Bingo Goes North

Former BW editor heads to Alaska

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Bingo Barnes, the former editor of the Boise Weekly, is headed to the wild north.

Barnes, 39, was just named publisher of the Anchorage Press in Alaska's largest city.

"It's a good paper, and there is room for improvement," Barnes said.

The move to Alaska will close a brief but dynamic chapter in Boise media history. Barnes, together with BW's publisher, Sally Freeman, purchased Boise Weekly from City of Roses publishing company in 2001. The two have since divorced, and Freeman has taken over ownership of BW.

During the nearly five years that Barnes was with BW, the paper made radical changes in format, operations and content. They boosted circulation, hired new staff, and moved operations to its current office at 523 Broad St.

Barnes was also the innovator behind BW's nontraditional cover format, instituted in 2001. Instead of a typical newspaper cover advertising news and features, Boise Weekly began publishing original art from local artists each week. The pieces were collected and later auctioned off, with the proceeds going to benefit local art efforts.

"It was one of the first things we did," Barnes said. It was also one of the more radical. "The people who think a newspaper should look like a newspaper didn't like a non-news cover."

The philosophy, he said, was to more directly tie the newspaper to the local arts community, and in turn to expose that community to a wider audience. In addition, BW began more aggressively sponsoring arts and cultural events, such as the annual Cover Auction and other events like the Boise Weekly Music Festival.

"What we have done here, is enhance and support the local arts community," Barnes said. "I feel like we've had an impact."

Barnes will start almost immediately in Anchorage, helming a paper that distributes more than 20,000 free copies around Anchorage every Thursday. The Anchorage Press is owned by Arizona-based Wick Communications, which purchased the paper last year.

"I feel confident that we've done great things here in Boise, and I'll be able to do more in Anchorage," Barnes said. "We want to grow that paper."

As a newcomer, Barnes said he has a lot to learn. He made his first trip to Alaska last week, to meet with the paper's staff and look around his new home.

"It's a community paper," Barnes said. "You don't try to change that too fast. You want to enhance what they have."

Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, with a population of over 270,000.

One thing will feel familiar: Barnes will once again be running an alternative weekly newspaper in the same town as a daily newspaper, run by McClatchy Corporation. The Anchorage Daily News is the state's largest paper.

On that same trip, Barnes also saw a moose, he said.

"I'm very concerned about global warming," Barnes said. "I want to move North as quickly as possible."