When the news broke last week that the Boston Phoenix was about to publish its final issue, shutting down after 47 years, the Valley Advocate heard from journalists from all over the state. Along with many poignant observations about the passing of this important and pioneering newspaper, we received the following commentary from Jon Keller, a former Phoenix reporter and longtime political editor for WBZ-TV in Boston:
“Covering politics for the Phoenix from 1989 to 1993 was a plum job for a young reporter—tons of space to fill, unlimited freedom in topic selection, and the mandate to be an advocate for fairness, honesty and the public interest, backed up by fearless bosses.
“Conservatives who write off alt media as the province of knee-jerk liberalism should know that this non-knee-jerk-liberal was nurtured by the Phoenix, with the only requirement being to speak truth to power—in the case of Massachusetts politics at that time (and now), almost exclusively Democratic power.
“To the end, the Phoenix remained a must-read for anyone seriously interested in state and local politics, and continued to provide unparalleled coverage of Boston city politics. Advocacy journalism and the alt media compulsion to find topics and voices that would otherwise be ignored by mainstream media are valuable elements of journalism, and the thought that they might not have a viable niche in the new economy is scary.
“Anyone can blog; it takes money to produce quality political reporting and disseminate it widely. If our culture won’t support what places like the Phoenix and the Valley Advocate do, we’re in trouble, because there’s no guarantee ‘new’ media will be able to fill the void.”•