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

GBH News general manager Pam Johnston is leaving at the end of the month

Pam Johnston. Photo © 2021 by Dominic Gagliardo Chavez/GBH.

GBH News general manager Pam Johnston is leaving the station at the end of the month. A friend was filling me in even as Aidan Ryan was reporting on her departure for The Boston Globe. GBH News comprises the public media behemoth’s local programming across television, radio and digital. On the radio, GBH (89.7 FM) lags well behind WBUR (90.9 FM). Both stations emphasize NPR programming and local news; ’BUR is in the midst of buyouts and layoffs, and GBH may not be far behind.

Johnston’s announcement comes nearly four months after the Globe’s Mark Shanahan reported that GBH was in turmoil. Based on my own conversations with current and former station employees, I know that Johnston had both supporters and detractors among the staff. “With new leadership at GBH, there are new opportunities and new strategies for our newsroom,” Johnston said in an email to the staff that was obtained by Ryan. “I’m excited about what comes next. I will continue watching, listening, and cheering you on every step of the way.”

Ellen Clegg and I interviewed Johnston on the “What Works” podcast in March 2022. My standard disclosure: I was a paid contributor to GBH News from 1998 to 2022, mostly as a panelist on “Beat the Press with Emily Rooney,” the award-winning media program that was canceled under Johnston’s watch in 2021.

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Mein Gott


  1. Mike Chapman

    You have to wonder if she clashed with Jim Braude, who has become the 800-lb gorilla over on Guest Street. When I was freelancing there several years ago, ‘GBH had just hired a smart, accomplished woman from WNET to run news. When I came back a couple of weeks later, she was gone, her tenure lasting a bit longer than Mish Michaels’, but not much.

  2. M.P. Feitelberg

    What I’ve never understood is how Southeastern Massachusetts seems not to exist there. Now-’BUR boss Dan Ackerman penned some great Brayton Point bulk-scrap coverage for WCAI when the Missouri abutters’ colonization of our 13-acre, then-DCR-owned Somerset Quay and Bulkhead menaced three of the state’s Major Watershed Aquifers. (Including #2, not to mention one of its 97% source, our “ultra-federally-protected Wild and Scenic Taunton River.”) But after his ‘BUR promotion, his interest in “the pipeline” from the nation’s largest Superfund site went “poof.”

    Eleven months ago, nobody so much as blinked when EPA and Mass. Energy (“and Environmental Affairs”) regulators “forgot” to include in the nationwide cleanup either of Freetown’s massive, decades-felonious coal-ash dumps. Not only does New England hold but five — others being Easthampton, Mass. and SW/SE corners of NH, respectively), but our “faux station” — the elusive “People’s Radio” (based in Providence) had no time for interns, vols or freelancers to address salient concerns.

    Like our imperiled MWAs, many of us tske issue with regulators’ post-completion rubber-stamping of too-little/too-late “cleanups”; and the withholding/redirection of state and federal funds for USGS water-quality testing and storm-surge mitigation. Plus we’ve 2012’s criminally high hexavalent chromium levels at every waterfront groundwater-well at Brayton Point, long the Eastern Seaboard’s biggest-and-worst coal-fired power plant.

    That’s a former Pacific Gas & Electric op, as is The North Shore’s sub-rosa Salem Acres plant. At least, if we can trust the joint 2012 study by Physicians for Social Responsibility with The Sierra Club’s EarthJustice research unit. It’s uncanny, though, how the second-largest regional Mass. DEP office overlooks things, much like DCR. You’d never know that Bristol County held incomparable liquid assets; or that DEP and DCR are well-aware that off-roaders persist in decimating our Bioreserve’s pivotal and rare species of plants, animals and bugs. A shame, really, that Deval Patrick’s crew reset a the hexavalent chromium standard as “Greater Than 1 Part per Billion,” period.

    Nor can we fathom how they forgot the name Erin Brockovich. Even EPA HQ has somehow misplaced whichever data Region 1 held for Massachusetts coal-plant sampling wells, as has Mass. DEP’s Lakeville and HQ offices. Meanwhile, we’ve Heavy-Metal and industrial pollutants fouling both halves of Watuppa Pond — by far the Commonwealth’s largest naturally-occurring stillwater body. Inevitably, as at Plymouth and Barnstable Counties, the “redevelopers” are hacking and strip-mining high-silica sand from Bristol County. Which mineral commodity is now the globe’s #2.)

    Huge jobs-creation potential here, though, in “Clean Energy,” especially with the chiefs of public stations like New Bedford’s “The People’s Radiiio” (ever-scant on call-letter and transmitter-frequency announcements), whose chief logged a multi-year Frontline “sabbatical.” No, just as expected, our chums from Pilgrim [Media] Strategies (“Advancing private-sector interests in a public-sector world”) have cut that Wheeler School partner’s feed to the Acushnet River transmitter of Purchase, N.Y.’s TownSquare Ignite!, LLC. Which station had left the campus of U. Mass. Dartmouth to “raise its profile” at that Whaling City landmark, the newly-renovated Star Store.

    Now to be a Best Buy, oddly enough. Which former state tenant, the U. Mass. Dartmouth College of Art and Design, had largely relocated in the Swain School merger. Why support two storied programs, if cultural assets qualify an urban waterfront for environmental protection? And if you can merge them, starve them of funding, and then banish that new entity to a strip mall, then you’ve a “U Mass. Dartmouth” asset to cannibalize for your favorite campaign do or. (lSurely 2023’s last-minute end to state funds for The New Bedford Folk Festival, which hit just as the Zeiterion Theater closed for a multi-year renovations, was but a fluke. (Life in Graftachusetts.)

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