BURLINGTON -- The editor of Out in the Mountains, Vermont's monthly read on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues, is moving on.
"The well is dry," says Euan Bear, who has worked as the paper's editor and major contributor for the last four years. "I feel like I said everything I passionately wanted to say and it's time for someone else to pick up the torch."
Out in the Mountains, published by the nonprofit Mountain Pride Media, is Vermont's only statewide publication devoted exclusively to news, culture and opinions on gender- and sexual-identity issues. The Burlington-based monthly, now in its 20th year, has a print circulation of about 5000, with more than 40,000 visitors to its website each month.
Bear, who put out her last issue this week, is credited with raising the paper's journalistic standards and transforming it from a predominantly arts and entertainment publication with many nationally syndicated columns to a vehicle for more hard-hitting local news, features and profiles.
"What makes us unique is that we're a Vermont voice," says Bear. "My whole philosophy is that everybody's got a story. The real task is to help people tell those stories, find what's important about those stories, and put them in a context."
Bear, whose strong opinions occasionally left her butting heads with her board of directors, wasn't afraid to shine a critical light on Vermont's gay and lesbian community. "It's about getting the message out there," she says. "If somebody screws up, then we report on that."
For example, Bear took some heat several months ago after she wrote an article about Kurt Kleier, the former AIDS chief at the Vermont Department of Health, who was highly critical of that agency's approach to AIDS funding. "There are gay people in the health department who still aren't speaking to me three months later," she says.
But Bear is most proud of the story she wrote in February 2005 about two women cheese-makers at Orb Weaver Farm in Monkton who were the victims of two attacks. In one, someone broke into their cheese house and punctured the rinds of their cheese, spoiling nearly a year's work. The other was a physical attack by two men, who were later captured.
The story received national media attention, though most publications didn't pick up on the angle that the women were lesbians. Bear, who still gets choked up when she discusses the story, says it was the response of their community -- not the gay and lesbian community but local farmers and co-ops where the women sell their cheese -- that made the story so powerful.
"It was really about how lives, even though they're lived quietly and without the word activism, can really make a difference in the world," she says.
Bear's replacement as editor is Lynn McNicol, a longtime Burlington resident and activist on environmental, women's health and civil rights issues. A former reporter with The Citizen, a daily newspaper in Auburn, New York, McNicol has been a regular contributor to Out in the Mountains in recent years. She's also a member of Sambatucada, the Latin percussion group that leads the annual Burlington Gay Pride parade.