…I thought the Globe would still be a local paper. And what that means for local news.
As I come out of my grant writing burrow (and its post-grant writing ‘do everything you didn’t do’ annex), there’s a bunch of news items I can finally get to. A couple of weeks ago, there were two minor embarrassments for the NY Times, parent company of The Boston Globe. First, was the “SoBo” idiocy. The Times picked up an AP story that was essentially regurgitated real estate broker propaganda (awesome ‘churnalism’), which tried to pass South Boston (also known as Southie) off as the next hipster paradise. In the attempt to make Southie hip, a couple realtors referred to it as “SoBo.” Much mockery ensued, as no one in Boston refers to it as “SoBo.” Anyone who did would, at best, be mocked, and, at worst–or when people are deep in their cups–be beaten (seriously, don’t do this. It will not end well). Boston is organized and identifies by its neighborhoods (even if people don’t always agree on their precise boundaries). You don’t change the names lightly. Personally, I still hate “SoWa” for South of Washington–I would love it if the residents started calling it ‘Washington South’ just to fuck with the realtors (it would also be perfect Boston, as there would be no ‘Washington North’, leading to much confusion).
The other embarrassing thing is the Globe ran a story about how Bostonians are calling 311 in record numbers. Interesting story, but Boston doesn’t have a 311 number. New York does, but not Boston, leading to this comment:
It was probably just a bad week for the Globe and the Times. But mockery aside, it serves as a jumping off point for how the internet, combined with media consolidation, has killed local coverage. While this is nothing new for media watchers, these forces have really hollowed out the Globe’s coverage of Boston. Not only is it understaffed, but there’s no economic incentive to cover local stories. Sure, the effort will be put in to ‘national’ local stories, such as the Boston Marathon bombing or the U.S. senate election. But good luck trying to get useful local information about the city of Boston from the supposed hometown newspaper.
This really does matter. Over the last few (and next few months), Boston is having a spate of elections. Yet, if you read The Globe you will have no idea which candidate to vote for, other than voting the opposite of what the editorial page recommends in the Democratic primary (always a good default setting, as the editors are woefully out of touch with the neighborhoods). There’s simply no coverage because there’s no money in it. If you’re trying to appeal to a broad audience, including an internet audience, stories about the local councilmen just aren’t going to cut it (unless there’s some crazy ass sexytime or something). Yet the residents of Boston need to know this stuff.
It’s reached the point where you’re more likely to find important and relevant information in the free weeklies than you are the Globe, as well as websites like Universal Hub (and a few times when I’ve been at City Hall, I’ve seen Universal Hub’s Adam Gaffin signed into the entry book–didn’t see any Globe names). So the local paper of record really isn’t recording very much that’s local–which is a good thing, since the reporting increasingly seems to lack an intimate knowledge of the city.
Snark about ‘SoBo’ and 311 aside, this is a real problem for the governance of Boston.