Phoenix Beginnings

The Phoenix Media/Communications Group (PMCG) originated on September 15, 1965, when Joe Hanlon, a former editor at MIT’s student newspaper, created a four-page single-sheet arts and entertainment insert to publish in college newspapers. Titled Boston After Dark (BAD), it was first published in the Harvard Business School’s newspaper, Harbus News, under the direction of student publisher James T. Lewis. Lewis was able to increase BAD’s college circulation by fifty percent by charging 15 cents for copies distributed in public places while maintaining the free price on college campuses. By 1969, BAD was circulating in 129 Boston area colleges.


Former Time-Life correspondent, Jeff Tarter, founded The Cambridge Phoenix in October of 1969, now a direct competitor to BAD. Tarter was able to recruit journalists from professional publications such as The New York Times and Village Voice. Even with talented journalists and a dedicated reader base, the relationship between The Cambridge Phoenix management and staff became heated over disagreements about the direction of the paper and culminated in Missner firing editor Harper Barnes. In protest, the staff striked and formed the Phoenix Employees Union.

Internal strife among the management at BAD arose during this period as well. Steven Mindich, future Phoenix publisher started at BAD as a writer in 1967 after graduating from Boston University. Mindich quickly became a partner and bought a fifty percent stake in the paper from Lewis. Their relationship became tenuous and in 1970, Mindich sued Lewis for mismanagement of resources. With a lawsuit ongoing, Mindich began a new newspaper, Publick Occurrences. The paper ran for two issues before it was merged with BAD after Lewis agreed to sell his stake.

After the staff strike ended in July 1972 and a settlement had been reached at The Cambridge Phoenix, Missner sold the newspaper’s name, subscription list, and classified advertisements to Mindich at BAD. On August 1, 1972 the first edition of The Boston Phoenix was published, and the former name, Boston After Dark, was used for the paper’s arts and entertainment section. Days after The Cambridge Phoenix was sold, the Phoenix Employees Union filed suit against Missner for breach of contract and negotiating to sell the paper while settling the strike. Mindich countersued to prevent the staff from using the name “Phoenix.” An out of court settlement enabled Mindich to retain the rights to the use of the Phoenix name, and the staff retained the right to use the Phoenix format. In August 1972, the former Cambridge Phoenix staff published the first issue of The Real Paper, a direct competitor with the new Boston PhoenixThe Real Paper ran for nearly a decade before Mindich bought out the financially struggling paper in 1981.