Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Alternative Media: From Phoenix to Vanguard

The growth of local and regional newspapers was the leading alternative press development of the 1970s. By the end of the decade there were several statewide weeklies, strong city papers, and smaller weeklies that had outgrown their original campus audiences. 
      They varied widely in style and tone – from the soft features of the Chicago Reader to the rough investigative journalism of the Bay Guardian – but shared a preference for the local slant, occasionally reflecting the global in smaller forms.
      No paper exploited the new commercial-friendly formula with more success than the Boston Phoenix, which was reaching over 100,000 readers by the end of the decade with fat, multi-section, ad-packed editions. The paper’s story began back in 1965 with a former MIT student newspaper editor, Joe Hanlon, who had the idea for an art insert to the Harvard Business School’s paper. Within a year it became an independent publication called Boston After Dark. Partners came and went, and by 1969 it was owned by Stephen Mindich, a Boston U grad who had started by selling ads. After Dark built its circulation by giving away papers on campuses and selling them elsewhere.
      There was a brief challenge. Vietnam vet Jeffrey Tarter saw the chance to combine arts coverage with local muckraking and started The Cambridge Phoenix, tapping into the area’s deep talent pool. But he couldn’t make it viable and soon sold to two local entrepreneurs. They hired a professional, beefed up the paper editorially and financially, and got vendors to hawk it downtown. It didn’t take long for the Phoenix to outclass its predecessor.
      Mindich adjusted, adopting the competition’s design and edgy style, even hiring his own vendors. He also added local news. Both papers prospered, packed with free classifieds and youth culture “guides.” It was a perfect market, half a million young people in the metropolitan area, and they had captured it by keeping the content sharp – but not too radical. The object was to be both hip and mainstream.
      Ultimately, Mindich bought the competition and took the name. The Phoenix staff got word in a brief announcement from publisher Richard Missner, a wealthy Harvard Business School grad. They were all fired. No notice, no severance pay, nothing. It was therefore no surprise when former Phoenix staffers started a paper of their own, The Real Paper. Theirs would be a staff-owned business, operated by consensus, giving everyone a vote in major decisions. 
      The experiment lasted nine years, but in the end The Real Paper folded while the Boston Phoenix became Phoenix Media/Communications Group, a New England mini-chain with radio stations and similar papers in Providence and Portland.

Vanguard Press 1979      

By 1977 the Boston Phoenix was already a prime example of how hip design, youth-oriented content and ruthless determination could capture a market. The lesson wasn’t lost on Steve Brown, one of the former Vermont Cynic staffers who’d dreamed of starting their own paper. After finishing school he had worked for Mindich, absorbing the lessons and working out how to apply the Phoenix formula to Burlington and Vermont.
      The Eclipse, founded in Burlington by UVM grad Peter MacAusland earlier that same year, was a long-shot from the start. It had talent – especially ace reporter John “J.D.” Dillon and photographer Ron “RoMac” MacNeil – but not enough money to pay its staff, and nothing for promotion or decent management. That fall we nevertheless published a dozen strong issues, writing the first local investigative features the city had seen in years. 
      We exposed environmental threats and government corruption, watchdogged officials, and gave voice to the emerging progressive agenda. But MacAusland’s limited capital wasn’t enough to sustain it. The paper had been launched on faith, on the passionate belief that it needed to be done and would work out somehow. 
      It probably would have failed anyway. But two things hastened its demise – Steve Brown’s arrival and an unexplained fire in the production office.
      The fire hit especially hard. The previous year The Frayed Page, a bookstore I ran collectively with friends, had moved from its second floor walk up to a newly renovated building nearby. We had decided to co-locate with Bookstacks, a local independent bookstore. They handled new books, we bought and sold used editions — and had special sections on leftwing politics. The Eclipse eventually took over our old location. 
      It felt familiar attending meetings there. But by late November 1977 it was a charred ruin.
      Steve’s message was less devastating, but just as disorienting. He had enough money to launch a viable weekly, with decently paid staff and a sales strategy based on the Phoenix model. There would be both local news and a strong arts section. In fact, he already had some staff picked out. But there was room for more, especially in the editorial department.
     Why not throw in with The Eclipse? The question was asked, repeatedly. But Steve had a distinct vision and wanted to start fresh. No need for excess baggage, either image or people-wise. He also had a name in mind – The Vanguard.
      As it worked out, Steve couldn’t have the exact name he wanted. A handicapped access group already owned it. Instead he went with Vermont Vanguard Press. In the end, most people called it the Vanguard anyway. But he did get several Eclipse staffers — specifically, J.D., RoMac and me. In December The Eclipse released its last issue, with a full eclipse on its cover. A month later, in the middle of a brutal storm, the first issue of the Vanguard Press hit the street. 

Vanguard Press, 1980       

A decade later, in a book on Vermont’s progressive revolution, The People’s Republic, I looked back at it this way: “Editing the Vanguard Press was the job I had been waiting for all of my adult life. From the time I had landed in Vermont, a wide-eyed hippie, in 1968, to that snow-covered day in 1978 when we distributed the first copies, I’d been thinking about the potential of an “alternative” newspaper to change the consciousness of the state.”
      Becoming editor took almost a year, however, and didn’t come easily. Despite my “advanced” age – that is,  compared to most of the staff – and newspaper experience, Steve didn’t know me well or completely trust my intentions. His idea, he explained, was a hip paper that didn’t take sides. There would not even be an editorial page! Instead, he would showcase various columnists and feature writers, mixed with “straight” news. 
      The job on offer was staff reporter, which included writing a weekly column, contributing news items, and developing at least one cover feature a month. Aside from the pay it sounded perfect. 
Chapter 16 of Prelude to a Revolution, from Dangerous Words. Photo above: In the first Vanguard Press office are original staff members, from left, Jeffrey Polman, Arts Editor; John Dillon, Associate Editor (seated); Ron MacNeil, Photo Editor; and Carlo Wolff, first Editor-in-Chief.

Next: Spooks, Nukes, and Counterterror

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Dangerous Words: A Political Memoir


  Dangerous Words: A Political Memoir
   By Greg Guma


Audio Prologue ON THE AIR: Burlington Reflections (May 2016)
(One month later Burlington College was closed)

Part One: Education of an Outsider (1960-1968)

Part Two: Fragile Paradise  (1968-1978)

Part Three: Prelude to a Revolution (1974-1978)

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Prisoners of the Real: An Odyssey

An intellectual journey from Pythagoras to planetary consciousness -- and a new vision of freedom & cooperation. 
Prisoners of the Real makes the connection between solar and lunar knowledge, illuminating the cost of our preoccupation with certainty and order. 
Exploring insights from linguistics, psychology, physics, literature, philosophy and management science, it opens the door to a new vision of freedom and cooperation – Dionysian leadership.

Video Preview: Dionysus Rising

"Dionysian leaders use artistic methods to invent structures of reality. Although they acknowledge that scientific and artistic processes have equal worth, they de-emphasize logical reasoning and deduction and focus on metaphorical thinking. Their interest is not definition but discovery.”

Section One: The Rational Trap
The Creative Also Destroys * Deconstructing Leadership * Anatomy of Insecurity * Managers and Their Tools * The Corporate Way of Life * The Dictatorship of Time * Rules for Rationals * The Age of Adaptability * Living with Rational Management

Section Two: Philosophy of the Real 

Section Three: New World Disorders

Section Four: 
Restructuring Reality – The Dionysian Way

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The People's Republic: Vermont & Bernie Sanders

A revealing look at the rise of Bernie Sanders and the progressive movement that changed Vermont

Available from Maverick Media

Mentioned during the 2016 Presidential campaign in...

Mother Jones: How Bernie Sanders Became a Real Politician
New York Times: Bernie Sanders' Revolutionary Roots
CNN: Can Bernie Sanders Win Black Voters?
Politico: 14 Things Bernie Has Said about Socialism
Politico: Bernie Sanders Has a Secret
Washington Post: Sanders is in with the enemy, so old allies say
CNN: How Bernie Sanders Turned Himself into a Serious Contender
Mother Jones: Here's How Bernie May Be Changing Politics for Good
Washington Post: Sanders Prepares for His National Debate Debut
New York Times: Setting Bernie Sanders Apart from the Debate Field
Mother Jones: Here's What Bernie Sanders is like as a Debater
CNN Video: What is Bernie Sanders' Debate Style?
ABC: What to Expect from Bernie Sanders in Tuesday's Debate
International Business Times: Bernie Sanders' Debate Plan
Washington Post: A Somewhat Reluctant Socialist

Bernie Sanders' election as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in 1981 caught the attention of the entire nation and inspired progressives throughout the world. Originally published in 1989, just before Sanders won his first race for the US House of Representatives in 1990, The People's Republic: Vermont and the Sanders Revolution was the first comprehensive analysis of Sanders' mayoral years and the progressive movement in Vermont. It remains the most intimate and revealing. 

Greg Guma's exploration of the "revolution" goes far beyond Sanders and his impact on Burlington. The factors behind the initial surprise victory, the tension between leftist ideals and pragmatic politics, the evolution of an effective political coaliton outside the two-party system -- all these topics and more Guma investigates, with an eye on global political implications as well as the immediate local impact. The People's Republic is for all those interested in progressive politics and political history, not to mention those in places where a similar "revolution" is possible.

A fast-moving description that illustrates one of the great efforts at innovative government of the past fifty years…
--Pierre Clavel, Cornell University

If you were going to create somebody to write about Bernie Sanders’ years as socialist mayor of Burlington, you might make him a fortysomething Vermont journalist and bookstore founder and former government worker who almost ran for mayor of Burlington himself…That’s what you have in Greg Guma.
—Mark Satin, New Options

A treasure house of first-hand information and perceptive, if often controversial analysis of great value to anyone concerned to explore realistically the possibilities for combining third-party electoral politics with other methods of working for justice, peace, environmental sanity and genuine democracy.
– David Dellinger, author/activist

If you are at all interested in Vermont and Burlington, and public policy, get this book.
– Phil Hoff, former Vermont Governor

More Books from Maverick Media HERE 

Uneasy Empire
How an international establishment has used fear of socialism, communism and terrorism to justify repression and a massive military establishment. Pointing past nationalism and corporate empire, Uneasy Empire: Repression, Globalization, and What We Can Do combines a radical critique with hopeful solutions and a vision of democratic globalism through which people can regain control of their futures.

Spirits of Desire
Set during the spirtualist craze of the 1870s, Spirits of Desire follows a group of extraordinary people, including Russian theosophist Helena Blavatsky, paranormal investigator Henry Olcott and Oneida Community leader Theo Noyes, as they search for the truth about ghosts through a notorious family of Vermont mediums. The trail leads them into a world of seances, deadly elementals, astral forces and past lives.

Dons of Time
Unsolved mysteries collide with cutting edge science and altered states of consciousness in a world of corporate gangsters, infamous crimes and top-secret experiments. Based on eyewitness accounts, suppressed documents and the lives of world-changers Nikola Tesla, Annie Besant, Ignatius Donnelly and Jack the Ripper, Dons of Time is a speculative adventure, a glimpse of an alternative future and a quantum leap to Gilded Age London at the tipping point of invention, revolution and murder.