By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tag: Northeastern University Page 1 of 16

Northeastern’s Mike Beaudet talks with E&P about reinventing TV news

Our Reinventing Local TV News project, which is part of Northeastern’s School of Journalism, is getting a lot of attention from the trade publication Editor & Publisher. Professor Mike Beaudet, who heads the project, is the subject of a feature story in E&P and is the guest on this week’s E&P vodcast.

Beaudet, who’s also an investigative reporter with WCVB-TV (Channel 5), tells E&P’s Gretchen Peck and Mike Blinder that the goal is to come up with new ways of storytelling to appeal to younger audiences — a demographic that gets its news almost entirely by smartphone rather than a traditional television screen. Here’s how Beaudet puts it in an interview with Peck:

People are cutting the cord, and the whole idea of having “appointment television” has gone out the window, especially for younger people. That’s the challenge: We can’t rely on this audience to find local TV like you could in years past, as they get older, because they’re not consuming content the same way.

Mike and his collaborator, Professor John Wihbey, presented at our What Works local news conference at Northeastern last March. Given that local television is in relatively good financial health compared to the newspaper business, it’s vitally important that people like Beaudet and Wihbey come up with solutions before the problems of an aging audience become acute.

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One more on Biden, the media and the news conference

President Biden speaking at the NATO summit on Thursday. Photo via

I joined my Northeastern colleagues Costas Panagopoulos and Nick Beauchamp in analyzing President Biden’s news conference and the media’s performance for Northeastern Global News. My take: The state of Biden’s cognitive condition is a huge and legitimate story, but it’s been marred by a journalistic feeding frenzy:

Looking back at the last several weeks, Kennedy says it’s almost as if “we’ve forgotten that anything else is going on in the entire world.”

“At some point when we look back on this, we’re going to say that there was a really important, substantive issue that had to be dealt with — that is, the question of whether the president is in cognitive decline — and yet the media still didn’t acquit itself very well,” Kennedy says.

Panagopoulos’ and Beauchamp’s assessments of the news conference itself: Biden was strong enough to help himself a little, but not strong enough to change anyone’s minds about whether he should stay in the race.

“It’s unlikely to silence calls for him to step aside,” said Panagopoulos. Added Beauchamp: “I don’t know if that’s going to be enough of a difference for people who are counting on his abilities. But I think he went out there and delivered what he was there to do.”

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The Huntington News reports on the aftermath of April’s Northeastern encampment

Centennial Common at Northeastern University. Photo (cc) 2008 by Piotrus.

The pro-Palestinian encampment at Northeastern University’s Centennial Common may have been broken up nearly as soon as it appeared, but the events of those 48 hours in late April still reverberate. Now The Huntington News, our outstanding independent student newspaper, has published a massive overview that focuses on the police response.

Reported by ,  and

The reporting speaks for itself, but I do want to highlight this:

Police ordered all individuals, including press, medics and legal observers, to leave Centennial.

Several Huntington News reporters were told to leave the barricaded area under threat of their “student status.”

Boston police ordered at least five legal observers, who had monitored the encampment since it was established, to move outside of the barricade.

How the press was treated when the encampment was broken up and arrests began on the morning of Saturday, April 27, has been a matter of controversy. Police officers have an obligation to move observers out of the way so that they’re not a hindrance and are not in danger of getting hurt. On the other hand, those observers should not be moved so far from the scene that they don’t have a clear view of how the police are doing their jobs. Journalism’s obligation is to bear witness at such moments.

Urszula Masny-Latos, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild of Massachusetts, told the News that the police moved observers “as far from the scene as possible so [the police] would not be easily visible.” She also said that Boston police overruled campus officers “and forced NLG legal observers off the grounds where the arrests happened.”

The Boston Police Department reportedly did not respond to the News about their actions.

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Huntington News editors tell Nieman Lab how they covered the encampment at NU

From The Huntington News’ Instagram feed.

The Huntington News, the independent student newspaper that covers all things Northeastern, is featured in a Nieman Lab roundup of how college papers have been covering pro-Palestinian encampments and protests on their campuses. Lab reporter Sophie Culpepper interviewed outgoing editor-in-chief Eli Curwin and his successor, Sonal Cutler, as well as student journalists at The Daily Texan at UT Austin, the Daily Trojan at the University of Southern California and The GW Hatchet at George Washington University.

The Northeastern encampment ended almost as quickly as it began — it popped up on Centennial Common on Thursday, April 25, and was cleared out by police that Saturday morning. But though the protest may have been shorter than on many other campuses, which in some cases are ongoing, it was no less fraught.

“It was very intense, and you kind of just were full of adrenaline until you had to step away,” Curwin told Culpepper. He added, though, that the chance to cover such an important story “was really cool, because it was like, this is what we’ve been learning about; this is what we’ve been practicing for.” The News had students at the site reporting around the clock right from the beginning. I should note, too, that Northeastern co-op students have been on the team covering the encampments for The Boston Globe, and Cutler has been covering protests for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Culpepper also wrote about the difficulty of reporting on pro-Palestinian demonstrators who are protesting the actions of the Israeli government and how that has gotten caught up in the Jewish identity of many of the students — including journalists:

Curwin and Cutler are both Jewish, and Curwin has family in Israel. Well before October 7, “this issue has been … something I constantly think about,” Curwin told me. The divided campus, “people constantly criticizing or scrutinizing our coverage,” and his personal background all amounted to “a very stressful semester.”

Many of the critical Instagram comments the publication has received are along the lines of “you guys must hate Jewish people,” as Curwin said, or “you don’t care about Jewish voices,” as Cutler put it. They, like all five student journalists I spoke with across four publications, described a deep commitment to doing their best to represent everyone’s perspectives fairly and accurately.

Two other points I think are worth nothing. First, The Huntington News has been unable to get arrest records from the campus police because they are a private agency not bound by the state’s public records law. That ought to change, since they have some official police powers. Second, even with social media having falling into a morass over the past few years, the News still relies heavily on Twitter/X and Instagram. Cutler and Curwin said the News’ website is mainly accessed by parents and faculty, while the students themselves rely on social media.


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In Haaretz, Laurel Leff raises questions about an open letter signed by journalism profs

Writing in the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz, my Northeastern journalism colleague Laurel Leff raises some questions about a recent open letter signed by more than 50 journalism and communication studies professors calling on The New York Times to conduct an independent review of a December story on Hamas’ use of sexual assault as a weapon of war.

The story, “Screams Without Words: How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct. 7,” came under scrutiny after The Intercept reported that the Times had relied in part on a freelancer who had liked tweets advocating extreme violence in the Gaza Strip and that some of the harrowing details in the Times story couldn’t be corroborated. Leff, though, observes that a United Nations investigation found “clear and convincing information” that Hamas had raped and tortured Israelis on Oct. 7 as well as some of the more than 200 hostages it took, a few of whom it is still holding. She writes:

In this case, the gist of the story has held up; no clear evidence of journalistic wrongdoing has emerged, and the Times has exhibited some willingness to respond to criticisms. The professors calling for an investigation therefore seem more interested in joining an ongoing propaganda war, than in righting a journalistic wrong. That’s no place for a journalism professor to be.

Leff’s column is not behind Haaretz’s paywall, but you may need to register in order to read it. The Washington Post recently reported on the letter (free link), which you can read in full here. This is a fraught issue, obviously, and I urge you to read all the relevant documents, including the Times’ original story (free link) and The Intercept article.

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Antisemitic hate speech at NU appears to have come from a counter-protester

Three media-related follow-ups to this morning’s post on the arrests of pro-Palestinian protesters at Northeastern University.

• As I noted earlier, university spokeswoman Renata Nyul issued a statement in which she cited “virulent antisemitic slurs, including ‘Kill the Jews’” as a precipitating factor in ordering that the encampment be dismantled and the police be brought in. Now there are reports that “Kill the Jews” might actually have been uttered by a pro-Israel counter-protester.

GBH News reporter Tori Bedford tweeted, “I did hear ‘kill the Jews,’ said by a counter-protester holding an Israeli flag, seemingly as a provocative joke in response to the group’s pro-Palestine chants. Not sure if that’s the specific incident @Northeastern leadership is referring to.” She also shared a video provided to her by Huskies for a Free Palestine.

Northeastern’s student newspaper, The Huntington News, acknowledged in an update at 12:15 p.m. today that the statement was indeed made by a counter-protester, and The Boston Globe has added this: “The student group behind the protests disputed that claim, saying that no one in the encampment shouted slurs, and that it was a counter-protestor who yelled ‘Kill the Jews.’”

• Earlier this morning, I read in the Globe that reporters had been asked by police to leave the scene. But when I went to write it up, that passage was gone. Sarah Scire of Nieman Lab, though, saved it and posted it on Twitter:

I don’t know why the Globe deleted that section from its story. Maybe a judgment was made that the officer was directing their statements to bystanders in general rather than journalists in particular. It also sounds like advice rather than an order. As for whether the Globe should have acknowledged the edit, I’ll just observe that it’s pretty standard for news outlets to revise and delete in their online running coverage without indicating whether any changes have been made. Good practice? Maybe not. But hardly unusual.

• Student reporters were told to back off from the immediate scene after police officers surrounded the encampment. In an update posted today at 5:30 a.m., the News published this: “Several members of The News’ staff were asked to move outside the barricade.” That does not strike me as inappropriate as long as the reporters were allowed to remain close enough to observe what was going on. Still, it’s worth noting.

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Our Northeastern j-students did great work covering the pro-Palestinian encampment

The pro-Palestinian encampment at Northeastern University has come to an end, as Boston Police arrested about 100 people early this morning. Our student journalists have been doing a great job of covering the protest, not only for The Huntington News (on Twitter/X and on their live blog) but also for The Boston Globe, where several co-op students have been on the scene. Their work has been exceptional, presented fairly and without an agenda.

I was on campus Friday afternoon and walked around the perimeter a few times. I did not attempt to engage with any of the protesters. What struck me was how small the encampment on Centennial Common was, although there were plenty of people packed inside the perimeter. The Huntington News placed the number at about 200.

One development that no doubt hastened the end of the encampment was a turn toward explicit antisemitism on the part of at least some of the protesters. At 6:25 a.m. today, the News quoted a statement from Renata Nyul, the university’s vice president for communications:

Earlier this morning the Northeastern University Police Department (NUPD) — in cooperation with local law enforcement partners — began clearing an unauthorized encampment on the university’s Boston campus. What began as a student demonstration two days ago, was infiltrated by professional organizers with no affiliation to Northeastern. Last night, the use of virulent antisemitic slurs, including ‘Kill the Jews,’ crossed the line. We cannot tolerate this kind of hate on our campus.

The Globe report included this detail about rising hostilities between the protesters and pro-Israel counter-protesters: “At one point, a person called out, ‘Kill the Jews,’ while others yelled, ‘No right to exist,’ at the two counterprotesters holding the Israeli flag. Campus police later escorted the men away from the encampment.”

[Note: The antisemitic threat appears to have been uttered by a pro-Israel counter-protester. See update.]

At 8:30 a.m. today, the News posted another statement from Nyul:

As part of clearing the site, approximately 100 individuals were detained by police. Students who produced a valid Northeastern ID were released. They will face disciplinary proceedings within the university, not legal action. Those who refused to disclose their affiliation were arrested.

What none of us have any way of knowing is whether this ends the protest or if it will escalate. Northeastern is on a different schedule from most colleges and universities; classes and finals are now over. But commencement season is now upon us, with multiple ceremonies scheduled for the various colleges and two large university-wide celebrations at Fenway Park next Sunday, May 5.

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Student journalists are on the front lines of protest coverage

The Berkeley Beacon, the student newspaper at Emerson College, has a live blog covering the arrest of students who have been camping out to protest on behalf of Palestinian rights in reaction to the Israel-Hamas war. More than 100 protesters have been taken into custody, the Beacon reports, citing the Emerson chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.

Student journalists have received a lot of much-deserved praise for their coverage of these encampments. In particular, the Columbia Daily Spectator has established itself as the go-to source for reporting on protests at Columbia University.

Update: The Huntington News has tweeted that students are setting up an encampment on Centennial Common at Northeastern University. On the one hand, I’ve been wondering when this might happen. On the other, we’re a week or two ahead of most schools; classes are out, and finals are nearly over.

Update II: Now The Huntington News has started a live blog to follow unfolding events at Northeastern.

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In bloom

Wednesday might have been the best day of the spring to see the flowering Bradford pear trees along Boston Avenue in West Medford and the Hillside neighborhood, which also happens to be the route that I walk occasionally to the Medford/Tufts Green Line Station. The Green Line takes me directly to Northeastern, and I learned something that had escaped me before — the trolley platform is also lined with Bradford pears.

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West Medford

Medford Hillside


Poynter reviews ‘What Works,’ pairing it with a book by old friend Brant Houston

Bill Mitchell has a kind review at Poynter Online of our book, “What Works in Community News,” pairing it with Brant Houston’s “Changing Models for Journalism.” He writes:

In practical terms, they are essential reading for anyone considering a news startup. For most people, journalist or not, launching a news venture without consulting these volumes invites the sort of outcome awaiting a novice cook attempting a French feast sans recipe.

Mitchell really gets what co-author Ellen Clegg and I are up to, noting that the book is the hub of a larger enterprise that includes a podcast, updates to our website and, last month, a conference on local news at Northeastern University that drew about 100 participants.

Also, a fun fact: Brant was my editor when I started working as a stringer at The Daily Times Chronicle in Woburn, Massachusetts, in 1979. Not long after I started, he told me that he was thinking about leaving, and that if I stuck around, I might be able to take his job. And so I did, working at the paper for 10 years before kicking around for a while and eventually landing at The Boston Phoenix.

Brant has also been a guest on our podcast.

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