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25 and Out!

Jason A. Michael

I am 52 years old and incredibly corny. As I write this, my final column, I keep hearing television variety show sign-off songs in my head, whether it’s Carol Burnett tugging on her earlobe and singing “I’m so glad we’ve had this time together” or Donny and Marie sweetly duetting to “May God keep you in his tender care until we’re together again.” You get the point — I’m struggling to figure out how to say goodbye.

I’ve lived in my house a dozen years now. I get a new-used car about twice a decade. There are very few things I can lay claim to doing for 25 years. Writing for Pride Source and its print publication, Between The Lines since April 1999 is one of them. Oh sure, there have been small gaps here and there. But for the most part, I have consistently written for the paper for the last quarter century. 

I was 27 when I started, still studying journalism at Wayne State University. I was eager and energetic, ready to apply what I learned from journalistic greats like Jack Lessenberry and Ruth Seymour. I had always had something of a gift for words. After a brief stint as a psychology major, I realized I had always been a writer and it was time to take what came naturally seriously. 



Journalists are not known for becoming rich. It’s not a lucrative profession unless you go into broadcast and manage to make a name for yourself. BTL had just gone weekly when I started. The paper was struggling. They matched my secretary’s salary when I first came on and I was so happy to be a full-time reporter that I took it, gladly.

Working for BTL has always been more than just a job for me. It’s my activism in action. Reporting on the good and bad happening to our community, chronicling our progress and our pitfalls. I’ve seen a lot in the past 25 years. Marriage equality was a distant hope when I first started. You couldn’t be out and serve in the military. Millennials may not be old enough to remember, but the queer landscape looked totally different back then.

In my time with the paper I’ve covered murder trials, interviewed police chiefs, and had the pleasure of talking to such stars and childhood idols as Patti LaBelle, Boy George, Dionne Warwick, Dolly Parton and many, many more. There’s not a section of the paper I’ve not written in. I’ve done it all – news, entertainment, local, national, commentary, even editorials. OK, the classified section is one I never touched. But you get my point.

I owe a great debt to former publishers Susan Horowitz and Jan Stevenson, who saw something in the writing I’d done for WSU’s The Sound End newspaper and gave me a chance. They were and are leaders in the community and I learned a lot from them. To be honest, Susan and I clashed from time to time. We’re both temperamental Capricorns with birthdays just days apart. But, overall, Susan was always overwhelmingly kind to me. 

She sent me to Atlanta to cover Creating Change, just days after the 2000 election and with the results still hanging in the balance. (Anyone remember the hanging chads?) I covered and walked in the Millennium March on Washington. I’ve profiled more inspiring community members than I can count, and written many more obituaries than I would have liked. Many of these were for friends or people I knew. I considered it my sacred honor to send them off journalistically. 

So how do I walk away now? I’ve been at the paper longer than anyone else currently writing for it. And perhaps that’s the point. I’m a relic. I’m old. Yesterday’s news. 

Oh I know that sounds a little pessimistic. Fifty is the new something or other, right? Age is a state of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. I know all the adages, including the one about staying at the fair too long. 

Over the years, I’ve become accustomed to being “Jason A. Michael from Between The Lines.” It’s a part of my identity. Who will I be if I’m not a reporter anymore? What is my purpose? I guess I kind of thought I’d write until I die. And maybe I will. I’ve written two books so far, one an Essence magazine bestseller. Maybe I’ll write a third.

I’d love to find some queer anthologies to contribute to, but there aren’t as many of those as there used to be and those that are still around are often sex-centered. Heck, what isn’t sex-centered these days? Maybe it’s just an example of me being over the hill. The hill, of course, is metaphysical, but make no mistake. I’m over it.

I’m a throwback to a simpler time in journalism. New ownership and management has taken the paper in a new direction. Benjamin Jenkins, our new publisher, has been very fair to me since taking over three years ago. But I’m a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.

I’m proud of my body of work. Most of all, I’m thankful to all of you who’ve ever taken the time to read one of my stories or columns. I did it all for the community, and I hope, in some small way, I’ve made a difference. At least I know I did the best I could.

So goodbye, dear readers. Thanks for the memories. You’ve been a vibrant and beautiful community to cover, and I have enjoyed seeing you grow. I’ve reached the end of my column, and I still haven’t figured out how to say goodbye. So cue up Bette Midler saying so long to Johnny Carson in song. Lift a glass and let’s make it one for my (imaginary) baby, and one more for the road! Thanks again. JAM out!



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