RIP, Sidekick

Our favorite section of the Boston Globe is no more. It was called “Sidekick”, and it featured local news and events in our corner of the metro: the one called “Northwest”.* It had local restaurant reviews, club, theater, school and museum notices, plus other graces that made the paper especially relevant to our family.

Well, now the paper has “improved” itself cosmetically while diminishing itself substantially. Sidekick is gone. In its place is “G”, a new “magazine style section” that covers the whole metro and includes a bunch of other stuff, such as TV listings and funnies in color, neither of which interest us. The Globe explains,

Our new magazine-style section will be called “g” — for Globe — and it reflects what you, our readers, have been telling us about how you prefer to receive your reviews, previews, profiles and arts, culture and features coverage.

You want to find stories of interest quickly and easily. You want it in a format that can be carried easily as you move about town — while on the train or on a lunch break.

Every day, “g” will highlight things to do around town.

Problem is, “town” is Boston. While we love Boston, and go there more than a lot of folks who live north of the Charles, we don’t live there. Did readers really tell the Globe to cut out the local stuff? I kinda doubt it.*

Last weekend we were in Baltimore visiting relatives. I was surprised that they didn’t get the Baltimore Sun, which I recall used to be a good newspaper. So, while we were out at a local Starbucks I bought a Sunday Sun $1.88 ($2 with tax). While we waited for our drinks to be made, I field-stripped out the advertising inserts, and read pretty much everything that interested me. There just wasn’t much there. Very disappointing. Back at the ranch my son-in-law told me that the Sun had laid off over half their editorial staff, and made up the difference with bigger pictures. That’s the main reason they don’t subscribe.

I don’t know if the Globe is going through the same thing, but I suspect it is. The shame for them is that the Sidekick was our main reason for keeping the paper, our morning connection to the neighborhood, and what made the Globe most relevant to us. Now it’s gone.

“All politics is local,” Tip O’Neill famously said. Same goes for newspapers. Alas, the Globe seems to have forgotten that.

* Ron Newman, in a comment below, asks if I’m sure about this. I was, but now I’m not. As I say in the follow-up comment, I made some assumptions in this post that may not be true. So I’m following up with a new post that will ask for facts and make no assumptions. Meanwhile, my apologies.

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12 comments

  1. vanderleun’s avatar

    The Globe, if you follow the financial meltdown at the New York Times, is just “Dead trees walking.”

  2. Andrew Leyden’s avatar

    Add to the heap the Christian Science Monitor, which is ceasing their press run and going online only.

  3. Steve Markowski’s avatar

    Thirty-five years ago, the publisher of the Bergen Record in NJ, when asked to increase the amount of local news, responded that he considered retail advertising to be local news and there was quite a bit of it in the paper.

    The no-clue train was rolling even then.

  4. Gregg Eldred’s avatar

    Newspaper subscriptions are going down everywhere:

    http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003878040

    As they cut staff, they lose their local flavor, which, as you have shown, was a major selling point.

  5. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Not too shocked about the Monitor. You never saw the paper laying around anyway. Except in the Reading Rooms. What will they put there now? Printouts?

    Steve, I grew up with the Bergen Record when it was a truly great paper. The publisher was the Borg family, which used to let local kids sled in their back yard on Summit Ave in Hackensack. The woods behind was “Borg’s Woods.” I learned to skate on Borg’s Pond. Was a Borg the one who uttered that nonsense?

    Gregg, thanks for the link. I can see why the Globe made the changes, but again they’re cosmetic. Worse, I think they’re delusional and misleading. They should have said, honestly, “We have to consolidate sections, and we’re laying off a bunch of people who gave you local coverage. Couldn’t cover it with advertising. Sorry about that.” Dead Trees Walking, indeed.

    I used to keep up with papers from places where I used to live, for example with the San Jose Mercury-News. Now I don’t care. The writers I followed there are all long gone.

    What’s especially sad in the case of Sidekick is that it really was a part of our lives. I’m sure there are online substitutes, but they won’t be the same. And I can’t help but think that the Globe is cutting wheat while keeping chaff.

  6. Steve Markowski’s avatar

    Doc,

    Yes it was a Borg. Don Borg appointed his 33 year old son Mac, President & CEO in 1971. I met with Mac in ’73 or ’74. Mac is now Chairman and out of day-to-day operations.

    In July of this year, The Record announced it would close its Hackensack HQ & operate out of some smaller facility.

    The Record has been coming to my home since 1970. I never missed Bill Caldwell’s Pulitzer-winning column among other sections. Today, 5 minutes would be a long read.

    BTW I’ve been living about half a mile from Borg’s woods since 1972. Bergen County bought 14 acres for a Nature Preserve in 1994. Some things get better over time.

  7. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Too bad about the Record, but not surprised. At least it was a great paper for a long time.

    For what its worth, I lived on Woodland Avenue in Maywood, the east end of which was Borg’s Woods, across from Coles Brook. (Just to the left of the Live.com maps link below.)

    Glad they kept the Woods alive. It was a playland for kids, and filled with tall first-growth oaks. I was going to ask if the pond was still there, but I just looked here on Google Maps and here on Live.com maps and see it isn’t. Must have been filled in. Byrne and Brook Streets, both new, surround it. Still, nice that the rest of it is still there.

    Do check out Live.com maps, by the way. It’s amazing. Microsoft does do some things right.

  8. Ron Newman’s avatar

    Are you sure about this? I never saw a special “Northwest” edition of Sidekick. There was and still is a “Northwest” section on Thursdays and Sundays, containing the content you refer to in this post.

  9. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Ron, you have made me unsure.

    I had heard, when Sidekick disappeared and G came out, that much of the lost stuff was all local. Since papers everywhere are cutting back on editorial and covering the losses with cosmetic changes, I assumed that the Globe was doing the same.

    That might be true in any case, but in fact I don’t know, and that bothers me.

    So I’ll add a note to this post and ask for facts in a new one.

  10. Alyssa’s avatar

    In reference to the comments about Borgs Woods, yes the pond IS still there, I know this because my backyard backs up to Borgs Woods. I live next door to the old Borg house, and have my whole life (23 years, my parents have been there over 27).

  11. Doc Searls’s avatar

    That’s cool, Alyssa. The Borgs’ back yard used to be (and maybe still is) a great sledding hill. I don’t remember your house, exactly; just that all the housed s on Summit were nice. If you walk through the woods and come out at the bottom of Woodland Avenue (another great sledding hill) in Maywood, and walk almost to the top, our house was #45, which has since (sadly) been torn down and replaced. Anyway, many great memories of Borg’s woods. I suppose the old-growth oak trees are still there too.

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