Category Archives: Uncategorized

Media freedom and human rights

Journalism about human rights is both important and dangerous. That was the message at the K. George and Carolann S. Najarian Lecture on Human Rights at Faneuil Hall, endowed by the Armenian Heritage Foundation and held Thursday night.

The lecture, titled “Truth to Action: Media Freedom,” featured Ray Suarez of Al Jazeera America and PRI; Boston Globe investigative reporter Stephen Kurkjian, who’s also an adjunct professor at Northeastern University; and Thomas Mucha, editor of the Boston-based international news agency GlobalPost.

To see a Storify of live tweets about the event, please click here.

How Clay Christensen’s thinking has influenced John Henry

Fall2012_185wHarvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen has an important article in The Boston Globe today on the disruptive changes coming to higher education, arguing that the fading away of MOOCs (massive online open courses) will amount to nothing more than a temporary reprieve for the old way of doing things.

Ultimately, Christensen and his co-author Michelle Weise argue, college and university administrators will have to deal with “disruptive innovations” coming from the outside as they find that their high and increasing costs are unsustainable.

But what I find at least as interesting as Christensen’s views on education is connecting the dots between him and the Globe. Consider:

  • In the fall of 2012, Christensen and two co-authors — David Skok and James Allworth — wrote the cover story for Nieman Reports, “Breaking News,” on the challenges facing the news business in a time of disruptive innovation.
  • Last October, John Henry, shortly after completing his purchase of the Globe, wrote a piece for his new paper outlining his vision — and citing Christensen’s oft-repeated mantra that business leaders should think in terms of “jobs to be done.”
  • A month later, Christensen’s co-author Skok, the former head of a Canadian news site called Global News, was hired as the digital adviser to Globe editor Brian McGrory. (And here is an article by Skok that accompanied the main Nieman Reports essay.)
  • In an exchange of emails with Boston magazine earlier this year, Henry expressed admiration for Christensen and Skok, adding, “I’m not sure it is necessarily up to the disrupted to be disruptive as a strategy, but virtually everything these days is subject to disruption.”

Given that context, Christensen’s appearance in today’s Globe would appear to be a side effect of the “jobs to be done” thinking that has already permeated John Henry’s news organization.

Washington Post to expand staff and ambitions

Then-Boston Globe editor on WGBH-TV (Channel 2) in 2009.

Marty Baron (2009 file photo)

The Washington Post faced a lot of questions after Ezra Klein packed up and took his talents to Vox Media. Were Jeff Bezos and company making a Politico-level mistake in not finding a way to keep Klein, the founder of Wonkblog, under its own roof? Or was Klein making unreasonable demands — reportedly a $10 million investment for a much bigger staff?

My own view is that the two sides should have found a way to keep Klein loosely affiliated with the Post, although I have no way of knowing whether that was a realistic option.

In any event, I’m burying the lede. On Wednesday the Post went a long way toward answering those questions by announcing a significant investment in its news operations. Wonkblog will continue. And according to a memo to the staff from executive editor Marty Baron, a considerable amount of hiring and expansion is under way, including more blogs, a breaking-news desk and an expanded Sunday magazine.

“With these initiatives, we can all look forward to a future of great promise,” Baron wrote. (Thanks to Jim Romenesko, who also links to a Washingtonian story in which Post publisher Katharine Weymouth offers further insight into Klein’s departure.)

In an interview with Ravi Somaiya of The New York Times, Baron says of Bezos: “He hasn’t been passive. He’s heavily engaged, keenly interested in what our ideas are. He offered his own thoughts and expressed a willingness to invest.”

These are very good signs at a time when the news about the news is more favorable than anything we’ve heard in years (Patch’s latest near-death experience notwithstanding). Whether such optimism is warranted will be the media story of 2014 and beyond.

Photo is a screen grab from an appearance then-Boston Globe editor Baron made on WGBH-TV’s “Greater Boston with Emily Rooney” in 2009.

Fall panorama

7f0d086e287711e38d8c22000a1f9ad6_6

Looking east on Elliot Street in downtown Brattleboro, Vt., toward Wantastiquet Mountain late Saturday afternoon. Shot with an iPhone 4 — fuzziness caused by digital zoom.

A new scandal worthy of our outrage

The problem with getting all worked up over the IRS scandal is that we don’t have any outrage left over for the stories that really matter.

Tonight we learn that President Obama’s Justice Department “secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a ‘massive and unprecedented intrusion’ into how news organizations gather the news.”

And here’s some context: a piece I wrote for the Huffington Post in February 2012 headlined “Obama’s War on Journalism.”

This is the one to watch.

Shelley Murphy talks about her Whitey Bulger book

9780393087727_198

Update: This, by Northeastern’s Matt Collette, is much better than my tweets.

Shelley Murphy has been chasing the notorious gangster James “Whitey” Bulger since she was a young reporter at the Boston Herald. Now a Boston Globe reporter, she and Globe columnist Kevin Cullen are the authors of a new book, “Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice” (Norton).

Murphy, who graduated from Northeastern one year after I did (I won’t say when), spoke on campus today before a packed room in Snell Library. She shared some great stories — some funny, some harrowing. I live-tweeted the event, and offer some of what she said below.

Greater Media may pull plug on talk format for WTKK

Screen Shot 2012-12-11 at 7.34.32 AMThe Boston Herald reports today that Greater Media could be preparing to get rid of the talk format at WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) because toxic hosts like Michael Graham are increasingly repellant to advertisers.

The story, by Ira Kantor, has some resonance because rumors of the move have surfaced off and on for many months. An interesting new wrinkle Kantor found is that someone has registered music-related domain names like 969bostonsbeat.com and 969thebeat.com in preparation for a switch. When I looked them up I discovered that whoever put in for them had paid a little extra for privacy protection. There’s no way of knowing whether they were registered by Greater Media or an entrepreneurial squatter, but the fact that they were only registered last week is surely indicative of something.

Kantor also quotes Friend of Media Nation Donna Halper, who thinks Greater Media will keep WTKK as a talk station but is nevertheless hedging its bets. Halper tells Kantor:

I am firmly convinced [Greater Media] will make things work for them and find a way to keep it around, but have a Plan B in the event they need to turn on a dime and have something that will attract a younger audience, because right now it’s not talk radio.

WTKK has had a schizophrenic format for quite a while. Its morning drive-time hosts, Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, are civilized and funny. Braude is a liberal and Eagan is — well, sort of liberal, sort of moderate. But whenever I tune in, they seem to be talking about something other than politics.

The afternoon drive host, meanwhile, is Graham, a right-wing bully who replaced the even more noxious Jay Severin a couple of years ago.

If Greater Media brings the hammer down on talk, I’d like to see Braude and Eagan land somewhere. In the current radio market, though — shrinking, moving online, with those that are still on the air embracing cheap robo-programming — it’s hard to imagine where.