Tag Archives: Northeastern

Laura Crimaldi moves on to the AP

Laura Crimaldi

Congratulations and best wishes to Laura Crimaldi, who left the Boston Herald this week and will soon start a one-year temporary job at the Associated Press’ bureau in Providence, where she’ll focus on law enforcement and the legal system.

I’ve gotten to know Laura through her work with the New England First Amendment Center at Northeastern University, for whom I occasionally contribute blog items. Laura is a director of the center, and has done a great job of re-energizing the blog.

Laura’s married to longtime Herald photographer Mark Garfinkel, who worked with Mrs. Media Nation at the Beverly Times back in the day. (The Times was later subsumed into the Salem News.) I don’t know if it’s a small world, but Greater Boston is definitely a small town.

Mapping their way to cheap eats

Please have a look at my students’ Google map project in my Reinventing the News class. Every semester, this is always one of my favorites: students fan out into the neighborhhoods around Northeastern to take pictures, write blog posts and plot them on a map. This time, they chose to review cheap-eats places in and around the Back Bay.

The project is currently near the top of Boston.com’s Your Town/Back Bay site (Northeastern has a partnership with the Boston Globe to provide content to Your Town). I think the students did a great job. They took it seriously, they had fun and they learned something about how free, easy-to-use online tools such as mapping can enhance journalism.

Update: It’s featured prominently on the Your Town/Roxbury site as well.

Social media and journalism

Tomorrow I’ll be giving a talk to Northeastern alumni at the Burlington campus as part of the NU@Noon series. My topic will be “Social Media: The Connective Tissue Between News Outlets and Their Communities.” I’ve prepared some slides and plan to riff on them a bit before turning it over to questions. If you’d like a sneak preview, here you go.

Nick Daniloff on WikiLeaks

Nick Daniloff

My Northeastern colleague Nicholas Daniloff, a former foreign correspondent for U.S. News & World Report and UPI, was interviewed by the university press office earlier this week about the WikiLeaks story.

Daniloff offers some sharp insights, arguing that the document dump was more good than bad, and that the New York Times acted responsibly by giving the White House an opportunity to request redactions — some of which the Times went along with, some of which it didn’t. Daniloff adds:

[O]ver the long run, a great deal of this will be forgotten or swept under the rug, although older diplomats may well tell young diplomats, “Be careful with the Americans. They are so leaky that what you say may eventually come out. Be discreet; after all, you wouldn’t make copies of your love letters would you?”

Also worth reading: retired Times executive editor Max Frankel (via Jack Shafer), who, writing in the Guardian, offers this no-kidding observation:

Governments must finally acknowledge that secrets shared with millions of “cleared” officials, including lowly army clerks, are not secret. They must decide that the random rubber-stamping of millions of papers and computer files each year does not a security system make.

Meanwhile, Interpol has heightened its efforts to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on sexual-assault charges. This Times story makes it sound like the agency isn’t trying very hard. It makes you wonder whether Western governments truly want to bring Assange to justice — or are just trying to discredit him.

Northeastern University photo by Lauren McFalls.

For Democrats, a couple of taxing situations

When the word came down Tuesday night that Patrice Tierney, wife of U.S. Rep. John Tierney, would plead guilty to federal tax-fraud charges, many of us political junkies were dumbstruck. With exotic elements like $7 million in illicit foreign gambling profits and a ne’er-do-well brother holed up in Antigua, it was not your typical political scandal.

Today’s news that Suzanne Bump, the Democratic candidate for state auditor, has tax problems of her own may prove to be more important come Election Day. More about that in a moment. First, back to the Tierneys.

Republicans and the media are both calling on Tierney, a Salem Democrat, to reveal what he knew and when he knew it with regard to his wife’s tax woes. They’re absolutely right. As soon as possible, Tierney should sit down for a wide-ranging news conference and answer any and all questions. And woe be to him if any of those answers turn out to fall short of full disclosure.

But the media have an independent role here, too, and I hope they are working on it even as I write this. For me, the big question is whether the Tierney scandal resulted in any taxes being unpaid. It would appear that it did not.

Based on the stories I’ve seen, it seems that Patrice Tierney’s crime consisted of accurately reporting her brother’s income, but labeling it as legal commissions rather than as ill-gotten gains. Congressman Tierney said in a statement that “there are not any allegations of any income-tax loss to the government.” Nor are federal prosecutors seeking any sort of restitution. Along with the question of the congressman’s involvement, that is the big issue the media should be investigating.

Will this endanger Tierney’s re-election prospects? Put it this way: North Shore Republicans are eating their collective heart out that their candidate isn’t Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins or former congressman Peter Torkildsen, whom Tierney defeated in 1996.

Instead, Tierney is facing William Hudak, an extremist who has compared President Obama to Osama bin Laden and who has flirted with the birther movement, which believes Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States and is thus ineligible to serve as president. For good measure, Hudak’s campaign wrongly claimed last winter that U.S. Sen. Scott Brown had endorsed him.

Unless there are more Tierney-related bombshells, it is still difficult to imagine a Hudak victory.

The Bump matter, though it does not involve anything as spectacular as federal charges and foreign intrigue, is likely to have a more deleterious effect on her campaign for state auditor. A veteran political figure who most recently served in Gov. Deval Patrick’s cabinet, she was caught claiming both Great Barrington and Boston as her principal residence, saving more than $6,000 in Boston property taxes.

The story, which appears on the front page of today’s Globe, was reported by my Northeastern colleague Walter Robinson’s students. Bump insists she did nothing wrong, but the state Department of Revenue says otherwise.

The difference between Bump and Tierney is that Bump’s actions, whether legal or not, definitely cost taxpayers. They raise serious questions about her ability to act as a watchdog over how state agencies spend our money.

What’s more, the Republican candidate, Mary Z. Connaughton, is credible and visible. As a former member of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, she was an outspoken advocate for cracking down on runaway spending at the Big Dig. Moreover, if it looks like Democrats are going to do well on Nov. 2 (no sure thing), a lot of voters — even Democrats — may want to elect a Republican to keep an eye on the books.

The paradox of the Tierney and Bump stories is that the more serious matter is less likely to have an effect on the election. More broadly, though, both stories put Democrats on the defensive at a time when they can least afford it.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

John Odgren is hospitalized; Paul Levy apologizes

Two late-breaking developments:

  • John Odgren, convicted last week of killing a fellow student, James Alenson, at Lincoln Sudbury Regional High School, has been committed to Bridgewater State Hospital, reports Northeastern criminologist James Alan Fox. Someone, at least, is approaching this case with some compassion.
  • Paul Levy, president and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, has issued a statement from the board and a personal apology for the behavior that led to a kerfuffle last week. What exactly happened remains murky, but perhaps this is all we’re entitled to know. It seems to me that he’s handled this as straightforwardly as can be expected. He remains as respected a public citizen as we have in Boston, and I hope this is the end of it.

From talking about it to just doing it


When I first started teaching a course called Reinventing the News a few years ago, I envisioned it mainly as a seminar. The idea was that we would look at some case studies of where the news business might be headed and blog about it.

I quickly realized that wasn’t good enough. The spark for me was a student who had just come back from her co-op job at the Patriot Ledger of Quincy. She had assumed the most complicated tool she’d have to use would be a notebook. Instead, she was tossed a point-and-shoot digital camera and told to teach herself how to capture and edit video. She liked it so much she ended up changing her career goals from print to video.

It was with some trepidation that I began adding three weeks of Web video to Reinventing a year and a half ago. First, I had to teach myself how to do it. And it required exposing some vulnerabilities. I knew some students would be starting from zero, but I also knew that others were already better at video journalism than I’d ever be. Nevertheless, it proved to be well worth it.

Last week we finished the most complex version of Reinventing I’ve offered, and my students had to pull together a variety of skills for their final project. The assignment was to use free online tools to create a multimedia story. The elements:

  • An 800- to 1,000-word story about a digital media project that had caught their eye, written up as a blog post with relevant links.
  • A slide show of six to 10 still photos, posted to Flickr and embedded in their blog.
  • A two- to five-minute video they shot and edited, posted to YouTube and also embedded in their blog.
  • An explanation of how they used social networks such as Twitter and Facebook to find sources and report their story.

At the end of it all, they were asked to note the location of their story on a Google map and link to their blog post. The result is the map I’ve embedded above. I invite you to explore. These young journalists did a terrific job, and I am very proud of them.

If you click on “View Reinventing the News: Final Projects in a larger map,” directly under the embedded map, you’ll find the list of students on the left-hand side. Click on a name to find his or her spot on the map, each one of which is linked directly to their project. Hmmm … Google could make this a little bit simpler, eh?

I’ll be teaching Reinventing again this fall, and I will continue to refine. My first thought is that I ought to dump the brief wiki exercise I offer and instead delve more deeply into how to handle comments. Any thoughts you have would be welcome.