By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Kicking Sidekick

I remain determinedly neutral about the Boston Globe’s daily Sidekick tab. All I ask is that it not demonstrably suck resources away from the paper’s news-gathering operations.

With that bit of throat-clearing, let’s take a look at today’s paper. There are a grand total of four ads in the 16-page Sidekick section, and that’s actually a lot worse than it sounds: it turns out that every one of them is a house ad, flogging a Globe-produced sports DVD (a full-page, back-cover ad at that), a book by photographer Bill Brett available from the Globe’s online store, a Globe-sponsored “Family Classics” book club and an upcoming event for the Globe Santa charity.

Meanwhile, on Page B5, in the City & Region section, is a full-page ad touting — yes — Sidekick. “Have some fun with your news,” you are urged. I’m not sure what the purpose of this ad is since, if you bought today’s Globe, you already have Sidekick.

Now, I doubt that Sidekick is costing the Globe all that much. If you got rid of it tomorrow, you’d have to expand the paper a bit to reintegrate the funnies and the TV listings, which wouldn’t be free. But surely the separate production run for Sidekick must cost something — the annual salary of a metro reporter and a copy editor, perhaps?

A project like Sidekick is worthless unless it makes money to support the Globe’s journalism. Ergo, Sidekick is worthless.

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  1. Anonymous

    Dan, it’s worse than useless. The Globe can’t even make up its mind what Sidekick is supposed to be – “fun,” as in innocent fun for kids who enjoy puzzles and comics, or “fun,” as in the kinds of things adults 18-50 consider fun, i.e., beer and sex (not that I have a problem with either one). I remember one Sidekick cover that pictured a rotund, leather clad patron at Man Ray, next to a piece about a theatre event for kids at the Park School. Bet the folks at Park were happy to see their event announced beside a picture of someone who resembled a young Edith Massey in a red leather body suit with side lacing, swilling beer in a fetish club.

  2. Anonymous

    Dan, I read the first paragraph of your entry quickly and thought you were offering a critique–that Sidekick does “demonstrably suck.” Which, of course, it does.

  3. Anonymous

    Haven’t read the funnies since they decamped to Sidekick, (production cramps mean it takes me an extra 30-60 seconds to unfold it; sounds like nothing- it isn’t).Is Doonesbury still pretty much the same?

  4. Paul

    Hang on now…! Sidekick *is* worth something… It makes great kindling for starting the fire on these cold nights we’ve been having lately!

  5. Mike P

    I too find Sidekick useless. It was much easier when I could read all that stuff in the Living/Arts section. Now, I have pull out the Sidekick, look at what little I want in there, and go to Living/Arts anyway. Unless all you care about is the comics, who is going to buy the Globe, keep Sidekick because it’s easy to read, and toss the rest of the paper? It doesn’t make sense.

  6. Anonymous

    Oh, not everyone finds it useless.Was having a conversation with my uncle a couple months ago. He’s like 75.”I like the new Sidekick section of the Globe. Everything I want to read is in one simple place.”There’s your market.

  7. Anonymous

    Its easier to make than real nespaper stuff and the Globe is quite proud of it judging by their full page ads, and on ones going to stop them from doing it because no one cares about whats written in it. So this means that they can cut back on the news, but fill up on the extra fluff saving them time and money. To the Globe, the sidekick is terrific.

  8. Anonymous

    So Sidekick is basically the Globe’s obituary?

  9. Ron Newman

    What I don’t understand is … why didn’t they move all of the Living/Arts section into Sidekick? It makes no sense to have a listing of interesting events in Sidekick, but all of the movie and theatre ads in Living/Arts.

  10. Anonymous

    “I’m not sure what the purpose of this ad is since, if you bought today’s Globe, you already have Sidekick.”That is probably for people like me, who just toss it without opening it.The whole paper is a worthless pile of rubbish. Without the AP, AFP and Reuters, they’d be dead in the water.The only fact that has kept the Globe in the national apotlight at a minimum degree is the fact the one of the main election contenders was from Mass. Stories like Bio they did on Kerry and other scoops meant a bit more respect for a bit longer.They haven’t broken any major story in along time. They haven’t made any great stands on any major stand in the last few years. They have been a pandering impotent fence-sitting rag that still comands decent advetising dollars because the other paper in town in dreadful and so much worse.Sidekick sounds more like it is a SELFkick.N.

  11. mike_b1

    N. — Ever heard of the Catholic priest child abuse coverup? That was your very own Boston Globe that broke that, and pressed hard on it for more than 12 months.I’m no apologist for the Globe, but let’s give credit where it’s due.

  12. Anonymous

    Mike, I won’t give them full credit for that one.That scandal was known to many powerful and media circles for decades and was left festering because of the power of the Church and its connected/fundraising-key Law and his predecessors. In addition to calculating Reilly, many powerful voices went silent/careful on this one too, like Sen Kennedy and Harshbarger, whom I like a lot. It was too hot of a potato and the Globe just rode the wave when it finally could.It is hypocritical for the Globe to claim that they just woke up from their stupor.The Herald has had its shares of great scoops and revealed documents in that scandal. Great Herald work there.Now, Church figures are not nearly as influencial in raising funds for political allies and their presence in galas and events is not a photo event anymore. Heck they can’t even raise money for their own ‘business’ and have to cut benefits and divest. You still sense a reluctance to criticize and investigate the Church. There is still more to uncover.The Globe now doesn’t even look at the real estate treansactions that closely at all. They can’t afford, along with Beacon-Hill-seeking Reilly, to offend that constituency anymore. So much for dogged reporting from the Globe.And the person who really started that abuse fever again and unleashed the furor was really Dan Rea’s WBZ dogged hunt and on camera pursuit. That was a personal affair for him so there were no other considerations. He just wanted it uncovered regardless of consequences. You can’t say much of the Globe or Catholic Pat’s Herald BEFORE it broke. After it broke, everyone wanted to milk it and show off their ‘reporting edge’ AFTER the fact.So I won’t give the Globe as much credit as the Pulitzer people would, chummy cliques that they are. The sat on a lot of info for a while saying nothing.So eff the Globe!N.

  13. Dan Kennedy

    Yes, let’s give credit where it’s due: It was Kristen Lombardi, then of the Boston Phoenix, now of the Village Voice, who broke the story of what Cardinal Law knew and when he knew it with respect to the Catholic priest scandal. The Globe didn’t catch on until the following year. Here you go.The Globe did great work, especially in terms of digging out records that had previously been hidden, and it richly deserved the Pulitzer that it won. But Lombardi was first.

  14. mike_b1

    I stand corrected.

  15. Dave

    I found it amusing that the Globe, the pro-busing broadsheet, segregated its black-themed comics into their own ghetto for the first few months of Sidekick until someone over there seemingly realized the irony and they moved one of them onto another page.

  16. amusedbutinformedobserver

    I view the sidekick as a way to take things that newsprint prices have forced papers to cut back on and publish it more efficiently. The content is not time-sensitive, so I’m sure they don’t re-web for Sidekick on a daily basis and they do enough other tabs that production time and effort doesn’t cost that much. Selling ads just in the Sidekick section is probably a potential side-benefit to the savings they realize by handling feature/filler material that way, rather than the reason for pushing the fluff into that section in the first place

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