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Anti-smoking activist targets legalized sports gambling

I’m really glad to see that my Northeastern colleague Richard Daynard, the famed anti-smoking activist, is now taking on the scourge of legalized sports gambling. Aaron Pressman reports in The Boston Globe:

On Friday, Daynard was part of a team that filed a class-action lawsuit against DraftKings in Middlesex Superior court alleging the Boston company’s “$1,000 bonus” promotion for new sign-ups was deceptive advertising inducing people to use “a known addictive product.”

“I expect there will be other cases filed by us and by other people because, certainly, this DraftKings pitch is not the only misleading and deceptive pitch out there,” he said. “I’m sure in this state and other states, there are similarly misleading pitches.”

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Two daily newspapers in Rhode Island will merge

Photo (cc) 2023 by Dan Kennedy

Sad news coming out of Rhode Island, where two daily papers are being merged into one. Ian Donnis of The Public’s Radio reports that The Call of Woonsocket and The Times of Pawtucket will become The Blackstone Valley Call & Times as of Nov. 1. “Our commitment to being a daily news provider for Northern Rhode Island has not changed,” according to a story Donnis cited that was on the front page of The Call. The article referenced “current business trends and increases in printing costs” as the reasons behind the merger.

In addition, The Call’s Sunday edition will be discontinued, to be replaced with a Saturday weekend edition in the merged paper. And get this: Donnis writes, “Between them, The Call and The Times have two news reporters, two sports reporters and a photographer.” Now that is small. The papers are owned by Rhode Island Suburban Newspapers, which acquired them in 2007.

As I’ve written here before, I was a Northeastern co-op student at The Call from 1976-’78, working full-time for about a year in three- and six-month stints. The way co-op works is that you’re replaced by another student when the semester ends and it’s time to return to school. I alternated with Karen Bordeleau, a future executive editor at The Providence Journal who’s now at Arizona State University.

The Call was excellent, a place where I learned a lot under great mentorship. It’s sad to see what’s become of the paper, as well as The Times, but Woonsocket and Pawtucket are economically depressed cities, and they no longer reach out into the more affluent suburbs to the extent that they did at one time. According to U.S. Census data, the median household income in Pawtucket is $56,427, and in Woonsocket it’s $48,822. Both of those figures are well below the state median of $74,489.

In the mid-’70s, The Call covered what we referred to as “Call Country,” which comprised more than a dozen communities in northern Rhode Island and southern Worcester County. I don’t know what the circulation area is today. Nor do I know how many paid subscribers the papers have because the Alliance for Audited Media has ended instant access to those numbers.

Donnis doesn’t mention any layoffs, and it’s hard to see how they could get much smaller. I just hope the Call & Times will be able to at least do as good a job of serving their communities as the two separate papers do now.

Note: Ian has posted a correction on the ownership of the two papers, and I’ve updated this post accordingly.

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Northeastern’s leadership issues statement on the war between Israel and Hamas

Northeastern University has issued a statement about the war between Israel and Hamas. I’d like to share it with you:

To all Members of the Northeastern Community,

The terror and bloodshed inflicted by Hamas’s attacks on Israel are cause for the deepest sorrow and most vehement condemnation. As war now ravages Gaza and Israel, we mourn for all the innocent lives that have been lost. To the many members of our community directly affected by these horrific events, you have our utmost solidarity and support.

Three of our students who were in Israel at the time of the attacks are safe and secure. We are also in touch with students, faculty and staff with connections to the region to ensure their wellbeing in this traumatic time.

We realize that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ignites strong views on all sides. As an academic institution, we welcome peaceful dialogue and debate that is inclusive of all viewpoints. But we should all be united in our condemnation of terrorism and the killing of innocent civilians.

Northeastern is a global community of learning, and our fundamental values are rooted in knowledge over hate, harmony over division, and reason over brutality. These values will continue to guide us as we move forward together.

These resources are available to all who may need them during this painful time …

As we hope for a peaceful resolution to the violence and suffering, let us affirm our commitment to our shared values. Northeastern will always stand against hatred.

Sincerely,

Joseph E. Aoun
President

David Madigan
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Kenneth W. Henderson
Chancellor and Senior Vice President for Learning

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Student journalists are essential to knowing what’s taking place on campus

I just want to give a quick shoutout to our great student journalists at Northeastern. The Boston Globe published a story Monday about problems with NU Bound, a program under which our students begin their education at campuses outside of Boston — especially Oakland, California, and London. Students talk about running into a housing squeeze as well as a sense that they’ve fallen behind academically and socially, according to Globe reporter Vivi Smilgius.

The Huntington News, our independent student newspaper, posted an article that covered similar ground on Oct. 2. Written by Jackson Laramee, the story is especially strong on the different academic culture in London, where students are given little in the way of graded assignments and professors, according one student, are disorganized and short on preparation.

And let’s not overlook The Daily Free Press at Boston University, where student journalists published a comprehensive report on problems at Ibram X. Kendi’s Antiracist Research Center that had other media scrambling to catch up.

Student journalists are doing a great job, and their work is essential to understanding what is taking place on college campuses.

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What news stories should get more attention? My students have some answers.

Canadian wildfire smoke in Minneapolis, May 2023. Photo (cc) 2023 by Chad Davis.

One of my favorite exercises in my media ethics classes is to ask students to identify news stories that they think have been undercovered. They always come up with thought-provoking material. Some stories got little or no attention; others were covered a great deal, but perhaps not quite as much as they should have been or with the wrong emphasis. I’ve got a big class this fall, and I can’t share everything, but I thought you’d enjoy reading a few highlights.

Digging deeper on wildfires. How could this summer’s wildfires have been covered any more than they already were? Every day we saw smoky haze drifting in from Canada, on TV, on news sites and, needless to say, in real life. But did you know that air pollution from such fires in the past few years has been so pervasive that decades’ worth of progress on air quality was undone? And that doesn’t even count data from 2023. (Source: New York Times)

The aftermath of the Maui fires. Again, what more is there to know? Well, quite a lot, as it turns out. The media have moved on, but Hawaiians are continuing to cope with the deadly fires, which destroyed the historic city of Lahaina. Among other things, we still don’t know what, exactly, caused the fires, and Hawaii will remain vulnerable to such events in the future because climate change has made the islands hotter and drier. (Source: New York Times)

• Money for veterans is missing. Now here’s a story that I haven’t seen anywhere else. The Massachusetts Veterans of Foreign Wars is demanding that a judge order VFW Post 144 to produce its financial records so an audit can be conducted into money that the post has collected in recent years. According to the state VFW, several hundred thousand dollars is unaccounted for, and some of it was intended to help veterans in need. (Source: Universal Hub)

• An unnoticed border closing. While the border between the U.S. and Mexico remains the focus of political wrangling, there have been relatively few reports that the Dominican Republican has closed its border with Haiti. It’s a story of great interest in Boston, as the city is home to large communities of immigrants from both countries — prompting Boston Globe columnist Marcela García to write about the situation recently. (Source: Washington Post)

Mexico decriminalizes abortion. The Mexican Supreme Court ruled recently that laws criminalizing abortion were unconstitutional, a significant step forward for reproductive freedom in that country. And with a number of states in the U.S. outlawing abortion following the end of Roe v. Wade, we can expect that many American women will seek abortions south of the border. (Source: New York Times)

The tip of the iceberg. The whole world watched in revulsion when now-former Spanish soccer president Luis Rubiales kissed Jenni Hermosos on the lips without her consent after the Spanish women’s soccer team won the World Cup. But that was not all the athletes had to overcome. The team was in revolt against its coach, Jorge Vilda, and star player Alexia Putellas was hampered by injuries. Still, they persisted. (Source: New York Times)

Cheating low-paid workers. The San Francisco Unified School District failed to pay more than 800 of its lowest-paid workers this past July, telling them that a payroll screw-up meant that their compensation would be delayed for two weeks. Those affected — lunch servers, janitors and clerks — earn an average salary of between $55,000 and $64,000 a year in one of the highest-cost cities in the country. (Source: Mission Local)

The opioid epidemic continues. According to researchers, the opioid epidemic is now in the midst of a “fourth wave” because of the rise in fentanyl-related overdoses. The fentanyl crisis receives regular coverage, but the extent of it, driven by mixing fentanyl with stimulants such as cocaine or methamphetamine, is not widely understood. The crisis resulted in overdose deaths exceeding 100,000 in 2021, the first time it had passed the six-digit mark. (Source: NBC News)

• Misunderstanding sexual racism. The Boston Globe has covered several stories involving sexual assaults against Asian and Asian American women but, according to one of our students, mischaracterizes those assaults as hate crimes. They are that, of course, but our student says they should also be be understood as examples of sexual racism. To do otherwise “fundamentally misunderstands the way that Asian women experience racism in the U.S.” (Source: New York Times)

An incomplete education. Across the country, right-wing authorities in states and communities have banned what they call critical race theory (an esoteric concept generally taught in graduate school), resulting in less education about Black history. This has been especially apparent in Florida, where the Stop Woke Act signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis has made it nearly impossible for public schools to engage in a rational discussion about the legacy of slavery. (Source: Time)

There were other stories as well, about the devastating floods in Libya, the state of the Boston Public Schools, the lack of broadband internet in rural areas, the Canadian House speaker who resigned after ignorantly hailing a Ukrainian Nazi, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the ongoing crisis between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the possible end of DACA, the depletion of groundwater, and the rise of waterborne pathogens. It was an impressive list of stories, and I feel fortunate to be able to spend time with such great students.

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A bit more on Chris Licht

My Northeastern colleague Mike Beaudet and I spoke with Tanner Stening of Northeastern Global News about the meltdown at CNN, culminating earlier this week in the firing of CEO Chris Licht.

Linda Shapley talks about journalism, leadership and the power of diversity

Linda Shapley. Photo (cc) 2021 by Dan Kennedy.

On the new episode of the “What Works” podcast, Ellen Clegg and I speak with Linda Shapley, the publisher of Colorado Community Media, who describes herself as a longtime denizen of the state’s media ecosystem. Indeed, she was at Colorado Politics and worked for 21 years for The Denver Post. “I’ve been a lieutenant for a lot of really great generals,” she once said. “This is my opportunity to be a general.”

CCM is a group of about two dozen weekly and monthly newspapers in the Denver suburbs. They were saved from chain ownership two years ago when they were purchased through a deal led by the National Trust for Local News. Last August we spoke with Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro, the co-founder and CEO of the trust.

Shapley has talked about the power of representation as a visible Latina leader in an industry that has traditionally been dominated by white men. She says she hopes to use her position to encourage more diversity in journalism. Her mentor at the Post, Greg Moore, was a previous guest on What Works. You can listen to his episode here.

Shapley grew up in northeastern Colorado, in a rural county. Her father had a dairy farm. When I was in Colorado doing research for our book-in-progress, “What Works in Community News,” she told me that dairy farming is a lot like newspapers, because cows don’t know it’s Christmas.

Also this week, we talk with Madison Xagoraris, a graduate student in the Media Advocacy Program at Northeastern University’s School of Journalism. Xagoraris recently reported on KefiFM, a Boston-based Greek music outlet dedicated to serving the Greek and Greek American communities in the Boston area and throughout New England.

Ellen has a Quick Take about retired journalists who are busy launching startup newsrooms. Nieman Reports has a piece by Jon Marcus that looks at the Asheville Watchdog in North Carolina, and the New Bedford Light in Massachusetts. These journalists say they want to help bolster the profession they gave their lives to by setting up nonprofit community news sites and mentoring younger reporters and editors. They aren’t playing pickleball.

I’m in a Colorado state of mind: My Quick Take is on the fifth anniversary of the Denver Rebellion, when the staff of The Denver Post rose up against further newsroom cuts being imposed by its hedge-fund owner, Alden Global Capital. That rebellion sparked a revolution in Denver journalism.

You can listen to our conversation here and subscribe through your favorite podcast app.

Muzzle follow-up: A settlement is reached in a Worcester public records case

A final price tag has been set on the city of Worcester’s years-long campaign to withhold public records pertaining to police misconduct from the Telegram & Gazette, the city’s daily paper, and its reporter Brad Petrishen. Open government watchdog Andrew Quemere writes that the T&G and the city reached a settlement in February for $180,000 to cover most of the paper’s legal fees plus $5,000 in punitive damages.

Last summer I gave former Worcester city manager Edward Augustus a New England Muzzle Award, published by GBH News, for leading the effort to keep residents of his city in the dark about what their police department was up to. District Court Judge Janet Kenton-Walker awarded the T&G $101,000 in legal fees in addition to the punitive damages, ruling that such a harsh penalty was justified because the city had misrepresented aspects of the case in its dealings with the court.

Not harsh enough, as it turned out. The T&G’s lawyer, Jeffrey Pyle, appealed Kenton-Walker’s ruling, arguing that the paper’s legal fees of $217,000 should have been covered in their entirety given the city’s misconduct. The state Appeals Court agreed, overturning Kenton-Walker. That led to the February settlement.

“The Telegram & Gazette spent more than three years fighting for the right to have access to documents of considerable public interest,” T&G executive editor Michael McDermott was quoted as saying in Quemere’s post. “I’m proud of reporter Brad Petrishen for pursuing these records and thankful to our lawyers for successfully defending the public’s right to know.”

And, finally, my disclosure: David Nordman, who was the T&G’s editor until this past summer, is now a colleague of mine at Northeastern. We work on opposite sides of the campus, literally and figuratively: he’s the executive editor of Northeastern Global News, part of the university’s communications operation, and I’m a faculty member at the School of Journalism.

Following a journalist’s arrest by Putin’s thugs, Nick Daniloff offers his hard-earned wisdom

Nick Daniloff, at right in gray suit, meets with President Ronald Reagan at the White House after his release from a Soviet prison in 1986. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

My friend and colleague Nick Daniloff has an important op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal about his time in a Soviet prison in 1986, comparing his ordeal to that of Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was recently arrested by Vladimir Putin’s thugs. At the time of his own arrest, Daniloff was a reporter for U.S. News & World Report. Later he joined Northeastern University’s School of Journalism as a faculty member and director, which is how I got to know him. He writes (free link):

Reporting in Russia has always been risky. The authorities there have never been comfortable with the open flow of information, and they have recently imposed new restrictions on public protests. Several Western news organizations pulled their correspondents to protest recently passed laws that essentially ban independent reporting about the Ukraine invasion. Much of Russia’s independent media have been forced to shut down or to persevere outside the country.

We need to protect and honor the bravery of foreign correspondents, photographers and stringers all over the world, reporting in difficult and dangerous circumstances. And to my fellow Russian correspondent Evan Gershkovich: Courage.

Nick’s memoir, “Of Spies and Spokesmen: My Life as a Cold War Correspondent,” is a terrific look back told by a journalist who made a difference.

Healey’s ambivalent stand on public records recalls her Muzzle Award-winning past

Gov. Maura Healey. Photo (cc) 2013 by ZGreenblatt.

Andrew Quemere, a journalist who doggedly follows open-government issues in Massachusetts at his newsletter, The Mass Dump, reports that newly minted Gov. Maura Healey may prove to be not quite the champion of Beacon Hill transparency that she claimed she would be.

No one should be too surprised — she is, after all, a two-time winner of the New England Muzzle Awards, a feature I wrote for 25 years for GBH News and, before that, The Boston Phoenix that tracked outrages against free speech. I’ll get to that. But first, the latest. Quemere’s item begins:

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey’s administration said Monday that it will not release records from past administrations. The decision means that a vast amount of vital information about state government — including former Governor Charlie Baker’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the repeated safety problems at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and the sprawling overtime-fraud scandal at the State Police — will remain secret.

Some background: Baker and previous governors declared that the state’s public records law did not cover either them or their immediate staff. Indeed, the notoriously weak law also doesn’t cover the legislative branch (see this 2020 report by Northeastern journalism students) or the judiciary, meaning that the only governmental groups that have to comply are cities, towns, the state’s executive agencies and quasi-independent authorities. (And county government, to the extent that we have county government, which we pretty much don’t.)

Healey told GBH News in December that she would end the exemption for her office — but then reversed herself, explaining, essentially, that she would take it on a case-by-case basis. Moreover, the Healey administration refused to provide Quemere with records pertaining to police and law enforcement dating back to Baker’s time in office, saying that the new, more open policy she has adopted is not retroactive.

So: Healey’s new policy of openness does not cover previous administrations; and we’re not clear what the new policy really means.

As for the Muzzle Awards, the most pertinent is from 2018, when she was singled out for upholding rulings that public information should, in some cases, remain private. Healey’s secretive approach to the people’s business when she was the state attorney general was revealed by then-Boston Globe reporter Todd Wallack, now with WBUR Radio. As I wrote at the time:

Wallack’s most startling finding: Healey’s office had upheld a ruling by the Worcester district attorney that records pertaining to the 1951 murder of a state trooper should not be made public. Healey’s decision reversed a ruling by Secretary of State Bill Galvin’s office and denied a friend of the murder victim the opportunity to follow up some leads on his own. The friend has since died.

Wallack documented numerous other examples of Healey’s penchant for siding with the secret-keepers, including her decision to appeal an order that the state police provide the Globe with dates of birth for state troopers. That would have made it possible for the paper to examine the driving records of officers who had been involved in motor-vehicle accidents. Robert Ambrogi, a First Amendment lawyer and the director of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, told Wallack: “I would expect more based on the promises she has made about open government.”

Her previous Muzzle was less germaine: I criticized her in 2015 for filing a formal defense of “a 1946 state law criminalizing political lies aimed at influencing an election.” Go ahead. You tell me what what’s a lie, what’s a mistake and what’s political hyperbole. I wrote:

As the libertarian Cato Institute was quoted as saying in an article by the State House News Service, it can be “incredibly difficult to assess the truth of a politician’s claims, especially in the chaos of an election campaign.” A number of advocacy groups and media organizations opposed Healey, including the ACLU of Massachusetts and the New England First Amendment Coalition.

We live in a time of intense political polarization, but there is an issue that unites Democrats and Republicans: the intense desire to conduct the public’s business out of public view. Let’s hope that Gov. Healey’s first steps aren’t a sign of things to come.

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