Wilpers out (or not) at BostonNOW

Well, that didn’t take long. The Herald’s “Inside Track” reports that John Wilpers is semi-out as editor of BostonNOW, the free weekday tab started by Tab founder Russel Pergament earlier this year with (I’m not making this up) Icelandic money.

Wilpers is supposedly sticking around to consult on the paper’s blogging initiatives and overall strategy, so this doesn’t sound like your classic “pack up your stuff and get out of here” move. I’ve asked Wilpers to respond, and will post if I hear from him.

The serious and the frivolous

Should newspapers report what’s important or what interests people? Good ones do both, attempting to strike a balance between the serious and the frivolous.

Last night, at a panel discussion at the Boston Public Library sponsored by the fledgling New England News Forum, I caught an interesting exchange between John Wilpers, the editor of the free commuter tabloid BostonNOW, and Ellen Hume, director of the Center on Media and Society at UMass Boston.

Among BostonNOW’s innovations is a daily webcast of its editorial meeting, and the ability of viewers to send text messages about what they’re watching. On one occasion, Wilpers said, he and his staff were discussing a government story, and a viewer wrote in, “I’m bored already, and you haven’t even written the story.” Wilpers said he decided on the spot to kill the story, and then proceeded to offer a few disparaging words about the notion of government stories in general.

When Hume next got a chance to speak, she responded, “Part of what you said, John, gave me a little bit of a creepy feeling. You’ve got to cover government. I don’t want to kill the government stories.”

Wilpers responded, “I would never kill a story just because a blogger or a viewer of the webcast didn’t like it. I’m not going to turn my newsroom over to whoever happens to be
watching.”

Well, that’s a relief — even if Wilpers did seem to contradict what he’d said just a few moments earlier. Yes, it can sometimes be difficult to make government stories interesting. But the First Amendment wasn’t written into the Constitution to protect the right of newspaper publishers to cover Paris Hilton endlessly. That’s just a side effect.

Today’s obligatory BostonNOW item

I’m rooting for BostonNOW because, like Adam, I want to know that there’s an endless source out there of cheap, entertaining items.

Today’s: A front-page tease that says, “Extortion cop pleads guilty.” Turn to page four, and there’s an Associated Press story about Boston police officer Jose Ortiz, who’s been charged with drug-dealing and extortion. The problem is that he hasn’t pleaded guilty to anything.

The page-four headline is considerably more accurate: “Boston cop admits to drug debt threats.” And the head on BostonNOW’s Web site is positively subdued: “Officer facing drug charges held.”

Shelley Murphy’s story in yesterday’s Globe makes it absolutely clear what’s going on with Ortiz:

Ortiz, 44, of Salem, who faces charges of attempted extortion and conspiracy to distribute cocaine, has in custody since his May 2 arrest. He appeared in shackles, grim faced and wearing khaki prison garb, for yesterday’s hearing on whether he should remain in custody until the case is resolved.

I’d love to see BostonNOW give its principal competitor, Metro Boston, a run for its money. But saying someone has pleaded guilty when he hasn’t is serious business. Perhaps Russel Pergament and John Wilpers can find it in their budget to hire a copy editor or two.

With money, John

From today’s New York Times story on BostonNOW, whose editor, John Wilpers, is soliciting contributions from local bloggers:

Mr. Wilpers said he wanted to compensate bloggers but was still considering the best way to do so.

And I love this line: “Also appealing to bloggers is that they retain ownership of their submissions even after printing. They have not, however, received money from the paper for their work.” Such a deal!

Patrick aide (still) assaults clerk

I thought this BostonNOW story was pretty funny when I first read about it on Blue Mass Group. But it’s even funnier that as I write this, on Saturday at 5:09 p.m., it still hasn’t been corrected.

No, BostonNOW, Governor’s Council member Marilyn Devaney is not an aide to Gov. Deval Patrick. She’s an elected official in her own right. Believe it or not.

Here’s the background.

Update: Sco reports as of 8:38 p.m. that it’s now gone.