The employee churn continues at The Portland Phoenix, Portland’s alternative weekly newspaper.

Editor Dan MacLeod and Staff Writer Matt Dodge both left the paper on Friday, according to an email Dodge sent Monday to various Phoenix contributors, which was obtained by the Portland Press Herald. In the email, Dodge says MacLeod was “fired” and that Dodge quit because he “had no motivation to contribute to an organization that is so out of touch with Portland and its people.”

Mark Guerringue, the Phoenix’s publisher, confirmed that MacLeod and Dodge were no longer with the paper, but declined to comment further on their departures because “it’s a personnel issue.”

In his own email sent Friday to Phoenix contributors, MacLeod wrote that “the paper has decided to go in a different direction – specifically one that doesn’t include me as editor.”

“It’s complicated,” MacLeod wrote, “but it ultimately boils down to two people having different visions for the paper.”

Dodge said his decision to quit was driven by the firing of MacLeod and the direction of the paper since Guerringue bought it in early November. Guerringue was previously publisher of another free local newspaper, the Portland Daily Sun.


“Dan (MacLeod) did a spectacular job of holding off the Sun influence for as long as possible and churning out a Phoenix-y product,” Dodge wrote, “but Mark pulled the plug on all that as soon as we had our feet under us and knew we were going to survive the PHX-Dig war, which I suspect was his plan all along.”

Dodge’s mention of the “PHX-Dig war” is a reference to a brief but nasty media battle between the Phoenix and a short-lived competitor called Dig Portland.

The Phoenix has had a rocky few months. In October, its former owner, the Phoenix Media/Communications Group, announced the newspaper was for sale. A potential sale to one of the Phoenix’s employees fell through before the paper was acquired in early November by Guerringue, who at the time was publisher of the Portland Daily Sun. In the meantime, Boston-based Dig Publishing LLC announced it was launching its own free alt-weekly in Portland, which it did in early November.

But that wasn’t the end of the drama. The day after Guerringue bought the Phoenix, Dig Portland hired away a slew of his staffers, including two full-time editorial staff members, three of five salespeople and more than a dozen contributing writers, according to a subsequent lawsuit filed by Guerringue. It was during that melee that Guerringue hired MacLeod and Dodge to lead the Phoenix’s editorial team. In the meantime, Guerringue shut down the Portland Daily Sun.

Then, in a surprise twist last month, Guerringue said he was dropping his lawsuit against Dig Portland and instead had agreed to buy it, again leaving the Phoenix as the city’s sole alt-weekly.

After working through that contentious few months it became clear that Guerringue’s vision for the paper didn’t mesh with that of MacLeod and Dodge’s, according to their emails.

“Just to be clear, this is not a rant from a disgruntled former employee as much as a warning: with the departure of Dan and myself, everyone’s worst fears have been confirmed: The Phoenix is becoming The Sun,” Dodge wrote.

Guerringue said that’s not true.

“Everybody always accuses me and paints me into the corner of bringing the Sun to the Phoenix,” Guerringue said Monday. “My metaphor to that is I drive an old pickup truck in winter and a sports car in the summer, and I like them both but I don’t confuse them. The Sun was a community paper, the Phoenix is not at all a community paper in that sense. There won’t be a police report and bean suppers and all that.”

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