GBH News’ just-announced political show conjures up ties with The Boston Phoenix

As an alumnus of “Beat the Press,” which was canceled over the summer, I’ve been curious about what GBH-TV (Channel 2) would do about filling the Friday 7 p.m. time slot.

The station ran a local politics show during the fall that was supposed to end on Election Day but was instead extended through the rest of the year. Now it looks like that show is being made permanent, with a new name — “Talking Politics.” The show will be focused on the suddenly hot Massachusetts gubernatorial race.

Although I don’t know whether it’s deliberate (I suspect it was), the name conjures up the connections between GBH News and the late, great Boston Phoenix. The host, Adam Reilly, used to be the Phoenix’s “Talking Politics” columnist. GBH News senior editor Peter Kadzis, who’ll be part of the new show, was the editor of the Phoenix for many years.

Other Phoenix alums associated with GBH News include former “Talking Politics” columnists Jon Keller and David Bernstein as well as civil-liberties columnist Harvey Silverglate. And, of course, yours truly. Might we consider renaming my GBH media column “Don’t Quote Me”?

The full press release follows.

BOSTON (December 2, 2021) – GBH News today announced the launch of Talking Politics, a new weekly show that will take a deep dive into local politics, with a special focus on the 2022 Massachusetts gubernatorial race. Hosted by GBH News politics reporter Adam Reilly, the panel-based series will feature conversations with local political newsmakers, influencers, analysts and activists. GBH News City Hall reporter Saraya Wintersmith, Statehouse Bureau reporter Mike Deehan and politics editor Peter Kadzis will also be key contributors. Talking Politics debuts on Friday, December 3 at 7:00 p.m. on GBH 2 and streaming on the GBH News YouTube Channel.

“Audiences throughout Massachusetts know that the issues being debated on Beacon Hill have the potential to directly impact their lives. And it’s not just the issues, but the individuals who are shaping these discussions,” said Pam Johnston, general manager of news at GBH. “With this week’s announcement from Governor Baker that he will not seek reelection, the race to lead Massachusetts is wide open. Talking Politics will bring audiences compelling conversations and deeply reported local journalism about political issues across the Commonwealth with the 2022 gubernatorial race at center stage.”

Talking Politics builds on the foundation created by Boston’s Race Into History, the pop-up television show integral to GBH News’ multi-platform initiative focused on the 2021 Boston Mayoral Race. In each week’s half-hour episode, Talking Politics will take a broader look at state and local politics and their impact on the issues that matter. The series will investigate a wide range of political developments across the Commonwealth including the unfolding gubernatorial race, the new leadership in place in key Massachusetts cities, and the administration of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.

The debut episode will look at Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s decision to not seek reelection in 2022 after leading the Commonwealth for two terms. Host Adam Reilly and guests will also provide an update into the campaigns of the race’s declared candidates, Republican Geoff Diehl, and Democrats Danielle Allen, Ben Downing, and Sonia Chang-Díaz.

Audiences can stay up-to-date with local political coverage by subscribing to the GBH News politics newsletter. GBH News has been expanding its political coverage over the past year including a multi-platform journalism initiative focused on Boston’s mayoral race and regular appearances by elected officials on Boston Public Radio.

 

With Alden on the prowl again, it’s time to stop hedge funds from destroying newspapers

Photo (cc) 2007 by Mike

It’s rather late in the game to ask whether hedge funds can be stopped from buying up every last one of our local newspapers. After all, about half of us are already stuck with a paper that is owned by, or is in debt to, the likes of Alden Global Capital (Tribune Publishing and MediaNews Group), Apollo Global Management (Gannett) and Chatham Asset Management (McClatchy).

Still, with Alden having now set its sights on Lee Enterprises, a chain that owns 77 daily newspapers in 26 states, we need to take steps aimed at preventing what is already a debacle from devolving into a catastrophe.

Read the rest at GBH News.

Chris Cuomo has left the building

From Oliver Darcy and Brian Stelter of CNN:

CNN said Tuesday that it has suspended Chris Cuomo “indefinitely” after new documents released this week indicated that the anchor was more intimately involved than previously known in helping his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, craft a defense amid a flurry of sexual misconduct allegations.

I can’t imagine Cuomo will be back, but who knows?

Earlier: CNN needs to punish Chris Cuomo severely — and to consider firing him

Talking local news with Michael Azevedo

On the podcast “Making Media Now,” host Michael Azevedo and I talk about the local news crisis and what to do about it. Please give it a listen.

CNN needs to punish Chris Cuomo severely — and to consider firing him

Chris Cuomo

I’ve been defending CNN’s Chris Cuomo ever since we learned that he had been advising his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, about how to respond to allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

It’s not that I like his program especially; I don’t. It’s that the misguided decision to let Chris host Andrew during the early days of the COVID pandemic was more a failing by management than it was something that could be blamed on Chris, and that it wasn’t fair to criticize him for acting like a brother.

No more. Monday’s revelations show that Chris Cuomo went beyond giving his brother advice, and even went beyond strategizing with other members of Andrew Cuomo’s team. According to the newly released documents, Chris Cuomo abused his position at CNN, and for that he needs to pay a steep price — maybe a long suspension, maybe termination.

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“How in the world does Chris Cuomo survive this?” asks Tom Jones of Poynter, taking note of the sordid details:

According to documents released Monday by the New York attorney general’s office, Chris used his media sources to seek out information about women who accused his brother of sexual misconduct. He then relayed some of that information to his brother’s top advisers.

Writing in The Atlantic, David A. Graham — who believes that Chris Cuomo should resign or be fired — offered this:

When Chris Cuomo simply offered advice to staff members, he failed to observe the rules CNN had set for his private behavior. But by gathering information from “sources” and passing it to his brother’s staff, Cuomo committed the more egregious step of directly mixing the journalistic work of calling sources and gathering information with his personal, familial commitments. He was wise not to go further into the realm of “oppo research” [something Chris told investigators he did not do], but he still went far beyond the bounds of propriety.

Chris Cuomo hosts an opinionated talk show that is only peripherally tied to journalism. But as Graham notes, he does, in fact, act as a journalist, and people are going to return his calls when he tells them that he’s working on a story. His behavior violated multiple rules of “The Elements of Journalism,” including reporting the truth, maintaining independence from those we cover and serving as an independent monitor of power.

I tuned in Cuomo’s show Monday at 9 p.m. to see whether he’d be on and if he’d address it. There he was, but he made no mention of the revelations — not at the beginning, not at the end.

I’ll give him this much — he seemed every bit his normal self, even though he had to know his career was hanging in the balance.

CNN seems to be taking the new allegations seriously. “The thousands of pages of additional transcripts and exhibits that were released today by the NY Attorney General deserve a thorough review and consideration,” CNN said in a statement. “We will be having conversations and seeking additional clarity about their significance as they relate to CNN over the next several days.”

The next step is to act. I doubt that we’ll see Chris Cuomo in the anchor chair tonight. The question is whether we’ll ever see him there again — or should.

Northeastern’s School of Journalism backs bills to address the local news crisis

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier

Our faculty at Northeastern University’s School of Journalism recently voted unanimously to support two pieces of legislation aimed at addressing the local news crisis — a bill to make it easier for newspapers to become nonprofit organizations and a resolution that asks Congress to help reverse the decline of community journalism.

The bills were introduced in the House today by U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif., and co-sponsored by Reps. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and David Cicilline, D-R.I.

“As local newspapers are being bought up and taken over by large corporations, it is incumbent on Congress to act to protect this public good,” said DeSaulnier in a press release. “My legislation would do just that and ensure newspapers in every community can continue to provide high-quality local coverage that millions of American rely on and deserve.”

Professor Jonathan Kaufman, director of Northeastern’s School of Journalism, said, “The hollowing-out and disappearance of local news organizations imperils journalism, communities and our democracy. These measures provide a financial lifeline and tools for the next generation of journalists to pursue new models and innovation that bring more local news to communities.”

The bills are not related to the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, which would provide tax credits to subscribers, advertisers and publishers. The tax credit that would benefit publishers is part of President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation. DeSaulnier’s bills, by contrast, would address the problem that journalism is not among the activities that qualifies for nonprofit status, even though the IRS has approved such status for many news organizations over the years.

The full press release issued by Rep. DeSaulnier’s office follows.

Congressman DeSaulnier Introduces Legislative Package to Support and Preserve Local Journalism

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), along with his colleagues Congressman Ed Perlmutter (CO-07), Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08), and Congressman David Cicilline (RI-01) introduced two pieces of legislation aimed at supporting and protecting local journalism, and honoring its role in bolstering our democracy, holding government accountable, and informing the electorate. The Saving Local News Act (H.R. 6068) would make it easier for newspapers to become non-profits, allowing them the flexibility to focus less on maximizing profits and more on producing quality content. The local news resolution (H.Res. 821) recognizes the importance of local media outlets to society and expresses the urgent need for Congress to help stop the decline of local media outlets.

“Local journalism has been the bedrock of American democracy for centuries. I have seen firsthand how journalists for local newspapers have kept our community informed, educated voters, and held power to account,” said Congressman DeSaulnier. “As local newspapers are being bought up and taken over by large corporations, it is incumbent on Congress to act to protect this public good. My legislation would do just that and ensure newspapers in every community can continue to provide high-quality local coverage that millions of American rely on and deserve.”

“Local and accurate sources of news are becoming more and more important for our community and our country. I believe Congress has a role to play to ensure legitimate media outlets are able to better adapt to the changing media landscape and continue to inform Americans in every community,” said Congressman Perlmutter.

“An informed American public is essential to strong democracy,” said Congressman Raskin. “We cannot allow worldwide propaganda and conspiracy theories to replace hard local news based on local reportage. I’m proud to join Rep. DeSaulnier in introducing this important legislation that will give local news the flexibility it needs to thrive in a dangerously toxic media environment.”

“Over the past 15 years, one in five newspapers have closed, and the number of journalists working for newspapers has been slashed in half. We now live in a country in which at least 200 counties have no local newspapers at all,” said Congressman Cicilline. “This crisis in American journalism has led to the crises we are seeing today in our democracy and civic life. We cannot let this trend continue because if it does, we risk permanently compromising the news organizations that are essential to our communities, holding the government and powerful corporations accountable, and sustaining our democracy. I’m proud to support this resolution and the Saving Local News Act and thank Congressman DeSaulnier for his leadership and partnership in this work.”

“We commend Congressman DeSaulnier for introducing this important piece of legislation that recognizes the importance of nonprofit journalism to the American society. At a time when news deserts are a growing concern, we must ensure that we support all newsrooms in their efforts to provide high-quality journalism to their local communities. This journalism bill that would allow non-profit newsrooms to treat advertising revenue as nontaxable income could be helpful to a number of publishers,” said David Chavern, President and CEO, News Media Alliance.

“Community newspapers are exploring many new models for sustainability. Our newsrooms realize that without us, whole communities will lose their center of gravity. A nonprofit model is one that can work in some communities, but just establishing this status isn’t enough to keep the doors open and journalists at work. The need for revenue from a variety of sources, including local advertisers, remains acute. NNA supports the Saving Local News Act and thanks Congressman DeSaulnier for his work on behalf of local communities,” said Brett Wesner, Chair, National Newspaper Association and Publisher, Wesner Publications, Cordell, OK.

“Honest, truthful reporting is essential to informing our democracy at all levels. Without it, we won’t remain a nation of the people, by the people, for the people. Bills that help sustain local reporting that informs people about what their government representatives are up to, will help keep the citizens in charge of our country,” said George Stanley, President of the News Leaders Association.

“News organizations are looking at multiple ways to fund their organizations while continuing to deliver local journalism that is fundamental to a thriving Democracy. If news organizations want to pursue the nonprofit business model; it should be as accessible for established organizations as it is for news startups. Our members are known and trusted in the communities they serve and removing the hurdles to find philanthropic support would allow newsrooms to focus on serving their communities,” said Brandi Rivera, Publisher, Santa Barbara Independent and Board Member, Association of Alternative Newsmedia.

“Community newspapers are woven into the fabric of American society and provide accurate and trusted information that improves the lives of individuals in the communities they serve. It is no secret that newspapers face an increasing number of existential threats from online competitors which have left them with a decreasing number of revenue opportunities. This measure would provide news organizations with the means to better rise to these challenges and continue to play a vital role in their communities by holding the feet of the powerful to the fire and giving voice to the powerless,” said Jim Ewert, General Counsel, California News Publishers Association.

“Free Press Action supports this important legislation and applauds Congressman DeSaulnier for recognizing the importance of building, supporting and sustaining local nonprofit news operations,” said Craig Aaron, President and co-CEO of Free Press Action. “In too many places, corporate media have shrunk newsrooms or abandoned communities entirely. Nonprofit news has emerged as the future of local journalism, and it’s our best hope for keeping reporters on the beat focused on the needs of local communities, serving communities of color, and reaching so many people who have never been well served by the media. This bill will remove obstacles to nonprofit journalism, help launch more of these outlets, encourage more existing outlets to go nonprofit, and create more of the kind of high-quality journalism we need to inform our communities and keep our democracy thriving.”

“The hollowing-out and disappearance of local news organizations imperils journalism, communities and our democracy. These measures provide a financial lifeline and tools for the next generation of journalists to pursue new models and innovation that bring more local news to communities,” said Professor Jonathan Kaufman, Director of the Northeastern University School of Journalism.

“The health of the news industry is so precarious, all efforts to strengthen an industry so instrumental to democracy are well received. Thanks to Rep. DeSaulnier for stepping up,” said Jody Brannon, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Journalism and Liberty at the Open Markets Institute.

“The U.S. tax code needs this important update to make it easier for nonprofit news organizations to grow across our country. We’ve lost tens of thousands of local journalists over the last decade. That’s meant fewer journalists covering local government meetings, local business and even high school sports. Journalists are essential to holding power to account, watching over our democracy and providing a voice to the voiceless. We applaud Rep. DeSaulnier’s support of journalism. Our country was founded under the principle that a free press was the best way to make sure we have a robust democracy by having an informed electorate. We all have to fight now to save local news,” said Jon Schleuss, President of NewsGuild-CWA.

“The newspaper business model is broken. At a time when local journalism has never been more essential, journalists are losing their jobs across the country, leaving important stories untold. Compelling, original journalism does continue to drive significant advertising revenue—just not for newspapers. Big Tech giants, like Google and Facebook, have used their monopoly power to capture huge swaths of the digital advertising market, making it nearly impossible for many papers to chart a path forward in the digital age. This has allowed hedge fund vulture capitalists to scoop up scores of newspapers across the country—all of whom have been reduced to shadows of their former glory by a short-sighted cut, cut, cut approach. We welcome and applaud efforts to help news outlets continue to cover of the communities they serve. This legislation will create a path that communities can use to save their local papers. Local news is a key piece of American democracy, and while addressing the underlying problems Big Tech has created for journalists is complex, we have to do everything we can to allow for news to thrive,” said the Save Journalism Project.

“PEN America applauds the introduction of the Saving Local News Act – and the accompanying resolution on the importance of local news – as a welcome and needed step to support America’s journalism ecosystem. By making it easier for news organizations to become nonprofits, Congressman DeSaulnier’s legislation will open up a sustainable financial pathway for quality local journalism, recognizing its value as a public good. Enacting this bill will strengthen a fundamental pillar of our democracy, encouraging diverse reporting, civic engagement, and access to essential community information,” said Nadine Farid Johnson, Washington director of PEN America.

Since 2017, estimated daily newspaper circulation fell 11 percent from the previous year (Pew Research Center). Congressman DeSaulnier established a working group of dedicated Members of Congress from areas affected by a drought of high-quality journalism. Together they have been working to highlight this crisis and bring attention to the need to promote local journalism, including by holding a Special Order on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and introducing the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (H.R. 1735), a bill to create a temporary safe harbor from anti-trust laws to allow news organizations to join together and negotiate with dominant online platforms to get a fair share of advertising profits.

Congressman DeSaulnier’s bill and resolution are supported by: News Media Alliance, National Newspaper Association, News Leaders Association, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, California News Publishers Association, Free Press Action, Faculty of the School of Journalism at Northeastern University, Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers, Save Journalism Project, PEN America, Center for Journalism and Liberty at the Open Markets Institute, and NewsGuild-CWA.

Why you should become a member of Media Nation

Samuel Johnson

More than two centuries ago, Samuel Johnson explained why you should become a member of Media Nation: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”

Nearly a year ago I added a membership option to Media Nation. Partly it was an experiment. Partly it was a chance to offer members something different — a weekly newsletter with exclusive early content, a round-up of the week’s posts, photography and a song of the week. Mainly, though, it seemed to me that I was cranking out a lot of stuff here and that it was only fair that I get paid for it.

So far, I’d pronounce the experiment a success. But I’d like it to be an even bigger success. If you’re a Media Nation reader — and you must be since you’re reading this — I hope you’ll consider becoming a member for just $5 a month. All you need to do is click here.

Thank you.

Democratic leaders roll the dice with assistance for local news organizations

Sen. Joe Manchin. Photo (cc) 2017 by Third Way Think Tank.

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act (LJSA), which I’ve written about rather obsessively here, is built upon the foundation of a three-legged stool: a tax write-off for individuals of up to $250 for subscription fees or donations to local news organizations; a tax credit for advertisers in local news outlets; and a payroll tax credit for publishers that hire or retain journalists.

Now the payroll credit has been carved out and added to the Build Back Better bill, which has passed the House and now faces uncertain prospects in the Senate. Marc Tracy reports in The New York Times that the provision would add up to nearly $1.7 billion over the next five years for newspapers, digital operations and broadcast operations.

Tracy notes — rather huffily, if I’m reading him accurately — that large newspapers like the Times would be excluded because they employ more than 1,500 in one location, but giant newspaper chains such as Gannett and those owned by Alden Global Capital would stand to benefit. As I’ve said before, I wish there were a way of restricting the benefits to independent owners; still, this strikes me as worth trying.

What I’m more concerned about is the political wisdom of adding just one part of the LJSA to Build Back Better, which — despite the optimism voiced by President Biden and other Democratic leaders — could be doomed given the seemingly endless demands made by Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

There is at least some bipartisan support for the LJSA. Moreover, the tax write-off for subscriptions and donations strikes me as more interesting and creative than simply handing money to publishers for not laying people off. If Build Back Better passes, it will be with just 50 Democratic votes and Vice President Harris breaking the tie — and at that point it seems likely that the other two legs of the stool would disappear. If Build Back Better goes down to defeat, proponents of the LJSA will have to start from scratch.

Even so, the benefits that would be provided by the payroll tax credit are not insignificant. Art Cullen, editor of Iowa’s Storm Lake Times, tells The New York Times that the credit would mean $200,000 in just the first year for his struggling newspaper. “We’d be walking in tall cotton,” he’s quoted as saying. (Ellen Clegg and I spoke with Cullen recently on our podcast, What Works: The Future of Local News.)

Providing government assistance to journalism is fraught with concerns about the First Amendment and the need for an independent press. Yet journalism has always benefited from government help, starting with postal subsidies in the late 1700s. The LJSA is worth trying. I just hope that Democratic leaders haven’t outsmarted themselves by splitting up a bill that stood a decent chance of passing and grafting it onto a large package that they just can’t seem to get done.

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Don’t cross the picket line

I love Wirecutter. You love Wirecutter. But don’t use it — don’t even visit the website — until next Tuesday. The site’s workers are taking part in a Black Friday weekend strike, lasting through Cyber Monday, to protest two years of failed contract negotiations with the New York Times Co.

In a recent article for Digiday, Sara Guaglione offered some background on the job action, including the NewsGuild’s claim that Wirecutter staff members are paid $43,000 less than their counterparts at The New York Times.

The Times Co. is profitable and growing. It can afford to share some of that prosperity with its employees. And good for the union for hitting management where it hurts — the busiest shopping days of the year.

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