On a really cold day almost 13 years ago, a member of Providence's creative underground, Raphael Lyon, and I sat in the pickup truck of a North Carolina guy who was in town to salvage Civil War-era wood from the Silver Spring mill complex on Charles Street. We talked preservation and capitalism (anticipating how the site would be leveled, giving way to a Wal-Mart and The Home Depot), and the scene found its way into a story in the Providence Phoenix; my sequel prompted an angry phone call by Buddy Cianci to the Phoenix's associate publisher.
Sure, the Phoenix was small, with a tiny editorial staff. But when it came to the fall of the fabled Fort Thunder and what it meant in Providence, the scrappy alt-weekly owned the story.
There were other niches, too, like media criticism and coverage of the arts, not to mention in-depth political takes and exposes. I spent 10 years as the Phoenix's news editor, and the paper was a journalistic refuge for me. It also helped nurture a number of up-and-coming young reporters and writers, including Jessica Grose, Te-Ping Chen, David Hirschman, and Robin Amer, to name a few.
Still, when rumors started circulating last March about the demise of the bigger, better-staffer Boston Phoenix (which were true; it ended a long and distinguished run), you had to wonder what it meant for the Providence Phoenix. As the great press critic Jack Shafer noted, alt-weeklies have become quaint in the iPhone age.
Yet the Providence Phoenix is still here, continuing to offer distinctive media reportage, long-form political coverage, and stuff for the beer enthusiast. A 35th anniversary party is set for Thursday, November 21, at Lupo's, starting at 7 p.m.
In an uncertain media landscape, the Providence Phoenix has proven more tenacious than some might have expected. Congrats to all those who've made it possible, including Steve Brown, Lou Papineau, and Phil Eil, with best wishes for your continued success.