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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Boston -- at some point

I never thought anything could make the Metro look substantive.

I wanted to give the new BostonNow a few days before offering up a critique. And I admit I am a newspaper snob who likes something with depth and heft (like the Globe used to be). So even though the Metro shows up in the hands of virtually every subway rider, it doesn't rub off ink on mine.

Let's start with how easy it is to find this new paper. Not. And the problem is actually more significant on the web where, after all, this "bloggers' paper" is supposed to thrive. After the first week, do a Google search and you get either a British newspaper or the home of the Boston National Organization of Women.

Oh, you do get BostonNow's blog and after a little searching you find a link to the newsroom and from there to the front door. But it took me awhile to find that, because the lead blog item on my first visit was how the paper lifted content from bostonist.com without attribution. You know -- plagiarized it.

Of course it was hard to find the offended story in Bostonist because editor-in-chief John Wilpers had the wrong URL (it's a dot-com, not a dot-net).

If you can figure out the navigation, the site has promise -- linking by tags to allow a reader to get exactly what he or she wants. Works for the web if not exactly the concept that drives dead tree editions.

And after all, the web is where this paper is supposed to make its mark (how that squares with the challenging the freebie dead tree Metro is another contradiction I haven't figured out). So then the next question arises, where are the bloggers? Wasn't that innovation/free labor the key that was supposed to set this publication apart?

I know, I know, it was just the first week and it was so slow. Let's see: the Boston Marathon, flooding rains, a Supreme Court decision on "partial birth abortions" and a mass murder in Virginia. Nothing much to talk about.

So BostonNow's dead tree edition proceeded to tell us how hard it was to get around Boston by plane, train and automobile. And in a layout blunder worthy of the journalism layout textbooks, it butts the headline "A different runway disaster" against "Campus shooting leaves 33 dead" (on pages 8 and 9). Which was the disaster again?

I'm all for good enterprise reporting and counter-punching might be a good idea for a specialty paper. But where is the news value in the fact that travelers back up at Logan, especially in bad weather? Or that there is crime on the T -- when you can actually get on a train or bus or into a station? Or that getting out of Boston on an "Evacuation Route" in a disaster is sick joke?

Thankfully they got back to the tried and true model of newsstand sales -- a pretty face -- for their Friday edition. But Maria from Medford ain't Jennie from the block.

Let's just say I'm not canceling my Globe subscription anytime soon. But I am a little more tempted to pick up the Metro.



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