McNamara rips would-be Globe owner on political ads

Eileen McNamara
Eileen McNamara

Former Boston Globe legend Eileen McNamara has posted some disturbing news about Aaron Kushner, who tried to buy the Globe a few years ago and who may make another run at the paper now that the New York Times Co. has put it up for sale.

Writing for the Cognoscenti site at WBUR.org, McNamara reports that Kushner — a Boston-area native who bought the Orange County Register in 2012 — did exactly the wrong thing when two city councilors complained about an ad placed by a citizens group called Save Anaheim. The ad accused them of violating California’s open meeting law — accurately, according to McNamara. But Kushner’s response was to tell his advertising department to stop taking ads that criticize politicians by name.

(The story was first reported by Voice of Orange County, which McNamara credits.)

McNamara writes:

It is hard enough for grassroots organizations to be heard in politics in the wake of the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, which allows corporations to dump unlimited amounts of cash into the electoral process. A free and independent press is all we have to level the playing field. Save Anaheim’s protests online are little match for the bullhorn wielded by City Hall, especially if the city’s largest newspaper refuses to carry its dissenting views to a wider audience.

McNamara, a Brandeis professor who won a Pulitzer Prize back when she was a Globe columnist, says that when she reached out to Kushner for comment, he declined the opportunity. [But see update below.] So can we call that strike two? To be fair, Kushner did talk with Voice of Orange County, saying he acted not to curry favor with the councilors but because “we don’t like negative political advertisements.”

As McNamara notes, Kushner has been winning plaudits for investing in the Register rather than cutting its budget, although it remains to be seen whether his print-centric approach will pay off in the long run.

For Globe-watchers, it’s been easy to fantasize about Kushner — possibly allied with the members of the Taylor family, who used to own the paper — returning it to its status as a locally owned institution.

Well, maybe not so fast.

Update: Kushner has now posted a comment to McNamara’s item. Among other things, he says was concerned that the Save Anaheim ad could have resulted in a libel suit against the Register. Not sure that I agree, but his response is detailed, thoughtful and civil.

Eileen McNamara to write for Boston magazine

Eileen McNamara

In a very smart move, Boston magazine announced today that it has persuaded former Boston Globe columnist Eileen McNamara to write a monthly column. Romenesko has the details and the press release.

McNamara, who won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, is now a journalism professor at Brandeis University. Says McNamara:

These are challenging times for the city and for the commonwealth. I am eager to rejoin the public conversation and excited to join the talented team of journalists at Boston magazine.

Like many others at the Globe, McNamara in 2007 took an early-retirement buyout while the paper was going through several rounds of painful downsizing. Her voice has been missed, and I’m glad to learn that we’ll be hearing from her once again.

Monday-morning media morsels

A few media odds and ends for your Monday morning:

• Marjorie Arons-Barron, a communications executive who was previously the longtime editorial director of WCVB-TV (Channel 5), recently started a blog. Arons-Barron is as sharp an observer of state and local politics as we have, and you should definitely plug her into your RSS aggregator. It is no slam on the city’s newspapers to point out that she is easily a match for anyone opining at the Boston Globe, the Boston Phoenix or the Boston Herald.

• During the special-election campaign for the U.S. Senate, a mystery blogger started a site called kennedyseat.com and became a respected source of links and information. After revealing himself to be Conor Yunits, the son of a former Brockton mayor and something of an aspiring politico in his own right, he has begun what looks to be a more permanent project called MassBeacon.com. Worth watching.

• CommonWealth Magazine, the quarterly public-policy journal published by the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, has a new online look and a new URL. Not only is it a lot slicker and easier to read, but it is more closely tied to its blog, CommonWealth Unbound. Of particular interest is a section called Civic Journalism, with blog posts by and interviews with the likes of Globe editor Marty Baron, former Globe editor Matt Storin, former Globe columnist Eileen McNamara (do I detect a trend?) and Phoenix reporter-turned-media consultant Dorie Clark.

• Richard Adams, who has been editing my weekly commentaries for the Guardian since I started writing them in mid-2007, has been promoted, and is now writing a blog for the paper’s Web site. I especially like his item on President Obama’s summit with House Republicans, which begins: “When the Republicans invited President Obama to address their congressional House delegation in Baltimore today, they had no idea how badly it would turn out for them.” Definitely RSS-worthy.

The truth about the New Bedford raid

Two Globe columnists today come up aces today in the ongoing controversy over last week’s immigration raid in New Bedford.

First, Eileen McNamara fills in the details of something that’s been out there from the beginning: that Gov. Deval Patrick was informed of the upcoming raid even before his inauguration, and that Department of Social Services Commissioner Harry Spence was involved in planning at various stages — right down to a phone call he received the night before “to coordinate law enforcement and child protection aspects of the raid.” (Spence, as I’ve observed previously, is the grand master of avoiding blame.) McNamara writes:

So, enough with the breast-beating pretense that the Patrick administration was blindsided by the stealth tactics of shadowy federal immigration officials. This is political grandstanding of the most transparent kind.

Read it all — otherwise you’ll miss the priceless comment from Patrick’s communications director, Nancy Fernandez Mills.

Next up is Jeff Jacoby, with the first of a two-parter that examines the real problem with illegal immigration:

[I]f hundreds of thousands of immigrants come here illegally each year, is it realistic to conclude that we have a massive crime problem for which a ferocious crackdown is the only solution? Perhaps it is the case instead that America’s immigration quotas are simply too low for the world’s most dynamic economy. And perhaps the persistent influx of industrious workers is not a plague to be cursed, but a blessing to be better managed.

Buttressing both McNamara’s and Jacoby’s arguments is a profile by the Globe’s Irene Sege of Barthila Solano, an illegal immigrant from Ecuador whose tenuous family situation has been thrown into chaos following the arrest of her husband, Valencio Salas, last week.

“I don’t understand what harm we’re doing,” Solano tells Sege. “We work so hard.”