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Ex-Phoenicians buy Bay Windows and South End News

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 20, 2003 – The largest gay-and-lesbian newspaper in New England and a Boston neighborhood paper have been acquired by two former advertising executives for the Boston Phoenix.

Sue O’Connell and Jeff Coakley purchased Bay Windows and the South End News from James Hoover, who had owned the two weeklies for about 20 years. O’Connell declined to discuss the terms of the sale, which was finalized shortly before noon today. The sale had been under discussion for about a year, she said.

"I’ve wanted to own the business that I’ve worked in for my entire life," says O’Connell, 41, who had been associate publisher of Bay Windows since 1998. Adds Coakley, 40: "We’re both very excited. I guess I’ve been sort of preparing myself my whole career for something like this."

Neither O’Connell nor Coakley, who will serve as co-publishers, expects any major changes in the direction of the newspapers.

Andrew Rapp, who became editor-in-chief of Bay Windows in 2002 and who was recently put in charge of the South End News as well, will remain in those posts. Under Rapp, O’Connell says Bay Windows has reached out to the transgender and bisexual communities, and has placed a greater emphasis on local news — trends that she expects will continue, especially with the state’s Supreme Judicial Court likely to create a right of same-sex marriage or civil union in the near future.

"We’ve always been the largest gay-and-lesbian outlet in New England," says Coakley. "But we’re going to step up our advocacy role for the GLBT community while reporting on the issues that affect that community." The anticipated SJC ruling, he adds, will "position Bay Windows right in the middle of that debate."

Hoover, who was not available for comment, will remain in an advisory role, says O’Connell.

Bay Windows claims a weekly circulation of 22,000; the South End News, 17,000.

O’Connell worked at the Phoenix from 1992 to ’94, and again from 1996 to ’98, serving as the paper’s entertainment sales manager. She and Coakley — who worked as the Phoenix’s director of classified advertising in the mid ’90s — helped launch One in Ten, a monthly supplement on gay-and-lesbian issues that the Phoenix published for several years.

O’Connell is the cohost, with Keith Orr, of a program on gay and lesbian issues that is also called One in Ten. The show is heard on Sundays from 10 p.m. to midnight on WFNX Radio (101.7 FM), part of the Phoenix Media/Communications Group.

Coakley, after leaving the Phoenix, was part of the first management team at Boston.com, the Boston Globe’s Web site. Most recently he has been working as director of sales and marketing for an air-charter service.

Partnerships can be among the most tense of business relationships, but O’Connell sounds confident that this one can last.

"Jeff and I have worked on any number of projects together," she says. "We have a lot of failures under our belt, so we feel really good about this one. We feel pretty battle-tested in our relationship."

Issue Date: August 20, 2003
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