Yet another small media outlet is coming to Boston — this one owned by the legendary Graham family, the former owners of The Washington Post.
City Cast is hiring a lead producer to oversee a team of three who’ll produce a daily podcast and newsletter in Boston, joining projects that are already up and running in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Salt Lake City and Pittsburgh. The project is expanding to six other cities as well. The journalist behind it is David Plotz, formerly the editor-in-chief of Slate (also owned by Graham Holdings) and former chief executive of Atlas Obscura, who announced his idea for a network of local podcasts in October 2020:
It will combine essential local news with smart, delightful perspective about your community. It will be the passionate, curious, connecting voice of your city and mine — framing and explaining the news and helping make us more informed and more empathetic — and better citizens in small but meaningful ways. [Plotz’s boldface.]
I spent a little time with the Denver and Chicago City Casts this morning, and my first impression was that they are more substantive than Axios Local or certainly 6AM City, which I wrote about recently for GBH News. (And let’s not forget about the specialty state political newsletters from Politico, State House News Service and CommonWealth Magazine.) That said, I’m not sure who the audience for City Cast Boston will be.
In his announcement, Plotz lamented that “where local news is sparse or feeble, communities suffer.” Well, Boston is certainly no news desert, and it’s hard to see how a small podcast is going to do anything about the suburbs, exurbs and satellite cities, where news coverage is truly lacking.
I suspect that City Cast’s target audience are young tech workers, many from out of town, who haven’t yet developed the news habit — in other words, the same people who’ve been targeted by Axios Local and 6AM City.
And maybe it’s time for the city’s major homegrown media outlets — The Boston Globe, of course, but also WBUR Radio, GBH News, CommonWealth and others — to think about why outside media organizations assume those readers are there for the taking.