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The Real Paper records

Identifier: M215

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of records pertaining to the creation, operation, and closing of The Real Paper. The collection is separated into two series, 1. Administrative; 2. Newspaper Issues. Records include financial statements, board of directors meeting minutes, and legal documents on the employee collective, liquidation of The Real Paper, and purchase by Ralph I. Fine, David Rockefeller, Jr., and William Weld. Administrative files include memoranda, correspondence, letters to the editor, and press releases. The collection also contains records on the employees union that was formed at The Phoenix and continued to exist after the purchase of the Paper by Fine, Rockefeller, and Weld in 1975. Photographs of The Real Paper staff and ephemera such as press passes, Christmas cards, and mailing labels are also included.

Newspaper clippings mostly from Boston area publications document the purchase of the Phoenix by Stephen Mindich, the employee strike, the creation of The Real Paper, and the eventual sale of The Real Paper to Mindich. Loose issues from Boston After Dark, The Phoenix, and The Real Paper are not full runs and do not contain all sections.


  • Creation: 1967-1995


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is unrestricted

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply

Biographical / Historical

The Real Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 1972 to 1981. As an alternative newspaper, the Real Paper catered to a younger audience than other more traditional newspapers. The paper wrote on counterculture, left of center politics, along with music and arts in the Greater Boston area.

In 1972, labor and staffing disputes between the owner of The Cambridge Phoenix (known simply as The Phoenix), Richard Missner, and the staff of the paper became more frequent and reached a breaking point when Harper Barnes was fired from his position as editor, leading to the staff forming a union and going on strike. Despite a deal being struck between Missner and the staff, the paper was sold only a couple of months later to rival alternative newspaper owner, Stephen Mindich, and leaving almost all of the Phoenix staff without jobs. The former staff of The Cambridge Phoenix wished to continue publishing on their own, naming their publication The Real Paper. When starting their own paper, the group wanted to build it based on what they felt had been lacking at The Phoenix. This led to the each employee being an equal shareholder in the company, and a board of directors that was decided on by vote. The editor in chief position was also filled by vote with Paul Solman being elected by the staff to be the first editor of the paper. The Real Paper became self-sustaining after a few months and for a few years, stability was maintained with only a small amount of employee turnover. But by 1975, the factions within the staff and uncertainty in the direction of the newspaper caused the employees to dissolve their equal ownership of the paper and sell it to Ralph I. Fine; David Rockefeller, Jr.; and William Weld. The Real Paper continued to be published throughout the 1970s before succumbing to economic troubles in 1981 when the paper was sold to Stephen Mindich and absorbed by his paper, The Boston Phoenix.

The Real Paper was an early home for many journalists who would go on to have careers at major publications such as Rolling Stone, Newsweek, The New Yorker and the Boston Globe. Music writers such as Jon Landau who went on to become the longtime manager of Bruce Springsteen and Stephen Davis who has written biographies of many rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, and The Rolling Stones. Other prominent journalists from The Real Paper include Joe Klein, James Miller, Laura Shapiro, and Andrew Kopkind.


1972 May
After increasing tensions with owner Richard Missner over staffing decisions, Cambridge Phoenix employees form a union and go on strike.
1972 July 27
Richard Missner informs staff that the paper has been sold to rival alternative newspaper owner, Stephen Mindich and that they no longer have jobs.
1972 July 31
The former staff of the Cambridge Phoenix creates their own paper, The Real Paper.
1972 August 2
First edition of The Real Paper is issued.
1974 May 22
Music writer Jon Landau attends a Bruce Springsteen concert at Harvard Square theater. In his review of the concert he states, “I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” This article is cited by many for fostering the popularity of Springsteen.
1975 May
Staff divisions cause the dissolution of the employee ownership of the paper and it is purchased by Ralph I. Fine, David Rockefeller, Jr., and William Weld.
1981 June
Citing financial problems, The Real Paper is sold to Stephen Mindich and the final issue is published.


10.40 cubic feet (5 containers, 2 tubes, and 26 bound volumes.)




The Real Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and founded in 1972. The paper was formed by a group of former employees of the paper, The Cambridge Phoenix that had been abruptly sold to rival alternative newspaper owner, Stephen Mindich. The paper was set up as a collective with employees owning equal shares in the company. The newspaper continued to operate throughout the 1970s before succumbing to financial struggles and being sold to Mindich in 1981.


Organized into two series: Series 1. Administrative; and Series 2. Newspaper Issues

Physical Location

119/5/5, 101/10, RS11/S3

Physical Location

39/4/6, 99/5/3-6, RS11/S3


Bruner, Robert F., Elizabeth Lyman Rachal, and C. Roland Christensen. "Case Study on The Real Paper, Inc." 1975. Box 1, folder 5
Cobb, Nathan. “Boston’s alternative press goes straight” Boston Globe, June 9, 1974. Box 3
Klein, Joe. “The Phoenix on Strike” 1972. Box 3
McCollum, Charlie and Paul Solman. “BAD News: Take the Money and Run” The Real Paper, 1972. Box 4
McLaughlin, Jeff. "Real Paper Leaves Legacy of Writers." Boston Globe (1960-1987), Jun 14, 1981. Proquest.
Wakefield, Dan. “Up from underground” New York Times Magazine, February 15, 1976. Box 3
Jill Chancellor
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Snell Library
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA 02115 US