Exclusive: Dig Publisher Speaks

1191265659It has been a week of turmoil at the Weekly Dig following the removal of editor Michael Brodeur after last week’s issue had shipped. Things got even rockier when managing editor Shaula Clark and staff writer Julia Reischel gave their notice on Friday. Publisher and president Jeff Lawrence had been conspicuously silent about the changes, but he talked to Boston Daily about his decision to let Brodeur go and the direction of the paper.

“Michael is a phenomenal writer,” Lawrence said. “He’s not an editor. He might agree, he might disagree. Some people were surprised that I didn’t give him the opportunity to step down to A+E [arts and entertainment] editor. My feeling was, that would have been disrespectful to him. This decision was one of many that will bring a lot of changes to the editorial side. In my opinion we have some of the best writers in the city, and Michael is clearly one of them.”

Lawrence disputed the notion that Brodeur was foisted upon him by Metrocorp after he bought the publication back from that company’s owners, the Lipson family, in May. Metrocorp is the parent company of Boston magazine and this website, and owned the Dig for two and a half years.

“I have the highest regard for the Lipsons,” Lawrence said. “The one thing they did was give me the freedom to make decisions I needed to make. Not only was it my decision (to hire Brodeur), but I felt very comfortable with it.”

Even by Dig standards this has been a year of upheaval. In March, editor Joe Keohane left to become a staff writer at Boston magazine, and was replaced by Brodeur.

This is also not the first time Lawrence has shaken up his staff. He similarly replaced Joe Bonni in 2003 with Keohane, a move that was not without controversy at the time.

“When I let Joe Bonni go, a lot of people disagreed with that,” Lawrence said. “When I hired Keohane, a lot of people didn’t agree with that. Whenever you make a decision like this you are going to be accused of some sort of an ulterior motive. For me, as the leader of this publication, it was time for a restructuring.”

Lawrence also disputed the notion that this was a capricious move.

“I was sick all day,” he said. “I don’t relish it. Especially someone like Mike, who put so much effort into it. Make no mistake about it, that kid is a workhorse who busted his ass for the Dig. In our discussion, it came up if he would write for us again. I’d be honored. Whether he acts on that is completely up to him.”

For now, the Dig will soldier on with Lawrence handling the editor duties himself. Copy chief Laura Dargus is also in line to become acting managing editor. Lawrence did not want to commit to a specific date for hiring a new editor, but he said the time as editor will give him a chance to reevaluate the paper. We’ll have more on the Dig’s new direction tomorrow.