Tag Archives: Emily Rooney

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.

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.

Braude and Eagan to host WGBH Radio midday show

Jim Braude and Margery Eagan

Well, that didn’t take long. The only real assets at former talk radio station WTKK, Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, have been hired by WGBH Radio (89.7 FM) to helm the midday news and public-affairs program “Boston Public Radio” from noon to 2 p.m. (I am a paid contributor to WGBH-TV’s “Beat the Press,” where Eagan is a frequent panelist.)

Braude is also the host of “Broadside: The News with Jim Braude,” on New England Cable News, and Eagan is a columnist at the Boston Herald. Their hiring appears to be an attempt to give some definition to “Boston Public Radio,” which was created last June when Emily Rooney’s and Callie Crossley’s one-hour shows were combined. Rooney and Crossley will continue to be heard on “Boston Public Radio.”

Braude and Eagan already have a Twitter handle: @JimMargeryWGBH.

In other post-WTKK news, afternoon drive-time host Michael Graham popped up this week on stations in Worcester, Concord, Plymouth and Southbridge.

Here is the full press release from WGBH:

Jim Braude and Margery Eagan to join WGBH’s Boston Public Radio

Pair will anchor mid-day talk program on WGBH Radio 89.7; WGBH expands on commitment to local coverage, builds on Rooney and Crossley’s growth

BOSTON, Mass. (February 6, 2013) – Jim Braude and Margery Eagan will serve as the new co-hosts of 89.7 WGBH’s Boston Public Radio beginning Monday, February 25. The format change is part of WGBH News’s ongoing evolution and continued commitment to strengthening the region’s most dynamic local news team. The live local program airs from 12-2pm each Monday through Friday on 89.7 WGBH.

Braude and Eagan will lead two hours of local conversation that will continue to combine newsmaker interviews, conversation with experts, and listener call-ins. Callie Crossley and Emily Rooney, the awarding-winning veteran journalists who have led the consistent growth of Boston Public Radio, will continue to contribute to WGBH’s local, daily public radio talk show. WGBH and Boston Public Radio will also continue to include regular contributors Kara Miller, Jared Bowen, and Edgar B. Herwick III. As co-hosts of Boston Public Radio, Braude and Eagan will host a monthly Ask the Governor program on WGBH, a series they hosted in their former role at WTKK radio. 89.7 WGBH will make that monthly program available to any other Massachusetts station free of charge.

WGBH will announce other major contributors and regular guests from politics, press, and culture in the coming weeks.

“As WGBH Radio continues to develop and grow, we are excited to build on a strong foundation and serve audiences with the smartest on-air guides to the breadth of stories happening in our region and around the world. Jim and Margery are extremely talented broadcasters who will make our strong team even stronger. Like all of our Boston Public Radio contributors, they are smart and engaging and share our passion for local discussion and commentary,” said 89.7 WGBH Managing Director Phil Redo. “We are very happy that Governor Patrick will be resuming his regular appearances on radio, now here on WGBH. It is a genuine public service and an opportunity for residents of the Commonwealth to engage directly with their governor.”

For 13 years, Braude and Eagan co-hosted the Jim & Margery Show on WTKK 96.9FM. Braude, an Emmy-award winning journalist, started his career as a legal services lawyer in the South Bronx. Braude hosts Broadside: The News with Jim Braude weeknights on NECN. He founded and served as the first president of the National Organization of Legal Services Workers, a union representing staff in civil legal offices for the poor in 35 states. He published Otherwise, a magazine on American politics, and served as a Cambridge city councilor. Braude graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and New York University School of Law.

“We are excited to join the WGBH News team and to be staying together as a team ourselves,” said Braude.

Eagan, a columnist for the Boston Herald, grew up in Fall River, Mass. She is a graduate of Stanford University. Throughout her career, Eagan has written for a number of publications, including Boston Magazine. She has appeared on national and local news programs and is a regular guest on Greater Boston and Beat the Press on WGBH-TV.

“I’m a huge fan of WGBH’s Boston Public Radio and am thrilled to be joining the terrific journalists there,” Eagan said. “They’ve built one of the strongest local news teams around.”

“I congratulate Jim and Margery on this next adventure and look forward to continuing our thoughtful conversations on how policy touches people in their everyday lives,” said Governor Patrick.

Callie Crossley will continue to lend her signature perspective to the exploration of important topics, both local and national. Emily Rooney will provide a take on stories she is following for the WGBH-TV program Greater Boston. Kara Miller, who also hosts WGBH Radio’s Innovation Hub, will offer a window into the region’s most creative thinkers. Jared Bowen — Boston television’s only full-time arts journalist, a recently named Commonwealth Award winner and host of Open Studio, which premieres on WGBH 2 this Friday at 8:30pm — will continue to provide unique coverage of New England’s vibrant arts culture. Edgar Herwick, who developed the Web series One Guest, will continue to report on interesting and unusual topics that engage audiences.

The re-formatted Boston Public Radio program reflects the continuing evolution of 89.7 and the growing WGBH News team, which draws significantly on the expertise of staff across radio, television and the Web. Today’s announcement comes on the heels of schedule changes that more prominently feature unique local programming throughout the week, including the new timeslot for Innovation Hub, hosted by Kara Miller, now at 10am on Saturdays.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.