By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Jim Haggerty receives a top honor from New England’s newspaper association

Last week I received some very good news — Jim Haggerty, the editor of The Daily Times Chronicle in Woburn, had been selected to receive the Bob Wallack Community Journalism Award from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. I worked for Jim from 1979-’89, and I was delighted that I was asked to say a few words. Here’s the text of my remarks:

Congratulations to Jim Haggerty for winning the Bob Wallack Community Journalism Award. The award “recognizes an individual who has an exceptional record of commitment to community journalism.” Through his work at The Daily Times Chronicle and through his years of mentoring young journalists, Jim, along with the entire Haggerty family, have shown that they are committed to the highest ideals of local news.

I first met Jim in 1979, when I began working as a part-time reporter covering the town of Winchester. A few months later, after I graduated from Northeastern, Jim hired me. I learned from him and his family what community journalism was about — telling tough stories when they need to be told, but doing it with compassion and with an understanding that holding local government officials, business people and others accountable is not incompatible with treating them like human beings. It’s a lesson I’ve tried to carry with me throughout my own career.

During my 10 years at The Daily Times Chronicle, the paper covered the years-long story of Woburn’s toxic waste tragedy comprehensively and courageously. Families in East Woburn claimed that contaminated drinking water had resulted in their children contracting leukemia and other illnesses. Several of them died. The pressure on Jim and his family from city officials to tone down the coverage must have been overwhelming. But that never trickled down to those of us who were covering the story. Jim’s dedication to journalism and truth-telling during those years was inspiring.

These days, local news is in crisis, as the internet has undermined advertising revenues while corporate chains and hedge funds are slashing the newspapers that they own. The residents of Woburn and the surrounding communities are lucky that The Daily Times Chronicle is still family-owned, still doing good work and still dedicated to the principles that have sustained it for the past hundred years. Best wishes to you, Jim — and good luck to you and your family as you embark on the next hundred.

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  1. Thanks, Dan, for the reminder that it was good local journalism that set the stage for “A Civil Action,” a truly great book and a good movie. I started reading the book in bed at night but fell asleep twice after only reading 25 pages or so. But it was so compelling that I got up at 5 on a Sunday morning, made my coffee, and read the book at one sitting. I lent it to my wife’s uncle. A few days later he left a message on my answering machine, “Jim…you owe me a night’s sleep!” One of my daughters found it similarly engrossing.

    Often big companies, even big non-profits, feel they are powerful enough to simply do as they wish, local consequences be damned. Local journalists and activists have a different point of view.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    nahantjim, Jonathan Harr’s book is one for the ages, even though I have some quibbles. I disagree about the movie. It was not good.

    • Thank you, Dan, for the link and the much fuller account of events in Woburn. My only defense is my sense that the movie might have raised consciousness of environmental matters to some degree. I have always encouraged folks to read the book and noted that the book was much much better than the movie.

      My secret hope had been that Jonathan Haar would write the Market Basket saga… now THERE’S a story that needs telling.

  3. nahantjim

    Just so you know…I actually mentioned that idea to Arthur T, personally.

    A friend of mine from town was his attorney and I insisted that she go to the opening of the Lynn MB…and take me with her so that I could meet him.

    I told him there was a book to be written about his story. His response was interesting. It was, in effect, “My job is to create a business that treats its employees with respect and pays them fairly while at the same time providing its customers with good products and good service at a reasonable price and to do so profitably…because ‘success’ flows from that combination. I’m not interested in books about me and I wouldn’t want to foment any more pain or discord within my family.”

    I felt that his was a reasonable and heartfelt response. Admirable, really. But, still…I hope there is a Jonathan Haar out there somewhere, doing all the footwork and writing one of the best stories of American capitalism of which I am aware.

    • Dan Kennedy

      I wonder how Market Basket is doing these days. Seems like life for them must have been complicated by the arrival of Wegmans, another good family-owned chain.

      • Dunno…but Wegmans is not a factor in these parts. MB’s concept is so strong that I’m sure they’ll do well in competition with anyone.

        The MB manager in Lynn started with them as a bag boy when he was in high school.

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