Jim Haggerty receives a top honor from New England’s newspaper association

Last week I received some very good news — Jim Haggerty, the editor of The Daily Times Chronicle in Woburn, had been selected to receive the Bob Wallack Community Journalism Award from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. I worked for Jim from 1979-’89, and I was delighted that I was asked to say a few words. Here’s the text of my remarks:

Congratulations to Jim Haggerty for winning the Bob Wallack Community Journalism Award. The award “recognizes an individual who has an exceptional record of commitment to community journalism.” Through his work at The Daily Times Chronicle and through his years of mentoring young journalists, Jim, along with the entire Haggerty family, have shown that they are committed to the highest ideals of local news.

I first met Jim in 1979, when I began working as a part-time reporter covering the town of Winchester. A few months later, after I graduated from Northeastern, Jim hired me. I learned from him and his family what community journalism was about — telling tough stories when they need to be told, but doing it with compassion and with an understanding that holding local government officials, business people and others accountable is not incompatible with treating them like human beings. It’s a lesson I’ve tried to carry with me throughout my own career.

During my 10 years at The Daily Times Chronicle, the paper covered the years-long story of Woburn’s toxic waste tragedy comprehensively and courageously. Families in East Woburn claimed that contaminated drinking water had resulted in their children contracting leukemia and other illnesses. Several of them died. The pressure on Jim and his family from city officials to tone down the coverage must have been overwhelming. But that never trickled down to those of us who were covering the story. Jim’s dedication to journalism and truth-telling during those years was inspiring.

These days, local news is in crisis, as the internet has undermined advertising revenues while corporate chains and hedge funds are slashing the newspapers that they own. The residents of Woburn and the surrounding communities are lucky that The Daily Times Chronicle is still family-owned, still doing good work and still dedicated to the principles that have sustained it for the past hundred years. Best wishes to you, Jim — and good luck to you and your family as you embark on the next hundred.