Tributes paid to pioneering gay journalist Michael Mason

February 3, 2015
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Tributes have been paid to one of the pioneers of British LGBT journalism, Michael Mason, who died at the weekend.

Mason was news editor at Gay News from 1972 until the early 1980s. During his time he covered many seismic events, including the political demise of former Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe.

Mason also interviewed various politicians including Tony Benn and Ian Paisley.

Gay News played a pivotal role in the struggle for equality in Britain. The paper was charged with obscenity in 1974, having published an issue with a cover photograph of two men kissing. It subsequently won the court case.

In 1976 Mary Whitehouse brought a private prosecution of blasphemy against both the newspaper and its editor, Denis Lemon, over the publication of James Kirkup’s poem ‘The Love that Dares to Speak its Name.’

Lemon was found guilty when the case came to court in July 1977 and sentenced to a suspended nine-month prison sentence and personally fined £1,000.

The final edition of Gay News was published in 1983. Michael Mason founded Capital Gay in 1981, which ran for a total of 14 years.

Paying tribute to the journalist and activist, whose death was announced on Sunday, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told “I knew Michael for over 40 years.

“We met in the London Gay Liberation Front in 1971. His then boyfriend, Carl, was the cousin of my then boyfriend, Peter.

“His newspaper, Capital Gay, was a pioneering gay publication in the 1980s and 90s. Its reporting of the HIV pandemic was outstanding and its advice on safer sex helped save many lives.

“Capital Gay’s coverage of LGBT issues was also important and invaluable. It made our community aware of the scale of homophobic discrimination and the need to fight it.

“Michael deserves huge credit for helping promote HIV awareness and prevention, and for reporting and supporting HIV and LGBT campaigns.”

The Chief Executive of GMFA, Matthew Hodson, was among several people to pay tribute to Mason on Twitter.

Author and journalist Paul Burston expressed sadness at the news.

Journalist William William Brougham tweeted his condolences and pointed to a previous interview of Mason recalling his long career.

Long-standing activist Lisa Power told “Michael quietly made a huge contribution to the forming of a gay community, as we would call it then, in London and across the UK. Gay News and subsequently Capital Gay, alongside Switchboard were the major sources of information for LGBT people in the seventies and eighties.”

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