Remembering the Phoenix
I would tell you how I truly feel about the Boston Phoenix closing, but that would involve using words that could only be published in the Phoenix.
A G-rated approximation, then.
I’m very, very upset. And I’m beyond worried about the good people who produce great journalism and great criticism there—some of them my friends—who are now unemployed.
What happened today is bad news for Boston. And it’s an awfully bad sign for journalism in general. As if we needed any more of those.
I was lucky enough to work at the Phoenix in the late 1990s. This was after the paper’s glory days, when its influence was enormous, its ad pages bursting. But it was glorious, nonetheless.
At the Phoenix, I was surrounded by the smartest, funniest people I had ever known. None of them worked there for the pay, which was—and here I want to reach for another cuss – inadequate, to say the least. People arrived at the Phoenix young, before life had worn down their edges and saddled them with obligations. Many of those who stayed—the core of the place—would take their edges to the grave, true believers who couldn’t imagine any obligation worth leaving for voluntarily.
Every day there was hilarious and enlightening. And occasionally infuriating (even an alternative weekly has grown-ups with lousy judgment, or whose job it is to tell you why you can’t do this or that).
Lord, it was fun. There was great satisfaction in being able to write about almost anything that took our fancy, immense allure in being the scrappy alternative operation in this two-mainstream-newspaper town. And in the heartburn we sometimes induced over at the Globe and the Herald when we had something they didn’t. Since I came to the Globe, I’ve gotten a lot more agita than I remember causing when I worked on Brookline Ave (Yeah, you, David Bernstein and Chris Faraone).
I was green and barely tested when I arrived at the Phoenix. I learned how to be a journalist there, from brilliant editors who pushed me hard, from amazing colleagues whose passion and talent made me want to do better, and from stories that took me into worlds I’d never visited before. My years there were the best, most intensive education—in journalism, in life, in friendship. And now that great academy is gone.