Yesterday, the publisher of The Boston Phoenix surprised the media world by announcing the alt-weekly is done after 47 years. The March 15 issue will be its last. (The sister Phoenix papers in Portland and Providence, R.I., will keep running for now.)
The announcement was particularly surprising because publisher Stephen M. Mindich announced a bold new plan for reinvention just last August, switching to a glossy magazine format and adding lucrative features like fashion spreads.
It’s a sad day for alt-weeklies when a paper shuts down, especially one as established and accomplished as the Boston Phoenix. It won a Pulitzer, after all — even if was for the lesser-known category of Classical Music Criticism — and many of its writers have launched impressive careers there. Former writers include Susan Orlean, Joe Klein and David Denby.
It’s also a sad day for Boston. Justin Peters put it this way in the Columbia Journalism Review:
“As a longtime Phoenix reader and part-time Boston resident, I’m shocked and disconsolate. The Phoenix is and was one of the best alt-weeklies in the country. From its smart reporting on state and local politics to its tough, nuanced coverage of social justice issues, the Phoenix consistently exemplified the best of the alternative press.”
Here’s some good reading by, about and related to The Boston Phoenix:
1. What Happened to The Phoenix? By Peter Vigneron
“By all accounts, Mindich remains devoted to the idea of alternative media. The Phoenix is his life’s work, and the shift to glossy has the feel of a real effort for survival, not a last-ditch move to sell. But can you save a publication that for many years has been neither lucrative nor especially relevant?”
“Tainted history or not, the images of Oakland officers indiscriminately shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful protesters were significantly more barbaric than anything I'd witnessed at Occupy demonstrations back East.”
3. Killjoy Was Here: Boston has long relied on onerous regulations to kick street performance to the curb By Harvey A. Silverglate and Dan Poulson
“Standing in stark contrast to the hurly-burly in Cambridge is the relatively moribund scene one finds on the other side of the Charles River. Even in parts of Boston that seem like natural artists’ habitats, such as Newbury Street and Boston Common, creative public expression is not just scarce but actively discouraged — even illegal.”
“Wenner apparently felt one Hunter Thompson was all he needed, so George headed instead to the Boston Phoenix, that town's version of the Village Voice. It was the ideal place for his freewheeling reviews of poetry, books, and music. His passion, however, was sports.”
6. Genre Bender: An interview with Susan Orlean By Tamara Wieder
“I really loved doing my [Boston Phoenix] column. I did, if I am not mistaken, a story about the people who wrote the advertising for Ginsu knives, and it was really fun. But doing the column was a great experience, and for me it was the first time that I regularly was doing pieces that I feel built directly to the kind of stuff I’m doing now.”