David Brooks’ semi-mea culpa on the war in Iraq

It’s easy to make fun of David Brooks’ semi-mea culpa on the war in Iraq. But let’s not forget that liberals like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton voted for the war, and if you think they did it solely for political posturing, then you’re more cynical than I am.

Personally, I was against the invasion, but I thought it was a close call. And if you go back to Bill Clinton’s presidency, you may recall that horror stories about sick and starving Iraqi children — a consequence of U.S. sanctions — led some liberals to call for a humanitarian intervention.

Finally, in 1998 Bill Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act, which committed the United States to regime change.

Brooks was always the most thoughtful among the war’s supporters. What he has to say today is worth reading.

The fate of The Boston Phoenix’s online archives

The fate of The Boston Phoenix’s online archives has been a matter of great concern to all of us who worked there. Some of us — me included — have hundreds of articles stored on the late alt-weekly’s servers with no other way to access them. (Yes, I know. Stupid me.)

Writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, former Phoenix contributor Valerie Vande Panne details some of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that’s been going on to try to save a vitally important piece of journalistic history. I’ve been involved in efforts to come up with a solution, and I’m hopeful we’ll have a good answer to this problem. Patience.

The Tsarnaev jury and the death penalty

Clockwise from top left: Boston Marathon bombing  victims Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu and shooting victim Sean Collier.

Clockwise from top left: Boston Marathon bombing victims Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard and Lingzi Lu, and MIT police officer Sean Collier, who was murdered in the aftermath of the attack.

The jurors in the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial had an unimaginably difficult job. They deserve our gratitude. The evidence and the sheer depravity of Tsarnaev’s crimes certainly support the death penalty, though I remain adamant in my opposition to it.

But let’s not forget that in a state without the death penalty, and in which polls showed a majority favored life in prison for Tsarnaev, prospective jurors who opposed capital punishment were barred from serving.

No, you don’t have to explain to me why. Allowing a death-penalty opponent onto the jury would have guaranteed a life sentence since there would be no possibility for a unanimous vote for death. But isn’t that just one more argument in favor of abolishing capital punishment?

Up, up and away with that weird, obtrusive JetBlue ad

I’ve held off on writing about the obtrusive JetBlue ad that ran in Thursday’s Boston Globe because I wasn’t sure what I thought of it. It’s hard to have a hot take without an opinion.

On the one hand, we’ve long grown accustomed to financially strapped newspaper owners accepting ad placement that would have been forbidden back in the golden (as in gold) era. (Remember when page-one ads were seen as an outrage?) And I’ve tried not to be critical as long as there was no way a reader could confuse advertising with editorial content.

On the other, the Globe and JetBlue have foisted this weirdness on the paper’s oldest, most loyal, highest-paying customers: people who actually buy the weekday print edition.

So even though I don’t see anything unethical about it, I think the Globe failed to put its customers first  — or, rather, it put one set of customers (its advertisers) ahead of another set (its readers). At least the ad didn’t run through a story about a plane crash.

JetBlue’s ad is clearly part of a national campaign, and I assume it ran in other newspapers as well. I’d be curious to know where else this appeared.

More: There’s a robust discussion of this unfolding on Facebook.

George Stephanopoulos has (had) a secret

Funny. Just yesterday I was discussing with my students why journalists don’t give money to politicians. Of course, George Stephanopoulos only plays one on TV.

Dylan Byers of Politico reports that Stephanopoulos has donated $50,000 to the Clinton Foundation. He notes:

Stephanopoulos never disclosed this information to viewers, even when interviewing author Peter Schweizer last month about his book “Clinton Cash,” which alleges that donations to the Foundation may have influenced some of Hillary Clinton’s actions as Secretary of State.

So far ABC News says it’s standing behind Stephanopoulos. It’s certainly not a Brian Williams-level transgression, but there’s no question that this is unethical and that he deprived viewers of important information. (And to be clear: Disclosure is necessary but insufficient. He never should have given the money in the first place.)

Will he be able to brazen it out? Probably. The fact that he was donating to a politically wired charity rather than to a political campaign will help. But still.

More details on the Globe’s tweaked-up opinion section

The Boston Globe’s interim editorial-page editor, Ellen Clegg, wasn’t ready to go public about this when we spoke last week. But this week the paper announced a project called “Opinion Reel,” which will run “short documentaries with a point of view” submitted by “local professionals, students, and smartphone auteurs.”

“You could even be Ken Burns and we’ll take a look,” Clegg says.

It’s an intriguing idea, and it will be interesting to see what gets posted. I’ve already made sure our journalism students at Northeastern know about it.

• As I wrote last week, the redesign of the opinion pages in print can’t be looked at in isolation. Instead, the two-page print spread should be seen as kind of a “best of” taken from the larger online opinion section. I’ve heard several people say they were afraid the pages were being dumbed down, a concern that makes sense only if you’re still focused on print. (People: It’s 2015.)

Case in point: On Wednesday, as the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev death-penalty case was being turned over to the jury, the Globe posted a commentary by Boston College Law School professor Kari Hong arguing that the time has come to bring back firing squads. Her piece does not appear in the print edition.

As Mark Twain said of Wagner’s music, Hong’s essay is better than it sounds. Hong, an opponent of capital punishment who’s represented clients on death row, makes a strong case that the firing squad would be more humane than lethal injection.

“If jurors had to choose between giving someone life in prison — without the possibility of parole — or putting them in front of a firing squad,” she concludes, “I have no doubt that many would opt for the former.”

The Globe gets ready to unveil its life-sciences vertical

A couple of news briefs about The Boston Globe:

  • Benjamin Mullin has an interesting story at Poynter about the Globe’s life-sciences vertical, which is scheduled to begin a slow-roll launch this fall. The project already has a high-profile editor, Rick Berke, formerly of Politico and The New York Times. Berke tells Mullin that he expects the unnamed website will also have a “print component” — unlike (so far) Crux, the Globe’s vertical covering the Catholic Church. Like Crux and BetaBoston, which covers tech and innovation, it sounds like life-sciences stories of broad interest will also appear in the Globe itself.
  • Globe Magazine editor Susanne Althoff is leaving the paper to become an assistant professor in Emerson College’s Writing, Literature, and Publishing Department at Emerson College. In a characteristically effusive email to the staff, editor Brian McGrory writes, “Her team consistently produces some of the highest quality journalism to come out of the Globe, beautifully portrayed in print. And the magazine’s creativity and savvy in story selection, execution, and packaging have routinely led to massive readership online. Look no further than the feature on being poor at an Ivy League school, guaranteed to be one of the most read Globe stories of 2015.”