Tag Archives: Michael Graham

Swartz case leads Media Nation’s top 10 of 2013

Aaron Swartz speaking in 2012

Aaron Swartz speaking in 2012

Last January, not long after the young Internet genius Aaron Swartz committed suicide, civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate wrote powerfully about the abusive prosecutorial tactics that may have led to his death.

Swartz faced a lengthy federal prison sentence for downloading academic articles at MIT without authorization. Even though the publisher, JSTOR, declined to press charges, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz brought a case agains Swartz under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. As Silverglate put it, the law is “a notoriously broad statute enacted by Congress seemingly to criminalize any use of a computer to do something that could be deemed bad.”

Silverglate’s article was republished in Media Nation with the permission of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, where it originally appeared. And it was far and away the most viewed article in Media Nation in 2013.

Today we present Media Nation’s top 10 posts for 2013, based on statistics compiled by WordPress.com. They represent a range of topics — from the vicissitudes of talk radio to a media conflict of interest, from Rolling Stone’s controversial cover image of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to the sad, sudden death of The Boston Phoenix.

The top 10 is by no means representative of the year in media. Certainly the biggest story about journalism in 2013 involved the National Security Agency secrets revealed by Edward Snowden to The Guardian and The Washington Post — a story that did not make the cut at Media Nation.

Here, then, is our unrepresentative sample for the past 12 months.

1. Harvey Silverglate on the Aaron Swartz case (Jan. 24). Few people were more qualified to weigh in on U.S. Attorney Ortiz’s abusive tactics than Silverglate, my friend and occasional collaborator, who several years ago wrote “Three Felonies a Day,” a book on how the federal justice system has spun out of control. But Silverglate’s take wasn’t the only article about Swartz to generate interest in Media Nation. The aftermath of Swartz’s suicide also came in at No. 11 (“The Globe turns up the heat on Carmen Ortiz,” Jan. 11) and No. 13 (“Aaron Swartz, Carmen Ortiz and the meaning of justice,” Jan. 14). In a bit of poetic justice, a project Swartz was working on at the time of his death — software that allows whistleblowers to submit documents without being identified — was unveiled by The New Yorker just several months after his suicide.

2. The New Republic’s new owner crosses a line (Jan. 28). A little more than a year ago, the venerable New Republic was saved by Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook who is using some of his fortune to restore the magazine to relevance and fiscal health. But he crossed an ethical line last January when he took part in an interview with President Obama, whose campaign he had worked on, and tossed a series of softball questions his way. At the time I wrote that Hughes was guilty of “no more than a minor misstep.” So how did it rise to No. 2? It turns out that a number of right-leaning websites picked up on it, bringing a considerable amount of traffic to Media Nation that I normally don’t receive.

3. Dailies go wild over sports controversies (Aug. 30). Four months after publishing this item, I find it hard to make heads or tails of what was going on. But essentially Globe-turned-Herald sportswriter Ron Borges contributed to a Rolling Stone article on the Aaron Hernandez murder case, which generated some tough criticism from both the Globe and the well-known blog Boston Sports Media Watch. That was followed almost immediately by a Globe article on the ratings collapse of sports radio station WEEI (AM 850), which brought yet more tough talk from, among others, ’EEI morning co-host Gerry Callahan, who also happens to write a column for the Herald. Yes, Boston is a small town.

4. Rolling Stone’s controversial cover (July 17). I thought it was brilliant. I still do. The accusion that Rolling Stone was trying to turn Dzhokhar Tsarnaev into some sort of pop-culture hero is absurd and offensive — and not borne out by the well-reported article that the cover was designed to illustrate.

5. Glenn Ordway walks the ratings plank (Feb. 14). Ordway built sports talker WEEI into a ratings monster only to see its numbers crater in the face of competition from the Sports Hub (WBZ-FM, 98.5). Ordway was by no means the problem with WEEI. But station management decided it could no longer afford his $500,000 contract, and so that was it for the Big O.

6. A big moment for The Boston Globe (Dec. 17). It was actually a big year for the Globe, from its riveting coverage of the marathon bombing and the standoff that led to the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to the paper’s acquisition by Red Sox principal owner John Henry. But two days in mid-December were emblematic of the paper’s continuing excellence and relevance — a long, detailed exposé of the Tsarnaev family that revealed Dzhokhar, rather than his older brother, Tamerlan, may have been the driving force behind the bombing; an investigation into a case of alleged “medical child abuse” that pitted a Connecticut family against Children’s Hospital; and a nationally celebrated series of tweets by staff reporter Billy Baker about a Boston teenager from a poor family who had been admitted to Yale.

7. The Boston Phoenix reaches the end of the road (March 14). A stalwart of the alternative-weekly scene and my professional home from 1991 to 2005, the Phoenix was a voice of incalculable importance. But with even the legendary Village Voice struggling to survive, the alt-weekly moment may have passed. At the time of its death, the Phoenix had more than 100,000 readers — but little revenue, as advertising had dried up and both the print edition and the website were free. I scribbled a few preliminary thoughts in this post, and later wrote something more coherent for PBS MediaShift.

8. The return of Jim Braude and Margery Eagan (Feb. 6). Eagan and Braude’s morning show was the one bright spot on WTKK Radio, an otherwise run-of-the-mill right-wing talk station that had been taken off the air a month earlier. So it was good news indeed when the pair was hired to host “Boston Public Radio” from noon to 2 p.m. on public station WGBH (89.7 FM). (Note: (I am a paid contributor to WGBH-TV’s “Beat the Press,” where Eagan is a frequent panelist.)

9. Joe Scarborough grapples with history — and loses (Feb. 17). Asking cable blowhard Scarborough to write a review for The New York Times Book Review about the relationship between Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon could have been a smart, counterintuitive move. But it only works if the writer in question is, you know, smart.

10. The bell tolls for WTKK Radio (Jan. 3). As I already mentioned, Jim Braude and Margery Eagan were able to walk away from the rubble of WTKK, which was shut down by corporate owner Greater Media and turned into an urban music station. Just a few years earlier the station had been a ratings success with trash-talking hosts like Jay Severin and Michael Graham. But tastes change — sometimes for the better.

Photo (cc) by Maria Jesus V and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Boston Herald Radio to debut next Monday

bostonheraldradio-logoThe Boston Herald will unveil an online radio station next Monday, Aug. 5.

Boston Herald Radio will stream on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with news-oriented programs helmed by longtime talk-show hosts Jeff Katz and Michael Graham and by Herald journalists Hillary Chabot and Jaclyn Cashman. The broadcast day will conclude with a sports show from 3 to 6 p.m. hosted by Jon Meterparel and Jen Royle.

The full details were reported earlier today by Talkers magazine. Ken Fang of Awful Announcing wrote about the Herald’s plans on July 5. Neither article makes any mention of whether the station will run any programming beyond those 60 weekday hours.

The Herald’s streaming radio station will compete for local online listeners with The Boston Globe’s RadioBDC, which arose from the remnants of the old WFNX in 2012. A big difference is that RadioBDC is primarily music, whereas the Herald  is going with news, sports and talk.

More: Following the demise of WTKK earlier this year, Graham put together a noon-to-3 p.m. show heard on a group of small stations in Eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Graham’s show will not be exclusive to Boston Herald Radio — rather, it will be simulcast.

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.

WTKK and the ongoing collapse of corporate radio

Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 3.02.51 PM

This commentary was previously published by the Huffington Post.

Update: I’ll be on New England Cable News on Friday at 7:15 a.m. to talk about WTKK and the future of radio.

At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Jim Braude and Margery Eagan signed off for the last time from the morning talk show they had hosted on Boston’s WTKK Radio (96.9 FM). A few minutes later, the station reemerged as Power 96.9, a faceless entity blasting out robo-music of some sort. And Boston found itself with just one full-time talk radio station. (The station was quickly redubbed Nova 96.9, apparently because of this.)

The demise of WTKK has been portrayed as another nail in the coffin of right-wing talk radio. The estimable D.R. Tucker calls it part of “a downward spiral for a key element of the conservative entertainment complex.” And, yes, that’s surely part of it.

But what we are really seeing is the demise of commercial radio in general, as corporate owners (Greater Media in WTKK’s case) attempt to squeeze the last few nickels of profit out of a medium that may be in its final stage of collapse.

By the end, WTKK wasn’t even a right-wing talk station. Braude, a liberal, and Eagan, a moderate, hosted a civil show that was more about entertainment than politics. Moderate politics and humor were the rule during midday. The only right-winger was afternoon host Michael Graham, whose idea of a good time was to make fun of people with dwarfism.

It was a far cry from the days when WTKK’s signature host, Jay Severin, would call Al Gore “Al Whore” and refer to Hillary Clinton as “a socialist” and “a pig.” Then again, Severin himself was long gone, having made the mistake of joking about sex with interns at a moment when his ratings were falling.

During the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, Boston was a terrific town for talk radio, the home of pioneers such as David Brudnoy, Jerry Williams and Gene Burns, among others. Yes, they leaned right, but their approach was intelligent and respectful (OK, Williams often wasn’t respectful), and they were immersed in the local scene in a way that few talk-show hosts are these days.

So now we are left with one full-time talk station, WRKO (AM 680), home to right-wingers Rush Limbaugh and Howie Carr, a local legend whose shtick descended into bitter self-parody years ago. (Limbaugh’s syndicated show recently moved back to WRKO from a weak AM station owned by Clear Channel.) It certainly hasn’t helped either WTKK or WRKO that their ratings pale in comparison to two full-time sports stations — a phenomenon that didn’t exist during the heyday of local talk.

The only bright light is Dan Rea, who helms a very conservative evening program on all-news station WBZ (AM 1030). Rea, a former television reporter, eschews the shouting and demeaning putdowns in favor of smart conversation.

What happened to talk radio in Boston? I would point to three factors. And I would suggest that none of these are unique to our part of the country. Boston may be on the leading edge, but these same trends could sweep away talk elsewhere, too.

Corporate consolidation. Since the passage of the lamentable Telecommunications Act of 1996, corporations have been buying up radio stations in market after market, transforming what was once a strictly local affair into a bottom-line-obsessed business.

As far back as 1997 I wrote in the Boston Phoenix that the rise of chain ownership would eventually kill local talk. We are now seeing that come to fruition. The automated music stations that are on the rise may not garner many listeners. But they are cheap, which means that their owners can bleed some profits out of them regardless.

“In our current media environment, corporate owners seem to have less tolerance for the station that is unusual, the station with the niche audience,” media scholar and radio consultant Donna Halper wrote for Media Nation earlier this year. “Part of what makes radio unique as a mass medium is its ability to befriend the listener. So losing a favorite station is much like losing a friend.”

The rise of public radio. Boston is home to an exceptionally vibrant public radio scene. Two stations with strong signals — WBUR (90.9 FM) and WGBH (89.7 FM) — broadcast news, public-affairs programming and (yes) talk all day and night, and enjoy some of the largest audiences in the Boston area. (Disclosure #1: I’m a paid contributor to WGBH’s television station, Channel 2.) Other, smaller public stations broadcast far more eclectic musical offerings than anything on commercial radio.

This trend is related to corporate consolidation, as it was the slide in quality on the for-profit side that sent many listeners fleeing to nonprofit radio. If anything, that trend will accelerate.

Technological change. Earlier this year The Phoenix sold the FM signal for its independent rock station, WFNX, to Clear Channel — but kept streaming online. The Boston Globe, meanwhile, hired a few of the people who were laid off when WFNX left the air and now streams its own indie rock station, RadioBDC. All of a sudden, we’ve got a war between two local music stations, neither one of which can be heard over the air. (Disclosure #2: I’m an occasional contributor to The Phoenix.)

These days it’s not difficult to stream Internet radio in your car, which is where most radio listening takes place. Pandora, Spotify and out-of-town music stations (WWOZ of New Orleans is a favorite of mine) are powerful draws, which gives the local flavor of online stations like RadioBDC and WFNX a considerable edge over computer-programmed corporate radio — or, for that matter, subscription-based satellite radio.

It is this last development that gives me reason for optimism. Radio has always been held back by the physical limits of the broadcast spectrum. In a world in which those limits don’t exist, “radio” stations must compete on the strength of their programming rather than their stranglehold on the AM and FM dials.

Seen in that light, the end of WTKK is just another step on the road toward what may be a brighter, more diverse radio future.

WTKK reportedly to stop talking next week

The final act in WTKK’s switch from talk to music will play out next week, the Boston Herald’s Inside Track reports. Michael Graham is already gone from 96.9 FM, and Jan. 2 might be the last day for Jim Braude and Margery Eagan.

Michael Graham is gone as WTKK rumors swirl

Michael Graham has left WTKK Radio (96.9 FM), according to AllAccess.com. I certainly won’t miss him, but his departure, unfortunately, would appear to presage Greater Media’s rumored decision to relaunch WTKK as an automated music station. Here’s more from Radio Insight.

Talk radio, as we all know, is not what it used to be. But if WTKK is taken out of play, I wonder if Entercom might decide to reinvigorate WRKO (AM 680), which has all but disappeared except for Howie Carr’s afternoon-drive show. If Jim Braude and Margery Eagan are out at ‘TKK, then they deserve a slot somewhere.

Meanwhile, Dan Rea continues to do well evenings at WBZ (AM 1030) with a talk show that is as conservative as any on the air — but that is also intelligent and respectful of its listeners. Is there a lesson in that?

Greater Media may pull plug on talk format for WTKK

Screen Shot 2012-12-11 at 7.34.32 AMThe Boston Herald reports today that Greater Media could be preparing to get rid of the talk format at WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) because toxic hosts like Michael Graham are increasingly repellant to advertisers.

The story, by Ira Kantor, has some resonance because rumors of the move have surfaced off and on for many months. An interesting new wrinkle Kantor found is that someone has registered music-related domain names like 969bostonsbeat.com and 969thebeat.com in preparation for a switch. When I looked them up I discovered that whoever put in for them had paid a little extra for privacy protection. There’s no way of knowing whether they were registered by Greater Media or an entrepreneurial squatter, but the fact that they were only registered last week is surely indicative of something.

Kantor also quotes Friend of Media Nation Donna Halper, who thinks Greater Media will keep WTKK as a talk station but is nevertheless hedging its bets. Halper tells Kantor:

I am firmly convinced [Greater Media] will make things work for them and find a way to keep it around, but have a Plan B in the event they need to turn on a dime and have something that will attract a younger audience, because right now it’s not talk radio.

WTKK has had a schizophrenic format for quite a while. Its morning drive-time hosts, Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, are civilized and funny. Braude is a liberal and Eagan is — well, sort of liberal, sort of moderate. But whenever I tune in, they seem to be talking about something other than politics.

The afternoon drive host, meanwhile, is Graham, a right-wing bully who replaced the even more noxious Jay Severin a couple of years ago.

If Greater Media brings the hammer down on talk, I’d like to see Braude and Eagan land somewhere. In the current radio market, though — shrinking, moving online, with those that are still on the air embracing cheap robo-programming — it’s hard to imagine where.