Having trashed my WGBH colleague Margery Eagan for daring to write about his family, will Jerry Remy now go after Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo? Take the year off, Jerry. The Red Sox are entertainment — fun and games. At this point, you’re pretty much the opposite of that.
And here’s an excellent commentary by Marjorie Arons-Barron on “the ick factor” Remy now brings to Red Sox broadcasts.
James Risen is a free-press hero. Whether he will also prove to be a First Amendment hero depends on the U.S. Supreme Court.
On Friday, Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times, was presented with the 2014 Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award by the New England First Amendment Coalition (NEFAC), which is affiliated with Northeastern University. (I wish I’d been able to attend, but I was teaching.) Risen faces prison for refusing to identify an anonymous CIA source who helped inform Risen’s reporting on a failed operation to interfere with Iran’s nuclear program — a story Risen told in his 2006 book, “State of War.”
Both the Bush and the Obama administrations have pushed for Risen to give up his source, but Risen has refused. “The choice is get out of the business — give up everything I believe in — or go to jail. They’ve backed me into a corner,” Risen was quoted as saying in this Boston Globe article by Eric Moskowitz. Also weighing in with a detailed account of the NEFAC event is Tom Mooney of The Providence Journal.
My Northeastern colleague Walter Robinson, a former Globe reporter and editor, said this of Risen:
There’s no one anywhere on the vast landscape of American journalism who merits this award more than you do. It is hard to imagine a more principled and patriotic defense of the First Amendment.
Unfortunately, Risen has little in the way of legal protection. The Supreme Court, in its 1972 Branzburg v. Hayes decision, ruled that the First Amendment does not protect journalists from having to reveal their confidential sources. In addition, there is no federal shield law. Thus journalists like Risen must hope that the attorney general — and, ultimately, the president — respect the role of a free press in a democratic society sufficiently not to take reporters to court. President Obama has failed that test in spectacular fashion.
Risen has asked the Supreme Court to take his case, giving the justices an opportunity to overturn or at least modify the Branzburg decision. But if the court declines to take the case, the president should order Attorney General Eric Holder to call off the dogs.
The Stephen Hamblett Award is named for the late chairman, chief executive officer and publisher of The Providence Journal. Previous recipients have been the late New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, then-Boston Globe editor Marty Baron (now executive editor of The Washington Post) and Phil Balboni, founder of GlobalPost and, previously, New England Cable News.
More: On this week’s “Beat the Press,” my WGBH colleague Margery Eagan paid tribute to Risen in the “Rants & Raves” segment.
Nice tribute by Margery Eagan to the late Boston Herald American editor Don Forst and what former Herald editor Kevin Convey — among others — learned from him. James Barron of The New York Times has a fuller treatment of Forst’s career, much of which was spent in New York.
Last January, not long after the young Internet genius Aaron Swartz committed suicide, civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate wrote powerfully about the abusive prosecutorial tactics that may have led to his death.
Swartz faced a lengthy federal prison sentence for downloading academic articles at MIT without authorization. Even though the publisher, JSTOR, declined to press charges, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz brought a case agains Swartz under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. As Silverglate put it, the law is “a notoriously broad statute enacted by Congress seemingly to criminalize any use of a computer to do something that could be deemed bad.”
Silverglate’s article was republished in Media Nation with the permission of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, where it originally appeared. And it was far and away the most viewed article in Media Nation in 2013.
Today we present Media Nation’s top 10 posts for 2013, based on statistics compiled by WordPress.com. They represent a range of topics — from the vicissitudes of talk radio to a media conflict of interest, from Rolling Stone’s controversial cover image of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to the sad, sudden death of The Boston Phoenix.
The top 10 is by no means representative of the year in media. Certainly the biggest story about journalism in 2013 involved the National Security Agency secrets revealed by Edward Snowden to The Guardian and The Washington Post — a story that did not make the cut at Media Nation.
Here, then, is our unrepresentative sample for the past 12 months.
2. The New Republic’s new owner crosses a line (Jan. 28). A little more than a year ago, the venerable New Republic was saved by Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook who is using some of his fortune to restore the magazine to relevance and fiscal health. But he crossed an ethical line last January when he took part in an interview with President Obama, whose campaign he had worked on, and tossed a series of softball questions his way. At the time I wrote that Hughes was guilty of “no more than a minor misstep.” So how did it rise to No. 2? It turns out that a number of right-leaning websites picked up on it, bringing a considerable amount of traffic to Media Nation that I normally don’t receive.
3. Dailies go wild over sports controversies (Aug. 30). Four months after publishing this item, I find it hard to make heads or tails of what was going on. But essentially Globe-turned-Herald sportswriter Ron Borges contributed to a Rolling Stone article on the Aaron Hernandez murder case, which generated some tough criticism from both the Globe and the well-known blog Boston Sports Media Watch. That was followed almost immediately by a Globe article on the ratings collapse of sports radio station WEEI (AM 850), which brought yet more tough talk from, among others, ’EEI morning co-host Gerry Callahan, who also happens to write a column for the Herald. Yes, Boston is a small town.
4. Rolling Stone’s controversial cover (July 17). I thought it was brilliant. I still do. The accusion that Rolling Stone was trying to turn Dzhokhar Tsarnaev into some sort of pop-culture hero is absurd and offensive — and not borne out by the well-reported article that the cover was designed to illustrate.
5. Glenn Ordway walks the ratings plank(Feb. 14). Ordway built sports talker WEEI into a ratings monster only to see its numbers crater in the face of competition from the Sports Hub (WBZ-FM, 98.5). Ordway was by no means the problem with WEEI. But station management decided it could no longer afford his $500,000 contract, and so that was it for the Big O.
6. A big moment for The Boston Globe(Dec. 17). It was actually a big year for the Globe, from its riveting coverage of the marathon bombing and the standoff that led to the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to the paper’s acquisition by Red Sox principal owner John Henry. But two days in mid-December were emblematic of the paper’s continuing excellence and relevance — a long, detailed exposé of the Tsarnaev family that revealed Dzhokhar, rather than his older brother, Tamerlan, may have been the driving force behind the bombing; an investigation into a case of alleged “medical child abuse” that pitted a Connecticut family against Children’s Hospital; and a nationally celebrated series of tweets by staff reporter Billy Baker about a Boston teenager from a poor family who had been admitted to Yale.
7. The Boston Phoenix reaches the end of the road (March 14). A stalwart of the alternative-weekly scene and my professional home from 1991 to 2005, the Phoenix was a voice of incalculable importance. But with even the legendary Village Voice struggling to survive, the alt-weekly moment may have passed. At the time of its death, the Phoenix had more than 100,000 readers — but little revenue, as advertising had dried up and both the print edition and the website were free. I scribbled a few preliminary thoughts in this post, and later wrote something more coherent for PBS MediaShift.
8. The return of Jim Braude and Margery Eagan (Feb. 6). Eagan and Braude’s morning show was the one bright spot on WTKK Radio, an otherwise run-of-the-mill right-wing talk station that had been taken off the air a month earlier. So it was good news indeed when the pair was hired to host “Boston Public Radio” from noon to 2 p.m. on public station WGBH (89.7 FM). (Note: (I am a paid contributor to WGBH-TV’s “Beat the Press,” where Eagan is a frequent panelist.)
9. Joe Scarborough grapples with history — and loses(Feb. 17). Asking cable blowhard Scarborough to write a review for The New York Times Book Review about the relationship between Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon could have been a smart, counterintuitive move. But it only works if the writer in question is, you know, smart.
10. The bell tolls for WTKK Radio (Jan. 3). As I already mentioned, Jim Braude and Margery Eagan were able to walk away from the rubble of WTKK, which was shut down by corporate owner Greater Media and turned into an urban music station. Just a few years earlier the station had been a ratings success with trash-talking hosts like Jay Severin and Michael Graham. But tastes change — sometimes for the better.
Photo (cc) by Maria Jesus V and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.
A massive investigation into the Tsarnaev family that casts into doubt the notion that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was the dupe of his older brother, Tamerlan. A harrowing two-part story on a supposed case of “medical child abuse” that raises serious questions about one of our most respected hospitals. And a feel-good story posted to Twitter that immediately goes viral.
It was quite a two days for The Boston Globe, starting with the Sunday edition and wrapping up Monday evening, when staff reporter Billy Baker’s tweets about a poor teenager getting accepted into Yale were cited by the likes of BuzzFeed and Piers Morgan.
It was the Tsarnaev package that has received the most attention. Reported by Sally Jacobs, David Filipov and Patricia Wen (Filipov, a former Moscow bureau chief for the Globe, visited Dagestan, where he learned of Tamerlan’s inept efforts to join an Islamist insurgency), the story provides the most thorough overview yet of a dysfunctional family dynamic that ultimately led the Tsarnaev brothers into terrorism.
The story defies summary. For me, the most fascinating takeaway is that Dzhokhar, far from being manipulated by Tamerlan, was himself an angry young man and a big-time pot dealer who was at the very least a co-equal of Tamerlan’s. With Tamerlan reportedly hearing voices and seemingly unable to make coherent plans, Dzhokhar may well have been the key to pulling off the Boston Marathon bombings.
Indeed, it was Dzhokhar, according to the Globe report, who downloaded an article in an Al Qaeda publication titled “Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom.” No doubt this is the sort of thing we can expect to hear at Dzhokhar’s trial, especially if prosecutors seek the death penalty.
(And a quick word about the Boston Herald, which tries to claim that what the Globe published was a politically correct puff piece about the Tsarnaevs — see this, this and this. Just stop, OK? You’re embarrassing yourselves and exploiting the victims of the Tsarnaev brothers’ act of terrorism. At least Herald columnist Margery Eagan hasn’t taken leave of her senses.)
One final point: Even though the Globe published a special eight-page section for its Tsarnaev story, the package was most fully realized online, where it received the large-type/big-art treatment that has become known as the “Snow Fall” effect, after a pioneering New York Times multimedia story. The message is that, increasingly, newspapers are treating their print editions as a secondary medium — even as they continue to bring in most of the advertising revenue.
Abuse — or a terrible mistake?
If it hadn’t been for the Tsarnaev package, I imagine the big news of the week would be Neil Swidey and Patricia Wen’s report (here and here) about Justina Pelletier, a 14-year-old from Connecticut who was taken to Children’s Hospital with what had been diagnosed as a metabolic disorder.
Doctors at the hospital concluded that Justina was actually the victim of “medical child abuse” at the hands of her parents. They placed the girl in a locked psychiatric unit for months while they tried to figure out what to do next. It is a harrowing and horrifying story, and it’s difficult to know who’s right and who’s wrong. But there are some strong suggestions that Children’s made a terrible mistake:
Justina’s older sister had been diagnosed with a milder form of metabolic disease, yet was living at home with no apparent issues.
Justina’s condition did not improve in the absence of her parents.
Dr. Mark Korson, a Tufts physician who had provided the initial diagnosis, was treated with contempt by Children’s and not allowed to participate in Justina’s treatment.
One inescapable conclusion: If the people at Children’s now harbor doubts about their actions, they dare not admit it because of the legal and professional ramifications. The case is as yet unresolved, and I look forward to learning more.
Billy Baker’s tweets of hope
Finally, there is Billy Baker’s remarkable series of tweets, which he began after learning that George Huynh had been accepted into Yale. Baker profiled George and his older brother, Johnny, two years ago. They were both attending Boston Latin School and were determined to rise up despite the suicide of their father and the mental illness of their mother. It began as simply as this:
It turns out that Baker had stayed in touch with the Huynh brothers after his story was published and had become something of a mentor to them. The tweets tell a full, deeply moving story, ending with George’s smiling face.
I’m not sure Twitter is the best tool for narrative journalism, but Baker made it work. And he put a smile on everyone’s face just before Christmas.
Correction: I misspelled Swidey’s name in the original post.
There’s big news in the Boston public radio world, as Christopher Lydon returns to the airwaves tonight at 9 with “Radio Open Source,” the radio/podcast interview program he’s been doing for some years now. He’ll be on for an hour every Thursday, with weekend rebroadcasts.
And in a sign that times change, he’ll be doing it on WBUR (90.9 FM), from which he and producer Mary McGrath — who still works with Lydon — memorably departed in 2001. Lydon and McGrath got into a dispute with then-general manager Jane Christo over the ownership of “The Connection,” the show they helmed at the time.
Technically this is more of a ramp-up than a return: Lydon had been appearing regularly on Jim Braude and Margery Eagan’s show, “Boston Public Radio,” on WGBH (89.7 FM). I’m a paid contributor at WGBH, but I think it’s self-evident that the rivalry between the two public radio powerhouses has led to better local programming at both stations.
Here is what I reported for The Boston Phoenix in 2005 as “Open Source” was about to launch at UMass Lowell. (Lydon and company eventually affiliated with the Watson Institute at Brown University.)
Lydon is an on-air legend and McGrath knows how to do terrific radio. Best of luck to both of them.
Photo (cc) 2012 by Mark Fonseca Rendeiro and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.
Best wishes to my old friend Robin Young and to Jeremy Hobson, whose revamped, two-hour “Here & Now” program debuted on Monday. Based at public radio station WBUR (90.9 FM), the program is national in scope, and is intended as a partial replacement for “Talk of the Nation,” which departed the airwaves last week.
Both “Here & Now” and “Boston Public Radio,” on rival WGBH (89.7 FM), are broadcast from noon to 2 p.m., setting up an intriguing dynamic: a nationally focused news magazine on ’BUR alongside local news and talk, hosted by Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, on ’GBH.
I hope and expect that both programs will succeed. (Disclosure: I’m a paid contributor to WGBH.)
When The Boston Phoenix ceased publication in March, I started casting about for a new home for the Muzzle Awards — an annual Fourth of July round-up of outrages against free speech in New England that I began writing in 1998.
On Tuesday we made it official — the 16th Annual Muzzle Awards will be published on Thursday by WGBH News. I talked about the Muzzles on “Boston Public Radio” with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan. We gave a sneak preview of some of the “winners,” including U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis and Maine Gov. Paul LePage.
The Muzzles will also be published in The Providence Phoenix and The Portland Phoenix, which are still alive and well.
I think WGBHNews.org will prove to be a good home base for the Muzzles. Boston civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate, who came up with the idea all those years ago, is continuing with his Campus Muzzles. Former Phoenix editor Peter Kadzis, who’s now at WGBH, was instrumental in bringing the Muzzles to the station and expertly edited them. Also playing key roles were Phil Redo, managing director of WGBH’s radio operations; Linda Polach, executive producer of “Greater Boston” and “Beat the Press”; and Abbie Ruzicka, an associate producer who handled Web production duties.
I’m scheduled to talk about “The Wired City” on “Greater Boston” (WGBH-TV, Channel 2) with Emily Rooney today at 7 p.m., though I’m told I may get bumped for breaking news. I’ll update this if necessary.
Tomorrow at 1 p.m. I’ll be a guest on “Boston Public Radio” with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan (WGBH Radio, 89.7 FM) to talk about “The Wired City” and to unveil a collaboration I’ve been working on with ’GBH. Exciting stuff! Hope you can tune in.
Well, that didn’t take long. The only real assets at former talk radio station WTKK, Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, have been hired by WGBH Radio (89.7 FM) to helm the midday news and public-affairs program “Boston Public Radio” from noon to 2 p.m. (I am a paid contributor to WGBH-TV’s “Beat the Press,” where Eagan is a frequent panelist.)
In other post-WTKK news, afternoon drive-time host Michael Graham popped up this week on stations in Worcester, Concord, Plymouth and Southbridge.
Here is the full press release from WGBH:
Jim Braude and Margery Eagan to join WGBH’s Boston Public Radio
Pair will anchor mid-day talk program on WGBH Radio 89.7; WGBH expands on commitment to local coverage, builds on Rooney and Crossley’s growth
BOSTON, Mass. (February 6, 2013) – Jim Braude and Margery Eagan will serve as the new co-hosts of 89.7 WGBH’s Boston Public Radio beginning Monday, February 25. The format change is part of WGBH News’s ongoing evolution and continued commitment to strengthening the region’s most dynamic local news team. The live local program airs from 12-2pm each Monday through Friday on 89.7 WGBH.
Braude and Eagan will lead two hours of local conversation that will continue to combine newsmaker interviews, conversation with experts, and listener call-ins. Callie Crossley and Emily Rooney, the awarding-winning veteran journalists who have led the consistent growth of Boston Public Radio, will continue to contribute to WGBH’s local, daily public radio talk show. WGBH and Boston Public Radio will also continue to include regular contributors Kara Miller, Jared Bowen, and Edgar B. Herwick III. As co-hosts of Boston Public Radio, Braude and Eagan will host a monthly Ask the Governor program on WGBH, a series they hosted in their former role at WTKK radio. 89.7 WGBH will make that monthly program available to any other Massachusetts station free of charge.
WGBH will announce other major contributors and regular guests from politics, press, and culture in the coming weeks.
“As WGBH Radio continues to develop and grow, we are excited to build on a strong foundation and serve audiences with the smartest on-air guides to the breadth of stories happening in our region and around the world. Jim and Margery are extremely talented broadcasters who will make our strong team even stronger. Like all of our Boston Public Radio contributors, they are smart and engaging and share our passion for local discussion and commentary,” said 89.7 WGBH Managing Director Phil Redo. “We are very happy that Governor Patrick will be resuming his regular appearances on radio, now here on WGBH. It is a genuine public service and an opportunity for residents of the Commonwealth to engage directly with their governor.”
For 13 years, Braude and Eagan co-hosted the Jim & Margery Show on WTKK 96.9FM. Braude, an Emmy-award winning journalist, started his career as a legal services lawyer in the South Bronx. Braude hosts Broadside: The News with Jim Braude weeknights on NECN. He founded and served as the first president of the National Organization of Legal Services Workers, a union representing staff in civil legal offices for the poor in 35 states. He published Otherwise, a magazine on American politics, and served as a Cambridge city councilor. Braude graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and New York University School of Law.
“We are excited to join the WGBH News team and to be staying together as a team ourselves,” said Braude.
Eagan, a columnist for the Boston Herald, grew up in Fall River, Mass. She is a graduate of Stanford University. Throughout her career, Eagan has written for a number of publications, including Boston Magazine. She has appeared on national and local news programs and is a regular guest on Greater Boston and Beat the Press on WGBH-TV.
“I’m a huge fan of WGBH’s Boston Public Radio and am thrilled to be joining the terrific journalists there,” Eagan said. “They’ve built one of the strongest local news teams around.”
“I congratulate Jim and Margery on this next adventure and look forward to continuing our thoughtful conversations on how policy touches people in their everyday lives,” said Governor Patrick.
Callie Crossley will continue to lend her signature perspective to the exploration of important topics, both local and national. Emily Rooney will provide a take on stories she is following for the WGBH-TV program Greater Boston. Kara Miller, who also hosts WGBH Radio’s Innovation Hub, will offer a window into the region’s most creative thinkers. Jared Bowen — Boston television’s only full-time arts journalist, a recently named Commonwealth Award winner and host of Open Studio, which premieres on WGBH 2 this Friday at 8:30pm — will continue to provide unique coverage of New England’s vibrant arts culture. Edgar Herwick, who developed the Web series One Guest, will continue to report on interesting and unusual topics that engage audiences.
The re-formatted Boston Public Radio program reflects the continuing evolution of 89.7 and the growing WGBH News team, which draws significantly on the expertise of staff across radio, television and the Web. Today’s announcement comes on the heels of schedule changes that more prominently feature unique local programming throughout the week, including the new timeslot for Innovation Hub, hosted by Kara Miller, now at 10am on Saturdays.