from editor to publisher comes at exactly the right time, positioning the SGN to better adapt to the evolving dynamics of news and content distribution. Renee's deep understanding of the paper's mission and her knowledge of the LGBTQIA+ community position her to lead the SGN into an exciting future."

Longtime connection
Raketty's history with the SGN goes back to when she was in high school and became a noted outspoken activist, widely recognized for her contributions to advancing LGBTQ equality in the Pacific Northwest. She testified in Olympia against school-based bullying, started a Gay-Straight Alliance at Newport High School in Bellevue (called S.A.F.E., for Supportive Acceptance for Everyone), and became the face of Seattle PFLAG on bus advertisements and billboards.

Interning with the American Friends Service Committee LGBTQ youth program brought opportunities for her to travel to different parts of the country and learn about efforts here and around the globe for promoting LGBTQ equality. Later, she would work as a youth alcohol and drug prevention specialist at Stonewall Recovery Services, and as Northwest regional director of Scouting for All and executive director of GLSEN Washington State. Her activism gained her many awards and certificates and much attention from the local media, including the SGN .

Writing for the Seattle Gay Standard (2000—2001) exercised young Raketty's burgeoning reporter talents. She began contributing to the Seattle Gay News in 2001, was hired as a staff writer, then was promoted to managing editor. In later years, when she wasn't working at the SGN, she wrote for websites and always kept in touch with the newspaper that first opened doors for her journalistically.

Another first
Now that Raketty is taking her place among the SGN's league of distinguished publishers, she brings something new, in that she is also its first Transgender publisher, just as she was its first Transgender editor.

"It's incredibly important for our LGBTQ community to have another Transgender voice speaking their truth when Transgender people here and across the country have faced some unprecedented attacks," she said. "I continue to face overt and covert discrimination, so I know we have a long way to go. The path to our own equality is far from over, and I hope the SGN can be of assistance in bringing the community together to fight these challenges and win complete and full equality for all people."

For the SGN staff, this ownership transition will be smooth and beneficial. Raketty has plans to improve the SGN website by adding content throughout the week, restoring the comprehensive community calendar, and continuing to connect people with resources, especially for those who are new to the community.

The print version itself will move from biweekly to monthly, and a weekly email newsletter will ensure that the SGN continues to be a regular and reliable news source as it has been historically. The print edition will be reimagined as a newsmagazine, with a newspaper approach similar to the SGN's popular special supplements. Readers can watch for the new format to debut on July 26 and on the last Friday of each month from then on.

While publications across the country are making the move from print to the internet, Raketty feels that it remains important to keep printing the SGN to connect with those in the community who relate to it as a print publication and as a way for everyone to stay informed without having to rely solely on computer or phone.

"We'll be sharing more stories about the people in our community and diving deeper in ways that we weren't able to do in the past," she said. "Expect to see more thoughtful examination of issues that our community continues to face today."

The future
Above all, Raketty is well aware of the SGN's place in history as a source of truth about LGBTQ lives in a world that often turns to hateful stereotyping and outright untruths about Queer people and the struggles they face.

"We are a Supreme Court [case] away from seeing marriage equality overturned," she said, "and we could potentially face a new president in the White House that associates with very conservative forces that oppose LGBTQ equality, especially targeting the Transgender community with the same lies and distortions they told about Queer people for decades."

Raketty knows how to fight for what's right, and it is her commitment to equality and what she learned along the way that make her such a perfect person to lead the SGN upon this, its 50-year anniversary.

She expressed much gratitude for three previous publishers — Bakan, Cragin, and Schultz — under whom she worked before becoming publisher herself.

"I'm incredibly blessed to have had such great mentors, especially George Bakan. Everyone had an important role to play in keeping the paper alive," she said. "I hope to continue overcoming challenges and securing victories for our civil rights.

"This paper has always belonged to the entire LGBTQ community in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, and it will continue to do so for decades to come."

Matt Nagle, who has previously served as SGN managing editor, will step into the role of editor on July 1, when Renee Raketty becomes the publisher.