Writers launch electronic forum

A new privately operated computer bulletin board for writers has been started , in part to fill the void left when the governing board of the Writers Guild of America West shut down public forums on its Bulletin Board Service in April.

Called “The Page,” the service is owned by 16 writers, most of whom are WGAW members. After only a month in business, the service already has 190 people signed up.

Non-guild members

“The intention in starting this service was to admit writers who are not necessarily members of the Writers Guild,” noted WGA member Roger Simon, one of the owners of the “The Page” and the newly elected president of PEN.

Writer Ian Abrams, who could not be reached for comment, is credited with the plan to start the service.

Those eligible to sign on — for a $ 35-a-month fee — are professional writers, Simon said. They include members of the WGA, PEN West, the Dramatists Guild and even journalists.

“It’s not an official WGAW service, and thus it’s not answerable to the WGAW, and, consequently, the WGAW is not answerable to it,” Simon said.

The union’s board voted to shut down public forums on its BBS, citing the amount of staff time it took to resolve the resulting on-line disputes. The board was also worried about the union’s legal liability for what was said on the bulletin board.

Since this service is privately operated, Simon said, “if someone starts to flame, we can eject them.”

Currently “The Page” has about 30 forums for discussions, of which only a handful are private. There is a WGA forum, which is open only to WGA members; a PEN forum, open to PEN members, and so forth.

First-time offer

To start the service, each of the owners ponied up $ 500. As an incentive, new subscribers are being offered an initial free month. “No one is interested in making money here,” Simon said. “We’d like to see our investment come back. But beyond that, new money will go into opening new phone lines (there currently are five) and adding a research service for writers.”

Ironically, Simon said that while the WGAW bulletin board saw some derisive messages, writers on this new board are being “a little more polite.”

“Writers are a rowdy lot, and they should be,” he said. “So this could all change in a microsecond.”

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