I take no joy at all in using column space to address the closing of the Improper Bostonian. As the editor of one of the few other periodicals that shares counter space in coffee shops and occupies hundreds of street corners around the region in boxes directly beside theirs, I find it utterly depressing that Bay Staters will have one less print magazine to run their fingers through in search of a next arts, food, or live music adventure. I believe that competition is healthy, as is having more options rather than fewer.
Still the shuttering must be addressed. Because while I see lots of people who are terribly upset about losing the Improper eulogizing on Facebook, I don’t hear anybody talking about what they—or rather, what we, as a community of people who appreciate informed and clever coverage of the colorful metropolis we live in—can do to help the remaining independent outlets (ahem) thrive and provide platforms for the journalists who curate and contextualize digestible organized guidance through the expanding glut of information that increasingly bombards us.
Look, I don’t know exactly why the Improper is finished. But as I seethed on social media last week (to the consternation of some), as a co-publisher in the same market, I am confident that the main cause of death—not making enough money—is linked to the scourge of media relations professionals, also known as publicists, who gobble up marketing and advertising dollars that formerly fueled publications like the Dig and the Improper. Instead of placing ads in local outlets, more and more restaurants and retailers are paying PR leeches who in turn pester editors and reporters for coverage, then cry crocodile tears when the glossy biweekly whose clips about their clients they took credit for and cashed in on without adding any value to the commercial or multicultural ecosystem prints its final issue.
Nobody should advertise with any publication out of pity. Rather, businesses should help news enterprises that they love and need and which have tirelessly flanked local vendors and venues for years because we reach tens of thousands of regular readers and can connect with even more when we have the support of successful institutions and community members. I am talking to everyone, from those who appreciate the harder investigative work that we do, to theatergoers who rely on us to have the most diverse and comprehensive performing arts journalism in the state.
So, what can you specifically do to help out? For starters, we absolutely need you to support the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, through which we are able to produce the kind of intensive multimedia and long-form material that is desperately needed, from school and city watchdog work to music coverage. You can also remind your colleagues or friends who oversee marketing budgets—maybe for a club they’re in, or a school they work at—that they ought to contact Dig Media Group. We offer a lot more than just print newspaper ads, and can even help brands get the word out through unique channels that range from major event programs to customizable campaigns that reach hundreds of thousands of targeted readers. We even have a ticketing platform that anyone can use (instead of Eventbrite or Brown Paper Tickets, etc.). You can contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about that stuff plus other services we offer and that help pay for the news.
Most of all, it’s imperative for you to show love to and for your local media survivors in any way that you can, even if it just means sharing a Dig article instead of some dumb post about the POTUS next time you are on Twitter.
It’s sad to say, but the alternative to catching the backs of those of us who are still slugging it out is more than merely improper. It’s inconceivable, and yet totally preventable if more members of the public invest as much money in the industry as they do time complaining that the media is dying.
CHRIS FARAONE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.