We operate in nonstop news cycles here at Watermark, so by the time December rolls around a lot of our coverage blends together for me. Maybe it’s because I just turned 39.
I can usually recall what happened on a higher level, but some of the details can get fuzzy. It’s one of the reasons our annual Year in Review issue has always been a favorite of mine, giving me the chance to revisit the stories that helped shape our community over the last 12 months.
These issues are also special to me because Watermark’s 2017 Year in Review was one of the first I worked on as a staffer. I officially joined the team on Dec. 11 after freelancing for some time, which means this month marked six years as a full-time employee.
I’m still so thankful, both that I get to do what I love and for everyone who makes it possible. I’m lucky to serve our community and to interact with so many of its members, work with an amazing team and have the support of my wonderful husband while doing it all.
To give you a year-end peek behind the keyboard, there are two main elements to our Year in Review coverage. The first is the most obvious: Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Williams and I recap what happened from January until December. Some if it’s good, some of it’s bad, but all of it impacted us somehow.
The second is something the readers decide. Throughout each news section you’ll find the Top 5 most-read stories from that beat, compiled using data from WatermarkOnline.com. We give you an objective overview there, but this year I wanted to add a few of my personal thoughts about each Tampa Bay story.
The first was “Steven Cozzi was ‘brilliant, loving and caring,’ husband says,” published March 27. Watermark spoke with Michael Steven Montgomery just days after his husband Steven’s murder and I’ll always remember our conversation. I want to thank Michael for sharing some of their love story with readers. It matters and you remain in our thoughts.
The second was “LGBTQ+ leather bar MR D’z opens in Tampa,” published Sept. 8. In a year where the LGBTQ+ community faced an onslaught of attacks from Tallahassee, I want to thank owners Delon Cunningham and Michael Rivera for creating another safe space in our area.
“MCC Tampa withdraws from Tampa Pride 2023” was Tampa Bay’s third most-read story, published March 9. The church’s board made the decision after Rev. Jakob Hero-Shaw was publicly misgendered by Tampa Pride President Carrie West. I’m certain it wasn’t an easy decision.
Coming in fourth was “Tampa Bay husbands adopt 6 siblings, create ‘forever family.’” It was a delight to meet Dustin and Daniel Johnson, lovely fathers who would go on to be named two of Watermark’s Remarkable People of 2023 for obvious reasons.
The fifth most-read headline was “Zoie’s announces immediate, permanent closure” and published June 26. The loss of the LGBTQ+ venue underscored the importance of our safe spaces and it’s my hope that more open in 2024.
This year was also memorable for Watermark’s arts and entertainment coverage. We highlighted incredible local acts like Divine AF and events like TIGLFF, including their first in-person Transgender Film Festival, and got to chat with amazing artists as they made national news or came through town.
For me, that meant interviewing Broadway and Disney superstar Idina Menzel before she headlined St Pete Pride, “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” winner and drag clown Jimbo after she snatched the crown and the “Trans Handy Ma’am” herself, Mercury Stardust as she brought her book tour to Tampa. They were all lovely.
I also had the opportunity to chat with “Star Trek” legend William Shatner before his stop at the Straz. As a nearly lifelong Trekkie who wasn’t sure how he felt, getting Captain Kirk on the record as pro-LGBTQ+ is something I’ll always be proud of.
Of all of our coverage this year, however, I’m probably proudest of Visibili-T, a feature championed by Publisher Rick Todd. It was introduced in the first issue of 2023 to amplify trans voices in our community, the most marginalized among us, and for 26 issues we did exactly that.
I want to say thank you to everyone who shared a glimpse into their life with readers this year, especially those I was lucky enough to chat with in Tampa Bay. It makes a difference and I want to unequivocally state that trans rights are human rights, something I hope every member of our community can agree on.
Finally, I want to say thank you to our readers. Thank you for supporting Watermark and our advertisers this and every year, and for looking back on 2023 and toward 2024 with us now. Please stay safe, stay informed and have a Happy New Year!