History of Wisconsin Light newspaper, written by Jamakaya and reproduced here courtesy of In Step.
The first issue of Wisconsin Light appeared on Nov. 20, 1987 under the direction of Publisher Jerry Johnson and Editor Terry Boughner. The front page banner included the motto: “Give the People Light and they will find their own way.”
The premiere issue indicates that Wisconsin Light was initiated as a direct successor to OUT, a small monthly newspaper based in Madison which had ceased publication that summer. IN Step, in a 5-1/2” by 8-1/2” magazine format at that time, was primarily covering the bar scene, and many activists felt a need to launch a new publication that would include a fuller array of news and commentary. Ron Geiman, publisher of IN Step, supported the effort.
The first issues of Wisconsin Light came out monthly, but by the spring of 1988, in hopes of raising more advertising revenue and accommodating the increasing volume of news copy by and about gays, a decision was made to publish bi-weekly. This the Light did consistently until March of 1999, when it went weekly.
High water marks for Wisconsin Light during its 12-1/2 year history include its extensive coverage of the Jeffrey Dahmer case in 1991-92. The Light published an “Extra” edition on Aug. 1, 1991 to provide timely information on many aspects of the mass murder, which had a dramatic impact on the city’s gay and lesbian community. The Light scooped the mainstream media with information on some of Dahmer’s victims and past evidence of Milwaukee police officers’ harassment and insensitivity to gays. The Light’s coverage of the Dahmer case won awards from the National Gay and Lesbian Press Association.
On Nov. 6, 1997, Wisconsin Light published a 120-page anniversary issue called “A Decade of Light.” It included a massive timeline of all major LGBT events -- local, statewide and national -- that had been reported in the Light since its founding, along with hundreds of photos of those events, most taken by Jerry Johnson. It stands as the most thorough history ever compiled of that 10-year period of LGBT life in Wisconsin.
On the debit side, the Light was often marred by typographical errors which rendered words or headlines incomprehensible. Sometimes it caused inadvertent humor, like the time Light reported that a gay editor had been “fried” (rather than “fired”) for outing someone. The final issue was true to form with the following tribute: “Congratulations to Hilary Swank for his Best Actress Oscar...”
In June of 1998, Johnson and Boughner sold the Wisconsin Light to Greg Quindel and another unnamed investor. “Jerry and I spent ten years plus and we did the best we possibly could,” former editor Terry Boughner told IN Step. “We’re very proud of the national reputation we built for the Light. But it was time to hand it off to others. ‘Hail and farewell!’ was our attitude. There comes a point you just have to let go. I don’t regret it. Now Jerry and I have a life again.”
Bill Meunier, a longtime political columnist for Wisconsin Light, was named editor and Ron Geiman, who had sold IN Step to Bill Attewell and Jorge Cabal in 1996, was named publisher. At the end of 1998, Light announced that Greg Quindel would take over as publisher and the newspaper would begin publishing weekly. Its first weekly issue debuted in March, 1999. Exactly one year later, the Light published its final issue.
Note: The Wisconsin Light newspaper was resurrected briefly late 2001 (after the above history was written), but ceased publication again early 2002. (website editor)
View the full In Step article announcing Wisconsin Light's demise here.
First Issue: Volume 1, No. 1
Volume 4, No. 16
Volume 8, No. 24
Volume 11, No. 12
Credits: bulk of information from an article in InStep magazine, author Jamakaya;
other info and photos from the archives of Wisconsin Light, Johnson/Boughner; and Don Schwamb
Last updated: 6-February-2005.