The holy media wars

The Boston Globe built some serious buzz for its soon-to-come Catholic website on Wednesday by unveiling the site’s name (Crux) and by breaking the Eighth Commandment by stealing columnist Margery Eagan away from the Boston Herald.

Eagan will become Crux’s “spirituality columnist,” joining an editor, three reporters, and a web producer who have already been hired to launch the standalone website devoted to all things Catholic.Globe CEO Mike Sheehan says the website, which is expected to launch in September, will have a global audience. “Don’t think of this site as the place you to go buy statues you bury in the backyard,” he says.

According to the Globe’s press release, Eagan will write on issues of spirituality, contemplation, and devotion. That job description sounds dreadfully boring, but Eagan is rarely boring. In her more than 30 years at the Herald, she was always a bit unpredictable, even when writing about being Catholic.

“Being a Catholic in 2011 is like being a Republican in Cambridge,” she wrote in one of her Herald columns. “You are constantly asked to defend yourself. How can you belong to a church that coddles pedophiles…rewards pedophile enablers….treats women, gays, children, the divorced and remarried as less than fully human?” Her answer? “Well, many Catholics will tell you about the pull of what they fell in love with as children and cannot find, with due respect, even among near-beer Episcopalians.”

While Eagan will leave the Herald, she will remain alongside Jim Braude on their WGBH radio show. On Wednesday’s show, she called her new assignment “a dream job.” Globe editor Brian McGrory called in and couldn’t stop gushing. “We just think it’s a match made in heaven,” he said.

On the media front, the Eagan hiring is significant for two reasons. It’s another demonstration that Globe publisher John Henry is willing to buck the media tide and invest in new products, new ideas, and new reporters.

Second, Eagan’s hiring by the Globe weakens an already weak Herald. The tabloid (which didn’t mention Eagan’s defection in Thursday’s paper) is covering less and less news and relying more and more on its columnists to attract readers. Eagan’s departure is a big loss. She more than held her own among Herald columnists, and she was unusual at the tabloid because you didn’t know what take she would have on any particular issue.

A good example came on Sunday when she wrote about Kirk Minihane, the WEEI talk show host who came under fire for describing Fox sports reporter Erin Andrews as “a gutless bitch” for asking softball questions at the All Star Game. Everyone was kicking Minihane around, and Eagan was no exception. But she acknowledged that he was partially right when he said Andrews was hired because she is good looking. “Are we supposed to pretend we’re all blind?” she wrote. “Almost every TV sports reporter I’ve seen – the female ones, anyway – is a knockout, or very close.”

BRUCE MOHL

 

BEACON HILL

Lawmakers have struck a compromise on a controversial provision in a pending gun-control bill. The compromise will not allow local police chiefs unilateral discretion to deny permits for rifles or shotguns but will let them petition a court for such a ruling based on “reliable, articulable, and credible” information” that the individual may pose a public safety risk. Gun-rights advocate William Matthews argued earlier this week in CommonWealth that a House version of the bill giving police chiefs unilateral power to deny rifle and shotgun permits would face a strong constitutional challenge.

The state bond bill has $20 million for a Senate restoration, $20 million for a House restoration, and now $20 million for an expansion of the Tsongas Center in Lowell, the Sun reports.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh gets a one-two punch from the Globe‘s Joan Vennochi and Yvonne Abraham for his comments defending convicted federal felon John O’Brien and saying the rigged hiring that  he oversaw in the Probation Department wasn’t criminal. Vennochi gets off the best line, reacting to Walsh’s bizarre suggestion that O’Brien was an innocent the victim and that “somehow the system got the better of him.” Says Vennochi, “How could the system get the better of O’Brien? He invented it.”

Meanwhile, the preparations for O’Brien’s sentencing and a second trial begin, but CommonWealth reports Judge William Young has hit a snag dealing with some unusual conflicts involving the state Probation Department.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Walsh puts a hold on the nomination of Ted Landsmark to a slot on the Boston Redevelopment Authority board until details are clearer about his firing last week as president of the Boston Architectural College.

Gov. Deval Patrick tours a “downtown on the rebound,” as the Eagle-Tribune describes the gritty Gateway City of Lawrence.

The girlfriend of former Lawrence mayor William Lantigua sues the city for wrongful termination, claiming she lost her job because she supported Lantigua politically.

An effort to recall two town selectmen roils Lancaster.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Time examines the rise of suburban poverty in America. Last summer’s issue of CommonWealth featured a Conversation interview with Alan Berube of The Brookings Institution, co-author of a book on the rise of suburban poverty.

If you can’t beat him, sue him: House Republicans, vote to initiate a lawsuit against President Obama charging him with overstepping his executive authority. E.J. Dionne checks in on the GOP’s “crying wolf on impeachment.”

Sen. Ed Markey leads all of Congress in campaign contributions from lobbyists.

The US attorney for Manhattan fires a warning shot at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

ELECTIONS

Polling data indicate independent Jeff McCormick is a threat to Republican Charlie Baker’s chances of winning the race for governor, CommonWealth reports.

Steve Grossman and Martha Coakley are not playing nice.

New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown attacks Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen on immigration, NECN reports.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The House passed a bill and sent it to the Senate aimed at jumpstarting the stalled mixed-use development at the former naval air base in South Weymouth by overhauling the three-town agency overseeing the project.

Market Basket began advertising a job fair to replace workers who have walked out in support of Arthur T. Demoulas, the ousted CEO, the Eagle-Tribune reports. Keller@Large says the Market Basket saga has a lesson for corporate titans about putting profits before customers and workers.

Comcast Corp. moves to swallow Charter Communications in central Massachusetts, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

Economic growth in Massachusetts outpaces the country as a whole, WBUR reports.

EDUCATION

The US Department of Education is investigating the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth‘s handling of sexual assault cases, placing it on the growing list of colleges and universities being probed by the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights.

HEALTH CARE

A new study suggests the benefits of e-cigarettes outweigh the harms, Time reports. CommonWealth examined the issue in its winter print issue.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Demolition of the old, coal-fired power plant in Salem begins, the Salem News reports.

The rainy summer has driven up the price of clams in the region to the highest levels many have ever seen, but customers are still shelling out the money for them.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The Trial Court is expanding the number of “specialty courts,” adding more mental health, drug, and veteran’s court sessions around the state. CommonWealth spotlighted the first veteran’s court at Boston Municipal Court earlier this year.

New York sheriffs are shying away from holding the federal government’s immigration detainees, a practice many sheriffs in Massachusetts engage in to raise money, the New York Times reports.

Police in Springfield have been fielding daily calls reporting gunfire for the past week.

Aggravated assaults on the MBTA are up by more than one-third for the first six months of this year compared with the same period last year.

Ed Forry, founding publisher of the Dorchester Reporter, writes about the mugging he was victim of earlier this week.

Six Philadelphia cops are charged with stealing $500,000, Philly.com reports.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

MEDIA

Diversified media companies are hurrying to undiversify, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports.