By Alison Barnet, special to the Sun
The first issue of the South End News hit the streets of the South End on February 15, 1980. It was put out by Skip Rosenthal, publisher, and Alison Barnet, editor. The lead stories were Viviana Muṅoz-Mendoza’s court battle against condo conversion and the opening of the Digital plant at Crosstown. Office and layout facility were home: 49 East Springfield St.
From the beginning, Officer John Sacco contributed a police report that was a masterpiece of black humor. South End Little City Hall manager Jeannette Hajjar wrote a Little City Hall Report, and senior services coordinator Frank Leupold was our idiosyncratic arts and entertainment columnist, the “South End Muse.” Richard O. Card of the South End Historical Society wrote a history column, and Cyndi Koebert a SEPAC (South End Project Area Committee) column. Richie Hall, then with the Boston Redevelopment Authority and an early supporter, channeled development news our way and found us an office at 1515 Washington Street in August.
Skip had been on the advertising and production end of gay publications, notably Gay Community News, for many years. Alison was working as a temporary legal secretary and typesetter and in her free time writing for the East Springfield Gazette, a tiny newsletter on East Springfield Street. Neither had a penny to speak of—a $5,000 loan from Skip’s father started the paper.
The South End News was not, however, our first journalistic endeavor. First came “The Neck,” whose theme was an upcoming, city-sponsored neighborhood clean-up. Calling the paper “The Neck” gave us many creative options: our arts section could be called “Neck After Dark,” our sports pages “Neck to Neck,” and our medical column “Pain in the Neck.”
The end result was a double-sided, 8½ by 14 “broadside” typeset by Barnet and laid out by Skip. Dumpster locations were listed on the front under a drawing of a typical neighborhood alley: open garbage bags, flies and rats. I wrote the informational “Poop on the Clean-Up” and a humorous piece called “Join the Rat Race!”
The city cancelled the clean-up at the last moment, and the Neck never surfaced again. Skip and I agreed that we would wait for a “staff” who could take up more of the slack; we didn’t want to do the bulk of the work ourselves again.
Andrew Dreyfus became editor in January 1981. Two years later, the biweekly South End News became weekly. In 1985, Skip sold the paper to James Hoover, and a year later Hoover bought Bay Windows as well. By its 10th anniversary, the South End News had a full time staff of nine, a part-time staff of eight, and was regularly publishing 20-24 page editions.