In Philadelphia, A New Paper with an Old Name

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(AP) The Bulletin is back.

A new newspaper with a familiar name hits the streets Monday with what its editor said would be a commitment to “old-school” journalism, from expanded cultural reporting to in-depth local news.

The Evening Bulletin will be published Monday through Friday afternoons. A broadsheet, it will be sold for 25 cents at newsstands, convenience stores and — in an old-fashioned twist — by street hawkers on downtown corners and near train stations. The initial circulation run is 25,000 copies.

“Philadelphia is a commuter town, with around 1 million passengers a day on [regional transit authority] SEPTA,” said Thomas G. Rice, a local investment banker and the paper’s owner and publisher. “We think some of those people will want our paper.”

The staff of nine reporters will cover local news, politics, arts, and culture. Kevin Williamson, the editor-in-chief, said that he hopes to grow the editorial staff to 25 reporters “in the near future.”

Rice said that he and Williamson came up with the idea of starting a newspaper about six months ago.

“We both said there was nothing in the [local] papers that we wanted to read,” said Williamson, former editor of the Main Line Times, a Journal Register Co. weekly newspaper in suburban Ardmore. “Newspapers used to have a lot more information than they do now … and readership was higher then.”

The paper will, for example, publish book reviews and excerpts and “intelligent cultural coverage … not just movie reviews,” Williamson said. “Our values are old-school.”

Rice has tried before to get into the newspaper business. He said that he made an unsuccessful bid to buy the San Francisco Examiner five years ago. The Hearst Corp. sold the Examiner to the owners of a free San Francisco newspaper in March 2000, clearing the way for Hearst’s purchase of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Rice declined to divulge where The Evening Bulletin would be printed, citing ongoing pressure from the city’s labor unions; the paper is nonunion.

On Friday, about 20 members of Teamsters Union Local 628 protested outside The Evening Bulletin’s downtown offices and handed out fliers criticizing the paper’s plans to use nonunion subcontractors for delivery.

“We have decent wages and decent benefits and we feel that anybody that comes into this town should be providing the same,” said John Quigley III, treasurer of the local, whose members deliver The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Daily News, and Metro newspapers.

“An afternoon paper with single-copy sales that sells for a quarter seems like a tough business model to make work,” said Joe Natoli, chairman and publisher of Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., which publishes the Inquirer and Daily News. “[But] competition brings out the best in all of us, and we’ll be watching.”

Rice purchased the rights to the Bulletin name from the McLean family, which owned the Philadelphia Bulletin from 1895 until it folded in 1982, a few months before the 135th anniversary of the beloved paper, once the largest afternoon newspaper in the country.

“The Bulletin is a huge name to live up to, and we know that, so we’re going to keep focusing on quality,” Williamson said.

“For 25 cents, we’re going to give people the best written, most intelligent, best thought-out paper, filled with news and information they’ll want to read. Then the advertisers will come and it’ll take care of itself.”

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