Thursday, January 15, 2009

Times a-wasting?

This week's East Boston Times clocks in at a mere 12 pages. I have a copy of an issue from August that was 20 pages and one from December that was 16. Is this the typical post-holiday decline in advertising, or is the neighborhood weekly, like most newspapers, being squeezed by the sluggish economy and the general decline in readership?

It's no surprise that local elected officials Carlo Basile and Anthony Petruccelli are pictured on the front page above the fold. In addition, there's another story about Basile inside and Petruccelli's photo with an editorial. I like both of these guys, but as I said before, I'd love to see stories and photos about people other than elected officials and Chamber of Commerce officers. Who are the other 40,000 people who live in this neighborhood?

Wait...there is a front-page story on someone else: Andrew Kenneally, an East Boston resident who is running for an at-large seat on the Boston City Council. The Times seems not to have contacted the former aide to Councilor Michael Flaherty for the article, instead listing information from a press release -- including the quotation.

More beefs: the Times' once decent sports coverage has shrunk down to half a page, with no photos; the story on the construction of the First Priority Credit Union makes no mention of the picketing workers who I saw out there a couple weeks ago; and, while it is nice to see a story on a fairly new local eatery, the piece on Scup's in the Harbor comes one week after the Globe spotlighted the place. Shouldn't the local paper get us there first?


'Whalehead' King said...

I do think the local, neighborhood papers are starting to have more sway than the city-wide ones. They have the potential to deliver relevant news more effiently even while relying on free, pick-up, laudromat/convience store, hard copies. Soon enough their circulation will surpass The Globe and The Herald. I think neighborhood presses, like the more respected newsrooms, are tied to antiquated business models though. They avoid delivering relevant, useful news, opting for puff pieces instead.

The little papers can capture a captive audience hungry for goings-on-about-town if they can deploy available staff. If half your staff is made up of back office clerks, how effective will the content be? There is a hunger for news but all the papers haven't figured out how to satisy it. The littler, nimbler presses will succeed if they can give the people what they want and need: news of interest and value that effects them.

Eastie Knitter said...

Absolutely spot on, Jim. There should be more contributing writers, too. Also, does it have to be a continuous lovefest for the mayor? We get it, okay, the Times wants Mr. Menino to remain in office. As for the First Priority Credit Union, I noticed the picketers and stopped to read their sign. So, let's see, did a credit union built on the deposits of unionized workers from the Postal Service use non-union labor to construct their new headquarters? Hmmm, interesting. Well, those of us who remain pro-union should think twice before opening accounts.

Eastie Knitter said...

One more thing, Jim:

Did you write this post while waiting for President Bush to deliver his farewell speech to the nation? I was betting that your critique of that exercise in subjective oration would have been the focus of your posting tonight.

Jimbo said...

Actually, I skipped the Bush address. I saw Cheney on the NewsHour last night and I almost attacked the TV.

Anonymous said...

The East Boston Times,or whats attempting to call it self that is ,and has for some time now NOT been a real East Boston Paper.

Count the actual ads,and you will find apx 80% are from businesses outside of Eastie.
Who get a package deal by buying ad space in one of its other locals.

As far as the reporting goes ,there is none.I mainly consists of one guy who will write articles about community meetings,even the ones he does not go to.

Isn't it funny I spoke about this before,so here goes again.
If the Times owners read this,I just have one quetion.

What have you done for East Boston ,in a charitable way?

Please list any donations to local things ,no matter how big ,or small.

I am betting ZERO ,ZILCH Nudda.

Its on its way out for the exact reasons mentioned by Jimbo.

Bring back Lou Torrone.

the zak said...

0153 Order requesting certain information under Section 17F re: a list of all [Boston] city commissions and boards as of January 7, 2009, names, conditions of appointment and time period length, salaries and all meeting minutes from 2008.

17F Order
see page 5 at

or scroll to
and click on
Boston City Charter

Eastie Girl said...

You may know -due to your prior affiliation with the Times - do they accept submissions from independent contributors? It is almost comical that virtually EVERY article is written by John Lynds but given the modest advertising and free circulation - I imagine that resources are limited in terms of the ability to take on full time staff writers. I've seen some pretty good examples of writing skills among your comment posters and would be willing to bet that some of those folks have a few stories to tell/share. Perhaps some posters would volunteer to cover community issues and events that are important to them? Mary B seems like a natural to talk to issues that face the community. Just a thought.
Additionally, it has been my experience that the folks over at the journal/times papers have always been interested in/willing to post information provided by East Boston residents. For example, my daughter attends high school downtown and I have on occasion provided updates about goings on at the school as there are several community kids that attend. They have even posted honor roll listings, etc.
So I guess my thought is, if there is something you would like to see in the paper - pick up the phone or pen and reach out to the editorial staff to see how you can contribute. You might be surprised at the response.

- E.G.

Jimbo said...

Eastie Girl makes good points. I am sure that the Independent Newspaper Group, which publishes the Times and a number of other weeklies, has limited resources. It's likely that their reporters write for more than one paper and cover several communities. From September 2000 to August 2001 I wrote a column for the same ownership when they came to East Boston, first under the imprint of the EB Independent and then the EB Sun Transcript, which they quickly overtook and purchased. They later did the same to the Times. Honestly, I don't feel like I have the time to write consistently now, and I'd imagine that they wouldn't print anything I wrote anyway.

But my broader point is that they could do better with the resources they have. When I was working full time for a similar company, which owns eight weeklies in southern Maine, we worked hard to avoid the pitfalls that I mentioned in this post. We were out all the time looking for people and ideas and stories. Almost nothing happened in the communities we covered without us knowing it, and if the daily paper beat us to a story in one of our towns we kicked ourselves and made sure we did better.

Mary B. said...

To Eastie Girl: Thank you for the kind words. Actually, since I am actively job searching (and who isn't these day?)I would welcome an opportunity to write about our hometown. I'll keep an eye on the newspaper for an advertisement looking to hire new writers.

Jimbo said...

Those who remember the famed East Boston Community News probably enjoyed reading the local columns in that newspaper, such as "Heights Notes from Ms. Tex."

I'd love to see "Mary B.'s Corner."

Eastie Girl said...

Jimbo -
I wasn't at the age where I was really reading the local papers regularly but remember East Boston Community News and know and love Ms. Tex personally.
I would love to bring back the EBCN t-shirts featuring the mantra of the day "East Boston is Not an Airport". An updated take could read "East Boston is Not a Toll Booth" or even "East Boston is Not a Drive-thru".


Jimbo said...

E.G.: You may be onto something.

Anonymous said...

Clearly we know who Anonymous at 9:08 on January 15th is - it is so obvious. By the same token, let me ask you Lisa (I mean Anonymous)...if we are to measure how "community" oriented a community newspaper is based upon the percentage of where its advertisers come from, does the same rule apply to "community organizations" as well? Lets see, how about Italia Unita for example - how many of its "vendors" and "board members" were from East Boston during the last "feast"? I would hazard to guess it was not 20%. So does that mean the Italia Unita is not a "community organization"? I think we all know the answer. Nice try, but face it, the Post Gazette will never be East Boston's community newspaper - get over it.

N.starluna said...

I agree with Eastie Girl. And I've tried it myself. About a year or so ago I sent an email to John Lynds and to the general editor email listed in the paper offering to have them publish a couple of papers written by my students who do an analysis of East Boston in one of their assignments. The two I had in mind at the time were excellent pieces extolling the sense of community and other virtues they found in their forays into the neighborhood. The exercise involves applying the principles and theories learned in the class but these papers were a good balance of seeing the neighborhood, wrinkles and all, and coming to conclusion that this is a good place to live.

I thought it would be nice for Eastie residents to see that "outsiders" can see this neighborhood for the great place that it is. At the time, there was a lot of complaining about the neighborhood, and complaining about the complaining. In my mind this could have been at least one response.

I got no response from anyone at the paper. I figured it was not something they were interested in and never tried again.

'Whalehead' King said...

This is the problem with these little papers. They report cut-and-dried events without capturing the spirit of the community and highlighting what may be of interest. There is little perspective.

A table of board meetings is't why most people pick up a paper, because few people attend them. The Metro is free but I see people reading every page every day on the T.

A newspaper's job is to tell me about where I live. A table of statistics and schedules isn't going to capture my interest. People read stories not charts. Little papers depend on providing useful information but they tend to relate the driest kinds of stuff as community service, which is valuable, but not the spice that allows people to connect to thier surroundings.

One lunch menu looks like another. I know there is a shortage of paid reporters, but if bloggers will write for free on the internet, I am sure they would be happy to do so in print even after subjecting themselves to a little editing. Bringing the community into the newspaper, and the news, seems to be an obvious strategy that is often overlooked.

Anonymous said...

It would be a real tragedy if the times went under. I currently use the paper for the bottom of my bird cage. I would hate to have to start using the post. The times is the worst community paper i have ever seen.

Jimbo said...

I certainly don't want our neighborhood to have no local paper, but rather, one that does a good job.

Anonymous said...

Hello Everyone

As a life long resident of East Boston,I find the E.B.Times to be a very poor excuse for a local paper.

Its always about the Mayor,or our Local Pol's,and never anything negative, except how wonderful our community is because of the Mayor.

When truth be told that we have the diriest streets,filled with everyday drunks.No enforcement of any City ordinences etc.

Lets be real here we know who runs this poor excuse for a paper. Its the connected few,even as Star said when you send them positive stories,unless it benefits the connected,they want no part of publishing anything from a real "Independant"East Boston person.

I have a great Idea ,scrap Mr. Boston aka TO many rumor bags,the Mayors colum,and give a full page to average East Boston people who may want to do an editorial,say about East Bostons Past,or Future.

Un be known to all of you a great Eastie man is currently doing a video documentory called "A Window To Easties Past".

Its about the last house on Neptune Road before it comes down,and about saving its facade for Historical reasons. Dating the events of Massport stealing WoodIsland,and so many homes.

YES THE TIMES KNOWS ABOUT IT,BUT NO they will never do a story on it.

Now thats Print Worthy .

Bring Back Lou Torrone


Anonymous said...

To all you whiners out there, if you dont like the Times, then seems like you have two (2) choices: (1) start your own paper or (2) dont read the Times. Its so easy to sit on the sidelines and be critical but you all act like the Times is supposed to write what you want to read...sorry that's not the way the news industry works folks! As for the quality of the news stories, yea I agree they could be a little more broad with their topics, but the community news business is not supposed to be a smear rag or scandal sheet - who ever complains about the coverage the Mayor gets in the paper is obviously not a fan of the Mayor...but for every critical article the Times writes of the pols(and there is its fair share) Im sure there will be just as many critics of the Times by the electeds fans. Thats the news business I guess.

Jimbo said...

I have to disagree with the "love it or leave it" mentality. What is wrong with being critical of the media? And why is writing stories that people want to read a bad idea? Writing interesting, informative and well written stories is one mission of a newspaper.

Another part of the mission should be, as someone once said, "to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted." I don't have a problem with the local weekly offering a platform for Menino's column, but the mayor -- and every other elected official -- should be scrutinized closely, not continually lauded with puff pieces, press releases and photos.

Eastie Girl said...

N.Starluna - I think your idea for a contribution was/still is an excellent one and I would try being persistent with your offer. Assuming this continues to be part of your curriculum that you conduct on a regular basis, you could pitch it as a recurring feature and describe the value add to the paper. Again, I think the lack of response is due to bandwidth issues more than malice. I am involved in several community initiatives and sometimes find it a challenge to align my promotional needs and the Times' ability to accomodate.

With that said - in addition to more in depth and pertinent articles I personally would love to see more items that feature local residents than our pols. Great guys that Carlo, Anthony and Sal are - I'm sure folks would be much more likely to run for the Times and even participate in community events if the odds of them seeing their child in the paper were a bit higher.

Anonymous said...

Every week you see the same faces in the times, these people were unknown to me 15 or 20 years ago which include the pols and the writers who are linked to the pols,the whole thing is like an organazation, ive been reading the times and the other paper the community news a local paper which featured 5 random eastie residents who answered questions by the community news paper, bring something like that to the eb times, yes these people do good for the community , its getting kind of tired when the eb times paper writes about the same people bring back the cartoonist

Anonymous said...

When a newspaper is so biased in its reporting, it loses credibility.When the staff of the Times has lunch with our elected officials every Friday at Rino's they are unlikely to criticise them in an editorial.I have NEVER read one article in sixteen years critical of the Mayor.This isnt journalism, and everyone knows it. Thats why people dont read the Times anymore,its boring.

Jimbo said...

The Feb. 9 comment makes a valid point.

Anonymous said...

I'll be more than happy to provide any articles critical of the mayor or any other elected officials to whomever would like to read them.
Good job with the blog Jim and I'm bias?
Do you ever point out anything we do that's actually up to your 'standards' beacuse I'm sure there're plenty.
The Herald, Globe and all other newspapers report news, features, entertainments, politics. I just so happen to report it all so maybe your problem is less with the paper and more with me, our elected officials or the neighborhood in general.
By the way didn't you use to work for Sal? And the Times?
I think someone has a little ax to grind here and perhaps a grudge.

-John Lynds

Jimbo said...

Actually, I am still employed part-time by Councilor LaMattina, and I did write a weekly column for the current owners of the Times when it was the Independent and then the Sun Transcript, AND I worked in the office proofreading pages one summer.

Everyone there was extremely nice to me. Honestly, I have no ax to grind. I am just a citizen jotting down my thoughts on whatever subject occurs to me. I mean no disrespect, but I think it's fairly clear that my specific observations of the Times are factually based and quite true.

Anonymous said...

I want to call John Lynds on this one.I read the Times every week and have never seen an article written by you or anyone else that was the slightest bit critical of the Mayor. So tell us what week,year it ran.
Journalism involves impartiality, something that doesnt exist at the Times.

Anonymous said...

I'll be happy to send copies but first I need you to stop hidding behind anonymous. At least I put my name on everything I write.

-John Lynds

Anonymous said...

Our pooooor excuse for a community paper is so biased its not even funny,its scary.

John Lynds knows first hand how one sided this paper is.

He is only a guy typing what hes told.

Isn't it funny you go to important community meetingss,never see any of the Pols,or John there,but Shazam,in the next weeks paper is an article by John Lynds as if he was at the meeting,even quoting people hes never talked to.

PLLLLLLLEASE be real for just once the Times is a controled paper,and you are a controled reporter.

Oh wait There has been some critic type things about how dirty our streets are,and stuff.

Its in the Mr. Boston,or the failed Mrs Murphy as I see it colums.

Talk about anons John .

Please tell us who are these people.

Dont worry folks the Times is on its way out,its credibility has been long lost.

The real name should be

"Eastie,as we want it to be!Even though we live very far far a way from here.

Other wise known as "Just another Outsider"making tons of money off us ,and laughing all the way to the bank.

Not even Lou Torrone would do what the current Times is doing.

1000000000000000000000% shameful!.

Nuff Said
Bring Back