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

The Boston Phoenix comes to the end of the road

I’m not even going to try to write a real post about this today. I’m getting bombarded from all directions, and besides that, I’m devastated. But I did want to note quickly, in case you haven’t heard, that The Phoenix — the erstwhile Boston Phoenix, reinvented as a glossy magazine last fall — is closing down, as is its affiliated Internet radio station,

The Providence and Portland Phoenixes will continue, as well as a few non-journalism businesses.

Here is Doug Most’s report for [5:07 p.m. update: That report now carries Joe Kahn’s byline.]

The Phoenix gave me 14 great years, and it’s hard to believe that the end has come. There are way too many people to mention, so I’ll leave it at this: Peter Kadzis and Stephen Mindich were great bosses, smart, tough and loyal. Carly Carioli has done tremendous work on the reinvention, and it’s a tragedy that he ran out of time. I rely on David Bernstein for his deep reporting on politics and Chris Faraone for an alternative look at the news. Here is Mindich in a statement to the staff:

What I can and will say is I am extremely proud, as all of you should be, of the highest standards of journalism we have set and maintained throughout the decades in all of our areas of coverage and the important role we have played in driving political and socially progressive and responsible agendas; in covering the worlds of arts and entertainment, food and fashion – always with a critical view, while at the same time promoting their enormous importance in maintaining a healthy society; and in advocating for the recognition and acceptance of a wide range of lifestyles that are so valuable for a vibrant society….

We have had an extraordinary run.

And this is an incredibly sad day.

More: Unlike many who got their start at the Phoenix in their early 20s, I was 34 years old and thought my journalism career was over. In the late 1980s I had tried my hand at launching a regional lifestyle magazine in the suburbs northwest of Boston following some years at the Daily Times Chronicle of Woburn. The magazine failed, and I was doing what I could to survive.

I was picked up on waivers in 1991 from the Pilot — yes, the Catholic paper — where I had been doing layout and production. The Phoenix hired me as a copy editor, but I kept an eye out in case something better came along. Yes, I had grown up reading the Phoenix, Boston After Dark and the Real Paper, but any romantic notions I’d had of the alternative press had pretty much dissipated.

Gradually, though, I got sucked in. And when I inherited the media beat in late 1994 from Mark Jurkowitz, I became a made member of the Phoenix family. It was the most formative experience of my career. Without the Phoenix, I can’t imagine what I’d be doing today — PR for some politician? Ugh.

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  1. Louise Kennedy

    Dan and everyone at the Phoenix — This is such sad news, for you, for all of us in Boston. I feel as if I’m losing a friend — and thinking of all my friends right now.

  2. what a shame… I never warmed up to the glossy magazine version of the Phoenix. I didn’t like the layout or the tiny print but the political reporting remained solid and the music/movie/arts reviews were certainly a step above what the Globe does. And they didn’t give away the plot with spoilers like half the Globe movie reviews would do, since they’d list every thing that might set off parental alarms and that would often reveal certain plot twists. The Phoenix didn’t even show MPAA listings.

    Anyway, a sad day for Boston media.

  3. This makes me sad. I interned at The Phoenix, way back in the ’90s (I did a bunch of microfilm searches for you, Dan! You were always really nice to me, made the interning experience a lot less intimidating!).

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Mary Ellen: Thank you for checking in. Gotta be nice to people on your way up so they don’t kick you when you’re on your way down!

  4. Not sure why the Phoenix went glossy. Boston seems like a market there should be a good free paper, and my guess is there will be another one soon.

  5. Maybe I’m getting naïve in my dotage, but – after a middling career in TV news — I still believe that there have been some principled practitioners of “PR for some politician” who were true believers, and who might justifiably take offense at your (let’s face it, somewhat sardonic) putdown of their calling. The names of my personal heroes Toby Ziegler, Sam Seaborn, and Claudia Jean (“C.J.”) Cregg, come immediately to mind, but I’m sure there are some real ones.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Art: It’s a totally honorable way to make a living. It’s not for me.

  6. Jeff Schiffman

    Twenty-two years ago (gasp) I had something to do with putting together the 25th anniversary celebration of The Phoenix. The quality of the people, past and present at that time, who shaped and stomped the paper into being was/is unforgettable. And Mindich, of course, is a force unto himself. But I also did not want this sorrowful moment to go by without also acknowledging one Barry Morris, who stood by Mindich’s side for so many years, taking the blows, dishing it out, leaving his own invaluable, indelible mark.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Jeff: Just don’t tell me you were responsible for bringing in the Capitol Steps that night.

  7. Jeff Schiffman

    If I say yes, will that mean you stop talking to me? If that’s so, then the answer is no. (Actually, I led all the planning and production around the events and outreach of the anniversary. A young and innocent Brad Mindich was on the team, along with Lisa DeSisto, among others. And I believe I was the first to talk Jon Keller into hosting a television program as part of what we did.)

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Jeff: I’ll still talk to you. But not about music.

  8. Jeff Schiffman

    does it help that I brought in Tony Bennett for the PHX Arts Gala, have photo of me w/Beatles from 1965, and first saw Dylan at Gerde’s 1961….

    • Dan Kennedy

      It would have helped if you had brought Dylan to the 25th anniversary party, @Jeff. Or Tony Bennett. Or both!

  9. Jeff Schiffman

    Your tough, Kennedy. It was 22 years ago, let it go, and go back to grading your papers.

  10. Well said Dan. I always hear you on Greater Boston reference the Phoenix, so I had to come here to get your feelings. – Howard.Johnson

  11. pauljbass

    Altweeklies had a great run — influencing the broader media world in positive ways while producing great journalism on their own, IMHO. I feel fortunate to have worked for one for many years. Nationally I think their day has long passed. It began with too many of them being purchased by chains and even mainstream corporate journalism outfits that simply wanted to extract all the revenue while having no clue about the genre’s raison d’etre. Also, the world just changed — the web may have made the genre obsolete. Finally, the outsiders did become the insiders, leaving the outdated appearance of agitation (i.e., swearing) as a substitute for genuinely radical approaches to journalism. That said, congrats to the Phoenix for a long, great run (and local ownership!) and to all the reporters and editors who produced so much great work over the years. Your/our work lives on in new formats.

  12. I hesitated clicking “like” because I do NOT like this news…at all!!!

    I remember when the Phoenix began and the voice it gave to a rising liberalism. Reading the Phoenix was like taking your best/craziest night out in Cambridge home wirh you…. and reliving it in printed glory..

    I loved that damn paper. 🙁

  13. Is it too early for lemonade? I gotta believe with all that talent left in the ashes there’s a shot for a second act – call it “Real 2.”

  14. Mike Foley

    How am I going to know who’s playing at the Rat? Joking aside, the Phoenix was my Bible during my 80’s college years.

  15. I blogged about this sad passing at Sad tale of passing of the Boston Phoenix. Keep remembering great names I inadvertently omitted, like Mark Jurkowitz and Scot Lehigh and Jon Keller. My apologies to all. You were very important to the Phoenix accomplishments.

  16. Steve Rhode

    Sad, sad sad!

  17. Robbie Hartery

    I will miss the Phoenix for what it represented, an independent media voice, rather than for its content. I pretty much stopped reading the paper once the Don’t Quote Me media column faded away a couple of years ago. I think it became sporadic once Adam Reilly went to WGBH, but there may have been one more regular I’m forgetting.

    DQM was my hook, initially, for picking up the Phoenix, much in the way I was eventually drawn to ’60 Minutes’ after only tuning in for Andy Rooney for some time. Gradually, I became a fan of other parts of the paper. I know the Phoenix was primarily noted for its arts/music/entertainment coverage, but I was most interested in its often substantive journalism and criticism.

    As a reader, then, it was a slow, painful death, as the news bites were condensed, the numbers box (forget what it was called; kind of a mini version of Harper’s Index) vanished, letters to the editor became rare, and DQM went away along with the political cartoons. By the time management switched the paper to a glossy magazine, it was a shell of itself, much like the Herald.

    Still, as with the Herald, I rooted for the Phoenix to survive because I strongly believe in the value of a multi newspaper town. Kind of like the big investigative report spread you don’t read but are glad is there all the same. I think Boston was richer with the Phoenix for its mere presence, but frankly it was a paper on borrowed time.

  18. Autocratic top down dead tree media is nice if it hires you, otherwise, not so much. Same with radio and tv.

    I mainly recall it as a part of the sophomoric triumvirate that made Boston the pitiful provincial college and insurance backwater it essentially is.

    With any luck we’ll soon be rid of the Globe and Herald too and the waters of information can at last flow unvexed to the See.

    Those who weren’t employed by these things and those under 40 will scarcely notice a difference.

    We have traded this narrow taste and opinion brokering for something truly wonderful, news aggregation custom tweaked.

    No longer will there be this strange profession of arrogant amateurs. Nate Silver’s data driven implosion of glib punditry is the tell of the time.

    Future generations will wonder at the transient proliferation of masticated pulp manipulations and delusions of significance.

    “You mean, great grandpa only had flimsy ink stained sheets to find his way around the world?….”

    Somewhere another north country forest is off the hook for evisceration.

    And then we can get rid of NPR and horrid WBZ news radio and all the blow dry anchors on plastic evening news.

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