Stephen Mindich and the Boston Phoenix – Goodbye and Good Luck

Stephen Mindich developed the Phoenix empire.

Stephen Mindich developed the Phoenix empire.

This statement from Phoenix publisher Stephen M. Mindich was circulated to staffers earlier today:

I can state with certainty that this is the single most difficult communication I’ve ever had to deliver and there’s no other way to state it than straightforwardly –

As of now the Boston Phoenix has ceased publishing and will not continue as it is.

As everyone knows, between the economic crisis beginning in 2007 and the simultaneous radical changes in the media business, particularly as it has affected print media advertising, these have been extremely difficult times for our Company and despite the valiant effort by many, many past and current staff to attempt to stabilize and, in fact, reverse our significant financial losses, we have been unable to do so and they are no longer sustainable.

Because of their smaller scale of operations and because we believe that they remain meaningful publications to their communities, with some necessary changes to each, it is our intent to keep the Providence and Portland Phoenixes operating and to do so for as long as they remain financially viable. The same is true for Mass Web Printing Co.

I cannot find the words to express how sad a moment this is for me, and I know, for you as well, so I won’t try.

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.

And finally, at least for this moment, I want to thank all of you – and the literally thousands of women and men before you, for lending your talents to our mission over the past 47 years – as I have always said – our staff has been our soul.

And obviously as well, my sincere gratitude to our millions of readers and tens of thousands of advertisers without whom none of what we did accomplish could have been possible or meaningful.

So, that’s it. We have had an extraordinary run. – Stephen M. Mindich

Steven Mindich accepted a Commonwealth Award along with Olympia Dukakis earlier this year.

Steven Mindich accepted a Commonwealth Award along with Olympia Dukakis earlier this year.

The End of an Era
by Larry Murray

I first met publisher Steve Mindich when he was a student at the School of Communications at Boston University, and one of his many projects was recording a meeting at the Advertising Club of Boston. It was discussing ways to help the city bounce back from the economic doldrums it experienced in the early 1960’s.Everyone was fleeing to the suburbs and the Prudential Center project was suspended while it was just a hole in the ground, and all the old folks thought cities like Boston were done for, they could not compete with the glorious open space of the suburbs. Of course not Steve. And not a lot of young people. They saw the glory that cities could be. And time has proven them right.

Steve and his pals are all older now, ready for Social Security. But they are a marvelous lot, those talented observers who eventually wrote for The Boston Phoenix, The Real Paper and the short-lived Publick Occurrences. Somewhere, inside all of them, that torch of change born in a rebellious age still burns. To the end, Mindich challenged the moribund journalistic standards and allegiances and allowed new voices to develop. His openness to innovation was then – and still is now – responsible for so many picking up the pen, the typewriter, the keyboard. Some like Janet Maslin and Don Shewey moved on, and others like Carolyn Clay, Lloyd Schwartz and Arthur Friedman stayed in Boston. It became difficult to support their work as ads shrunk, but for the most part The Phoenix hung in there. Folks never did get paid much writing for those counter-culture newspapers, even as they morphed into conglomerates. Mindich was a hard nosed businessman too, he became enamored with radio and began a network of stations he owned with WFNX as the flagship. In the end he tried one more revamp of the Phoenix from a Tabloid to a Glossy Weekly, but it didn’t catch fire. The kids tweeted it out of existence, a new generation never embraced print.

He loved the arts, and always wanted to be part of Arts Boston, an umbrella organization I headed up for the decade of the 80’s. He finally got his wish just as I moved on, and the Boston Phoenix has been a solid supporter of that organization ever since.

When I was at the Boston Symphony, we worked out an incredible cross-promotiion with that institution that would have drawn in thousands of new, younger, ticket buyers, underwritten by a $100,000 gift from Mindich and the paper. Only problem was one of the BSO’s patronesses, Judy Gardner, turned it down because of “those classified ads,” the personal ones that were like a magnet to many college students and young people. Since the promotion was to highlight the annual Musical Marathon, a volunteer event, she prevailed as Tom Morris and Peter Gelb sat on their hands, suddenly struck speechless. With no support from management, the project died, and I gave my notice the next day.

Berkshire Fine Arts publisher Charles Giuliano wrote for them, too, after editing the really flaky Avatar and before trekking over to the Boston Herald to shake up their jazz, rock and pop music coverage. He has written his own tribute to the era of alternative publications, with a far more detailed history of its genesis, here. It was a lot of fun in those days, and the paths of Mindich, Murray and Giuliano and dozens of other movers and shakers crossed and recrossed over the decades in surprising ways.

Plainly stated, the loss of the Boston Phoenix, more than any other publication, marks the end of not only an era, but of a mindset.

Kids, you are on your own now.

Don’t be afraid to make your voices heard. It’s your turn.

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