Village Soup Alums Start New Web Site
By Al Diamon
The Pilot launches: Village Soup may be gone, but its philosophy lingers on.
Richard Anderson launched Soup in the late 1990s as an online news operation, promoting it as an innovative cyber-community. Anderson eventually expanded to print newspapers, bought the rival Courier Publications, and crashed and burned earlier this year, when none of those alleged innovations produced a profit. Some of the old Courier papers have since been revived under new ownership, but their Web sites lurk behind a paywall, a concept at odds with Anderson’s more open approach.
Now, Anderson’s daughter, Holly Edwards, and the former editor of Soup’s Courier Gazette, Lynda Clancy, have launched a Soup-like Web site called the Penobscot Bay Pilot.
The Camden-based site went live on Sept. 10 and features community news from Knox and Waldo counties. In the Soup tradition, it promises an approach that “connects a wide range of communities into a larger and lively online regional network,” as well as “a hub around which citizens actively engage.” In addition, it’s offering advertisers the chance to post unedited material on the site, much as Soup did with its “Biz-partners” program.
Clancy said the Pilot will be posting news as it happens, rather than on a weekly schedule. “We’ll be 24/7,” she said. “I like the immediacy and ways of engaging online.”
Asked if there were plans to expand into print, as Soup had done, she said that was unlikely. “Print’s pretty saturated,” she said.
The Pilot will still have to compete for advertising with the resurrected Courier Gazette in Rockland and Camden Herald, as well as their sister paper, the Free Press, which covers the entire midcoast area. It will also have to overcome lingering resentment against Anderson, who left behind many unpaid creditors (myself included).
Disclosure shortage: The Sept. 12 Portland Press Herald neglected in at least two instances to disclose conflicts of interest.
In Press Herald staff writer Colin Woodard’s otherwise-solid story on problems faced in Florida and Tennessee by a company seeking to run a virtual charter school in Maine, he, again, didn’t include any mention of his wife’s involvement with another – potentially competing – charter school.
Woodard’s ongoing refusal to admit to at least the appearance of a conflict in this case is disturbing, since it’s left him open to attacks from over-the-top partisans. He could have easily deflected that noise if he simply included a sentence or two with his stories acknowledging the situation.
Meanwhile, the Press Herald failed to mention in a brief on Republican 1st District congressional candidate Jon Courtney’s initial TV ad buy that his opponent, Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, is married to S. Donald Sussman, the paper’s majority owner. In addition, its incidental coverage of Courtney’s ad contrasts sharply with how the Bangor Daily News handled the story and how the Morning Sentinel (the Press Herald’s sister publication) reported on TV ad buying in the 2nd District race.
Both gave their stories the kind of thorough and prominent coverage that makes me wonder whether the Portland paper’s approach is the result of indifference or bias.
Al Diamon can be emailed at email@example.com.