Tag Archives: Emily Rooney

Phil Balboni of GlobalPost talks about James Foley

This past Friday we did something unusual on “Beat the Press” — we ran an extended interview with Phil Balboni, the president and CEO of GlobalPost, about his organization’s efforts to save the life of correspondent James Foley. Those efforts failed, and the Islamic State, the terrorist group that had been holding him, recently released a video of Foley’s beheading.

In the interview, conducted by Emily Rooney, Balboni comes across as compassionate and utterly devastated. It’s riveting television, yet it’s painful to watch. But watch.

Flashback: Emily Rooney and public broadcasting in 1997

On Feb. 6, 1997, just after the debut of “Greater Boston” on WGBH-TV (Channel 2), I wrote an article for The Boston Phoenix on the state of the city’s two major public broadcasters, WGBH and WBUR. It was the first time I’d met the host, Emily Rooney. The original is online here, but, as you will see, it’s unreadable; thus, I have reproduced it in full below. In re-reading it, I was struck by what an interesting moment in time that was, with many of the same names and issues still with us 17 years later.

Making waves

With commercial stations going lowbrow, Boston’s public broadcasters are fine-tuning their strategies. The question: are WGBH & WBUR doing their duty?

Copyright © 1997 by the Phoenix Media/Communications Group. All rights reserved.

GB_largeplayerEmily Rooney is taping the intro to a segment of WGBH-TV’s new local public-affairs show, Greater Boston. Or trying to, anyway. It’s been a long day. Her feet are killing her. And her first few attempts at hyping an interview with Charles Murray, the controversial academic who’s currently promoting his new book on libertarianism, haven’t gone particularly well.

After several tries, though, she nails it. “That was warmer,” says a voice in the control room. “That was very nice.”

She sighs, visibly relieved at getting a break from the unblinking eye of the lens.

Rooney, the former news director of WCVB-TV (Channel 5), may be a respected newswoman, but the debut of Greater Boston last week showed that her transition to an on-camera role is going to take some time. And if Rooney and Greater Boston are struggling to find their voice, so, too, is WGBH.

This is, after all, the first significant foray into local public-affairs programming for WGBH (Channels 2 and 44, plus a radio station) since 1991, when it canceled The Ten O’Clock News. The new show is a huge improvement over the one it replaces, The Group, an unmoderated roundtable discussion that rose from the ashes of the News. (“A tawdry, pathetic little show,” huffs one industry observer of The Group, widely derided as “The Grope.”) Still, Greater Boston is going to need some work. Week One’s topics, which included the Super Bowl and cute animals, were too light and fluffy to qualify the show as a must-watch. And Rooney, who doubles as Greater Boston‘s executive editor, needs to overcome her on-the-set jitters.

It’s crucial that ’GBH get it right. With commercial broadcasters in full retreat from serious news and public affairs, public-broadcasting stations are the last redoubt. Boston’s two major public stations — WGBH-TV and WBUR Radio (90.9 FM) — are among the most admired in the country. It’s by no means clear, however, that the people who run those stations are willing or able to fill the gap created by the commercial stations’ retreat into sensationalism and frivolity. Continue reading

Emily Rooney to scale back her duties at WGBH

Emily Rooney

Emily Rooney

Emily Rooney is scaling back her duties at WGBH, although you will be as relieved as I was to learn that she will continue to host our Friday-evening media show on Channel 2, “Beat the Press.”

Rooney, the daughter of the late Andy Rooney and a broadcasting legend in her own right, will be stepping aside from “Greater Boston” on Monday though Thursday evenings next January. She’ll become a special correspondent and will continue to be involved in “Boston Public Radio” on WGBH Radio (89.7 FM).

Rooney’s changing role will be a big loss for the city and the region. Since the late 1990s, she has been the face of WGBH locally, hosting not just her nightly program but also countless political debates and other events.

And here’s a bit of trivia for you. When “Greater Boston” made its debut in 1997, it was strictly a four-day show. Friday evenings were taken up by a left-right political talk show hosted by former secretary of labor Robert Reich and former senator Alan Simpson called “The Long and the Short of It.” When that program ran its course, Emily was ready with an idea she’d been developing to hold the media to account.

This is a huge change, although, thankfully, not for viewers of “Beat the Press” or for those of us who take part in it. I wish my very best to Emily. Below is the complete press release from WGBH.

***

Emily Rooney to Step Back from Daily News Role
Greater Boston host to focus on and continue to moderate Beat the Press
Named Special Correspondent for WGBH News

BOSTON, Mass. (May 29, 2014) — After hosting WGBH’s award-winning Greater Boston for 18 years and working the daily grind in newsrooms at WCVB, ABC and FOX for 25 years before that, Emily Rooney has decided to step back from her daily newsroom and Greater Boston hosting duties to focus on the weekly Beat the Press program. In addition to moderating Beat the Press, Rooney will move into a role in January as a Special Correspondent to WGBH News and will continue to appear regularly on 89.7 WGBH’s Boston Public Radio.

“When I came to WGBH in 1997, I was an on-air rookie tasked with shaping a nightly news and public affairs show that would be accessible to everyone,” said Rooney. “I’m proud of the program we’ve fine-tuned over the years and grateful to WGBH for giving me the chance to reinvent myself. It all happened in large part due to the loyal and dedicated staff who have stayed with the show all these years.”

Over the years, Rooney has cultivated a loyal viewership, producing the last remaining daily broadcast in-depth talk show in the city attracting local and national dignitaries and everyday people to a community roundtable of ideas and hot-button topics.

“We are extremely indebted to Emily for her guidance and commitment to WGBH’s local coverage of issues and newsmakers. For so many years Emily was WGBH News,” said WGBH Radio General Manager Phil Redo, who also oversees WGBH News. “On behalf of everyone connected to the news department, we thank her for the first 18 years with WGBH, and look forward to the many still ahead in her new and only slightly adjusted role.”

Under Rooney’s leadership in the WGBH newsroom, Greater Boston and Beat the Press have won a number of awards, including Regional Edward R. Murrow broadcast awards and New England Emmy Awards. Beat the Press is a five-time winner of the National Press Club’s Arthur Rowse Award for Media Criticism. Last week Beat the Press picked up Penn State’s Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism for coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings among other issues. Rooney herself has been honored with the Dennis Kauff Award for Excellence in Reporting, Reporter of the Year from the Massachusetts Bar Association, and the Yankee Quill Award from the American Newspaper Society. She was recently inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Before joining WGBH, Rooney was director of political coverage and special events at FOX Network in New York. Prior to that, she was executive producer of ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. She worked at WCVB-TV in Boston from 1979-1993, including three years as the local ABC affiliate’s news director.

In recent years, the WGBH News division has expanded from the strong foundation laid by Rooney and the Greater Boston production. The entire newsroom works collaboratively across all electronic platforms — television, radio and digital. In addition to Greater Boston and Beat the Press, WGBH News produces the weekly television program Basic Black for WGBH 2, as well as Boston Public Radio, Innovation Hub and Under the Radar with Callie Crossley for 89.7 WGBH. It is also a co-producer of The Takeaway and The World radio programs.

In the coming months, Redo will consider options for filling Rooney’s role on Greater Boston.

Globe makes move into TV with ‘5 Runners’

This story was previously published at WGBH News.

When Boston Globe arts reporter Geoff Edgers and multimedia producer Darren Durlach proposed making a documentary about five runners who were crossing the Boston Marathon finish line at the moment that the bombings took place, editor Brian McGrory’s reaction was: Why not?

“What do you need? Two weeks?” McGrory recalled asking them.

As it turned out, it took Edgers and Durlach eight months, thousands of miles on the road and, as McGrory put it, “God knows how many dollars” to make “5 Runners,” which premiered before a crowd of several hundred people at the JFK Library Thursday evening.

The 25-minute film, which McGrory called “the first full-fledged documentary that theBoston Globe has ever produced,” will debut on NESN on Monday. It’s an early sign that a strategy to move into television, which Globe owner John Henry announced earlier this year, is beginning to take shape — although Edgers and Durlach began working on the film before Henry bought the paper. (Henry is also the principal owner of the Red Sox, which controls a chunk of NESN.)

The film, which grew out of a story Edgers wrote last April 21, follows the runners’ quest to return to the starting line of the 2014 marathon. I won’t give away how many make it. But “5 Runners” is deeply felt and unusual in its focus on how athletes — ordinary men and women who were well off the pace of the elite runners — were affected by the terrorist attack.

In a panel discussion after the film moderated by Globe deputy managing editor for features Janice Page, Edgers talked about the difficulties he and Durlach faced in staying in touch with their subjects. One of the runners, Volker Fischer, simply stopped responding, so Edgers sent him a card that read: “Volker — call me.”

When Edgers finally was able to connect with Fischer and visit his home in Illinois, he saw the card, unopened, on the refrigerator. “‘I liked the stamp,’” Edgers recalled Fischer telling him, explaining: “It was a Johnny Cash stamp.” (Disclosure: Edgers and I worked together at The Boston Phoenix in the mid-1990s. His wife, journalist Carlene Hempel, and I are colleagues at Northeastern University.)

Durlach said that the runners were “hesitant” about putting themselves forward when so many others had died or were wounded. “People were killed. Why do you want to spend time on my story?” is the way Durlach characterized their reaction.

Also joining the panelists was one of the five runners, Mary Jenkins of Ohio (spoiler alert: she’ll be running this year’s marathon), who said she will “probably be a basket case” during the race.

“It’s going to be hard, I think, Marathon Day, but I think it’s going to be exciting, too,” she said.

Edgers and Durlach plan to be at this year’s marathon as well. Their goal, they said, is to keep covering the story, and to expand “5 Runners” into an hour-long film.

Book talk on “Greater Boston”

Many thanks to Emily Rooney for giving me a chance to talk about “The Wired City” on “Greater Boston” Monday evening. You can watch it above or on the “Greater Boston” website.

Upcoming media appearances

I’m scheduled to talk about “The Wired City” on “Greater Boston” (WGBH-TV, Channel 2) with Emily Rooney today at 7 p.m., though I’m told I may get bumped for breaking news. I’ll update this if necessary.

Tomorrow at 1 p.m. I’ll be a guest on “Boston Public Radio” with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan (WGBH Radio, 89.7 FM) to talk about “The Wired City” and to unveil a collaboration I’ve been working on with ’GBH. Exciting stuff! Hope you can tune in.

Book notes and upcoming appearances

Christine Stuart and me at last Thursday's book event in New Haven. Stuart, who runs the online news service CT News Junkie along with her husband, Doug Hardy, was the first person I interviewed for "The Wired City."

Christine Stuart and me at last Thursday’s book event in New Haven. Stuart, who runs the online news service CT News Junkie along with her husband, Doug Hardy, was the first person I interviewed for “The Wired City.”

Many thanks to Paul Bass, editor and publisher of the New Haven Independent, and Will Baker, director of the Institute Library, for a terrific event for “The Wired City” last Thursday. It was great to catch up with folks I hadn’t seen in quite a while and to meet new people. The Independent’s Thomas MacMillan covered the event here; the New Haven Register’s Randall Beach and Melanie Stengel here.

Closer to home, Will Broaddus of The Salem News interviewed me last week for his book column.

I’ve got three events coming up during the next week that you might be interested in.

• On Wednesday at 6 p.m. I’ll be part of a panel that will discuss the New England premiere of “Corporate FM: The Killing of Local Commercial Radio,” directed by Kevin McKinney. It’s not cheap, but it’s for a good cause: The event will benefit WHAV Radio, an independent online-only radio station based in Haverhill. The screening will take place at Chunky’s Cinema Pub, 371 Lowell Ave., Haverhill. You can find out more here.

• On Thursday at 6:30 p.m. I’ll be doing an event for “The Wired City” at the Globe Lab, which works on new technology projects for The Boston Globe. The lab is located at the Globe, which is at 135 Morrissey Blvd. The event is free and open to the public.

• Next Monday, June 24, I’ll be sitting down with Emily Rooney to talk about “The Wired City” on “Greater Boston,” on WGBH-TV (Channel 2).

Photo by Thomas MacMillan for the New Haven Independent.