This used to be a five-newspaper town

Dig Boston’s Media Farm column on the upcoming (next Thursday!) merger of the Boston Phoenix and Stuff magazine:

Perhaps the most obvious question is what is there for Mindich to celebrate in the financial necessity of having to combine two publications—one for bougie young professionals with too much money to spend and another for armchair revolutionary hipsters—without alienating either audience?

I’m a local-paper person. In addition to the obligatory Sunday Times, I grew up reading the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Cherry Hill Courier-Post (the latter mainly for its school lunch menus). When I went to college, I read the Yale Daily News and, on Fridays, the Yale Herald. I also subscribed to the Village Voice and, more occasionally than I care to admit now, picked up the New Haven Advocate. In grad school I became a faithful reader of the Austin Chronicle, continued with the Voice and dipped into the Austin American-Statesman as often as I could bear its politics. I moved to Boston in 1997 and came out in 1999, which was when I first picked up both Bay Windows (for which I later wrote a short-lived media column) and Shovel, which became the Weekly Dig (now called Dig Boston). I added El Mundo for a couple of years, and naturally the Globe, and now I read the Banner too.

When I read a newspaper, I follow with much interest the careers of its columnists, reporters, and editors. I hang on for ups and downs in layout, editing, content, and focus. I see features and columns come and go. I can remember when the Phoenix had a “One in Ten” section and the Dig had “The Gay Agenda.” I loved the progressive muckraking of Kristen Lombardi at the Phoenix (remember Boston’s pedophile priest scandal? She broke it) and Lissa Harris at the Dig, and the sparkling trio of Ethan Jacobs, Laura Kiritsy and Brian Jewell at Bay Windows. I was around twelve when I wrote my first letter to a newspaper (in protest of a Clark DeLeon “The Scene” column which suggested Jewish kids should be pitied because they miss out on Christmas), and I’ve letters printed in several of the Boston papers I’ve named.

Well, I’m 41. Times are changing, but it’s hard for a newsprint-lover to let go of her conviction that the worth of a town is measured in its periodicals. I used to boast that I could pick up a good newspaper every day of the work week. The Dig has always had Wednesdays and the Phoenix Thursdays; Bay Windows comes out on Thursday too, but I may have counted it for Friday. For this entry I’ve been wracking my brains to remember Monday and Tuesday: maybe the Sampan and a short-lived legal paper called Exhibit A? In any case, change grinds away. The Voice fired Nat Hentoff (but see his update!). The Sunday Times is half the size it used to be—seriously, it was once a burden to carry it from the store back to your house. Kristen Lombardi works for the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity. Laura Kiritsy works for GLAD. And the Phoenix is about to become a magazine. It makes me sad.