After a year spent preparing and fundraising, a group of retired St. Louis Post-Dispatch editors were preparing to officially launch their online news site St. Louis Platform this spring. Then came the March 30 announcement that their former employer also had plans for a new online feature with a name curiously close to theirs. It's title? The Platform.
"The timing certainly seems odd," comments Margaret Freivogel, editor of the St. Louis Platform, who notes that the Post-Dispatch accompanied its announcement in the editorial pages of its paper with a trademark symbol. "We are flattered that they like our name," says Freivogel. "But I think we're going to move on with another title for our publication. We don't want there to be any confusion as to which is which."
Gilbert Bailon, editorial page editor for the Post-Dispatch, describes The Platform as a blog that "will provide readers a chance to respond to the paper's editorials as well as engage in conversation with writers and editors." The blog, says Bailon, takes its name from Joseph Pulitzer's "platform" that appears each day in the paper and states — among other mantras — that the morning daily will "never tolerate injustice or corruption."
The editorial page editor dismisses any suggestions that his staff named its new blog in an attempt to undermine the Web site founded by the paper's former staffers. "There are people here who certainly know the people who are launching the other site," says Bailon. "But that outfit is going to do what they do, and we're going to do what we do. I don't see a big significance."
Freivogel acknowledges that her group never thought of seeking a trademark for its name. Like the Post-Dispatch blog, Freivogel says the St. Louis Platform also took its name — in part — from Pulitzer's platform. "That was one of the meanings," she explains. "But it was also a play on words as both a technology platform and a platform in which people can express themselves."
Freivogel and many of the Web site's other founders — Dick Weil, Robert Duffy, Dick Weiss and Freivogel's husband, Bill Freivogel — took a buyout shortly after Lee Enterprises purchased the Post-Dispatch in 2005. (For more about The Platform's inception, see Chad Garrison's story, "Virtually New[s]", published in the May 9, 2007 edition of RFT and available online at riverfronttimes.com.)
The ex-Post staffers plan to operate their Web site as a nonprofit akin to public radio and recently received a conditional grant of $500,000 from none other than Emily Pulitzer, whose family sold the Post-Dispatch to Lee Enterprises. In recent weeks Freivogel and her staff of nearly a dozen full- and part-time employees have found office space with KETC-TV (Channel 9) and launched a beta version of the Web site at www.stlplatform.org.
Now all they need is a name. Unfortunately, calling their upstart Web site the "Post-Dispatch" is probably out of the question. "That's an idea," says Freivogel. "But I imagine they probably have a trademark on that one, too."