Media roundup: Censorship in LA; publicly funded news in NJ; and the death of a pioneer

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Update: Judge Walter has now lifted his order.

It’s a basic tenet of press freedom: news organizations may publish public documents they lawfully obtained even if they got those documents by mistake. And so editors at the Los Angeles Times thought they were on solid ground last week when they reported the details of a plea agreement reached between a corrupt police officer and a federal judge — even though the Times obtained that information because the government had accidentally uploaded the plea agreement to a public database.

Judge John Walter ordered the Times to remove parts of the article after a lawyer for the police officer, a narcotics detective named John Saro Balian, argued that his client’s life would be in danger. The Times complied, though its new celebrity editor, Norman Pearlstine, has vowed to fight. “There is sort of a constant effort to nibble away at the First Amendment,” Pearlstine told The New York Times, “and I think there is an obligation to respond to that and push back. Once it’s out in the public record, it is our decision to decide whether it is newsworthy and we should publish.”

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The Globe announces that its sexual-harassment investigation has concluded

Moments ago a source sent me a copy of an email that went out to Boston Globe staff members today about an internal investigation into allegations by former Boston.com editor Hilary Sargent that she had been sexually harassed by Globe editor Brian McGrory. The email is signed by Claudia Henderson, the Globe’s chief human resources officer, and Dan Krockmalnic, the Globe’s general counsel.

As you will see, we don’t learn much. But it sounds like, from the Globe’s point of view, it’s over. The key sentence: “While the investigation revealed a series of exchanges and interactions between Mr. McGrory and Ms. Sargent that were of a personal nature, the investigator found that they were initiated by and reciprocated by both parties, and did not violate our anti-harassment policy.”

The email in full is as follows.

Dear colleagues,

We write to let you know that the investigation conducted by outside counsel into the matter regarding Brian McGrory that was raised by Hilary Sargent has concluded. Over the past several weeks since these allegations first surfaced, the investigator has conducted a thorough review that included multiple interviews of both Mr. McGrory and Ms. Sargent. While the investigation revealed a series of exchanges and interactions between Mr. McGrory and Ms. Sargent that were of a personal nature, the investigator found that they were initiated by and reciprocated by both parties, and did not violate our anti-harassment policy.

We have addressed this personnel matter directly with Mr. McGrory, and will not comment further out of respect for the privacy of the individuals involved.

We very much appreciate that this has been a difficult time for the team.  We are grateful for the complete cooperation of Ms. Sargent and Mr. McGrory, and we look forward to moving ahead

As you all know, earlier in the year, we introduced EthicsPoint, a confidential reporting tool to assist employees in addressing workplace misconduct or violations. We also conducted anti-harassment training for managers and will continue to host these on an annual basis.

Thank you for your patience and, most importantly, for the crucial work you do here every day.

Claudia Henderson and Dan Krockmalnic

Friday updates

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A fledgling nonprofit aims to cover eight communities north of Boston

I want to call your attention to an interesting new project that’s in the works: North Suburban News, a nonprofit website that will cover eight communities north of Boston.

The journalist behind this project is Dan Marra, an alumnus of Patch and other local news organizations. I recently had a chance to meet with Dan and discuss his ideas, and I’ve agreed to serve on his volunteer advisory board. He’s also getting some advice and help from Paul Bass, the founder and editor of the New Haven Independent, one of the country’s leading nonprofit local news organizations.

North Suburban News will serve Malden, Melrose, Medford, Reading, Stoneham, Wakefield, Winchester and Woburn. There are existing newspapers in all of those communities, weeklies as well as the Daily Times Chronicle of Woburn, where I worked from 1979 to ’89, and the The Wakefield Daily Item. It’s my hope that North Suburban News will complement rather than compete with these papers — all of which are doing good work, all of which are understaffed.

Dan has started a Go Fund Me campaign, which you can learn about here. I’m republishing his mission statement below:

Community journalism is where I have spent most of my career. It’s where journalists can have the biggest impact. Journalists and the news organizations they work for are the eyes and ears of the community. They are the watchdogs that keep the community flourishing, they are the ones that hold elected officials accountable, and they are the ones tasked with reporting the news.

It is why I’m working to start a different news organization, one that focuses on the key aspects of our region — community news, education, local politics, and housing and development. It’s where we won’t just report the news, but research it. Where we will ensure that our residents are informed of the issues that are affecting the region.

This nonprofit entity will focus on the communities of Malden, Melrose, Medford, Reading, Stoneham, Wakefield, Winchester and Woburn, and will rely on donations and sponsorships from the community to produce impactful stories that will educate, inform and inspire our readers.

In this initial round of fundraising we are looking to raise enough money to launch the site, pay freelancers to help cover stories and market our articles on social media in order to get the word out about this news organization. Send me an email and let me know what you think: dmarra at northsuburbannews dot org.

The North Suburban News advisory board includes:

Caren Connelly
• Caren Connelly is the Executive Director of the Winchester Foundation for Educational Excellence (WFEE), which supports innovation and excellence in the Winchester Public Schools. Prior to moving into a career in non-profit management, Caren was a journalist for 20 years, working as an investigative reporter and, most recently as an executive producer at WBZ-TV.

Anthony Guardia
• Anthony Guardia is a graduate of Suffolk University and Suffolk University Law School. He has devoted his professional career to public service and working with local non-profits. He was the Chairman of the Wakefield School Committee at age 23 and is known for his outspoken advocacy for equity in state aid and various local initiatives. His experience in non-profit development started at HomeStart, a non-profit in Greater Boston devoted to ending and preventing homelessness. His successful efforts allowed HomeStart to expand services to new populations such as veterans. Anthony’s efforts have led to an expansion of programs, capital improvements, and new initiatives. Anthony lives in Wakefield with his wife, Theresa.

Dan Kennedy
• Dan Kennedy, a Medford resident, is an associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University and a commentator on WGBH-TV’s “Beat the Press.” His most recent book is “The Return of the Moguls: How Jeff Bezos and John Henry Are Remaking Newspapers for the Twenty-First Century.” His previous book, “The Wired City: Reimagining Journalism and Civic Life in the Post-Newspaper Age,” explores new forms of local online journalism.

Dan Marra
• Dan Marra, a Wakefield resident and publisher of North Suburban News, has spent his entire career working in some capacity in community journalism. He started at weekly newspapers covering the Bronx, before moving to a Gannett-owned newspaper in Westchester County, New York. When he moved to the Boston-region, he became an editor at Patch.com. He is a lifelong advocate for community news and understands the affect a strong community news organization has on a region. You can reach him at dmarra at northsuburbannews dot org.

Mark Micheli
• Mark Micheli is a multimedia journalist, editor, documentarian and adjunct professor at Emerson College. He is co-founder of Reel Partners Media where he creates short-form videos for media companies, other businesses and non-profits. He worked as the news editor at Boston.com; a reporter at the Boston Business Journal; managing editor of Providence Business News; and as an online editor at several innovative internet companies including Lycos, AT&T New Media Services and AOL’s Patch.com.

Meredith Pizzi
• Meredith Pizzi is the Founder and Executive Director of Roman Music Therapy Services, a music therapy agency serving children and adults with social, emotional, cognitive, behavioral, physical, and educational needs, located in Wakefield. She also co-founded Raising Harmony: Music Therapy for Young Children, an organization that provides training to music therapists, parents and early childhood professionals on the use of music therapy strategies and tools with young children. Meredith is a member of the local  Chamber of Commerce and her organization partners with many local for-profit, non-profit and government’s agencies. Meredith has a a Masters in Public Administration from Suffolk University.

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Facing up to the damage wrought by Facebook

The reason that Facebook is so evil is that Mark Zuckerberg is so good. According to Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, the former wunderkind has drunk deeply of his own Kool-Aid and genuinely believes that his creation is a benevolent force in the world. “Zuckerberg has a vibrant moral passion,” Vaidhyanathan writes in his new book, “Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy.” “But he lacks a historical sense of the horrible things that humans are capable of doing to each other and the planet.”

From propagating fake news to violating our privacy, from empowering authoritarian regimes to enabling anti-Semitic advertising, Facebook has become the social network everyone loves to hate. Vaidhyanathan, whose previous books include “The Googlization of Everything — and Why We Should Worry” (2011), has produced a valuable guide, written in clear, non-academic prose, to the monstrous force Facebook has become. And if his overview of what’s gone wrong with Facebook will seem familiar to those of us who obsess about these things, it nevertheless serves as a worthwhile introduction to the Zuckerborg and all that it has wrought. If only Vaidhyanathan had some compelling ideas on what to do about it. If only any of us did.

Read the rest at The Arts Fuse. And talk about this post on, well, you know, Facebook.

A project that Ellen Clegg and I will be working on

Don Seiffert of the Boston Business Journal reports that Boston Globe editorial-page editor Ellen Clegg has announced her retirement, and he notes that sports editor Joe Sullivan recently said he would retire as well.

I suspect the sports section will be just fine. Clegg’s shoes, on the other hand, may prove to be difficult to fill. A longtime Globe employee, Clegg followed Peter Canellos, an exceptionally thoughtful editor who took a top job at Politico after leaving the Globe several years ago. Clegg proved to be an innovator both online and in print. More important, she has a close working relationship with owners John and Linda Henry, which has really mattered given the Henrys’ ongoing interest in the editorial pages. You’ll find a synopsis of those innovations in an interview I did with Clegg for the Nieman Journalism Lab earlier this year.

And now for some personal news. For the past several months Clegg and I have been talking about working together on a project, probably a textbook about opinion journalism. I’ve known for a while that she was retiring — the project is not something I could take on if she’d stayed at the Globe given the conflict of interest with my work at “Beat the Press” and WGBH News. So I’m glad Clegg’s departure is finally out in the open.

Although we’ve sketched out a few ideas, we are a long way from producing anything. She’s not leaving the Globe until mid-August. I just wanted to let you know that Ellen and I will be working together before you heard it from anyone else.

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Up with Hannity: Analyzing Kavanaugh with Trump’s most vociferous defender

Sean Hannity. Photo (cc) 2015 by Gage Skidmore.

Monday was a big day for Sean Hannity, the conspiracy-minded Fox News Channel host. After all, it’s not every day that the president of the United States — even one you’re as close to as Hannity is to Donald Trump — schedules the unveiling of his choice for the Supreme Court in order to give you a ratings boost. According to Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair, some White House staff members believed Trump did exactly that. Sherman tweeted that Trump may have chosen 9 p.m. at the behest of his sleazy new communications director, Bill Shine, the former head of Fox News.

Despite this propitious opportunity, Hannity didn’t really deliver the goods, prattling on for an hour with his usual talking points and his usual guests. He didn’t quite come off as bored, but his anger and his enthusiasm seemed rote. Indeed, there was a play-acting quality to the proceedings in general. Both Republicans and Democrats know that the president’s choice, Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh, is pretty much a lock to win confirmation.

Read the rest at WGBHNews.org. And talk about this post on Facebook.

The 2018 New England Muzzle Awards: Spotlighting 10 who diminish free speech

It’s all about Trump. And so it should come as no surprise that the 2018 New England Muzzle Awards have taken on a distinctly orange hue, singling out — among other offenses — thuggish attempts by President Donald Trump and his minions to suppress speech they found embarrassing.

One of those coveted Muzzles is being presented to the president himself, who, through his lawyer, Michael Cohen, threatened a member of the Harvard Lampoon with expulsion over a harmless prank. The other goes to former Trump communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who raised the specter of a libel suit against a student who’d written a critical op-ed piece about The Mooch in the Tufts campus newspaper.

On a considerably lesser scale, former president Barack Obama should be on the lookout for a golden Muzzle in his mailbox as well.

Read the rest at WGBH News. And talk about this post on Facebook.

Eagle-Tribune and affiliated papers north of Boston put up for sale

The CNHI newspaper chain is up for sale. The company, with newspapers in 22 states, owns several properties in Massachusetts, including The Eagle-Tribune of North Andover, The Daily News of Newburyport, The Salem News and the Gloucester Daily Times. CNHI merged with Raycom Media last September. What prompts the sale, apparently, is that Raycom is being acquired by a television company that wants to be rid of its newspapers.

CNHI, based in Montgomery, Alabama, is owned by public employee pension funds in that state. Its papers have been operated on the cheap, with staff members being subjected to unpaid furloughs over the years. But we are now in an era of defining deviancy down with respect to chain newspaper owners, which means that the pending sale is nothing to celebrate. The alternatives are likely to be bad or worse.

The logical buyers would be either of two national chains: GateHouse Media, which owns more than 100 papers in Eastern Massachusetts, or Digital First Media, which owns the Boston Herald, The Sun of Lowell and the Sentinel & Enterprise of Fitchburg. GateHouse, at least, has been getting some favorable attention lately. Not so much for Digital First.

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38 years down the road

Now here’s something sobering to think about. Recently I had a chance to talk about “The Return of the Moguls” with Phil Gallagher of “BNews,” part of Burlington Cable Access Television. And Phil informed me that the first time I was on his show was 38 years ago, when he was a Burlington selectman and I was a reporter for The Daily Times Chronicle of Woburn. I guess we should both be grateful that we’re still upright.

Herald cuts continue as Digital First outsources design jobs to Colorado

Jack Sullivan of CommonWealth Magazine has the latest on cutbacks at the Boston Herald. Digital First Media, which bought the Herald earlier this year, is centralizing the paper’s advertising design and news layout operations at its headquarters in Boulder, Colorado.

It’s a rare instance of Digital First making cuts that don’t directly affect news coverage, and it’s become standard operating procedure at newspaper chains. For instance, GateHouse Media, which owns more than 100 newspapers in Eastern Massachusetts, outsources much of its design work to a facility it owns in Austin, Texas. Still, it’s terrible for the people who are losing their jobs — estimated at 10 to 15 in news design alone.

Then again, there’s not much in the way of reporting resources at the Herald that Digital First can still cut. Sullivan writes writes that there are now fewer than a dozen reporters at the once-robust tabloid. Wow.

More details in this Twitter thread from Herald sports copy editor Jon Courture. Click here to read the whole thing.

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