Veteran Boston Phoenix Editor to Leave May 29

Last week, the Boston Phoenix‘s parent company announced it was cutting salaries across the board and laying off six employees. Turns out one of those being laid off is special to AAN: Phoenix senior managing editor Clif Garboden.

“I’m personally sad about leaving the Phoenix organization,” he says. “This place has given me the opportunity — on the job, and in AAN — to work with hundreds of intelligent and committed people you’d never encounter in the real world. Many of them were also crazy, of course, but that can have its charms.”

Garboden’s roots at the Phoenix and its various predecessors go back to 1970. He’s worked as a photo editor and a section editor, among other things, and helped the Phoenix launch papers in Worcester (since closed) and Portland (still kicking).

While it doesn’t quite trace back 39 years, Garboden also has a long history with AAN. He began on what was then called the Admissions Committee (now the Membership Committee) in 1995. He then joined the Board of Directors as Admissions Chair in 1999 and held that position until 2002.

As Admissions Chair, Garboden transformed the admissions process by creating forms that committee members used to rate each applying paper on a number of editorial factors like writing, reporting, design and listings. This added an extra layer of rigor to the annual process.

“Clif recruited me for the Admissions Committee, which he had handpicked, and there I came to appreciate his outsized intellect and heart to match,” Seven Days publisher and co-editor Paula Routly says. “Only one thing got me through the 40-hour exercise of analyzing all those papers in advance of the convention: knowing Clif would be reading my comments. They had to be good. And if they met his high standards, he was the first to acknowledge it.”

He later served as vice president from June 2001 to June 2003. After the completion of his vice-presidential duties, he became AAN’s president.

Despite being diagnosed with throat cancer in 2004, he fought through it and continued to serve as president until his term ended in June 2005. And, even better, he fully recovered from the cancer and continued to serve on AAN’s Membership and Organization & Bylaws Committees.

“Clif is as prickly as a porcupine on the outside, but he’s a real softie underneath,” AAN executive director Richard Karpel says. “He is also one of the hardest-working, most organized and detail-oriented editors I have ever worked with. His many years of service to AAN were invaluable and we’re going to miss the hell out of him.”

In addition to his official capacities, Garboden was also instrumental in the conception of and one of its most active and vocal users. He was an active participant on the editorial listserv, generously providing advice (and humor) to those who needed help.

He helped mentor many editors off the listserv as well, including Baltimore City Paper managing editor Erin Sullivan, who says Garboden helped teach her about the courage of conviction.

“I think a lot of people are going to miss him,” she says. “I really hope that as more young editors come up in this business there are people who’ve learned enough from Clif around to pass it on.”