Images by Chris Faraone
I don’t often take pictures while driving, but when I do, it’s to risk my life and that of others to snap images of the illuminated Boston Globe billboard over the South End.
Have you seen it? On the shotgun side, right before the southbound “EXIT 18 Mass Ave / Roxbury / Andrew Sq. 1/4 MILE” marker. It’s one of those alternating digital signs, so sometimes the newfangled placard has an advertisement for the Art of Living Life Beyond Cancer Conference, while other times it’s flashing for a charity event called Steppin’ Out which features a performance by Vanessa Williams.
The first time I got stuck in traffic long enough to glimpse the Globe take its turn was October 26. The billboard read, “TRENDING NOW ON GLOBE.COM: “Why Food Allergy Fakers Need To Stop,” and also offered the temperature (50 degrees) in the upper left-hand corner, presumably for anyone whose phone, car stereo, and dashboard don’t help enough with the weather.
I passed the sign again the following day, October 27, and this time it was stumping for an article from that morning—by Staff Writer Neil Swidey—named “How We Made Gluten Into A Monster.” Titles like that are designed to trend; but with the Globe being the subject of the new investigative crusade film Spotlight, one might think the newspaper would use face time to remind so many southward-bound suburbanites that they have grit and gusto.
As it turns out, the Globe appears to be going out of its way to promote pieces on food allergies. Conspiracy or not, the “TRENDING NOW ON GLOBE.COM” billboard has no apparent correlation whatsoever to what’s actually trending on Globe.com. To double and triple-check this disconnect, I spun back down the so-called expressway on October 29 and October 30, both times finding plugs for a column by Joanna Weiss titled “Millennials Don’t Believe In Voting.” Despite being long gone from the most-viewed list on the Globe homepage, the same headline was still there on the sign, between plugs for Vanessa Williams and the Art of Living, on Election Day nearly a week later.
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.