Jay Severin tweets that he’s out at the Blaze

Remember when Jay Severin was the king of afternoon talk radio in Boston? Looks like he’s out at the Blaze and is seeking work.

As you may recall, “B+B” is a reference to “the Best and the Brightest,” which is how he refers to his audience. I’ve posted just two of his recent tweets, but if you go to his feed, you’ll find more.

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Globe, CommonWealth spar over Brian Joyce’s permits

Brian Joyce

Brian Joyce

It looks like an old-fashioned media war has broken out between the Boston Globe and CommonWealth Magazine over improvements that outgoing state senator Brian Joyce made to his home in Milton—improvements that the Globe reported may have been made without the proper permits.

Globe reporter Andrea Estes wrote on August 15 that Joyce—a Democrat who’s under investigation by federal authorities on an unrelated matter—may not have had the proper permits when he added more than 2,500 square feet to his home, which is now on the market. She quoted William Bennett, a member of the town’s board of assessors, as saying:

I would be very concerned if any resident did not apply for the proper permits when doing renovations that would have an effect on the value of their property. But it’s even more disheartening if one of our elected officials ignored the town’s laws.

Soon there was pushback, with CommonWealth‘s Jack Sullivan reporting on August 22 that Joyce’s son Michael had posted images of the permits on Facebook. Sullivan, a former Globe and Boston Herald reporter, added that Milton’s chief assessor, Robert Bushway, had concluded that all of the permits were in order.

“I don’t think there’s as much discrepancy as first thought,” Bushway told Sullivan. “After talking to the building inspector, it sounds like they determined all the permits that were needed were pulled. Some of the permits pulled 13 years ago were a little more ambiguous than they are nowadays.”

Three days later, Estes was back with a report that Joyce had issued a statement defending himself and calling her original story “the worst form of irresponsible journalism.” Estes also noted that Joyce had consistently rejected her attempts to interview him. And Bushway was back, too, telling the Globe that Joyce had refused to let him inspect the interior of his home in order to determine the value.

Which brings us to today. Under a headline that flat-out declares “Joyce absolved of wrongdoing,” Sullivan begins:

Sen. Brian Joyce obtained all the required permits to renovate his home, according to a report by the Milton Town Administrator that rebuts questions raised in a newspaper article over whether the lawmaker clandestinely renovated his house without town officials’ knowledge.

“Based upon my review of these files and my consultation with the Building Commissioner, I conclude that the developer who sold the property and/or Senator and Mrs. Joyce obtained the necessary building permits for the work described in those records,” Annemarie Fagan, reading from her report, told the Board of Selectmen Tuesday night.

In the Globe, Travis Andersen and Estes report under the far more ambiguous headline “Milton officials debate whether renovations to Joyce’s home were permitted.” They quote Bennett, the town assessor cited in Estes’s original story, as saying that there is actually no way of knowing whether the work Joyce had done was within the scope of the permits unless an inspection is conducted—which Joyce still hasn’t agreed to. Bennett continues:

There’s no way for us to determine if the work was done under those permits or after those permits—unless we’re allowed in the house to get an understanding of when this work was done. The permits we’ve seen don’t talk about the renovations that are in question—the kitchen, the bathrooms, the finished basement, additional finished rooms in the attic and the office over the garage.

When presented with such divergent accounts, I like to look for undisputed facts. Here are three: 1. The permits were issued more than a dozen years ago, which certainly could contribute to confusion and misunderstanding over what was allowed and what wasn’t. 2. The town administrator has cleared Joyce of any wrongdoing. 3. A town assessor continues to say there’s no way of knowing whether Joyce is in compliance or not unless Joyce allows a home inspection.

To be continued.

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Five reasons why the media are giving Trump a pass

Donald Trump and the Clintons back in the day. Photo via NBC News.

Donald Trump and the Clintons back in the day. Photo via NBC News.

Over the past few weeks, the political press has settled into a pattern I was hoping we could avoid in 2016: the normalization of the presidential campaign. With increasing frequency, the media are ignoring or playing down negative news about Donald Trump while throwing a collective fit over Hillary Clinton’s appearances of possibilities of rumors of wrongdoing.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman—whose paper has been a prime offender—warned on Monday that the race is in danger of turning into Bush versus Gore all over again. He wrote: “True, there aren’t many efforts to pretend that Donald Trump is a paragon of honesty. But it’s hard to escape the impression that he’s being graded on a curve.” Writing in the Atlantic, James Fallows provides a thorough overview of exactly how the media’s “normalizing approach” is playing out.

Read the rest at WGBHNews.org. You can also join the conversation about this post on Facebook.

No, we are not entitled to see Clinton’s personal emails

Some facts about Hillary Clinton’s damn emails (here’s the Washington Post account of Friday’s news.)

1. Hillary Clinton had the right to delete her personal email.

2. Congressional Republicans asked her not to do so. They didn’t subpoena her personal emails. This was nothing more than, “Will you please save your personal emails so we can pore through them?” “Uh, no.”

3. It’s possible that she deleted non-personal emails, and if that’s the case, we will likely never know. But that would have been just as true if she had handled her email the way she was supposed to.

4. We know that Colin Powell was using his personal email account for official business, and that he and Clinton communicated about it. He says he was careful not to route classified information through his personal account, but it seems unlikely in the extreme that he could have prevented anyone from sending classified information *to him*.

5. We have no idea what might be in her personal emails. As the late, great Jerry Williams used to say, “What do I have to hide? Everything.” We don’t really know how she lives her personal life, nor are we entitled to know.

More. From Kevin Drum at Mother Jones: “This report is pretty much an almost complete exoneration of Hillary Clinton.”

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GateHouse New England shrinks, prepares for reorg

Photo (cc) 2012 by Dyana. Some rights reserved.

Photo (cc) 2012 by Dyana. Some rights reserved.

Update: I have been told that the new term for “reporter” will be “multimedia journalist.” That’s a perfectly respectable title, so I withdraw the anticipatory snark you’ll find below.

GateHouse Media New England, which owns more than 100 daily and weekly newspapers in Greater Boston and its environs, is shedding about 40 positions through buyouts and layoffs, according to Don Seiffert of the Boston Business Journal.

The full picture is not entirely clear. Seiffert reports that the buyout was offered to GateHouse’s non-union employees. But Ian Donnis of Rhode Island Public Radio recently wrote that employees at GateHouse”s Providence Journal, a union paper, were also offered a buyout.

GateHouse, headquartered in the suburbs of Rochester, New York, owns more than 600 newspapers and other media properties nationwide. Its New England holdings include many dozens of community weeklies, as well as high-profile dailies such as the Journal, the Quincy Patriot Ledger, the MetroWest Daily News of Framingham, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and the Cape Cod Times.

GateHouse papers have shrunk so much that concerns have been raised over whether they are going to have to pursue a fundamentally different way of doing things that would involve covering less and less community news. Further cuts could also give rise to more independent local news projects in GateHouse communities, such as the Bedford Citizen and the Worcester Sun, which I wrote about for the Nieman Journal Lab last fall. (Disclosure: I was recently asked to serve as an unpaid adviser to the Sun.)

One thing is for sure: The turmoil hasn’t ended. On Tuesday, Lisa Strattan, who is in charge of GateHouse Media New England’s recently redesigned Wicked Local websites, announced a relaunch that will be unveiled around mid-September. In a memo I obtained, she wrote:

We plan to reorganize into several teams, some serving the whole of Wicked Local and some focused along already established unit lines, to better leverage talent across our entire footprint.

Our centralized teams include a Print Production team, a Special Sections team, a Photo team and a Digital Specialists team. During a later phase of our reorg, we hope to organize our Sports personnel into a Wicked Local Sports team. Our West, Central, North and South units will also divide journalists into teams within each unit, covering given geographic areas.

She added: “Accompanying our reorg will be new job titles (and descriptions!) that better describe the role of a multimedia journalist or editor in 2016. For instance, reporters use a burgeoning bag of tools to create multi-layered multimedia stories. Although ‘reporter’ is tried and true, it’s important to signal our dramatic shift in newsgathering, both to our internal and external audiences.” Let me say that I cannot wait to see what new title GateHouse comes up with for “reporter.” (You can read the full memo here.)

Given that Strattan specifically includes print under her bailiwick, it sounds to me like the papers may be moving away from their traditional community-by-community orientation, with journalists assigned to stories within regions as needed. If that’s what she intends, then I’d be shocked if it doesn’t translate into less local coverage.

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Why everything reminds the NY Times of Monica Lewinsky

Hillary Clinton in 2015. Photo via Wikipedia.

Hillary Clinton in 2015. Photo by Hillary for Iowa.

On Monday, the New York Times posted a deeply unserious article about the alleged effect of Anthony Weiner’s latest transgressions on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign; it appears on today’s front page. Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, who announced that she and her husband are separating, is Clinton’s top aide. Under the home-page headline “Weiner’s Texts Cast a New Cloud Over Clinton Campaign,” Amy Chozick and Patrick Healy write:

Mr. Weiner’s extramarital behavior also threatens to remind voters about the troubles in the Clintons’ own marriage over the decades, including Mrs. Clinton’s much-debated decision to remain with then-President Bill Clinton after revelations of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Ms. Abedin’s choice to separate from her husband evokes the debates that erupted over Mrs. Clinton’s handling of the Lewinsky affair, a scandal her campaign wants left in the past.

Apparently everything reminds the Times of Monica Lewinsky, but I suspect that’s the Times‘s problem, not Clinton’s.

Read the rest at WGBHNews.org.

Some good work by the Globe on a late summer Sunday

The last Sunday before Labor Day is not normally a time when newspaper editors feel the need to put their best foot forward. More often it’s an opportunity to mail it in and wait a couple of weeks for when people will be back from vacation.

So I just want to take note that the Boston Globe published two major packages on Sunday: the latest Spotlight Team installment of “The Desperate the Dead,” about the crisis created by closing most of the state’s mental hospitals, and “The Issue of Crime,” produced by the Ideas section, looking at crime from a variety of angles.

Each was given a vibrant digital treatment, which is a key part of eventually weaning readers away from print.

My personal Sunday favorite was Kathryn Miles’s Globe Magazine story on Gerry Largay’s last days after becoming lost on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. As someone who has done a lot of backpacking in New England, I know how easy it is to lose the trail. In her case, the outcome was tragic.

Given that the Globe is in the midst of yet another round of downsizing (including possible layoffs), the paper’s continued good work is encouraging.