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Tag: CommonWealth Beacon

CommonWealth Beacon reports new details on Andrea Estes’ firing by the Globe

Photo (cc) 2022 by Dan Kennedy

CommonWealth Beacon has just published a story by its editor, Bruce Mohl, shedding some light on an exceedingly strange episode from earlier this year: The Boston Globe’s decision to fire veteran investigative reporter Andrea Estes after the paper published a story reporting that three top MBTA managers were living far from Greater Boston when in fact they made their homes in the local area. The story, on which Estes had the lead byline, reported that nine T officials had such an arrangement; in fact, it was six. The Globe had to run several corrections as a result.

Mohl reports that the errors in the story came about because the managers themselves were not allowed as a matter of policy to speak with the press without permission, and that they thought the MBTA public relations office was going to respond on their behalf — but the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) ordered the T to stay silent. Mohl writes:

At the MBTA, workers are advised not to talk to reporters, leaving that job to public relations officials. But in this instance the MBTA public relations officials, on orders from higher-ups at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, ignored calls from Estes seeking to verify the information she had gathered. The result was a story that unfairly tarred at least three employees at the MBTA and caused the firing of Estes.

Disclosure: I’m a member of CommonWealth’s board of advisers.

This entire saga has been weird, and though Mohl’s story answers some of the outstanding questions, it doesn’t answer all of them. Why would MassDOT not allow the T to defend its own employees? Why was Estes fired if she wasn’t entirely at fault? In addition, editor Nancy Barnes said there would be some public accountability after Estes left the Globe, but Mohl suggests that may have been derailed by a pending arbitration hearing sought by Estes.

A further indication that at least some of Estes’ peers believe she was wronged came when she was hired recently as a staff reporter by the Plymouth Independent, a fledgling nonprofit edited by Mark Pothier, until recently a high-ranking editor at the Globe, and advised by Globe legend Walter Robinson. “Having her on staff sends a strong message about the kind of serious journalism we plan to do,” Pothier said in a press release announcing her hiring.

Thanks to Mohl’s digging, we now know more than we did. I still hope the full story comes out at some point.


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CommonWealth, a policy-oriented nonprofit, will rebrand and expand

CommonWealth Magazine is about to unveil a rebranding and an expansion. The nonprofit website, which covers state policy and focuses on “politics, ideas and civic life,” will be reborn as CommonWealth Beacon on Nov. 1. I’m a member of the advisory committee, and we just finished a meeting at which the redesign was unveiled. It’s clean and minimalistic, and it translates well to mobile.

CommonWealth is part of the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, or MassINC, which I would describe as centrist and serious. The magazine ended its print edition in 2018, so the digital rebranding is long overdue. The journalism will remain free, though Beacon will offer various paid membership tiers with extra goodies.

The best part is that the project is staffing up, having added two reporters and two people to work on audience engagement and fundraising. Content will be available for free to other publications in the hopes that the local news startups that have sprouted in Massachusetts will use it to bolster their coverage. The email that went out to readers earlier this afternoon follows.

Dear CommonWealth reader,

We are writing today with exciting news:

On November 1, CommonWeath will become CommonWealth Beacon, a new name for a new era of expanded civic journalism for Massachusetts.

The decline in for-profit journalism, the rise in misinformation and the increasingly fractured and polarized civic culture underscore the need for a response. We believe independent, non-partisan, non-profit civic journalism is an essential antidote to these troubling trends.

That is why we have been working to develop a strategy and find the resources to fuel an expansion of our journalism. We took time to learn from our peers across the country, craft a business plan, and raise the seed funding that would allow us to hire more people and build a sustainable business model. In recent months, we have hired four new people — two reporters and two people to work on reader engagement and fundraising — to prepare for the launch of CommonWealth Beacon.

Rest assured, CommonWealth Beacon will retain much of what our readers love about CommonWealth — non-partisan, original reporting on the issues that matter to Massachusetts residents. As we grow, we can cover more stories, across a wider range of issues, with more detail and expertise:

    • CommonWealth Beacon will also feature a renewed commitment to long-form journalism through CommonWealth In-Depth and a rebranded opinion section called CommonWealth Voices.
    • Look for new polling about Massachusetts and our weekly podcast, The Codcast, kicks off with a live discussion at 3:15 pm ET on November 1 about the state of Massachusetts democracy with Harvard professor Danielle Allen.

We also intend to give our content away to other news outlets in Massachusetts to help strengthen local news coverage across the state. In the lifeboat of local journalism, no one is a competitor and everyone is a potential collaborator.

We see CommonWealth Beacon as a partnership among civic-minded people who understand that independent journalism is essential to a functioning democracy. As a subscriber to our newsletter, you are already a partner. We invite you to deepen your engagement by encouraging others to subscribe, by joining our membership program (details to come very soon), and by giving us feedback so we can improve. CommonWealth Beacon will be a collective enterprise and we need as many people as possible to get involved.

Thank you again for helping us to get to this exciting moment. We see this as just the beginning with much more to come in the months ahead.



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