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Stephen Mindich reflects on closing the Boston Phoenix

Boston Phoenix publisher Stephen Mindich.

Dina Rudick/Globe Staff/File 2012

Boston Phoenix publisher Stephen Mindich.

“I’m numb.”

That’s how Stephen Mindich described waking up Friday morning, a day after he told his staff at the Boston Phoenix he was closing the alt-weekly after almost half a century of antagonizing pols, critiquing artists, and generally trying to stir up the proverbial pot.

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Mindich, who turns 70 in June and did not give interviews on the day of the announcement, said he heard from many of the local journalists whose careers the Phoenix launched, including Mark Jurkowitz, Jon Keller, Adam Reilly, and, he added, Al Giordano.

“I’ve gained a lot of perspective in the last 24 hours,” Mindich said. “Hundreds of e-mails. The spectrum has been amazing and extremely heartwarming.”

He compared his decision to shutter the paper to dealing with a loved one on a respirator. “You’re surrounded by loved ones, doing the best you can to bring her back to life and finally at some point you realize it is not going to happen and you do what you have to do. And pull the plug. And it’s sad. And heartfelt. And tearful. But you do it without guilt.”

Mindich said he did reach out to some local people with deep pockets before his decision, to see if there was any interest in helping keep it alive, but the response was unanimous. “Are you crazy?”

“Between the general issue with print, and general state of the economy, and highly unprofitable Internet buys, it just kept chipping away,” he said.

Asked to recall any specific stories he’s proud of, Mindich balked, but then remembered one headline in particular. “Enemy Bombs Hanoi,” he said. “And we were the enemy.”

As for what’s next, he said, “I need to take a little breather.” He said the Portland and Providence Phoenix papers are still important and surviving and he would not have kept them going if he didn’t believe in them.

If one thing is clear, his sense of humor remains intact. Asked “How are you doing?” he said that’s a little like asking, “Mrs. Lincoln how was the theater?”

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