By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Stephen Mindich on the future of the Phoenix

Watch 1 Guest: Stephen Mindich on PBS. See more from Greater Boston.

Boston Phoenix publisher Stephen Mindich sat down with Emily Rooney last night on “Greater Boston” on WGBH-TV (Channel 2) to talk about the future of the Phoenix and his own legendary career in Boston media. Well worth your time.

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  1. Bob Gardner

    Crepy. It was like watching Donald Trump with his combover pulled into a ponytail.

  2. Laurence Glavin

    Not a word about the sale of WFNX-FM in Lynn/Boston (WFEX in Peterborough, NH also sold) a transaction that has top-of-mind around here lately. Did Mindich tell Emily he did not want that subject dsicussed?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Laurence: I can’t imagine. I just don’t think it was on Emily’s radar.

  3. Mike Wilson


    Friday evening I happened to catch the rebroadcast of Emily’s interview with Steve Mindich. I must confess, I nearly fell out of my chair when Steve told the tale of the union “plant” that provided him and his staff with such excellent cleaning services for about 18 months. What struck me was how those events so deeply embedded themselves in the consciousness of such a fertile, entrepreneurial mind. Judging from Steve’s rather pained look in relaying his story about the treachery of hired help, one would think this atrocity occurred only late yesterday afternoon and not 29 years ago. But, alas, how time does fly. I am witness to those troubled days. I am that janitor. I survived.

    As to the allegation that I was a union “plant”, potted in that cramped hothouse of burgeoning, though underpaid, journalistic talent (then located on Massachusetts Avenue across from the Eliot Lounge – huzzah!) I plead not guilty. I was merely a star-struck student who actually believed that cleaning the executive wash room, sweeping the production floor and taking out the trash was paying the necessary dues upon entering an honorable but long since abandoned literary career, and not the AFL-CIO.

    Steve has been an institution in this town for many years so I attribute his forgetfulness of the events between the time I was hired as a Janitor and the time he fired me as the Janitor to age. According to Steve, he was completely unaware of my existence until he was informed at a Christmas party that I was a “plant.” No one is that uninformed so let me fill in the blanks:
    It all began when a member of the production staff approached me with the notion of starting a union drive. She had been contacted by an organizer from the typographers union and suggested we all get together. My class consciousness got the better of me and one thing led to another. I took the bit in my mouth and became “radicalized.” The atmosphere turned paranoid and union cards were distributed and signed in secret. Some helpful fellows in black suits from Chicago firm called Modern Management Methods, Inc., LLC arrived on the scene at Steve’s behest to cast a shining light on the path to righteousness and then rub us out. The next thing I knew I was sitting perhaps 3rd or 4th “chair” in front of an NLRB magistrate listening to Steve’s explanation of an ideal and decidedly non-union workplace. You see, to hear Steve tell it, there were no managers at the Phoenix; no “Bosses,” supervisors, CEO’s, CFO’s, Managing Directors of Advertising, Circulation or Production, Editors-in-Chief or Human Resource Managers. Oh no, everyone spent most of their day supervising everyone else and, you might be surprised to know, that everyone did everyone else’s jobs. There was no hierarchy, no corporate ladder to climb, no corner office. We were a collective!

    His Honor shared Steve’s vision and we were denied the right to vote for the union. Kaplunk. Things unraveled fast, promises of an appeal were uttered but there was no gas left in the tank. No union. Steve’s gloat over the outcome of all this can only be compared to the self-satisfied smirk he wore on his face at the demise of the Real Paper – that other collective.

    Christmas at the Phoenix was always a bonny time and the party that year was especially festive. Steve and the elves celebrated at one of those basement nightclubs that he haunted and were once plentiful around Kenmore Square. Christmas cheer flowed unperturbedly while we were told how lucky we were. Then Steve did a stupid thing; he went up to one of our meeker though committed fellow travelers (a playwright I as I recall) and asked him if he was having a good time and what did we need with that stinking union anyway. He had used the “U” word at an office party and in front of everyone. That’s when I did a stupid thing. I pointed out to Steve that it was neither necessary nor wise to broach that topic at this, or any other time – it might upset the elves. He responded by downing his drink, gathering his prodigious posse, now cast in the role of “The Management,” made sure two or three of them were holding him firmly while he took a half-hearted swing at me and told me my services were no longer required. As to Steve’s reference in your interview that I was quite a bit bigger than he was I can only state that he seemed so much smaller than I remember him to be. And that pony tail will not do.

    Boston is a small town so when Norma Nathan called me a few days later to offer her condolences and fish for a scoop, I wasn’t surprised. She did a good job of smacking Steve around and even published my meager, $90 a week salary. I was so proud. Normally, when interviewed by the press, I would defer to my Communications Director or Business Agent for a managed response, but since I was not then or ever a member of a union, I told her the whole, ugly truth of it.

    Well, I have certainly enjoyed this trip down memory lane; I hadn’t thought about this in years. I take some pleasure in knowing that Steve has.


    Michael Wilson

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