Not all news is fit to print

You have a file on each staff member, which includes their political affiliations.

Pros: Interesting idea. You control a newspaper.
Cons: Some may find the retro design off-putting.

The Westport Independent
Cost: $4.99
Seller: Coffee Stain Studios
Devices: iOS and Android
Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10 and older)

First impressions

Have you ever had the dream of running your own newspaper? Well, I work for one, and lemme tell ya – there’s a lot to consider before you take the leap.

How are you with deadlines? Do you think you can edit a story so it makes all the right points and brings truth to your readers? Would you be prepared to take on oppressive governments and their supporters, risking threats to your business and even, perhaps, your freedom?

OK, that was maybe not a concern here in the Cayman Islands, but if you’re considering running The Westport Independent, you need to take a hard look at how far you’re ready to go to get the news out, no matter the cost.

After reviewing a number of game apps and stuff for children, ad nauseam, I reckoned it was high time I looked for something a little different in the App Store. I stumbled upon The Westport Independent through another website, and found that it was a very well reviewed “Indie” app.

I focus more on the entertainment side of things here at work, so perhaps this was the way for me to flex my editor muscles and see if I was up to the task of putting out a serious paper.

I purchased The Westport Independent for the bargain price of $4.99 and started up the printing press (well, not literally). Had I got a deal on the newspaper? Time would tell …

Learn how your paper is performing in each of the four districts.
Learn how your paper is performing in each of the four districts.

How it works

It is 1949 and the four districts of Westport are under the heavy hand of a dictatorship, otherwise known as The Loyalist Party. These are: Northern Suburbs, Western Districts, Eastern Factories and Southern Docks. Propaganda has been sent out by the government, listing dos and do nots for the media to follow. In a nutshell, anything that paints it in a bad light or supports the rebels will be dealt with harshly, and any articles that laud the government and its work will be appreciated and rewarded.

The app opens to a film reminiscent of the era covering all the above points, then you’re invited to start it up. You’ve got 12 weeks before the Public Culture Bill officially comes into effect, dismantling any non-government owned papers. Better get moving.

The images and graphics do not have the clean lines found in more sophisticated-looking apps, but do not be fooled by their simplistic, retro design. This game requires concentration and a lot of decision making to not only keep the newspaper going, but to also make it more popular in the four districts.

You are given four staff members with profiles on each, including their marital status, living situation, and quite importantly – where their political loyalties lie.

Emails come across your desk each week, keeping you abreast of what’s going on outside the newspaper and advising or warning you, depending on what you’ve seen fit to print.

Stories appear on the left hand side of the screen, and it’s your job to look at each one, change its headline if necessary, and tap on the paragraphs you wish to censor.

Only four stories will go to print, so choose which ones you feel will sell.

Once you’ve edited them, you have to drag those you’ve chosen to individual staff files to be written, ready for production.

Sometimes, if you’ve decided to give the green light to an inflammatory story, your staff member may beg not to write it. You can either grant their request or force them to do it.

When all the stories are ready, send them to print.

As the “press” is going, your staff are talking about their jobs, and possibly you. You’ll be privy to the conversation, so follow it with close attention. You never know what important sentiments you may hear.

In the first few weeks, the paper prints automatically and then you’ll be given statistics on how it performed in each of the districts. Was it popular or not? Did it make loyalists more trusting or suspicious of The Westport Independent?

As the weeks go by, however, you get more involved in the layout of the paper, including deciding which stories take priority, and in which districts you should promote particular issues, based on their content preference.

If the stories you run are clearly anti-establishment, be prepared for the backlash that could come with that decision.

At least one of the districts that buys your paper favors celebrity news.
At least one of the districts that buys your paper favors celebrity news.

When I tried it

I think what I found most difficult in the beginning was getting used to the crude design of the app. I have been so spoiled by stunningly beautiful, state-of-the-art graphics, that I’ve become a bit of a snob. Had I not chosen to review this app for the Weekender, I may not have bothered with it past the first five minutes, simply based on how it looked.

As we all know, however, looks can be deceiving; we’re taught not to judge a book by its cover, and all that.

As I stuck with The Westport Independent, I found it really interesting. I probably did not take the time vetting stories that I should have, but I had a lot of fun forcing writers to take on stories to which they were objecting, and I was always keen to see how my readership was progressing each week.

I also liked the way that it took you from just printing the paper to actually prioritizing pages before distribution.

One of my few moans about this app is that some of its grammar is incorrect. I mean, how can you run a paper without a proper copy editor? Tsk, tsk.

Final thoughts

I had not finished The Westport Independent by the time I had to get this story in, but from what I’ve gathered, it can be finished in a relatively short period of time. Some users moan about the price for what you get, but I think it’s perfectly reasonable. No in-app purchases and it’s a unique idea.

Now it’s your turn to run a paper.