To Our Readers
This is goodbye. After eight years of serving Greater Worcester, the Phoenix Media/Communications Group will cease publication of the Worcester Phoenix with this issue. This was not an easy decision. A number of business-related factors came into play. There has been a major refocus of our efforts as we have expanded into regional radio in markets throughout New England. And, like many media companies, we're making a major commitment to developing new media for the Internet. All of this is taking place in the face of an uncertain economy and an industry-wide slump in advertising sales. Huge chains such as Knight-Ridder, Dow Jones, and Gannett have all been squeezed. And when you see a media powerhouse like the New York Times' New England Newspaper Group (i.e., the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and the Boston Globe) reporting a 14.8 percent decrease in ad revenues for the month of March alone, it gives you pause. But the fact that closing this newspaper is related to a complex series of business priorities doesn't make the decision any less of an emotional wrench.
When the Phoenix came to Worcester in the spring of 1993, not everybody was rolling out red carpets. One high-culture dowager even called to ask point blank if we planned on writing about Worcester. We assured her we'd be covering Albany.
The welcome we got on the street, however, was a different story. We quickly found a lot of under-represented subcultures, under-exposed musicians, and neglected arts organizations who saw the Phoenix as the friend they never had. It became our mission to give voice to the city's undiscovered, under-appreciated, and, in some cases, people the power elite considered undesirable.
Simultaneously, we set out to bulwark our place in the wider community by building relationships with the Worcester Art Museum and other established cultural institutions. Under the guidance of Associate Publishers Everett Finkelstein, Gary Kurtz, and the indefatigable Cris Warren, we succeeded on both fronts. We're proud of what we've accomplished in Worcester - from event sponsorships at WAM and Mechanics Hall to our annual Best Music Poll bash, and, of course, the newspaper itself.
Which brings us to the curtain calls for the writers and editors who've covered the Worcester scene for almost a decade. For most of its existence, the Worcester Phoenix's editorial department was guided by innovative Managing Editor Melissa Houston, who took over for founding ME Clif Garboden in 1996. Mel left Worcester for a job at San Francisco's Bay Guardian just last year and was succeeded by our current managing editor, Michael Dobies.
Our first news editor, Robert Keough, now editor of MassINC's CommonWealth magazine, broke local ground with his coverage of abortion issues, gays, racial minorities, and disadvantaged youth. Kristen Lombardi maintained that tradition for close to five years at the Worcester news desk, highlighting her stint with an award-winning 1999 feature on Worcester's Central American immigrants. Kristen was succeeded last year by Chris Kanaracus who has breathed life into every topic from pizza delivery to city politics.
Local music coverage has been at the heart of the Worcester Phoenix since the beginning, with Wormtown expertise provided by (in order of appearance) Amy "Ace" Rogacz, the Reverend Joe Longone, John O'Neill, and the peerless Brian Goslow. That string of clubs columnists was ably backed by a powerful array of critics, including Mark Edmonds, Chris Flisher, Myles Tronic, Don Fluckinger, Noah Schaffer, and Laura Kiritsy.
Our longevity award goes to art critic Leon Nigrosh, whose evaluations of art exhibits and craft shows have appeared in virtually every issue since the first.
Two restaurant critics have dined out on us since 1993 - Jim Johnson and, more recently, Margaret LeRoux. Holy Cross professor Steve Vineberg has bedeviled local theater companies for years with his high-standard appraisals of Worcester County stage productions, a dedication to quality that has gotten him banned from a theater company's press list more than once - the most recent coming from NETC just last week. "Tales from Tritown" columnist Sally Cragin Warner has given our North County readers a good excuse to laugh at themselves, and during 1998, more-reality-based, but no less iconoclastic, cultural commentary was provided by former Worcester Magazine editor Walter Crockett.
And finally, there's Events Editor Brian Goslow, about whom not enough can ever be said. His efforts producing listings, compiling our "8 Days a Week" feature, managing the Best Music Poll and Best of Worcester projects, covering local music, and fielding countless other tasks have been as essential as they've been tireless. His dedication and his capacity for hard work have been, perhaps, the paper's most valuable ongoing editorial asset.
We are truly sorry to be leaving Worcester. Our thanks to the readers and the advertisers who've supported us. In the end, we've made a lot of friends - corporately and individually - who've become parts of our lives. In return, we hope that we've made a difference in this city - sometimes saying what no one else would say and introducing new voices to the area's cultural and political dialogue.
Stephen M. Mindich
Chairman and Publisher