One of the great losses of the decline of newspapers is the end of many of the "two-newspaper cities," when there are rival papers that catch each others' mistakes. Competition breeds excellence, and any newspaper that lacks that is incredibly susceptible to laziness.
Luckily, Boston is still a two-newspaper town. The Boston Globe (owned by the New York Times) has its own take on the news, but fortunately for Bostonians the Boston Herald (a scrappy tabloid) delights in one-upping the Boring Broadsheet.
And it's when both papers cover the same story that the differences stand out in stark contrast.
Take, for example, the coverage of a shooting in Boston recently. Jason Collins, 30, is a wheelchair-bound Boston man who was recently shot by gang members. The Boston Globe's story is filled with the tragedy of the tale, of how he was shot twice before (one of which put him in that chair), his nicknames ("Wheels," for one), of his popularity among the neighborhood, his prowess at basketball before that first shooting crippled him, his support from the hip-hop community, and other glowing attributes.
It isn't until the very end that the Glob sneaks in a passing reference to his criminal record. He was "arrested in a crackdown on drug dealers in Orchard Park. He was among 16 people arrested who were believed to have been members of a gang known as the Orchard Park Trailblazers, according to a federal indictment."
All in all, it's the tragic tale of a young man who, after nearly losing his life and struggling against gang life, was once again struck down in a meaningless act of gang violence.
And then you pick up the Boston Herald. From the very first sentence, you learn far more about the story than you did from the entire article in the Globe.
An unknown triggerman gunned down a player in the brutal Roxbury street gang Orchard Park Trailblazers yesterday and shot two of the con's friends in an apparent home invasion seeking the wheelchair-bound victim's drug stash, sources told the Herald.
A very different picture of Mr. Collins emerges. He was shot and crippled at the age of 15, in 1989. Then, from his wheelchair, he went on to become a leader in the Orchard Park Trailblazers, the drug gang that terrorized the Orchard Park housing complex, until the feds broke up the gang and sent him to prison. Once he emerged, he went right back to his old ways, until someone came looking for his drugs and shot him and two cronies.
Thank you, Boston Globe, for this stellar portrait of this young man struggling to rebuild his life. Pity the story seems mostly fictional.