On the latest “What Works” podcast, I talk with Lara Salahi, an associate professor of journalism at Endicott College, where she teaches a range of courses, from feature writing to digital journalism. She has also been a digital producer for NBC Universal and a field producer for ABC News. The main topic of our conversation is about how students journalists can help ease the local news crisis — and a project she’s run with her students at Endicott.
Salahi has also done some consulting and writing on science and health projects. She was executive producer on a podcast called Track the Vax, which ran during the height of the pandemic. And she collaborated with Pardis Sabeti, a systems biologist and Harvard professor who researches infectious diseases like Ebola and Lassa virus. They wrote a book together in 2018 that is still relevant called “Outbreak Culture: The Ebola Crisis and the Next Epidemic.” They updated the paperback with a new preface and epilogue in 2021 to reflect on the COVID-19 outbreak, and the lessons learned from past epidemics.
In Quick Takes, there’s a lot going on in community journalism. One development involves the future ownership of the Portland Press Herald in Maine as well as its sister papers. The other is about a dramatic, unexpected development in hyperlocal news in New Jersey. The third involves some very good news for a daily paper in central Pennsylvania.
My Northeastern University colleague Meg Heckman pays tribute to a legendary journalist — Mike Pride, the retired editor of the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire and the former administrator of the Pulitzer Prize. Mike died on April 24 in Florida of a blood disorder. He was 76, and left his imprint on journalism in many ways. Meg worked at the Concord Monitor for more than 10 years.
Ellen Clegg was out of pocket for this podcast episode but did the sound editing and post-production. She’ll return next week.
The State Capitol in Concord, N.H. Photo (cc) 2010 by Jimmy Emerson, DMV.
There was news in Mark Shanahan’s Boston Globe story on the decline of the once-great Providence Journal under Gannett ownership: the Globe is opening a New Hampshire bureau sometime in 2023, a move similar to what it’s done in Rhode Island.
At one time the Globe took New England coverage seriously, even publishing a Sunday section called New Hampshire Weekly. On a recent episode of our podcast about local news, “What Works,” Nancy West, executive director of the investigative news organization InDepthNH, said she would welcome a Globe comeback in the Granite State.
“I loved it when the Globe came up and was doing important reporting,” she said, citing in particular the paper’s coverage of a cardiac surgeon at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester whose horrendous malpractice record was obscured by his status as an operating-room star. “Was I a little jealous? My first instinct is jealousy, of course,” West told us. “But then I’m just really pleased that the word is getting out.” She added: “I would love to have the Globe come back. I would love to see it because we just need talented reporters on the street. And I think competition is healthy.”
Unlike Rhode Island, New Hampshire’s two major daily newspapers, the New Hampshire Union Leader and the Concord Monitor, are independently owned. Both, however, have endured significant cuts to their reporting capacity in recent years. As West says, another news organization focused on the state would be welcome.
As with Rhode Island, New Hampshire is an opportunity for the Globe to sell more digital subscriptions without the hassle of bygone days, when it was necessary to truck papers across New England.
So where might the Globe go next? Vermont strikes me as a stretch. Connecticut? Probably not. Much of the state roots for the Yankees, and Hearst CT has a growing digital operation. Maine? Possibly, although the Globe has collaborated on some stories with the Portland Press Herald. I’m not sure they’d want to compete. If they do, David Dahl, a former top editor at the Globe who’s now editor of the nonprofit Maine Monitor, told us on “What Works” that he’d love to work with his old paper. “We’re open to any partnership discussions that we would have,” he said, “and if they want to affiliate with us, they’re more than more than welcome.”
The most logical move for the Globe after New Hampshire would be an expanded presence in Central Massachusetts — ironic given that Globe owner John Henry acquired the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester when he bought the Globe in 2013 only to sell it to out-of-state interests. The T&G eventually landed in the hands of GateHouse Media, which merged with Gannett; like most of Gannett’s properties, the T&G has been gutted.
At a time when the decline of advertising and fears of recession are leading to cuts even at once high-flying newspapers like The Washington Post, it’s heartening to see that the Globe continues to focus on expansion.
Update: Hauser’s departure was one of eight layoffs or voluntary buyouts, according to publisher Michael Moses. Joan Livingston, the editor-in-chief of the Greenfield Reporter, will become editor-in-chief of the company’s Pioneer Valley papers, a newly created position. And in an especially ominous sign, Moses uses the word “rightsize.”
Original item: I’m not sure how a daily newspaper is supposed to continue without its top editor. But Brooke Hauser, editor-in-chief of Northampton’s Daily Hampshire Gazette, tweeted earlier this morning that her job has been eliminated.
And… I was just told my job was “eliminated.” I love my staff, I love this paper, and I love this community. What a shame.
Josh Stearns, who lives in the Northampton area and has been working on projects related to the future of journalism for many years, expressed his condolences:
Brooke – I am so sorry. I have so appreciated how you have steered the Gazette and how you have invested in growing the impact of its work. Your love for this place and it’s paper showed through – and I’m deeply disappointed the company made this decision.
The Gazette is part of the Newspapers of New England chain, anchored by the Concord Monitor of New Hampshire, and is regarded as one of the better ownership groups. If anyone knows what happened, please feel free to send me an email or post something in the comments. But it looks like COVID-based advertising collapse has claimed another newspaper job.
The Pioneer Valley NewsGuild, the union that represents press and distribution employees at the Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton, will rally Monday afternoon to honor the 29 employees who are being laid off as the Gazette closes down its presses and outsources its printing. The work will be handled by Gannett, which owns the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester and a printing plant in nearby Auburn. The move was announced in mid-June by Gazette publisher Michael Moses, who wrote:
While our decision to get out of the business of manufacturing newspapers was economically motivated, it also reflects our desire to focus on the Gazette’s core mission. Content, particularly local news content, is unequivocally that mission. This is, without question, the business model that best positions us for the future, allowing us to continue the award winning coverage our readers require.
The Gazette — owned by a small independent chain anchored by the Concord Monitor of New Hampshire — becomes the latest daily paper to job out its printing. With press runs much smaller than they used to be, it makes little sense these days for a paper to operate its own presses unless it can take on enough outside work to make it economically viable. Still, it’s a sad day for the employees who are losing their jobs.
The text of the union statement is below.
WHO: The Pioneer Valley NewsGuild and YOU, the community
WHAT: A socially distant rally honoring the workers who have helped make our paper for years on their last day before a massive layoff.
WHEN: Monday, July 27 at 5:15 p.m.
WHERE: On the sidewalk in front of the Daily Hampshire Gazette, located at 115 Conz St. in Northampton
WHY: We are standing in solidarity with those who have worked shoulder to shoulder during a global pandemic to bring this community vital news every single day. After all of that hard work and risk, Newspapers of New England is eliminating their departments, ending the 233 year history of printing the paper in Northampton in order to outsource that work to media giant Gannett. This means 29 people, including 24 union members, will be laid off. Bring signs to show appreciation for these essential workers — the people who actually make this paper. (Signs telling Newspapers of New England how shameful their behavior is are also welcome.) For more information, please contact The Pioneer Valley NewsGuild at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
My Northeastern colleague Meg Heckman has written an important thread about political endorsements by news organizations. Her starting point is the Concord Monitor’s unusual decision not to endorse in the New Hampshire primary. (Heckman is a former editor at the Monitor.) Please read it and come back.
1/n Mixed feelings about the @ConMonitorNews's decision not to endorse in the #FITN primary. I'll let the political scientists discuss the impact endorsements do/don't have on election outcomes and focus instead on what this tells us about local news. https://t.co/8rpHjPlBqx
Godwin’s law came to New Hampshire earlier this year. And Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien is retaliating against the Concord Monitor in a manner that may violate the First Amendment.
For those unfamiliar with the phrase, Godwin’s law — first espoused by Mike Godwin, a lawyer and veteran Internet free-speech activist — pertains to the tendency of online debate to devolve into Nazi analogies. As Godwin put it some years ago, “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”
Maybe it’s the Internet effect, but the Nazification of real-world political debate has been under way for some time now. And so it was in mid-May, when state Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Republican, grew frustrated with what he saw as efforts by Speaker O’Brien, also a Republican, to silence him. So Vaillancourt directed a toxic remark at O’Brien: “Seig Heil.” He was ejected from the chamber and forced to apologize.
Enter Mike Marland, who draws editorial cartoons for the Concord Monitor. He depicted O’Brien with a Hitler-style mustache, holding a razor. The caption: “If the mustache fits …” You can see the cartoon here, along with a commentary by Monitor editor Felice Belman. Despite having written an editorial taking Vaillancourt to task for his Third Reich-style outburst, Belman defended Marland’s cartoon in defiance of Republican demands that the paper apologize:
When Marland submitted the O’Brien cartoon, there was significant discussion here among the senior editors and our publisher about whether to put it into the paper. In the end, we are not Marland’s censors. He is entitled to his view of the speaker, and his views are his own. This cartoon was harsh, no doubt. But it seemed on point, given last week’s circus. In fact, several Monitor letter writers have made a similar point — in words, if not images.
There matters stood until last Friday, when O’Brien held a news conference in his Statehouse office — and banned two Monitor reporters from attending. Concord Patch editor Tony Schinella, who was among those covering the event, wrote that the reporters, Annmarie Timmins and Matt Spolar, “were told they weren’t invited and were held at bay at the door.” Schinella also shot video of the reporters being turned away (above), and of O’Brien refusing to answer a question as to why he wouldn’t let them in. (Timmins’ own video of the encounter makes for must-see viewing as well.)
O’Brien’s spokeswoman later released a statement: “When the Concord Monitor proves they have chosen to become a responsible media outlet, we’ll be happy to invite them to future media events.”
As the Monitor put it in an editorial, “It’s hard to know which is more startling: a politician attempting to pick his own press corps or the notion that a politician — or a politician’s mouthpiece — gets to decide what constitutes ‘a responsible media outlet.’ Are these people new to this country?”
Now, depending on your point of view, you might think O’Brien’s behavior was either boorish or principled. But perhaps you wouldn’t question his right to do it. Indeed, even the Monitor editorial included this: “There’s nothing requiring O’Brien to let the Monitor into his press conference.”
In fact, though, O’Brien may well have been interfering with the Monitor’s First Amendment right to cover the news.
Several decades ago, a similar situation unfolded in Hawaii, where an aggressive reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin named Richard Borreca butted heads with the mayor, Frank Fasi. Fasi decided to ban Borreca from regularly scheduled news conferences at his City Hall office. The Star-Bulletin went to court. And in the 1974 case of Borreca v. Fasi, U.S. District Court Judge Samuel King ruled that Fasi had to open his news conferences to all reporters. King wrote:
A free press is not necessarily an angelic press. Newspapers take sides, especially in political contests. Newspaper reporters are not always accurate and objective. They are subject to criticism, and the right of a governmental official to criticize is within First Amendment guarantees.
But when criticism transforms into an attempt to use the powers of governmental office to intimidate or to discipline the press or one of its members because of what appears in print, a compelling governmental interest that cannot be served by less restrictive means must be shown for such use to meet Constitutional standards. No compelling governmental interest has been shown or even claimed here.
Judge King made it clear that no member of the press was entitled to special privileges. If the mayor wanted to grant interviews to some reporters but not others, that was his prerogative. If he refused to answer a reporter’s questions, that was within his rights as well. But he could not discriminate against some members of the press when scheduling a formal, official event such as a news conference.
The parallel between the Honolulu and Concord situations is pretty obvious, though it’s impossible to say whether a different court would come to the same conclusion nearly 40 years later. In a commentary published by the Monitor, Steven Gordon, a lawyer, argued that O’Brien’s action may well have been an unconstitutional abridgement of the paper’s free-press rights.
I just hope Speaker O’Brien comes to his senses and realizes that the Monitor was well within its rights to run the Hitler cartoon no matter how much he may wish it hadn’t done so. He, on the other hand, has no right to discriminate against a media outlet he doesn’t like.
A few observations on this year’s Pulitzer Prizes.
1. Mark Feeney’s victory in criticism is one of those developments that’s surprising but deserved. Feeney stands for low-key substance, and it’s nice to see that the Pulitzer judges recognized that. It’s also encouraging that the Globe has kept its Pulitzer string alive while it goes through another wave of downsizing. Editor Marty Baron is groping toward how to define excellence in a very different era. Greats arts coverage is one answer to that challenge.
The Globe’s Beth Daley, who was a finalist, also deserves credit for explaining the effects of global warming in human terms.
2. It’s too bad that Concord Monitor photographer Preston Gannaway won the Pulitzer for feature photography just as she’s leaving for the Rocky Mountain News. Nevertheless, the prize helps enhance the Monitor’s reputation as among the best papers of its size in the country.
Gannaway documented the death of a young mother with cancer, presented in a multimedia production here.
3. Congratulations to my Northeastern colleage Bill Kirtz and his wife, Carol. Their son, Jake Hooker, won the Pulitzer for investigative reporting along with his New York Times colleague Walter Bogdanich for their exposés of the Chinese pharmaceutical industry. Kirtz and I go way, way back — he was my instructor in the 1970s. I wish as much had rubbed off on me as it did on Jake.
4. It’s hard to think of anyone more deserving of a Pulitzer than Bob Dylan, one of the great artists of the past half-century. But I always worry when I hear an announcement like that. Is he sick? Do the Pulitzer judges know something we don’t? Nah. He’s just looking for Alicia Keys.