Tag Archives: “Beat the Press”

WGBH’s ‘Beat the Press’ wins national award

beat-the-press-210x210“Beat the Press,” a weekly media program on WGBH-TV (Channel 2) that I’ve been part of for about 15 years, has won the national Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism from Pennsylvania State University. Here is the announcement from Penn State.

Television is a team sport, and I’m proud to be part of the amazing group of people that is responsible for “Beat the Press” every Friday, starting with host Emily Rooney. At the risk of leaving out names, I want to mention one who’s not in the announcement: Jeff Keating, who produces the show and keeps us all on the straight and narrow.

Congratulations to Jeff and everyone for making us look good.

NEFAC honors James Risen, a free-press hero

James Risen

James Risen

James Risen is a free-press hero. Whether he will also prove to be a First Amendment hero depends on the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Friday, Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times, was presented  with the 2014 Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award by the New England First Amendment Coalition (NEFAC), which is affiliated with Northeastern University. (I wish I’d been able to attend, but I was teaching.) Risen faces prison for refusing to identify an anonymous CIA source who helped inform Risen’s reporting on a failed operation to interfere with Iran’s nuclear program — a story Risen told in his 2006 book, “State of War.”

Both the Bush and the Obama administrations have pushed for Risen to give up his source, but Risen has refused. “The choice is get out of the business — give up everything I believe in — or go to jail. They’ve backed me into a corner,” Risen was quoted as saying in this Boston Globe article by Eric Moskowitz. Also weighing in with a detailed account of the NEFAC event is Tom Mooney of The Providence Journal.

My Northeastern colleague Walter Robinson, a former Globe reporter and editor, said this of Risen:

There’s no one anywhere on the vast landscape of American journalism who merits this award more than you do. It is hard to imagine a more principled and patriotic defense of the First Amendment.

Unfortunately, Risen has little in the way of legal protection. The Supreme Court, in its 1972 Branzburg v. Hayes decision, ruled that the First Amendment does not protect journalists from having to reveal their confidential sources. In addition, there is no federal shield law. Thus journalists like Risen must hope that the attorney general — and, ultimately, the president — respect the role of a free press in a democratic society sufficiently not to take reporters to court. President Obama has failed that test in spectacular fashion.

Risen has asked the Supreme Court to take his case, giving the justices an opportunity to overturn or at least modify the Branzburg decision. But if the court declines to take the case, the president should order Attorney General Eric Holder to call off the dogs.

The Stephen Hamblett Award is named for the late chairman, chief executive officer and publisher of The Providence Journal. Previous recipients have been the late New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, then-Boston Globe editor Marty Baron (now executive editor of The Washington Post) and Phil Balboni, founder of GlobalPost and, previously, New England Cable News.

More: On this week’s “Beat the Press,” my WGBH colleague Margery Eagan paid tribute to Risen in the “Rants & Raves” segment.

While we wait for the John Henry announcement

We’re all waiting for confirmation of Peter Gammons’ report that the New York Times Co. will sell The Boston Globe to Red Sox principal owner John Henry. Gammons’ tidbit broke too late for “Beat the Press.” But in Rants and Raves, I talked about why a sale to Henry made sense. You can watch it above.

CommonWealth reviews “The Wired City”

Tom Fiedler, dean of Boston University’s College of Communication and a fellow “Beat the Press” panelist, reviews “The Wired City” in the new issue of CommonWealth Magazine. He writes:

Kennedy, a journalism professor at Northeastern University and author of the well-read blog Media Nation, packs a lot of other material into this book that withstands the passage of time. His explanation of how the newspaper business model fell victim to the Web’s ability to match advertisers with consumers, thus forcing publishers to trade print dollars for digital dimes, is as cogent as I have seen anywhere. I admired also Kennedy’s insights into the way online sites have upended the journalistic paradigm by enabling news consumers — formerly known as the audience — to also be news creators.

Additional disclosure: my master’s (in American history) is from BU.

Last words on the Globe’s lifted editorial

Just to bring this full circle, I want to point out that we talked about the Boston Globe’s lifted editorial on “Beat the Press” last Friday. You can watch the segment here.

We identified Globe columnist Joan Vennochi as the person responsible, which made us the first news organization to confirm that independently. Others cited an email Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr had sent to his followers, news that never found its way into the Herald itself.

On Monday, old friend Mark Leccese, an Emerson College journalism professor, took “Beat the Press” to task in his Boston.com blog, writing that we were too easy on what he believes was a clear case of plagiarism. And he says the punishment should have been more severe than the two-week suspension Vennochi (whom he does not name) received.

It’s a good, smart post, though I still believe what Vennochi did amounted to sloppiness rather than out-and-out plagiarism.

Finally, welcome back, Joan. Her excellent political column was back in the Globe on Sunday following a two-week suspension. You can read that here.

The Celtics’ — and Ryan’s — great run

Ray Allen in 2008

I can’t add to what’s already been said about the Celtics — noble, selfless, you know the rest. What is astonishing is that all the good Celtics teams — Russell’s, Cowens’, Bird’s and the current bunch — have had the same basic team ethic in a league of freelancing showoffs. We’ve been privileged to live in Boston.

Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan rises to the occasion, just as we knew he would. Hard to believe he won’t be around for the next NBA playoffs.

And his stablemate Dan Shaughnessy debases himself by asking whether Ray Allen’s improved play was part of his “salary drive.” You’re excused for wondering if Shank is referring to a different Ray Allen. But no, he’s talking about the one in the green uniform, 36 years old, in need of ankle surgery, out there for long minutes every game because of Avery Bradley’s injury.

Emily Rooney lit into Shaughnessy on “Beat the Press” last Friday. Well-deserved.

My basketball predictions are worth precisely what you’re paying for them. But to listen to the chatter, you’d think they were going to finish last next year, and I don’t buy it. Allen will probably leave. But I’ll bet Kevin Garnett comes back and they’ll make another decent playoff run next year — if not quite as thrilling as this year’s.

Photo via Wikipedia.

The never-ending story of “White Will Run”

Peter Lucas (left), George Regan and Emily Rooney

There have been a couple of additional developments in the brouhaha over the Boston Herald’s classic 1983 “White Will Run” story.

First, on Friday, Emily Rooney and company decided to broadcast an edited-down version of the “Greater Boston” segment with former Herald columnist Peter Lucas and longtime Kevin White spokesman George Regan that had been killed earlier in the week. I got to watch it on the set.

Rooney, on “Beat the Press,” explained that the video wasn’t too incendiary to air — rather, she and others at WGBH-TV (Channel 2) decided it was inappropriate for a show intended as a tribute to White and his legacy.

Second, today the Boston Globe publishes an op-ed piece by my Northeastern colleague Walter Robinson, who was the Globe’s City Hall bureau chief in 1983 when Lucas reported — erroneously — that White would run for a fifth term.

The dispute has always been over whether Lucas screwed up, as Regan claims — or if, as Lucas contends, White set him up as punishment for the rough treatment Lucas had meted out to him in his Herald column. I’m with Lucas, and Robinson comes down firmly on his side:

As the city celebrated the mayor’s life, warts and all, Regan tried to rewrite a settled chapter from the city’s rich political history, about a storied occurrence in which the mayor settled a score against a columnist he disliked intensely. Did he not remember that White, just after his declaration of retirement, hurried off to give Lucas a two-hour interview that Regan himself said that night was done “to make up’’ for the harm that was done to the columnist?

Denying that White was involved in such a clever prank, Robinson writes, would be “a bit like saying that Churchill didn’t much enjoy whiskey and a good cigar.”

Strangely, the Herald itself still hasn’t published a word about one of the most storied moments in its history. I’ve got to believe we’re going to hear something from 70 Fargo St. before this is over. After all, it’s the never-ending story.

Talking about local news in the digital age

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The video from a Sept. 22 event that I moderated at MIT is now online. The program, titled “Local News in the Digital Age,” featured David Dahl, regional editor of the Boston Globe; Callie Crossley, host of “The Callie Crossley Show” on WGBH Radio (89.7) and a regular on WGBH-TV’s “Beat the Press” and “Basic Black”; and Adam Gaffin, co-founder, publisher and editor of Boston-area metablog Universal Hub. The first person you’ll see speaking is David Thorburn, a professor of literature at MIT and director of the MIT Communications Forum.

Two hours is a long time to sit in front of your computer watching video. Fortunately, you can download an MP3 here.

Did David Portnoy commit a crime?

Jonathan Albano (right) at a forum at Boston University last year on "Legal Liability in the Age of WikiLeaks." At left is First Amendment lawyer Robert Bertsche. I was the moderator, and I'm sitting in the middle.

Could David Portnoy face criminal prosecution for posting nude photos of Tom Brady’s 2-year-old son? I’m guessing no. But he’s taking a huge risk that some ambitious prosecutor might at least want to make a name for him- or herself by going after Portnoy and his sleazy website, Bar Stool Sports.

We begin with lawyer and former prosecutor Wendy Murphy, who is quoted as telling WCVB-TV (Channel 5): “The whole purpose was to get people to look at [the child’s] genitalia, so absolutely — 20 years maximum and a $50,000 fine on top of that.” That’s certainly an opinion that should make Portnoy sit up and take notice. But it also seems to be a distinctly minority view.

The Boston Herald’s Dave Wedge reports today that neither the FBI nor Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey’s office would confirm or deny whether there’s an investigation under way. That’s standard procedure for the FBI. But it may be significant that the DA’s office said nothing. Unless everyone was just heading down to the Cape on a Friday afternoon.

David Frank of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly adds Attorney General Martha Coakley to the list of officials who would neither confirm nor deny an investigation. But though Frank calls the pictures and Portnoy’s description of the young boy’s genitals “creepy” and “tasteless,” he casts serious doubt on whether a crime was committed:

I’ve talked to several lawyers today, from both the prosecution and defense side, who say there’s no chance Portnoy will ever be hit with a possession of child pornography charge. Portnoy’s post, as out of bounds as it is, simply doesn’t support the elements of the crime.

On the other hand, Frank quotes noted First Amendment lawyer Jonathan Albano as saying Brady and his wife, Gisele Bündchen, might be able to file an invasion-of-privacy suit on their son’s behalf and have some hope of succeeding.

“You’re talking about the publication of a 2-year-old’s private body,” Albano tells Frank. “Unlike Gisele, you can’t say that the child is a public figure, and why should he have less privacy rights than anyone else?”

I hope Brady and Bündchen go for it.

We talked about this on “Beat the Press” on Friday. Please have a look.

Photo by Emily Sweeney.

 

 

Some free advice to Boston.com

Should a news site label the disappearance and death of an 11-year-old girl a “Hot Topic”?

Frankly, it’s not something I had given any thought to until yesterday, when I heard from a “Beat the Press” viewer who complained that Boston.com had included “Celina Cass” in its “Hot Topics” menu bar near the top of the page. The story is still there as I write this, along with “Debt limit,” “TSA,” “Cash WinFall,” “Boston public schools” and “Red Sox.”

My caller told me that including such a tragic story involving a child as a “Hot Topic” was offensive, and said she had complained to Boston.com in the past over similar matters. I instantly understood what she meant, though I wasn’t sure whether I agreed.

Last night I ran it by Mrs. Media Nation, who agreed with the caller: “Hot Topics” was just the wrong phrase for a catch-all category that includes everything from sports and politics to heartbreaking tragedies. So here’s some free advice to Boston.com — call it something else, like “Top News,” “Headlines” or whatever phrase you like that’s succinct but also neutral.

Oh, and when you click on “Celina Cass,” it would also be nice if you didn’t encounter a story labeled “Our Pick.”