Since I came to CommonWealth nearly 10 years ago after a couple decades in the newspaper industry, I tell people there is not all that much difference.
“I went from one non-profit to another,” I often say. “It’s just that this one does it on purpose.”
It is, like most things for us reporters and editors, black humor. It’s an observation that highlights the problems in the disappearing print business, which is entirely different from the changing news business.
After more than 30 years reporting and editing the news, I’m retiring, which in this day and age is news itself. I get to go out on my own terms, unlike scores of my colleagues who have been forced out, either through layoffs, buyouts, or frustration. Few get to walk away into the work afterlife without regret or looking back like I am, in large part because from the day I began, I have been able to report and write the news with a free hand – except for much-needed editing from the likes of Bruce Mohl and Michael Jonas here at CommonWealth and dozens of others at the Globe, Herald, Ledger, and Enterprise when I was at those papers – without concern for the bottom line. That’s been left to others at higher paygrades.
But the Globe is no outlier. Just a handful of people now work out of the press room at the State House, once a bustling office with crammed desks that seated reporters from nearly every daily in Massachusetts. And that means less coverage of state government and less ability to hold accountable those in power there.
The biggest change in my years in the business is the internet, which has been a blessing for reporters and editors to access once-difficult information from far-flung sources. But at the same time, the technology has precipitated the demise of newspapers. Who needs to buy a paper when you can read it on your laptop, phone, or tablet from multiple sources? And who needs to take out an ad there when there are so many online ways to reach people?
Reporters now multi-task, with their smartphones becoming the most important tool of the trade. Not only are they used to stay in touch with the desk in those increasingly fewer times they report out of the office and double as an audio recorder, reporters use them to serve as their own photographers with a 12-pixel camera in hand, minimizing the need for a vast photo staff.
The phone also enables reporters to post breaking news on social media so people don’t have to wait for the news outlet to put a story up on the homepage, let alone print it the next day. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other sites have not only minimized the impact of newspapers, they have turned everyone with a smartphone into a reporter, if not journalist. (Fun fact: The “cut” and “paste” commands on your screens are remnants of the print business. When stories came out of the pneumatic tubes that ran from the editorial department to the composing room, the compositors would literally cut and paste the long sheet onto the page to be photographed and printed. Fun fact II: The “-30-” in the headline above is old print code placed at the end of the story for compositors to know that was, indeed, the end. The lore goes it stems from Civil War dispatches that ended with “XXX,” which is also the Roman numeral for 30 and became common usage after that.)
As I take my leave, Boston is about to become a one-paper town. That makes us much like many other cities these days but it’s a change that needs to be acknowledged. The Boston Herald will move its offices to Braintree next month, leaving the Globe as the last paper standing. That is stunning and significant.
The largest publisher of newspapers in the region by circulation is now GateHouse Media, which owns more than 100 daily and weekly papers in the state, including the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, the Patriot Ledger in Quincy, the Brockton Enterprise, the Cape Cod Times, and the MetroWest Daily News. The company nearly bought the bankrupt Herald before being outbid by Digital First, a loathed corporation in the industry operated by a hedge fund.
And that is the biggest change in the business that most readers don’t see. The joke about non-profits is really just a joke because most of these papers are owned by hedge funds and venture capitalists and they would never allow their holdings to be unprofitable. So to preserve the bottom line, they cut. And they cut. And they cut.
The changes that have occurred in the news business since I started have been more revolutionary than evolutionary. Nonprofit news when I began was mostly PBS. But with the retrenchment in coverage by the for-profit sector, outlets such as CommonWealth have become vital pieces of the reporting landscape.
And, thankfully, there are many, many talented young journalists covering news from Beacon Hill to the Berkshires, from Cape Ann to Cape Cod. If I tried to name them, I’d leave some very deserving ones out. But they are the reason for hope for the industry. And hopefully, they’ll get to retire from this business at a very old age. That would be a welcome change.
Nika Elugardo, the representative-elect from Jamaica Plain, says the House needs structural change and puts the leadership situation in a slavery context. (State House News)
Paul Reville, one of the architects of the Education Reform Act of 1993, says the state has failed low-income and minority students. (MassLive)
The Bristol County Economic Development Consultants has given Fall River officials notice it intends to file suit in the wake of the city’s Redevelopment Authority’s vote to sever the management contract with the non-profit and its executive director, calling the move a “political ambush.” (Herald News)
Chelsea has become the first community in the state to ban the sale of “nips,” a move cheered by some while drawing the wrath of the state’s liquor lobby. (Boston Globe)
Orleans selectmen have voted to ban surfing lessons at Nauset Beach without mentioning shark activity but the town’s natural resources manager acknowledged the move was made because of the increase in the apex predator’s activity. (Cape Cod Times)
Boston officials struck an agreement to maintain the iconic Citgo sign over Kenmore Square without giving it official landmark status. (Boston Herald)
Former Donald Trump fix-it man Michael Cohen pled guilty to lying to Congress about a potential deal to build a Trump Tower in Russia in play as late as June 2016, a potentially explosive revelation in the special counsel investigation. (U.S. News & World Report)
A Globe editorial comes down on the side of Rep. Seth Moulton and other House members pushing for leadership change and says Nancy Pelosi can cement a positive legacy by paving the way for that transition even as she appears poised to regain the speaker’s post.
Sgt. First Class Eric Emond, the Fall River native killed in the line of duty this week in Afghanistan, was remembered for his compassion in helping establish the Massachusetts Fallen Heroes nonprofit. (Boston Globe)
Life expectancy is often based on where you were born. Governing analyzed new data and found communities, including one in Rhode Island, that bucked that trend.
The Lowell City Council is eyeing changes to its election system to deal with a lawsuit alleging the current citywide council elections favor whites at the expense of minorities. (Lowell Sun)
Marriott International, the largest hotel chain in the world, says as many as 500 million people may have had their personal data exposed including credit card information in a data security breach of the reservation system. (Wall Street Journal)
An agreement between the Swampscott schools and a gender fluid teacher touches on the sticky issues of how the teacher should dress and be addressed. (CommonWealth)
Parents and advocates are raising questions about the 10-year facilities plan to upgrade Boston public schools. (Boston Globe)
Former workers at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau who left because they were critical of President Trump for hampering their enforcement efforts have launched a student loan debt help program to work with state and private lenders and go around the federal government. (New York Times)
The Framingham School Committee is considering replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People Day. (MetroWest Daily News)
State and federal regulators gave final approval to the merger of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Lahey Health, despite concerns about health care cost implications. (Boston Globe) Attorney General Maura Healey sets conditions for the merger.
Passengers had to be evacuated and trains running both ways along the Old Colony line between Kingston and South Station were backed up after a locomotive on an inbound commuter rail train began billowing smoke in Hanson. (Patriot Ledger) State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack lashed at out the commuter rail failings after the fire, which came two days after another commuter rail train derailed when a wheel fell off. (Boston Globe)
Plymouth officials are looking to negotiate a land transfer and continued annual payments of more than $12 million with the new prospective owner of the soon-to-be-closed Pilgrim nuclear power plant. (Cape Cod Times)
The state’s colleges and universities have barred the use of marijuana on campuses despite voter approval to legalize it and even though many schools turn their heads on alcohol consumption. (Wicked Local)
Mohegan Sun said it is ready to step forward to buy and operate the Everett casino being built by Wynn Resorts if the company is deemed unsuitable to hold a license, an offer met with skepticism by experts who question Mohegan’s ability to finance such a deal. (Boston Herald)
CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTSThe chief of the state’s Trial Court has appointed a working group to consider changes to the system of confidential clerk magistrate hearings that recent Globe reports have questioned.
Cornell Mills, a city employee, one-time Boston city candidate, and son of disgraced former state senator Dianne Wilkerson, pleaded guilty to charges related to swindling potential homebuyers out of deposit money after falsely posing as a real estate broker. (Boston Globe)