EPISODE 6 (2004 – 2007)
Casey Affleck’s publicist has never had it easy
Before we resume our journey into the collective memory of mostly former Dig staffers, I should note that current Boston Globe Magazine editor Veronica Chao did not return a request for comment regarding how much the Dig made fun of her in the ’00s. We shouldn’t blame her for that, ’cos she’s probably very busy. Casey Affleck was never sent a request for comment, which I regret, ’cos a sentence here about how Casey Affleck declined to talk about an old beastiality joke would’ve been amusing.
DAVID LIPSON (Metro Corp. Chairman and CEO): When I bought the Dig, we really wanted to upscale the brand. I kept telling them, “Look, younger people are aspirational. They all want to own an iPhone. Design is very important. Aesthetics are important. We don’t have to be grungy.”
SHAULA CLARK (managing editor): I started helping with proofreading, and they decided I was okay at that. And then when they had the big redesign, the copy editor at the time—I don’t know what her deal was—she had some kind of problem with the designer. Suddenly word counts were really short, and they just found this out on the night they were sending things off to print, and everyone was really stressed out. I think the copy editor muttered, “You’re a bitch” within earshot of the designer. Soon after, they promoted me to copy editor. I always liked my predecessor, but it was nice to have a job.
MICHAEL BRODEUR (music editor): Original Dig was sort of shaking itself apart with morale problems. Metro Corp. came in, and a lot of people used that as an excuse to leave, because, y’know, it was supposedly this giant change in the culture and “selling out” and blah blah.
CLARK: They would hang up all the printouts on the wall. I had to proofread on the wall, and my proofreading would get progressively worse as I got closer to the floor. We had different methods soon after that, but it was a huge learning experience.
CHRIS ROHLAND (co-publisher): The offices at 242 East Berkeley St. were pretty gritty. Metro Corp. came in and had those offices rebuilt with new layout tables and had the floor redone. They spent a pretty good chunk of change, and it was nice and all, but it definitely had me thinking, “This seems a little expensive for us.”
CRAIG KAPILOW (ad executive): One thing I respect Jeff [Lawrence] for, but also fault him for, is he gave his editorial team so much breathing room that it made the paper beloved by its readers while it was detrimental to the business side of things. I was on the advertising side by that point, and it infuriated us that editorial wouldn’t cover our clients the way we wanted them to. But if they did that, it would’ve undermined what made the Dig the Dig.
JOE KEOHANE (EiC): The Dig at that point was more of a Dadaist prank or a piece of performance art—almost a metacommentary joke about having a newspaper—as much as it was a newspaper. We were so excited to have this thing and so reckless with it, and so mean and hilarious, that there weren’t many thoughts of, like, journalistic practice or integrity or ethics so much.
BRODEUR: A lot of people would see the tone of the Dig and think, “Oh, it’s cooler-than-thou and trying to be hipster or snarky or whatever.” But the guiding way that we wrote was how everyone talked to their friends. Seeing that in print was jarring, because it came off like posturing, but if anything, we were just relaxing, finally. We talked about the bands we wanted to talk about in the way we wanted to talk about them, and someone was stupid enough to pay for it.
M.D. SAUNDERS (advice columnist/teenager): As far as the critique that the politics were too irreverent during the Joe Kanye [not a typo, that’s what she calls him] era, I guess I could see the validity of that. However, Boston has this kind of dark humor/intellectualism style, and that’s how we process things. I don’t even want to say it’s specific to Boston. Look at stuff like the Daily Show. For a civilian reader who’s not necessarily a reporter, their fact-checking is just critical thinking, which they’re getting lazy with. So they expect reporters to do all the heavy lifting, and they should, y’know, grow up.
KAPILOW: Joe spent a year to a year and a half—for really no reason other than he could—completely tormenting Veronica Chao at the Improper Bostonian. [In another instance], I remember once [the editorial staff] alluded that Casey Affleck had something to do, y’know, sexually, with animals. I remember picking up the phone, and it’s Casey Affleck’s publicist calling. You could hear the venom dripping from the phone.
KEOHANE: 5 Drink Minimum [in which writers had five drinks at five bars and wrote about their experience] was my idea. We were sort of resentful about having to do service stories, so we wanted to find a way to do them that would be useful, but would have an element of recklessness. So we figured instead of just doing bar profiles where we discussed the bars’ bona fides, we would get drunk enough at these places to potentially cause a problem, or at least experience something unusual, and then write about that. And, I mean, we were such a fundamentally irresponsible group of people, even with the stuff we were supposed to do to placate advertisers, we would end up getting too clever with it, end up offending everybody, and doing more damage than good.
CHRIS FARAONE (staff writer): I think I am the only person to ever do two 5 Drink Minimums in one night. On that night, I rode a mechanical bull at this meathead bar, the Liquor Store, and I can’t remember the other place I went to. Way later, when I had to pitch ideas to the Phoenix for articles I’d write if they gave me a job, one was drinking 24 bloody marys in 24 hours. The editor at the Phoenix said, “This is the worst article idea I’ve ever seen in my life.” After working at the Dig for four years, I didn’t even know how to pitch articles if they weren’t about binge drinking.
CLARK: So Faraone used to write more about comedy than he does now. Back then, he was primarily an A&E writer, and he turned in this fall comedy preview that was, ah … It went through Lissa [Harris] and it got to me, and it made no sense at all. I couldn’t make heads or tails. And I sent it back to Lissa and said, “Are these jokes I’m not getting?” She said, “I think Faraone’s making hip-hop allusions.” I said, “Maybe he is! I’ll ask him!” So I emailed Faraone. He’s like, “Oh shit, sorry, I was high on angel dust when I wrote that. Let me get you a rewrite.” Ten minutes later, he sends in a new version that makes total sense.
Next episode: The baffling story behind “Snap Before You Fluff My Lady,” by BeastWith2Backs, the official theme song of the Weekly Dig.
Barry Thompson lives next to a highway in the Allston/Brighton vicinity. He has written for a whole bunch of places, enjoys caffeine, and appreciates a good, hearty anxiety attack every now and again.