Special Guest Post: Where Is the Anger?

As reported at boston.com, the Boston Phoenix (the urge to add the adjective “venerable” is almost irresistible), is closing. I’ll leave it to Ted to post (if he wants) about the death of alt-media in the United States.


The thing I wanted to comment on is the hopeless passivity of the media. Joseph P. Kahn (as the Boston Globe is still owned by the New York Times, middle initials are required) writes a first sentence that makes me want to throw my computer against a wall: “In a poignant signal of a fast-changing media landscape, The Boston Phoenix sent out a short and simple tweet Thursday afternoon: ‘Thank you Boston. Good night and good luck.'”


Poignant? Fast-changing? Yes, absolutely. But could we stop channeling Counselor Troi? How about a little anger, a little rage, rage against the dying of the light? Nope, not in a Globe write-up! (I wonder how calm Mr. Kahn will be when the Globe disappears in a few more years. I suspect his level of calm will be directly proportional to how close he is, right now, to retirement and a Globe pension.)


Ten paragraphs in comes this, from staff writer Chris Faraone: “It’s sad, but also not. It’s not an anger thing. Everyone’s really proud. We went as hard as you could to the end.” Why isn’t it an anger thing? Why the hell is no one angry? You’re out of a job! And not just any crappy job. You were working for the Boston Phoenix. You were at an organization that pissed off politicians for decades! Just because you can’t point to anyone to blame doesn’t mean you can’t be angry. When did everyone turn into Kwai Chang Caine?


And then comes the most vile part of the whole thing: the “things-aren’t-so-bad” BS deluge.


Tiffany Shackelford, executive director of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia in Washington shows up in the story to comment that even though a “storied brand” like the Boston Phoenix is gone, the alternative news industry remains healthy.“Many of our papers are actually improving circulation,” she said. “This [closure] is not indicative of the larger health of the industry. I don’t think any of our other publications are in danger of closing.”Don’t worry, kids, it’s a small hole. And besides, the ship’s unsinkable.


I’m sure some good bands play up there, I’m sure some political scandal is about in crisp, wintery Portland. But it ain’t Boston. And when the alt-media is banished to the third-tier cities, how, exactly, will it be relevant? How, exactly, will the best talent move to larger alternative publications and break the bigger stories?

9 thoughts on “Special Guest Post: Where Is the Anger?

  1. @alex: Calm down — you’re practically ready to burst a blood vessel. Chill. It’s not the end of the world here, it’s just a small paper closing that even the employees aren’t too worked up about. In the end, what did the Boston Phoenix really change? Nothing. It’s just a paper you liked, and now it’s gone. Your malaise is understandable from that viewpoint, but rage? It’s not like they were about to topple corrupt regimes.

    On a positive note: This was fairly cohesive writing on your part. You had a point, a structure, and followed it to a logical conclusion. That’s a notable improvement from your normal guest posts.

  2. Alex,

    Yes. Rage is called for. As Chomsky, Herman, Bagdikian and others have documented at length, this trend accelerated long before the internet age. The latter puts the most rapid phase of decline between 1900 and 1950.

    As any of our resident Libertarians will agree, monopolies and small firms cannot magically coexist.

    Subtracting from the fact that the same profit imperatives which drive wider focus at the expense of local focus (and eventually relevant content in general) dovetail with the technology of the internet, if we valued vibrant, distributed, public information organs as an anti-tyrannical force for ourselves, as much as we did for the Japanese, we would have rewritten our OWN constitution to include more specific details about how to bring this about though careful design and funding.

  3. “Calm down — you’re practically ready to burst a blood vessel. Chill. It’s not the end of the world here,”

    To the King of Hyperbole, otherwise known as Exkiodexian, yes, we must all calm down while any sort of media that held our elected and un-elected officials accountable go out of business. Nothing to see here, just move along and eat your milk and cookies while watching the latest “Jersey Shore” incarnation on TV.

    Not that you have anything to worry about, Ex. That great Bronze Bull idol you call the “Free Market” will protect you if you pray to it hard enough.

  4. “Media that held our elected and un-elected officials accountable go out of business.”

    @Susan: Seriously? Ok. Please provide concrete examples of the Boston Phoenix holding our elected and un-elected officials accountable, with results. If not, then your assertions are hot wind.

  5. @Ex,

    I realize that you are too young to have fully experienced the phenomenon of investigative journalism in your lifetime, so I’ll explain it to you:

    “Holding officials accountable” in this instance means investigating their misdeeds, and printing those misdeeds unconditionally. This is called “investigative journalism”, and it is all but extinct in this country (except for a few obscure websites).

    So, now you know what I’m talking about. If not, I’ll try to explain it to you in greater detail.

  6. Better to lose these things.

    1st amendment media, along with beer, and free porn, is what keeps revolution at bay.

    John Stewart’s Daily Show has been “holding politicians accountable”, for how long?

    And what has this accomplished?

    We are caught in a diabolical rubic’s cube of freedom and slavery. It ain’t no accident.

  7. Nice summation on alt media, especially the “third-tier city” closer. In Seattle, The Seattle Weekly has been brought under the umbrella of an advert circular and The Stranger is mostly kid stuff, a single-issue trumpet that practices First Amendment convenience: they’ve slogged the hard LGBT road, but have been silent about Bradley Manning who, in addition to being a heroic whistleblower, happens to be gay.

    I’m from the Boston area and argue that the end of the Phoenix is a disaster.

  8. “I’m from the Boston area and argue that the end of the Phoenix is a disaster.”

    A disaster?!? Really? It’s a disaster?!?

    People are so glib these days, language no longer has any meaning.

    “Will Ferrell is a genius!”
    “Electing Obama is a catastrophe”
    “Losing the Boston Phoenix is a disaster!”

    Nothing means anything anymore. The web has enabled such garbage.