Many refer to Mark Segal — founder and publisher of the award-winning Philadelphia Gay News — as the dean of American gay journalism. As a pioneer of the local gay press movement, he was one of the founders and former president of both the National Gay Press Association and the National Gay Newspaper Guild. As a young gay activist, Segal understood the power of media. In 1973, Segal disrupted the “CBS Evening News” with Walter Cronkite, an event covered in newspapers across the country and viewed by 60 percent of American households, many seeing or hearing about homosexuality for the first time. Before the networks agreed to put a stop to censorship and bias in the news division, Segal went on to disrupt “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and Barbara Walters on the “Today” show. The trade newspaper Variety claimed that Segal had cost the industry $750,000 in production, tape delays and lost advertising revenue.
Aside from publishing, Segal has also reported on gay life from such places as Lebanon, Cuba and East Berlin during the fall of the Berlin Wall. He and Bob Ross, former publisher of San Francisco’s Bay Area Reporter, represented the gay press and lectured in Moscow and St. Petersburg at Russia’s first openly gay conference, referred to as Russia’s Stonewall. He recently coordinated a network of local gay publications nationally to celebrate October as gay history month, with a combined print run reaching over a half million people. His determination to gain acceptance and respect for the gay press can be summed up by his 15-year battle to gain membership in the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, one of the nation’s oldest and most respected organizations for daily and weekly newspapers. The 15-year battled ended after the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette joined forces and called for PGN’s membership. Segal is now a past member of the board of directors of PNA.