Tag Archives: Northeastern University

Charles Fountain’s colorful new take on the 1919 Black Sox

b_kirtzBy Bill Kirtz

Print the legend?

Charles Fountain doesn’t.

Meticulously researched and colorfully written, his new book, “The Betrayal: The 1919 World Series and the Birth of Modern Baseball” (Oxford University Press, 290 pages, $27.95), offers a host of new information about the often-told 1919 Chicago Black Sox saga.

He’s unearthed a ton of fresh material, including the papers of American League founder Ban Johnson and the files of cover-up maestro Alfred Austrian.

Fountain, a long-time Northeastern University School of Journalism friend and colleague, sorts through the myriad versions of how and why the World Series was fixed, never resorting to easy conclusions. He separates what’s ain’t from what’s so. When the facts are murky, he’s content to present — not pontificate.

This tapestry of baseball and social history encompasses 19th-century game-throwing, the 1920s melange of politics, sports and gambling, and colorful portraits of legendary lawyers and sportswriters.

61zSPKXvyGL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_We learn that “hippodroming” — game-fixing — is as old as organized baseball itself, as supposed amateurs took “sporting men”’s money to drop flies and strike out. And we see the machinations of White Sox owner Charles Comiskey and baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis as they try to contain and manipulate the burgeoning Black Sox scandal.

Fountain, the author of two well-received sports books (on famed scribe Grantland Rice and on the history of spring training), is especially good on tracing the incestuous relationships between writers and their subjects — and on the wink-and-nod clubbiness and vicious newspaper competition that prevented the biggest baseball story of the (or perhaps any) era from leaking earlier.

“The Betrayal” is a treasure trove of bizarre incidents, including Keystone Kops detective efforts fueled with Scotch, fishing trips and apartment-sharing with a conspirator’s paramour. There are vignettes galore about larger-than-life characters like lawyer-jury rigger William Fallon and criminal mastermind Arnold Rothstein.  Fountain even manages to bring in “Jazz Age siren” Peggy Hopkins Joyce for a cameo.

Fountain also offers a reporting primer. The criminal trial of seven players and four gamblers began in torrid heat. How hot? Ninety-four degrees. (Fountain looked up that day’s weather report.)

From Attell (Abe: boxer, bagman and one of the saga’s host of double-crossers) to Zork (Carl: gambler and plotter), “The Betrayal” is a richly detailed page-turner.

There’s only one real rattlesnake here but plenty of two-legged ones in executive offices and judicial robes — as well as in dugouts.

“The Betrayal” is a must-read for anyone interested in American sports, morality and justice — and how they occasionally mesh.

Bill Kirtz is an associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University.

What I’ll be doing in the coming year

I thought I should say a few words about what I’m up to.

For the next year, I’ll be on sabbatical from Northeastern as I work on a book about how three business people who are passionate about newspapers are using their wealth to reinvent their papers and possibly to show the way for others. They are John Henry of The Boston Globe, Jeff Bezos of The Washington Post and Aaron Kushner of the Orange County Register. Kushner is no longer running the Register, but the print-centric orientation he took during his time at the helm has much to tell us.

My project actually became public two years ago when the Globe somehow got word. That item has proved useful in helping me to line up interviews. But only now am I embarking on the bulk of my reporting. I lost a year when I agreed to serve as interim director of Northeastern’s School of Journalism following the death of my friend and mentor Steve Burgard. Steve’s death was a difficult blow. In terms of the book, though, the delay may prove to be a good thing, as it seems to me that Henry’s and Bezos’ visions are still coming into focus.

I have a contract with University Press of New England and a year that should be (I hope) free of distractions. I’m excited to push ahead.

Best wishes to Maria Stephanos, the face of Fox 25

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Maria Stephanos tweeting during one of the 2012 presidential debates.

Good luck and best wishes to Maria Stephanos, who announced on Thursday that she’s leaving WFXT-TV (Channel 25). Garrett Quinn has the details at Boston magazine. Stephanos has been the face of Fox 25 News for a long time, and it’s not going to be the same without her.

As Quinn notes, Stephanos is Fox 25’s second recent high-profile departure. My Northeastern colleague Mike Beaudet, the station’s investigative reporter, recently announced he was stepping aside so that he could spend more time with us.

A conversation I’m going to miss

During the past two months I’ve had the privilege of teaching our Journalism Ethics and Issues class at Northeastern, in which I’ve had the opportunity to discuss the news and related issues with 10 bright, engaged young people. Our last class is Wednesday, but, for me, one of the highlights took place Monday, when we talked about the Charleston shootings.

I’m posting the slides I used for the last part of the class, but I don’t want to leave you with the wrong impression. It was the students who led all but the last hour of the three-and-a-half-hour class. I could easily have let them continue, but at some point I figured I had to start earning my salary.

The issues that engaged them the most were whether the media are more reluctant to label a white supremacist such as Dylann Roof a “terrorist” than, say, they would be with an Islamist extremist, and how much coverage the media should give to the perpetrator of a notorious crime versus the victims. Although no one took the view that the media should refrain from naming Roof and reporting on his motives, we were unanimous that the media should focus as much as possible on the lives of the victims and their families.

This has been a great group of students, and I’m going to miss them.

Jonathan Kaufman to lead Northeastern’s J-School


Jonathan Kaufman

Today is an exciting day for Northeastern University’s School of Journalism: We are finally able to announce that our new director will be Jonathan Kaufman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the executive editor of Bloomberg News. Kaufman, who is also a veteran of The Boston Globe and The Wall Street Journal, will be joining us on July 13.

Laura Krantz of the Globe covers the story here.

Jonathan’s arrival means that my stint as interim director will soon be coming to an end. I’ve been serving in that role since last September, filling in for Steve Burgard, who was taking a sabbatical to work on a book project. My term was unexpectedly extended last October when Steve died after a brief illness.

It’s been an interesting and sometimes difficult year to say the least. But Jonathan will be a worthy successor to Steve. We are all expecting great things.

Below is the official announcement, which is also online.

BOSTON — Northeastern University’s School of Journalism today announced the appointment of veteran business journalist and Bloomberg News Executive Editor Jonathan Kaufman as the school’s new director. Kaufman will begin his new role at Northeastern on July 13.

“I am thrilled to be joining Northeastern to help shape the next generation of journalists in the U.S. and globally, expand new media and digital innovation, and reflect and speak out about the challenges and opportunities journalism faces in the 21st century,” said Kaufman. “Northeastern has blazed a trail with its blend of classroom and experiential learning. I look forward to working with the faculty and students in the exciting years ahead.”

As Bloomberg’s Executive Editor for Company News, Kaufman oversees more than 300 reporters and editors worldwide covering business, health, science, education and international news for Bloomberg News newswire, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Bloomberg.com. Under his leadership, Kaufman’s team at Bloomberg has won numerous awards, including a 2015 Pulitzer Prize, several George Polk Awards, an Overseas Press Club Award, a Gerald Loeb Award, and an Education Writers Association Grand Prize.

Before joining Bloomberg, Kaufman held various positions at The Wall Street Journal, most recently as Senior Editor. During his time as the Journal‘s China Bureau Chief, Kaufman led coverage of the country’s emergence as a global economic superpower, the SARS outbreak, and environmental and social issues. A graduate of Yale University (BA) and Harvard (MA), Kaufman began his journalism career at The Boston Globe in the early 1980s, where he won a Pulitzer Prize as part of a team examining racism and job discrimination in Boston. He is the author of two books, “A Hole in the Heart of the World: Being Jewish in Eastern Europe” and “Broken Alliance: The Turbulent Times Between Blacks and Jews in America.”

“Jonathan is a gifted journalist and an acknowledged leader in his field,” said Bruce Ronkin, Interim Dean in the College of Arts, Media and Design, which houses the School of Journalism. “He brings decades of experience across traditional and digital media to Northeastern, along with deep knowledge of the business sector and a global worldview. He is a perfect fit for our school and the university.”

At the helm of the School of Journalism, Kaufman will lead an accomplished team of faculty, oversee the school’s undergraduate program serving 225 students, and continue to grow graduate programs in professional journalism and media innovation. He succeeds Associate Professor Dan Kennedy, who is serving as the school’s interim director after long-time School of Journalism director Stephen Burgard passed away in 2014.

Journalists, advocates back public-records reform

Journalists, political figures and others testified on Beacon Hill Tuesday in favor of legislation that would strengthen the state’s public-records law. Joshua Miller covers the story for The Boston Globe. In March, the School of Journalism faculty at Northeastern University called for public records reform. Below is a press release on Tuesday’s hearing from the New England First Amendment Coalition.

The New England First Amendment Coalition testified Tuesday in support of legislation that would improve access to public records in Massachusetts. Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director, spoke to a state legislative committee on behalf of the coalition, describing a lack of access to records and a strong need for reform.

“The ability to gather news and inform communities, to understand government and engage with elected leaders, is essential to the democratic process,” Silverman said. “Yet in my role as executive director I regularly speak with journalists and community members from throughout the state who are frustrated at the inability to obtain information about their government, information that is public by law but in reality is unobtainable and essentially secret.”

The Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight provided the hearing to allow testimony on House Bill 2772 and Senate Bill 1676. The legislation would eliminate technological and administrative barriers to the enforcement of the public records statute. It would also update the law to reflect advances in technology, require state agencies to have a “point person” to handle records requests, reduce fees for obtaining public records, and provide attorneys’ fees when agencies unlawfully block access to public information.

“With this legislation, for example, the concerned father who is getting the runaround from school officials over policies affecting his children will have a designated point-person to help fulfill his request,” Silverman said. “That same parent won’t be charged hundreds of dollars in copying costs when electronic files of those policies exist. The journalist from a small suburban newspaper who successfully appealed a denial of records but still hasn’t received those records can use the attorneys’ fees provision to help find a lawyer to litigate on his behalf.”

NEFAC’s full testimony can be read here. More information on the legislation and the coalition’s work as a leading member of the Massachusetts Freedom of Information Alliance — a group formed specifically to advocate for public records reform — can be read here.

The 11th element of journalism

UnknownIn Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel’s classic work “The Elements of Journalism,” they list nine (later revised to 10) qualities that define good journalism. These include principles such as an obligation to the truth (rather than mere he-said/she-said accuracy), verification of facts and independence.

This week I asked students in my Journalism Ethics and Issues class to come up with an 11th element. I am delighted with the results, which you can read by clicking here.