How the decline of community helped kill the Phoenix

For the Boston Phoenix, the decline lasted years — but the end came swiftly.

Last Thursday afternoon a local journalist called to ask if I’d heard rumors that the 47-year-old alt-weekly was about to go under. I hadn’t. Within an hour, Boston.com was reporting that the Phoenix would cease publication immediately. One more issue — online only — will be posted this week. After that, the Phoenix, my professional home for 14 years and an important part of my life since the 1970s, will go dark.

Read the rest at PBS MediaShift.

8 thoughts on “How the decline of community helped kill the Phoenix

  1. Bob Gardner

    1) So it’s all the head shops in Providence and Portland?

    2) Here’s your comment on the Daily Voice publisher Carll Tucker, who let his employees think that there was “exciting news” coming and then announced layoffs.”Despicable — not the downsizing, which may have been necessary, but the deceit.”

    Here’s your comment on Phoenix publisher Steven Mindich, who let his “staff members (hold) a long meeting to plan future issues” the day before he announced that they were all laid off.
    Or should I say non-comment?

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @Bob: So show me where Mindich told people he had some great news coming. The fact is that you’re in business until you’re not in business. If he had let them know a day earlier, he’d be criticized for not letting them know two days earlier.

      Have you seen quotes from anyone complaining about how Mindich handled this? Have you seen quotes from anyone not complaining about Tucker?

  2. Bob Gardner

    Pure casuistry. This difference between what Tucker did and what Mindich did is so small that they either are both despicable or neither is. Either conclusion is fine with me; but don’t have one set of rules for strangers and another for your buddies.

    1. Dan Kennedy Post author

      @Bob: Good grief. There are layoffs and closings every day in the America. When did you ever hear of anyone doing something as outrageous as Tucker? A lot of people at the Phoenix who lost their jobs — and who aren’t getting any severance pay — have been speaking out since last Thursday. Have you seen any of them ripping into Mindich? Perhaps they appreciate the fact that someone who has been subsidizing them to the tune of $30,000 a week has finally decided he can’t do it anymore. Start search the tubes. Tell me when you’ve found an ex-employee criticizing Mindich for closing the Phoenix the way he did. If you can’t find one, then you’ve got nothing.

  3. Arist Frangules

    I have thus been inspired to look up “casuistry,” the meaning of which I will now share, via Merriam-Webster.com:

    1: a resolving of specific cases of conscience, duty, or conduct through interpretation of ethical principles or religious doctrine.
    2: specious argument.

    Undoubtedly Bob intended the primary definition.

    Thank you. Every day is a chance to learn something new.

    P.S. Glad to finally contribute here (sort of) Dan. Hope you don’t mind if I check in once in a while. My best to all.

  4. Bob Gardner

    @Arist
    I was using casuistry as defined in the Random House Webster’s College Dictionary “1. oversubtle, fallacious or dishonest reasoning: sophistry.”
    Here is why I used that term. The difference between what the two publishers did was pretty small. Both were faced with a common problem–how to announce closings and layoffs without tipping off your employees prematurely. One used the usual approach: by letting this employees plan future issues of the paper hours before he announced the paper was closing. The other publisher tipped his employees off by telling them there was an email coming, but disguised the tipoff by labelling it “exciting news.”
    That’s not much of a difference compared with how layoffs are handled in general. At one extreme employees show up for work and find out they are laid off when their ID card no longer gets them into the building. At the other extreme, the employees might keep their health insurance and other benefits, get lots of advance notice, get to move into the remaining jobs by seniority, have the right to be the first rehired, etc. Of course the latter situation only occurs at some union shops. One of the publishers was famously energetic in keeping unions away. I don’t know about the other.
    My point is that in the absence of any real difference in how the publishers behaved, Dan simply invented a different standard. People complained about Tucker, but no one complained about Mindich. So what? There are a dozen reasons why you would or wouldn’t complain publicly. They might like Mindich or hate Tucker for other reasons. They might be more cautious taking on someone who is a fixture in Boston publishing, and who has carried on well-publicized feuds. And they might not want to burn their bridges with someone who has lots of powerful friends.
    Harping on the employees’ reaction to the layoffs is a red herring. Using that red herring to distinguish two almost identical actions is oversubtle and fallacious, ie. casuistry.

  5. Christopher Crowl

    I leave a reply and you don’t post it? Another swipe at freedom of the press, nice work.

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