You may have heard the phrase “slow news week.” It’s often used around the holidays and during the coldest weeks of the year, when television news folk in particular seem to only pay attention to not-so-random acts of corporate kindness, plus the frigid weather and house fires that burn like so many yule logs in the throes of winter.
Whatever the specific case, the slow-news ruse is just that, since there are always as many (or as few) developments as journalists want (or, to be fair, in many cases have the resources) to report on. I always think of a cold Monday in late January 2015, when a housing advocate in Chinatown called our newsroom as the region was bracing for a nor’easter. Most reporters were out covering the plows and preparations, but since we made a conscious choice to pursue something different, we wound up being the first outlet to write about an especially ugly eviction from a building on Hudson Street beside I-93.
The point is not that the alternative press is more useful than its bigger bloated rivals, even though as independent media crusaders, we believe that to be true. Rather, the purpose here is to inform and remind readers that in times like these, when large commercial outlets give up on local, whether due to the actual weather or the metaphorical storm in our nation’s capital—say, a totally illegal and uncalled-for war with a region the US has roiled for generations—there are still places to turn.
The Greater Boston media is hardly as robust as it was even just a decade ago, yet there’s still a number of outstanding outlets you should pay attention to if you want to stay knowledgeable, especially as national news bottom feeders focus on the horse race for president, largely neglecting to note how it all connects to local pangs, aches, and grievances. Even as publications of all kinds die off—we literally lost the Metro as this was going to print—there are a lot of places to get the kind of important local news that Dig readers tend to be looking for.
I’ll start by keeping a focus on Chinatown, where Sampan, the only bilingual Chinese-English newspaper in New England, serves as a constant reminder of how many stories never make it to the Dig, let alone into the lofty likes of the Boston Globe. During the past few so-called slow news holiday weeks, Sampan, which is published by the nonprofit Asian American Civic Association, addressed pedestrian safety as it relates to elderly people and children in Chinatown. Get this:
Traffic deaths for pedestrians and cyclists are the highest since 1990, according to a report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. While Boston has a relatively good record on traffic safety compared to cities nationwide, there are still more than 20 fatalities and more than 200 serious injuries on the streets every year. Chinatown is one of the neighborhoods that sees the highest number of pedestrian injuries.
“This has been a concern for Chinatown for several years,” said Arturo Gossage, a Chinatown resident of 12 years and treasurer of the Chinatown Resident Association (CRA). Gossage said the CRA wrote a support letter to Boston planner for Chinatown to be a part of a traffic calming program. Two crashes referenced in the letter included one pedestrian who was dragged by a car into Dorchester from Chinatown, and a 2-year-old girl killed on Nassau Street by an ambulance.
I had no idea, and I bet you didn’t either. And it doesn’t end there. There’s a lot more happening than what is in the Globe and Herald headlines behind paywalls, and even than what can be read for free via WGBH and WBUR. From prolific music and entertainment sites like Boston Hassle and Vanyaland, to lifestyle and longform at Boston Magazine, to MassLive, whose ace reporters often catch important stories that slip through the cracks, there is a lot of content Massholes should prioritize before turning to clickbait traps, aggregators, and partisan leeches on cable TV.
You may already be familiar with Universal Hub, which can sometimes feel like it’s the only thing that connects everybody in this city, or at least those who consume news beyond box scores and sports radio—from lefties who spend every waking weekend hour canvassing for the new wave of progressives gaining power, to conservatives in Hyde Park and West Roxbury who attend fundraisers for legacy Dems in Boston but sport MAGA hats on the golf course with their pals down in Florida. If politics are your speed, I also recommend Commonwealth, which examines state news at a deeper level without getting too wonky, as well as State House News Service. We’re fortunate to have a dedicated shop on Beacon Hill that watches the political elite, and while SHNS is mostly behind a paywall, there is a free 21-day trial offer, and some content can be found on several of its subscriber sites as well.
Want to know more about transportation and the MBTA? Bookmark the Massachusetts Streets Blog, a project of the Conservation Law Foundation. Interested in what’s popping north of the river? Check Cambridge Day. How about what’s going on in Dorchester? Then you need to consult the Reporter. Just like the Gazette is mandatory reading for matters relating to Jamaica Plain and Mission Hill, and Spare Change News is essential for those who are concerned about housing and poverty. And don’t forget the Bay State Banner, which, in addition to its primary mission of covering the Hub’s black community, is especially diligent on various sub-topics, like education.
I apologize ahead of time for any publications I left out, but if you read to the bottom of this missive, you will see that one of our goals for the new year—not unlike last year, though even more aggressively—is to build a much deeper relationship with our growing reader base. By all means, if you think we should add an outlet or five to this article—or at the very least check in on some specific local and/or independent news sites to help inform the coverage in this paper—just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on virtually any social media platform.
Furthermore, I want to revisit the extent to which you, DigBoston readers, can help us in the reporting and also the news dissemination process. Unlike a lot of other barkers, in town as well as at the national level, we actually listen. That doesn’t mean we are going to jump on every article idea that gets thrown at us; for example, while we wish that we had the energy to go after all the slumlords in the region, we don’t. You shouldn’t hesitate to send us documents about the scoundrel who hiked your rent by a grand a month for us to stockpile for a piece in the future, but we may or may not use your example as a portal onto some larger problem.
With that said, we’re not only looking for dirt on politicians, large employers, and other bad actors. We also want to know what arts and culture you’re excited about (as my co-editor, Jason Pramas, addressed in his column this week)—what cutting-edge comedians are coming to town, as well as everyone from artists to auteurs to authors. Please keep in mind that we need as much lead time as possible to act, but seriously, we’re not just saying this to pander like those gutless television news anchors when they flash those transparently inane multiple-choice viewer surveys on screen.
Several articles that we have in the works right now, starting with some that will run next week, originated in letters from readers. If we didn’t ask you to help inform our coverage, we wouldn’t ask you to read it.
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.