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Obituaries

Rob Cole, 76; gay journalist helped make the Advocate a national paper

July 13, 2007|From a Times Staff Writer

Rob Cole, a pioneering gay journalist whose efforts helped create a national readership for the Advocate, the long-running gay publication, died June 30 at his home in North Hills. He was 76.

Cole died after a long struggle with Parkinson's disease, complicated by pneumonia and a chronic back ailment, according to a longtime friend, Rob McCoard.

Cole had been an editor for 17 years at the Dallas Times-Herald when he left to join the Advocate as news editor in 1969, two years after its founding. He was the first news professional to work at the Advocate, said Stuart Timmons, an expert on gay history in Los Angeles.

According to the Encyclopedia of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender History, owners Bill Rand and Dick Michaels hired Cole to bring professional standards to what was then a rather amateurish mix of news, features and photographs of scantily clad men.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday July 15, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Cole obituary: An obituary on pioneering gay journalist Rob Cole in Friday's California section said the annual gay pride parade takes place on Hollywood Boulevard. It occurs on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.

Cole not only assigned and edited stories, he also often wrote them, covering serious issues such as conditions for gays in jails, psychiatric abuse and gays in religion.

"He was quite responsible for the Advocate's growth and for the excellence of the paper," said Jeanne Barney, an Advocate columnist when Cole was editor.

His work was encouraging to other gay journalists, such as Mark Thompson, a former Advocate senior editor and author of books on gay spirituality, history and culture.

"In those days, for someone to leave a mainstream career and work for a struggling gay newspaper was an extraordinary act of courage and bravery," Thompson said.

Cole, a native of Dallas, remained with the Advocate until new owners moved the entire operation to San Francisco in 1974. Over the next several years he helped start a Los Angeles-based gay publication called News West -- now defunct -- and worked for other newspapers in Southern California.

He eventually left journalism and worked as a real estate appraiser while remaining active in the gay community.

For most of the last 37 years, he was a board member of Christopher Street West, the organization that annually sponsors a gay pride parade on Hollywood Boulevard.

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