Tag Archives: David Bernstein

David Bernstein is out of here

David Bernstein and Kristin McGrath

Bernstein and McGrath

One of the more original political voices to pass through Boston in many years is fleeing the scene. My former Boston Phoenix colleague David Bernstein, who’s been contributing to Boston magazine and WGBH since the Phoenix’s demise in 2013, is heading to Richmond, Virginia, where his wife, Kristin McGrath, is starting “an exciting new job.”

Bernstein’s political analysis is smart and straight from a liberal perspective. But it’s his use of social media that sets him apart. His Twitter feed, which has nearly 14,000 followers, is a great source of news, political humor and hashtag games. On Facebook, he pays tribute to the birthdays of often-obscure politicos with music trivia contests. A recent example:

Today’s Massachusetts political birthday is Segun Idowu of the Edward M. Kennedy Insititute, currently under construction. In his honor, what are the best songs with the word “build,” “shape,” or “make” in the title? I’ll start with Foundations “Build Me Up Buttercup”; Nirvana “Heart-Shaped Box”; and Nick Lowe “You Make Me.”

Then there is Bernstein’s #mapoli With Animals, a Tumblr consisting of photos of Massachusetts politicians posing with their (and other people’s) pets. If you haven’t seen it, you should. I’m sure you’ll agree that it is one of the signal accomplishments of the Internet age.

Bernstein says he’ll “still write and comment about Massachusetts politics beyond 2014,” and that he expects to continue with BoMag and WGBH. But it won’t be the same with him checking in from afar. Best of luck to both David and Kristin.

Where are they now? (Boston Phoenix edition)

Jim Romenesko has posted an update on what happened to Boston Phoenix staff members who lost their jobs when the alt-weekly — a glossy magazine known simply as The Phoenix in its final incarnation — went out of business last March.

phoenixhedIt’s heartening to see how many of my former colleagues landed on their feet, although it would be good to see more of them find full-time media jobs. Among those who did: Carly Carioli, the editor of The Phoenix, and who’s now the executive editor (the number two position) at Boston magazine following a cup of coffee at Boston.com.

Also working full-time at BoMag is S.I. Rosenbaum; political reporter David Bernstein is a contributor there and to WGBH as well. Former editor Peter Kadzis is working part-time at WGBH, and was instrumental in bringing the Boston leg of the Muzzle Awards to WGBHNews.org earlier this summer.

Anyway, not to repeat Romenesko’s entire item. It’s well worth a look. Romenesko is also updating it as new information about ex-Phoenicians becomes available.

Ex-Phoenician David Bernstein’s big Menino win

Tom Menino in 2008

My former Boston Phoenix colleague David Bernstein, now looking for work, scored a big win on Wednesday, reporting before anyone that Mayor Tom Menino would not seek re-election. With the Phoenix now history, Bernstein posted the news on his blog — first as rumor, later as confirmed fact.

Given that Menino gave major interviews Wednesday to the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, it strikes me as exceedingly likely that a media embargo was in place — and I received additional, direct confirmation of that this morning. Which just goes to show the futility of embargoes in the Internet age. Good for Bernstein for operating outside the system, even if it’s not by his own choice. News organizations might consider rethinking their participation in such attempts at media manipulation.

Both the Globe and the Herald offer excellent coverage of the Menino era today. And how about Globe editor Brian McGrory jumping back into the fray by interviewing Menino and writing a column? McGrory was the Globe’s signature voice for years. Returning to the trenches for one day was a smart move.

More: Andrew Beaujon of Poynter has a nice Storify on how Bernstein’s scoop played out on Twitter.

Photo (cc) by Dan4th Nicholas and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Ex-Phoenician David Bernstein is still Talking Politics

Former Boston Phoenix political columnist David Bernstein hasn’t skipped a beat, moving his Talking Politics blog from thephoenix.com to his own domain. I’ve changed the link in the blogroll. And, of course, as I learn about new homes for Phoenix staffers, both virtual and terrestrial, I will post the information here.

The Boston Phoenix comes to the end of the road

I’m not even going to try to write a real post about this today. I’m getting bombarded from all directions, and besides that, I’m devastated. But I did want to note quickly, in case you haven’t heard, that The Phoenix — the erstwhile Boston Phoenix, reinvented as a glossy magazine last fall — is closing down, as is its affiliated Internet radio station, WFNX.com.

The Providence and Portland Phoenixes will continue, as well as a few non-journalism businesses.

Here is Doug Most’s report for Boston.com. [5:07 p.m. update: That report now carries Joe Kahn’s byline.]

The Phoenix gave me 14 great years, and it’s hard to believe that the end has come. There are way too many people to mention, so I’ll leave it at this: Peter Kadzis and Stephen Mindich were great bosses, smart, tough and loyal. Carly Carioli has done tremendous work on the reinvention, and it’s a tragedy that he ran out of time. I rely on David Bernstein for his deep reporting on politics and Chris Faraone for an alternative look at the news. Here is Mindich in a statement to the staff:

What I can and will say is I am extremely proud, as all of you should be, of the highest standards of journalism we have set and maintained throughout the decades in all of our areas of coverage and the important role we have played in driving political and socially progressive and responsible agendas; in covering the worlds of arts and entertainment, food and fashion – always with a critical view, while at the same time promoting their enormous importance in maintaining a healthy society; and in advocating for the recognition and acceptance of a wide range of lifestyles that are so valuable for a vibrant society….

We have had an extraordinary run.

And this is an incredibly sad day.

More: Unlike many who got their start at the Phoenix in their early 20s, I was 34 years old and thought my journalism career was over. In the late 1980s I had tried my hand at launching a regional lifestyle magazine in the suburbs northwest of Boston following some years at the Daily Times Chronicle of Woburn. The magazine failed, and I was doing what I could to survive.

I was picked up on waivers in 1991 from the Pilot — yes, the Catholic paper — where I had been doing layout and production. The Phoenix hired me as a copy editor, but I kept an eye out in case something better came along. Yes, I had grown up reading the Phoenix, Boston After Dark and the Real Paper, but any romantic notions I’d had of the alternative press had pretty much dissipated.

Gradually, though, I got sucked in. And when I inherited the media beat in late 1994 from Mark Jurkowitz, I became a made member of the Phoenix family. It was the most formative experience of my career. Without the Phoenix, I can’t imagine what I’d be doing today — PR for some politician? Ugh.

A smart take on the glossified (Boston) Phoenix

I continue to be surprised at the amount of attention The Phoenix has received for its switch from newsprint to glossy paper. The latest to weigh in is Boston magazine, with a smart piece by Peter Vigneron on the alt-weekly’s struggle to survive in a dramatically changed media environment. (Among the many people Vigneron interviews is yours truly.)

The best quote is from editor Carly Carioli, who tells Vigneron: “We have said for decades that we are a magazine in newsprint form. Now we’re a magazine in magazine form.” Truth. Nice plug, too, for David Bernstein, whom Vigneron calls “a fine political writer, perhaps the best in the state.”

I only have one quibble. At one point Vigneron asks, “But can you save a publication that for many years has been neither lucrative nor especially relevant?”

As Vigneron himself notes, circulation remains north of 100,000. Like all publications, The Phoenix is fighting for its life. But a newspaper/magazine that’s picked up by more than 100,000 people each week is not irrelevant.

On another front entirely, artist Karl Stevens announced in a public Facebook post Monday that The Phoenix has canceled his weekly cartoon, “Failure,” allegedly over his mocking of Bud Light, an advertiser. I hope the cancellation proves temporary, and I welcome clarification and further explanation in the comments.

Disclosure: I was on staff at The Phoenix from 1991 to 2005, and remain a contributor.

Thursday update: Phoenix editor Carly Carioli tells the Boston Globe that any suggestion “Failure” was discontinued over the Bud Light reference is “categorically false,” adding: “As the Phoenix’s editor in chief, it was my sole decision to discontinue ‘Failure.’ There were no sponsor objections — zero — to this strip or any other that I’m aware of.”

Thursday update II: A very classy statement from Stevens: “After thinking it over and talking with people in the know, I may have misunderstood the reasons for the cancellation of Failure in The Boston Phoenix. I want to apologize publicly for any misinformation that was spread, and would like to continue the otherwise wonderful relationship I have enjoyed with the publication on any future projects.”

The boys (and girls) on the bus, 2012-style

Curtis Wilkie

My friend and former Boston Phoenix colleague David Bernstein has written a terrific piece on the media horde that follows the presidential candidates from stop to stop. Bernstein discovers that the number of reporters on the campaign trail may be as great as it ever was, but that the composition and focus have changed considerably.

Unlike campaigns past, Bernstein writes, local newspapers are barely represented. The New York Times and the Washington Post are on the case, of course. But even the Boston Globe, which has made a significant effort to cover the 2012 race, can’t match what it did in 1988, when it actually established a bureau in Des Moines the year that Michael Dukakis won the Democratic nomination.

So who’s taken their place? Niche organizations devoted to covering politics such as the Huffington Post, Politico, Talking Points Memo, Slate, Salon, Real Clear Politics and the cable news operations. Bernstein argues that the result is coverage that is more insular and insidery than ever, as news aimed at a general audience has been replaced with news for political junkies.

I’m not sure I agree. Yes, the state of political journalism today can be dreadful at times, but it was pretty bad back in the day, too. Inside baseball has always been the stock in trade. Bernstein pays homage to Timothy Crouse’s classic treatment of the 1972 campaign-trail press corps, “The Boys on the Bus.” One of Crouse’s key observations was that few people on that bus dared go off the reservation and report stories no one else was reporting for fear that their editors squawk.

One of the most fun stories I reported during my own years at the Phoenix was the 2000 South Carolina Republican primary campaign, when George W. Bush annihilated John McCain. For two days I rode in the McCain caravan, and then spent two more days driving to Bush events. So I enjoyed Bernstein’s interview with the legendary political reporter Curtis Wilkie, a star of “The Boys on the Bus.” I got to talk with Wilkie on the trail 12 years ago, when he was still working for the Globe. Wilkie has since moved on to the University of Mississippi.

“For the broader audience in the middle of the country, the idea that your local paper does not have a presence there, it’s sad,” Wilkie tells Bernstein.

The problems of political coverage are the same as they ever were: an obsession with the horse race to the near-exclusion of ideas; a pack mentality that makes it difficult for anyone to report stories that are truly different; and an orientation toward inside stories about strategy rather than about how candidates might actually govern.

Bernstein has given us a close-up look at how the good, the bad and the ugly of political journalism has made the transition to the technological, post-newspaper age.

Photo © 2011 by the University of Mississippi.