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

The Boston Daily Blogger

Media Nation trivia: In the early 1980s John Wilpers and I were competitors. Back then he edited three weekly newspapers, including the Winchester Star, now part of the giant Fairport, N.Y.-based GateHouse Media chain. I edited the Winchester edition of Woburn’s Daily Times Chronicle, still owned by the Haggerty family, among the nicest people in the news business. So there you go.

Anyway, these days the much-traveled Wilpers is the editor of a nascent free daily to be called BostonNOW, which will compete directly with Metro Boston and indirectly with the Globe and the Herald. (The New York Times Co., which owns the Globe, also owns 49 percent of Metro.) Wilpers is working for Russel Pergament, a hyperactive visionary who founded the suburban Tab weeklies (long since subsumed into the chain that became GateHouse), was the first publisher of Metro Boston — owned by a European media conglomerate — and then started amNewYork, a freebie that (yes) competes with Metro New York.

It looks as though Wilpers and Pergament are looking to fill BostonNOW with gobs of blogger-provided free or nearly free content. Here’s what Wilpers says on the BostonNOW blog:

This is your opportunity, as a local blogger, photographer, artist, or pundit, to get in on the ground floor and contribute. You will get to share your perspective on living, surviving, and thriving in this amazing city. Participation in the BostonNOW experience will give you massive exposure to a huge reading audience — your words in a daily newspaper going to tens of thousands of commuters and residents; your words on a website generating thousands of page views; your words syndicated worldwide with a share of any profits going to you.

The best part? You’re already doing it on your blogs and websites. We want to give you the opportunity to share your insight with the entire city.

It’s an interesting idea, and a way to distinguish BostonNOW from the generic, wire-heavy Metro. I’m skeptical of corporate-driven citizen journalism, of course, as schemes like this strike me as little more than an opportunity to exploit volunteer labor for profit. Handled right, though, BostonNOW could wind up being a better read than Metro. Then, too, I’ve seen cereal boxes that are a better read than Metro.

Pergament and Wilpers have invited bloggers to meet them on March 10. The details are in Wilpers’ post. Wish I could be there. (Via Universal Hub.)

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  1. Adam

    I assume this new endeavor will have advertising. What the hell happened to the old days when people were expected to get paid for doing work for a commercial entity. This !#$% drives me crazy!If you have your own blog and write for free, that’s fine (I do it, you do it, we all do it). But I hate seeing these business ventures launched on the backs of those willing to work for nothing just for the opportunity to see their name in print or have a link to their blog.

  2. Tony

    Bad link buddy: You have the Virginia Winchester Star site not the Mass. one, of which I was also an editor. 🙂 Go to

  3. Dan Kennedy

    D’oh! Now fixed.

  4. Don

    You people move around more than baseball players. (But, probably for less $.)

  5. Peter Porcupine

    We’ve had this on Cape Cod for a couple of years – and have 40 bloggers, plus or minus. See http://www.capecodtoday.comIt‘s interesting. Walter Brooks is 70+, was a decades long editor of a small Yarmouth paper, The Register, with John Ullman, and has battened down on this like a geeky kid in his twenties.I once said that the young publishers of a new actual paper, Cape Cod Voice, looked like a couple of guys polishing the chrome on their DeSoto while Walter cackled as he sped by in his (virtual) hybrid.Aggregation and blogging are the lifeblood of the new virtual papers, and IMHO, they are here to stay.And as far as payment goes, if you can have community theatre, why not community writing?[Full Disclosure – Walter Brooks helped me start my blog, as I did not understand how to do so, and remains a respected friend]

  6. Anonymous

    Between bloggers and interns, it’s conceivable that you could run a publication in Boston with no labor costs–except of course, for the publishers who come up with these concepts, who, of course, get paid extra. What a country!

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Paul: You and I are both in an interesting position — our blogs are, in some small way, part of what we do for a living. I consider blogging to be part of what I’m getting paid to do, and my chairman agrees. So even though I’m not getting paid directly for blogging, I do think of it as part of the overall package. So it’s a different calculation. As you say, it would be good for your hospital.In general, though, if someone is writing for a for-profit newspaper, then she ought to be paid. Even the cheapskate newspaper owners of years gone by would pay a kid $25 to cover a selectmen’s meeting or a field hockey game. Why should this be any different?

  8. Paul Levy

    Is “because the world has changed” a good answer? As Tom Friedman notes, it is ruthless out there. I am like you in that I am not at all sure I like it. I especially don’t like the erosion of institutions that practice journalistic standards. But, if they are eroding anyway because they fail to adapt, shouldn’t we make the most of it for those of us who are remaining?BTW, did I unintentionally delete my comment? As Dan notes, I hadsuggested that I should join up and have them send my share of the porfits to my hospital.

  9. Paul Levy

    No prob, Dan!Now, let’s think this through. What’s to keep the Globe from creating a similar product? Imagine if they likewise solicited bloggers for a special section of the newspaper, and if they also offered to share advertising revenues from those pages. Meanwhile, expanded versions of those postings could also be put on their own blog.Given the Globe’s base of a dramatically larger readership, they would be able to compete with BostonNOW — and maybe they could also attract back to the paper the thousands of younger readers who no longer buy it.Question, would the reporters’ union at the Globe block this move? On the one hand, it would seem to be cannibalizing their business and undermining their professional standing. On the other hand, it might make it possible for them to have jobs and write their own columns at the Globe for a longer time.

  10. Anonymous

    Paul, that might be an interesting business model, but what you are really suggesting is a “special section” of opeds. That’s really the only thing that blogs are–oped pieces.There really is–or there really should be–a significant difference between reporting and opining. The newspaper is reponsible for the veracity of the reporting. The authors of the oped pieces are responsible for their individual columns and the veracity of the facts recited therein on which the opinions are based.–rajnb: not to Dan. Liked Beat the Press last night.

  11. Paul Levy

    Dear raj,I totally agree that there should be a difference between reporting and opining, and there should be journalistic standards for both. Let’s put aside the point that both are often not the case. (Even our major metropolitan daily sometime has problems on that score: Just read some of the State House “news” stories . . .)But, there is an important issue as to how a paper like the Globe might stay in business so the trained reporters have a place to ply their craft. As things stand now, the paper is on a steady commercial decline. So, if you could integrate the BostonNOW approach into the traditional newspaper, you might have a way of boosting community participation, readership, and advertising revenues.

  12. peter kenney

    Hey, people…for those of you who do not know who Paul Levy is, think of him as the man who got the MWRA through some harrowing times. We here on the Cape who were involved, on both sides of the issue, in that mess grew to respect him for the scope and honesty of his intellect. Why in hell he was not placed in charge of the big dig is beyond me…probably precisely because of his competence and honesty. HELLO PAUL! Peter Kenney

  13. Anonymous

    Peter Kenney is hardly one to talk about competence and honesty.

  14. arizona insurance broker

    I love to write and I’d walk a mile for a link. It’s much better for your health than the old walk a mile for a camel.I write for a couple of blogs and contribute to other online websites. If someone needs/wants contributions I am glad to help and participate.I win and they win.

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