But for me the Phoenix is not just another newspaper. It has been an essential part of my life. I attended law school (graduating in 1967) in order to become more sophisticated in legal matters so that I could continue the journalism career that I began in high school when I was associate editor of the Bogota (NJ) High School Klaxon. My school time job was as a high school stringer for the Bergen Evening Record, now renamed The Record, in Hackensack. During college my summer jobs were with the Ridgewood (NJ) News and Herald-News. I even grabbed the plum assignment of covering the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in the summer of 1963, at which Martin Luther King and his sidekick Bayard Rustin changed the course of American history and confirmed my desire to go into journalism, but with a background in law.
I was a reporter even during the summer of 1965 after my first year of law school, but then Alan Dershowitz talked me into taking a summer job in law for a small, innovative Boston criminal defense firm, which offered me a summer job and then a position upon graduation. I accepted, still with an eye to going into journalism after a few years, but that was not quite how it worked out. After working at the firm for 18 months, I started a new law firm – first with Norman Zalkind and then with Nancy Gertner – specializing in what we only half-jokingly said at the time were "the 3 D's – Drugs [we were in the early stage of the relentless 'War on Drugs'], Draft [we were in the Vietnam War] and Demonstrations [ditto]." When Martin Linsky and Paul Solman invited me to write about criminal law and civil liberties for their upstart weekly The Real Paper, I heartily accepted and started, in the early '70s, my "Brief Cases" column. When Stephen Mindich's Boston Phoenix swallowed up the paper I wrote for, I became an acquisition, pursuing essentially the same beat, but under the rubric of "Freedom Watch" – the column that dies with this last submission.
My beat at the Phoenix allowed me to combine my two loves – law and journalism. Because I was a practicing trial lawyer, and because my fields of specialization were criminal defense and constitutional law, my legal work put me in touch with endless cases and controversies about which to write. It was a perfect symbiosis, and it resolved my inner conflict over having gone into law rather than journalism.
It is too sad for me to write much more about my decades of working for one of the most consequential, feisty embodiments of Thomas Jefferson's vision of the role of the press in a free society. Suffice it to say right now that our society has many institutions that I would be happy to see bite the dust, but the Phoenix surely isn't one of them. On the contrary, the paper has kept an awful lot of people and institutions more honest than they otherwise would have been. It is hard to see who or what is on the horizon to replace the Phoenix. Maybe that's because there is no likely successor.
Harvey Silverglate can be reached at Harvey@HarveySilverglate.com.
: News Features
, Phoenix, Freedom Watch, column