My reporter’s toolkit for today’s demonstrations

I’m heading to Boston later this morning to report on the protests for my column at WGBH News. Here is my reporter’s toolkit: unofficial press pass, business cards, notebook and $40 cash for bail — the last recommended by First Amendment lawyer Rob Bertsche, whose firm, Prince Lobel, will be on call this weekend for any journalists who find themselves in legal trouble.

My plan is to accompany the “Fight Supremacy!” counterprotesters from the Reggie Lewis Center to the Boston Common, where the white-supremacist rally is supposed to take place. I’ll try to do some live posting on Twitter right here, though it’s likely the cellular networks will be overloaded.

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Pence’s petulance undescores his tricky relationship with Trump

Mike Pence. Photo (cc) 2015 by Gage Skidmore.

Few members of the Trump administration have carried themselves with more unctuous sycophancy than Mike Pence. “Thank you, Mr. President, and just the greatest privilege of my life is to serve as vice president to a president who’s keeping his word to the American people,” the former Indiana governor said at that North Korean-style cabinet meeting back in June. At joint public appearances, Pence gazes at President Trump with a mixture of admiration, gratitude, and sheer astonishment at finding himself just a heartbeat away from the presidency.

But now Trump and Pence may be on the outs. The proximate cause is a New York Times story over the weekend reporting the not especially earthshattering news that Pence is keeping his powder dry in case Trump does not run for re-election in 2020.

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How Trump’s toxic touch could contaminate the scouting movement

Photo (cc) 2013 by Phoebe Baker.

Note: On Thursday, July 27, the BSA’s chief scout executive, Mike Surbaugh, issued a strong statement about Trump’s speech that said in part, “We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.” Read the whole thing here.

Donald Trump contaminates everything he touches. So no one should have been surprised when his speech at the Boy Scouts’ national jamboree took a nasty turn into partisan politics. After all, it’s always about him.

But there is a larger issue at stake here: the fate of the Boy Scouts of America, which has been slowly evolving out of its discriminatory past. As an Eagle scout, a former scoutmaster, and the father of an Eagle scout, I really care about the future of the organization. And I’m concerned that President Trump’s toxic rhetoric will stain a movement already seen by many as anachronistic.

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Documentary explores flaws in how the media cover presidential campaigns

It’s no secret that the press does a lousy job of reporting on presidential campaigns. Not all media outlets, of course, and not all the time. For the most part, though, political coverage is dominated by horse-race analysis, polls, negative gotcha stories, and a paucity of attention to issues that voters might actually care about.

Kevin Bowe wants to do something about it.

A documentary filmmaker who followed the presidential candidates and the press as they trudged back and forth across New Hampshire in 2015 and 2016, he has boiled down his findings in a splendid documentary titled “Democracy Through the Looking Glass: Politics and Media in the Post-Truth Era.”

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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: Presenting the 2017 New England Muzzle Awards

Illustration by Emily Judem of WGBH News

Time for hot dogs, fireworks and the annual New England Muzzle Awards, hosted once again by WGBH News. Believe it or not, this is the 20th time that Harvey Silverglate and I have rounded up outrages against free speech and free expression. There are some good ones here, from Google and Facebook to the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden. Please have a look. It would be un-American not to.

Why Medium’s Ev Williams will fail at his quest to fix the internet

Ev Williams. Photo (cc) 2014 Christopher Michel.

Earlier this month The New York Times published a profile of Evan Williams, an internet entrepreneur who has done as much as anyone to promote the notion that each of us can and should have a digital voice. He founded Blogger, the first widespread blogging platform. He co-founded Twitter. And, in 2012, he launched Medium, a platform for writing that he hoped would become an alternative to the sociopathy that defines too much of the online world.

It hasn’t worked — not because the quality of Medium isn’t good; much of it is. Rather, he hasn’t been able to find a workable business model that attracts readers, rewards writers, and generates profits for his investors. In other words, Williams is dealing with the same problems as publishers everywhere, and his bona fides have proven to be of little help.

“I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place,” Williams told the Times’ David Streitfeld. “I was wrong about that.”

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The Boston Globe’s storytelling event reinforces community ties

The other day I was talking with a colleague about how our news-consumption habits had changed during the early months of the Trump presidency. The endless torrent of shocking developments from Washington had tied both of us to The Washington Post and The New York Times from the moment we got up and through much of the day. Local news, by comparison, had faded into the background.

Yet it’s local news that is essential to the civic glue that binds us together. Ultimately none of us as individuals can do much about what’s taking place nationally. We live in communities, and it’s at that level where each of us can have an effect, for better or for worse.

Last Friday evening The Boston Globe provided a vibrant reminder of that, packaging its local journalism not in print or on the web but, rather, through two and a half hours of live storytelling. Dubbed Globe Live, the event — held before nearly 600 people at the Emerson Paramount Center — featured nonfiction monologues, video, photography, music, and even some comedy.

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