I guess this is the inevitable Boston Voyager column that I knew I would write sooner or later. Because from the first time that I laid my bulging jealous eyes on its addictive cookie-cutter interviews, then clicked around to fast discover how its parent operation uses the exact same promote every single artist in the region tactic in multiple cities, I sensed there was some kind of scam in play. Sad as it is to say, it simply seemed demonstrably unlikely that a national news operation that pays close attention to up-and-coming creatives could be an actual above-board thing.
I know I’m not alone. Voyager’s nonstop hyperlocal headlines are a constant curiosity among many of us in the content business. It was only a matter of time until somebody pulled back the control panel and saw the journalistic algorithmic cyborg magic show behind the wheel. And for casting that first stone, I give serious kudos to Reddit user DiscoRace, who took the initial plunge. Here’s a sample of their research, which has now been bolstered by a small but sleuthy online platoon of armchair investigators:
People have had very personal information about themselves published and not edited. One person literally had the words “do not publish this is personal info” and where they lived … That to me is dangerous, that there’s no one at the wheel here.
Said groupthink exposé triggered a miniature online mob, with readers and artists alike slamming the Voyager. Others came to its defense, including someone claiming to be from the publication who, in my mind, offered believable proof that it’s not a bot-run site pilfering personal info to sell off to hackers. Personally, I didn’t know how I felt about the whole thing until reading the following Facebook post by music promoter Richard Bouchard:
Boston Voyager is run by a few developers in an office somewhere making bots to collect interviews in various cities so that they can create content and charge advertising revenue. Unlike every other site on the internet, where eschewing advertising money is the norm.
If the Boston Globe isn’t gonna profile artists in this city, I’m fine with BV doing it. Maybe it shows outlets staffed by humans that there’s value in that sort of thing.
Amen, brother. I couldn’t agree more, and that is why the Dig, not entirely unlike the Voyager in some regard, bends over backward to mine material and speak with Bostonians who create under the radar. I cherish the time that our former music editor Sean L. Maloney requested an interview with a bondage punk musician only days after the artist started a Bandcamp page; caught off guard, the obscure bedroom leather rocker thought his friends were fucking with him. That, dear reader, is what local media is (supposed to be) all about. Not endless coverage of the Wahlbergs and Tom Brady.
For those who still insist on being critical of Voyager, I understand your anger. But if you are expressing that hostility on social media, I simply want to note that you are similarly working to democratize reporting with each post you write. The Voyager may be generic in its questioning of Boston doers, but ultimately it’s doing what needs to be done, starting with paying attention to artists who lack the publicists or visibility to get covered in larger outlets.
So long as pics, info, and bios shared by the participants aren’t used in phoney personals for Russian fetish sites, I’m going to keep reading and sharing when people I respect are in their spotlight.
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.