Publisher of The Boston Phoenix, Stuff at Night, several regional weeklies, and the owner of rock station WFNX, Stephen Mindich created an alternative media empire that was dedicated to Boston's nightlife, culture, and music. He died Wednesday after a four-year fight with pancreatic cancer.

Small in stature, Stephen Mindich was an imposing figure. With his black hair pulled back in a tight pony tail and gravelly voice, Mindich did not suffer fools gladly, but he was a passionate advocate for the First Amendment. When online video surfaced in 2002 showing the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl by Islamic terrorists, Mindich's Boston Phoenix was one of the few news organizations to post a link to the video. He defended his decision as a statement about the freedom of the press.

"For that reason and for the fact that it is important to know our enemy," he said at the time. "I felt very strongly about that." But he also lamented that instead of other media organizations supporting his decision, "I was beaten up badly by the press for doing that."

Mindich was a New York native who came to Boston to study theater, but was soon drawn to journalism. After a brief stint in radio, he started working for Boston After Dark, a free alternative weekly. Five years later, Mindich owned the paper and it evolved into The Boston Phoenix. His interest in arts continued though, and his newspaper naturally delved deep into the arts and culture scene around Boston and beyond. He also consumed art. He and his wife, former Superior Court Judge Maria Lopez became known for having their own impressive collection of modern art.

In 1983, Mindich took a big step into radio with the acquisition of classic rock station WFNX. With his growing portfolio of alternative weeklies and several radio stations, Mindich built a cross-platform media company well before that was even a thing.

His business model was not without critics. Mindich's company earned significant revenue from adult ads and personals, something about which he was wholly unapologetic.

"If anybody came into the paper and identified themselves as doing something illicit," he once told me in an interview, he wouldn't let it in the paper. "But as a matter of free speech, you don’t restrain anyone beforehand."

Still, supporting good journalism was always close to his heart. As the internet started doing serious damage to the publishing industry, he lamented the business woes of his mainstream siblings, the Boston Herald and The Boston Globe.

"I do think the Globe is a very good daily newspaper," he told me in 2012. "I don’t like to see it struggle, but daily newspapers are different than what we do, and their struggle is different than our struggle."

And a struggle it was. After almost 50 years, Mindich could no longer keep his beloved paper afloat, folding The Boston Phoenix in 2013. When asked what he was most proud of, Mindich would list the great writers he nurtured at the Phoenix: "Janet Maslin, Dan Kennedy, Adam Reilly, David Denby at The New Yorker, Michael Shragow, Sid Blumenthal ... Gosh, the list goes on."

Stephen Mindich was 74.