In a bit of a media mash-up, three former staffers of The Portland Phoenix have returned.
Associate publisher Marc Shepard, culture editor Nick Schroeder and sales representative Emma Hollander are again infusing the Phoenix with the style and substance it was known for before the alternative newspaper world in Portland blew up two years ago when the paper changed ownership.
Shepard was the associate publisher of the Portland Phoenix for 10 years before moving to the corporate offices in Boston in 2010. He also was an associate publisher of DigPortland, the short-lived alternative weekly that competed against the Phoenix in 2014-15. Most recently, he was the associate publisher of the alternative weekly DigBoston.
Schroeder began working for the Portland Phoenix in 2009 and was its editor at the point of its sale in 2014. He was then editor of DigPortland and most recently, of the Portland magazine Dispatch, which last published a print edition in December.
Hollander, also an alum of the old Phoenix and DigPortland, worked for the Bollard before returning to the Phoenix last month.
They join Phoenix news editor Francis Flisiuk, a 2015 graduate of the University of Southern Maine; sales representative Joanne Alfiero, formerly of the now-defunct Portland Daily Sun; and sales representative John Paul, whose uninterrupted tenure with the Phoenix started three years ago.
What set off the musical chairs-like personnel changes was the sale of the Phoenix in 2014.
The Portland Phoenix was founded in 1999, one of a chain of Phoenix newspapers located in Worcester, Mass., Providence, R.I., and Boston. Owned by Stephen Mindich and considered a giant in alt-weekly circles, the Boston Phoenix was an iconic fixture of counterculture and coolness in the 1960s and '70s.
The Phoenix empire, which also included radio stations and a printing plant, began to crumble in the 2000s, and by 2014, only the Portland Phoenix remained, with rumors of its demise running rampant.
Then, while Shepard and DigBoston owner Jeff Lawrence were preparing to launch a Portland edition of Dig with many of the Phoenix's staffers, Mark Guerringue, co-founder of three free dailies in New Hampshire and The Portland Daily Sun, bought the Phoenix in the eleventh hour.
The result was an unintended newspaper war. Seven weeks into it, DigPortland closed.
Guerringue said at the time, in an interview with The Boston Globe, “It really is a story of timing and coincidence, to wind up in a newspaper war neither of us wanted.”
Today, Guerringue is more circumspect and believes all the pieces are in place for the Phoenix to again become an important voice in Portland. “It’s been a long haul for sure, but our goal continues to be for the Phoenix to be a champion of progressive issues and the go-to publication for events and culture.”