Category Archives: Media

The Post digs into the Clintons’ dubious fundraising ties

I continue to be astonished that Hillary Clinton has no serious opposition for the Democratic presidential nomination. This time eight years ago, Barack Obama was mounting a full-scale challenge. Now, there are occasional noises from the likes of Jim Webb, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, but that’s about it. (Sorry, folks. Elizabeth Warren isn’t running.)

The latest piece of appalling news about the Clintons is a front-page story in today’s Washington Post revealing that the Clinton Foundation, run by her husband, Bill, took in millions of dollars from foreign governments while Hillary was secretary of state. Much of the money, write the Post’s Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, “came from countries with complicated diplomatic, military and financial relationships with the U.S. government, including Kuwait, Qatar and Oman.”

The story is a follow-up to an earlier, equally appalling Post story about the Clinton Foundation’s dubious fundraising.

Caveat: Yes, the foundation’s money goes to good causes like earthquake relief, lowering the cost of drugs used to treat AIDS and HIV, and alleviating climate change. But it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that foreign governments seeking to curry favor with the Obama administration funneled money to Bill Clinton in order to receive more favorable treatment from Hillary Clinton.

Boston.com hires an editor and a deputy editor

Tim Molloy (via LinkedIn)

Tim Molloy (via LinkedIn)

Well, this seems promising. Boston.com finally has an editor — and a new deputy editor as well. Even better, both of them have high-level editing experience, digital chops and local roots. The new editor is Tim Molloy, currently digital engagement editor at PBS’s “Frontline.” His deputy will be Kaitlyn Johnston, executive digital editor at Boston magazine. Their appointments take effect on March 16.

Other than generating clicks, it’s been unclear what Boston.com’s mission was supposed to be when it was relaunched last year and stripped of Boston Globe content. In a recent piece for WGBH News, I suggested turning it into an arts-and-entertainment site, filling the void left when my former employer, The Boston Phoenix, went under two years ago. (That post also provides some background on Boston.com’s woes, which is why I’m not rehashing them here.)

Kaitlin Johnston (via LinkedIn)

Kaitlyn Johnston (via LinkedIn)

In any event, I look forward to seeing what Molloy and Johnston can bring to the digital table. The press release follows.

Boston.com, one of the nation’s most highly trafficked regional news websites, today announced the appointments of Tim Molloy as Editor and Kaitlyn Johnston as Deputy Editor, effective March 16.

Molloy joins Boston.com from PBS’s Frontline, where he served as the Digital Engagement Editor after amassing nearly twenty years of experience as an editor and reporter at  TheWrap.com, TVGuide.com and The Associated Press.

Johnston comes to Boston.com after having served as the Executive Digital Editor for Boston Magazine, where she directed all facets of the digital operation.

Corey Gottlieb, Executive Director, Digital Strategy & Operations and General Manager of Boston.com, looks forward to working with Molloy and Johnston.

“I could not be more excited to welcome these two dynamic news professionals onto our team,” said Gottlieb. “Tim’s blend of vision and presence make him the embodiment of the journalistic values that should resonate through every story we choose to tell on the site. Kaitlyn’s proven ability to craft stories that reflect Boston to the rest of the world will be invaluable as we continue to shape Boston.com’s editorial mission with such narratives at our core,” said Gottlieb.

The pair’s responsibilities will span the entirety of Boston.com’s editorial operation, including: developing and executing on content strategy for the site; management of all editorial staff; development of new initiatives; audience retention and expansion; and strategic long-term planning for the brand.

During much of his career, Molloy has also been responsible for audience engagement and has worked across diverse constituents managing multiple media channels, from print to online and broadcast media. Molloy readily steps into his role: “As an online editorial and multimedia professional, I am compelled by news environments that seek to deliver content in dynamic ways. Boston.com has taken ambitious strides in that direction over the past year; the opportunity to build on that is what drew me to this role. I think we have the chance to become one of the most powerful storytelling entities in the country,” commented Molloy.

Before moving to Boston, Johnston worked as Digital Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and earned a Master’s Degree in Media Arts & Technology at Duquesne University. Johnston echoes Molloy’s enthusiasm: “I am looking forward to joining Boston.com, a thriving platform whose audience makes this a truly unique opportunity. The site has a large, diverse and highly engaged community of web, social and mobile readers who use Boston.com to discover, experience, and share news and information about all things Boston,” she said.

Der Spiegel weighs in on Jeff Bezos and The Washington Post

The German news magazine Der Spiegel, of all places, has a long, intriguing story on the growth of The Washington Post under Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. More than a year after the sale, the magazine reports, “Bezos’s motives remain a mystery to those at the Post.” But he’s spending money, morale seems to be soaring and a once-shrinking institution is on the rebound.

Remembering David Carr

David Carr. Photo via Wikipedia.

David Carr. Photo via Wikipedia.

This morning I woke up to the awful news that New York Times media columnist David Carr has died at the age of 58.

Carr’s Monday column, “The Media Equation,” was a ritual — all of us who watch the media for a living would check out what Carr had to say, often on Sunday evenings, when his weekly missive would be posted ahead of the next day’s print edition. His fierce intelligence and passion for what’s good in journalism made him the leading media commentator of our time. He was also a master of Twitter, and his quirky feed will be missed nearly as much as his more substantial work.

I knew Carr slightly. I vaguely recall talking with him a few times back when he was at the Washington City Paper and I was writing for the Boston Phoenix. In 2010, I had the honor of sharing a stage with him at MIT. His magnum opus on the Chicago Tribune under Sam Zell (one of the finest pieces of media reporting I’ve seen) had just been published, and Carr was at his profane, funny best.

In December 2013, Boston University announced that Carr would be taking a high-profile role in its journalism department. I remember talking with the director of our journalism school at Northeastern, Steve Burgard, about what it meant for the perpetual rivalry between the two programs.

Now Steve and David are both gone, well before their time.

Why Jon Stewart is the anti-Brian Williams

Jon Stewart. Photo via Wikipedia.

Jon Stewart. Photo via Wikipedia.

Published previously at WGBHNews.org.

Two high-profile departures from the hot celebrity glare of television were announced late Tuesday. One of those leaving is among the most respected people in media. The other is a charlatan.

The object of our respect, of course, is Jon Stewart, who announced he’ll be retiring from “The Daily Show” later this year. A satirist of the highest order, Stewart has been our truth-teller-in-chief since 1999. The charlatan, needless to say, is Brian Williams, who was suspended for six months without pay as anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News.” It’s hard to imagine he’ll be back.

The juxtaposition of these two seemingly disparate events has not gone unnoticed. A six-column headline on the front of today’s New York Times reads “Williams Suspended, at Low Point in His Career; Stewart to Depart at High Point.” The departures also say a lot about our changing perspectives on journalism and the people who bring it to us. As I (and many others) noted when Williams first got into trouble last week over his lies about coming under fire in Iraq, there was a time when Walter Cronkite — a network anchor — was considered “the most trusted man in America.”

Today I would argue that no man or woman can lay claim to being the most trusted. The culture is too fractured. Andy Warhol’s old dictum has long since been updated to “On the Web, we will all be famous to 15 people.” Stewart, though, may be the most trusted person in the media for a certain subset that I would define as deeply interested in the news, though not necessarily hyper-informed; urban; and liberal, but skeptical of politicians regardless of ideology. He is the most vital media critic of our time, a worthy successor to A.J. Liebling and Ben Bagdikian.

Stewart is also the ideal media commentator for the Internet age. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I’ve rarely sat down at 11 p.m. to watch “The Daily Show.” I’m far more likely to catch clips on YouTube or watch bits and pieces of previous episodes through my cable provider’s on-demand offerings.

Though Stewart, 52, and Williams, 55, are nearly the same age, they seem to be from completely different generations, with Williams representing the outmoded sit-down-and-let-us-tell-you-what’s-important paradigm. Cronkite himself was said to be uncomfortable with his signoff (“And that’s the way it is”) because he knew it wasn’t true. We can only guess what Williams believes to be true. Which brings me to another important difference between Jon Stewart and Brian Williams. At a time when we have become increasingly uncomfortable with old-fashioned notions about objectivity, many media observers have called for a shift to transparency.

Stewart is utterly transparent — we know what he believes and what perspective he brings to his commentary. Williams tried to project the sort of authority that’s rooted in objectivity. It worked, more or less, until it didn’t. (An aside about objectivity. Straight news, as opposed to analysis or opinion, ought to be offered up with fairness and neutrality. Unfortunately, “objectivity” has all too often come to mean something else — a quest for balance at all costs, even the truth. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan got at this the other day with a piece on “false balance.”)

Stewart is unique, and we’ll still have him for the rest of 2015. I’d like to think the Daily Show franchise is safe. Some of the names people were floating on social media Tuesday, such as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, could prove to be worthy successors.

As for Williams, I can’t imagine anyone expects him to resume anchoring duties after such a severe punishment. Mostly likely negotiations on the terms of his departure are already under way. For all the talk about the network nightly news having slipped into obsolescence, it’s still the closest thing we have to a mass medium, watched by more than 20 million people. A new anchor will be named and life will go on as before, at least for a few more years. Someday, though, it will end. And the Brian Williams episode will be looked back on as a signal moment in its demise.

Why Brian Williams may not be able to come back

Even though it’s an anonymous quote, the ending of this New York magazine piece on Brian Williams by Gabriel Sherman shows why it will be hard — maybe impossible — for him to return:

As one insider put it today: “The lingering questions in the executive suite is if he stays, how does he ever sit down with Rand Paul or Chris Christie and say, ‘You said this two years ago, and you said this last week.’ How does he do that?”

He doesn’t. He can’t.

Update: And he won’t. NBC has suspended Williams for six months without pay. Such a harsh punishment is almost certainly a preliminary step toward a negotiated departure.

Reporting on national security in the age of Edward Snowden

b_kirtzBy Bill Kirtz

WASHINGTON — As governments throughout the world try invasive methods to penetrate newsroom secrets, top journalists use no-tech methods: meeting sources outside microphone range, avoiding phone and email messages and keeping pencil — not electronic — notes.

“We’re going back to old-time shoe leather reporting,” said New York Times national security correspondent David Sanger. “We try not to leave a trace — with no electronic footprint.”

But he told a “Journalism After Snowden” conference at the Newseum last Thursday that while journalists can protect their own data and sources, they can’t control what hackers can do to intercept their electronic communications.

The conference was the last in a series exploring issues raised by Edward Snowden’s massive leaking of National Security Agency documents.

Sanger said the Times’ greatest concern is not the NSA but with protecting communications with staffers around the world, where surveillance can potentially obtain drafts of stories.

He and other speakers noted that the U.S. government has obtained employees’ records and that that the recent Jeffrey Sterling espionage conviction shows that prosecutions could succeed without forcing a reporter to testify.

In that case Times reporter James Risen fought a seven-year battle to protect confidential sources, but the government helped make its case by producing phone calls and email contacts between Risen and Sterling.

Times executive editor Dean Baquet and his Washington Post counterpart, Marty Baron, said they decide officials’ requests to withhold national security information on a case-by-case basis.

They said they won’t surprise officials by publishing potentially dangerous information but will give them a chance to make their case against publishing.

Baquet will hear them out and push them hard for specifics about how publication can harm national security. He said they have to prove that printing risks “life and limb.”

Baron said, “We don’t publish sources and methods. We try to balance national security concerns with the public interest. It comes down to our judgment.”

Both editors said the press should do more, not less, probing of national security issues.

Baquet sees more secrecy in national security than ever, saying for example that it’s “stunning” how little we know about drone warfare. “It’s an undeclared, undiscussed and uncovered issue around the world.”

Bill Kirtz is an associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University.