Bloggers and Reporters Unite As New Conservative Tabloid

An NPR Morning Edition story today profiled the launch of BostonNOW that will feature blog posts and traditional news reports as side-by-side content for the new daily tabloid newspaper. Nine more free city-based newspapers are planned over the next three years.

This afternoon, Denver Business Journal reported that Dagsbrun, Iceland’s largest media conglomerate and its US-based branch, 365 Media USA LLC, have also trademarked the name “DenverNOW.” While the move could be interpreted as a smart brand protection strategy, BostonNOW’s editor-in-chief John Wilpers has Colorado ties which could make a Denver debut much more likely.

According to Denver Biz.com, Wilpers previously worked with billionaire Denver financier and deposed Qwest executive Phillip Anschutz to launch the Washington Examiner, a free newspaper in the nation’s capitol and surrounding suburbs, nearly two years ago.

That paper, though,  has had a rocky tenure with the abrupt resignation of Wilpers just 10 months into its first issue, as well as additional staff shakeups since.

According to Media Matters for America, The Examiner takes hardline conservative stances that appear to be in keeping with Anschutz’s personal politics.

In an interview with Terrence Smith of the Jim Lehrer NewsHour in April 2005, Wilpers explained the newspaper’s tilt:

TERENCE SMITH: Given the conservative tilt of the editorial page, are you a potential threat to The Washington Times?

JOHN WILPERS: Possibly. Possibly. I think we would be more acceptable to people who hold those viewpoints because we are more objective in our news stories. The ownership has had absolutely no influence on the way we cover this. None.

TERENCE SMITH: But it has on the editorial page?

JOHN WILPERS: On the editorial page that he — Mr. Anschutz — has identified a couple of key areas that he believes are important for us; namely, tort reform, gay marriage, and there’s maybe one or two others, but that’s it which is 365 days a year or thereabouts. There’s a lot of other material we can go editorialize on. So it’s not a big deal. We’re pro-business.

TERENCE SMITH: But he has — I’m gathering from you — he has laid down some of his own ideas.

JOHN WILPERS: He’s made clear to —

TERENCE SMITH: On those issues that you just ticked off.

JOHN WILPERS: Sure. And I’ve learned a long time ago that the person who owns you, who buys the ink, has the right to say where the paper ought to go. And I think it makes it a more intriguing, compelling paper.

I’ve worked for papers where the publisher doesn’t have anything to do with it, and doesn’t become a force in the community, whose personality is not reflected in the paper. I think this is a great thing.

As was the case with Wilpers and Anschutz, the fledgling BostonNOW’s top executive is also a political conservative. Russel Pergament, the former publisher of amNewYork, was excoriated in a review of the paper at NYPress.com:

amNew York’s primary investor is Tribune Company, which counts Newsday and Hoy among its local properties, and several newspapers and dozens of television stations in the larger stable. Its publisher is fiftysomething Russel Pergament, who was quoted in the Times as saying, “People used to think that in order to be important, a newspaper has to be thick. But the thicker the paper is, the less likely it is to be read.”

By that measure, Pergament’s venture is a runaway success. His newspaper isn’t very thick, and it’s far from being important. It is, in fact, an embarrassment, the worst piece of newsprint shit this city may have ever seen. The writing-when not culled from the wires-would give the worst hack cause to celebrate his talent; and the art direction is non-existent, making it the ugliest paper this side of the Post. We’d hate to blame Pergament alone, however: Tribune is a faceless behemoth, precisely the wrong kind of company to appeal to younger adults who, if you believe those over-50 media analysts, barely even know how to read.

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Wendy Norris

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