Bergantino steps down, NECIR stays on the case

Nonprofit investigative journalism is hard to do and even harder to finance over time. The New England Center for Investigative Reporting, based at Boston University, has found something like journalism’s Holy Grail: NECIR is one of the more successful ventures of its type in the country, linking what called “in-depth, high-impact investigations” with dependable revenue streams at a university that helps nurture the enterprise.

But as the song goes, “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” Joe Bergantino, the center’s executive director, has decided it’s time to walk away. Bergantino, a former WBZ and ABC News investigative reporter, plans to step down from running the center in the coming months and move into more of an advisory role as executive editor emeritus.

He co-founded NECIR in 2008 with Maggie Mulvihill, a fellow WBZ alum and former Boston Herald reporter. They joined forces with Tom Fiedler, the dean of Boston University’s College of Communication, who offered to house the center at BU. Together, they received seed money from the Knight Foundation to get the center off the ground.

NECIR reporters and student interns tackle local and regional topics, including campaign financing, education, energy and the environment, and health and safety. The center has hauled in its share of awards. Mostly recently, the center’s journalists earned two New England Newspaper & Press Association “Publick Occurrences” awards for reporting on prenatal screening tests and homeowner debt. NECIR also collaborates with the Boston public broadcasters WGBH and WBUR.

More importantly for the business of journalism, NECIR has come up with a hybrid funding model that goes beyond foundation grants and individual contributions to backstop its reporting. Where some outlets like the Texas Tribune have successfully launched income-generating events, NECIR has looked to journalism training. Its affiliation with a major university has been crucial to that success.

The center trains professional journalists through an investigative reporting certificate program and high school students who aspire to careers in investigative journalism in summer workshops. NECIR also offers a monthly investigative reporting subscription service. These moves have steered the center toward greater self-sufficiency by providing an increasing percentage of its operating revenue.

In a 2008 interview with CommonWealth, Bergantino underlined a still important fact: The New England region has a “desperate need” for the work that investigative journalists do. “What’s so important is that we ensure the survival of this type of reporting,” Bergantino said.




The Department of Children and Families comes under fire for its supervision of an Auburn foster home where a 2-year-old child died. (Telegram & Gazette) The Auburn foster mother had repeatedly been accused of neglect and should never have been licensed. (Boston Globe) Joanna Weiss points to a legislative fix that might help efforts to ensure that the best interests of children govern decisions about their care. (Boston Globe)

Attorney General Maura Healey plays to win. But Democrats’ constantly cozying up to Charlie Baker will make it hard to mount a strong challenge to him in 2018. (Boston Globe)

Speaker Robert DeLeo, freed of the minor matter of term limits, seems to be going nowhere soon, the Globe reports. That, evidently, has some House Democrats peeved.


Mayor Marty Walsh has hired a former top federal prosecutor to review City Hall doings related to this week’s federal indictment of five Teamsters officials on extortion charges. (Boston Globe) The Herald says Walsh is “lawyering up” following the indictment, which intriguingly mentions a City Hall aide making phone calls that appear supportive of the Teamsters’ effort against the non-union crew filming episodes of Top Chef in the area last year. The Globe, citing two sources, says the aide was Kenneth Brissette, director of tourism, sports, and entertainment for the administration.Three of those indicted worked on the Black Mass filming. Meanwhile, the FBI explained how one of the five Teamsters initially indicted was the wrong person (the feds say they’ve now arrested the guy they say they want), with an agent saying the initial incorrect ID was based on surveillance video and there are two Teamsters who “are bald, both have grey goatees, and both have tattoos down both arms.” (Boston Herald)

Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt moves to have the city take by eminent domain a mansion owned by Northeast Community Bank, and the bank couldn’t be happier. (Salem News)


Hillary Clinton, in Boston, pledges a federal response to the opioid crisis. (Eagle-Tribune)

After hours of backroom wrangling, the Senate passes a measure that would allow pharmacists to issue a lesser amount than prescribed of the painkillers that often lead to addiction. (State House News)


A mass shooting at an Oregon community college claims 10 lives, including the shooter. (Time) The gunman, Chris Mercer, was described by neighbors as a weird recluse who rarely ventured far from his mother and their one-bedroom apartment. (New York Times) By one measure, there have been 294 mass shootings so far this year, which is only 274 days old. (Washington Post) A Herald editorial rips President Obama for “politicizing” the mass killings by pointing out that while many countries harbor sick individuals with such intentions, our lax guns laws make the US the place where they have the ability to most easily act on them.

The US Senate introduces criminal justice reform legislation calling for, among other things, a reduction in mandatory-minimum sentences. (Time)

MassINC research director Ben Forman talks to Jim Braude about the think tank’s new research report on racial disparities in pretrial incarceration and bail amounts. (Greater Boston)

A Vatican spokesman says the meeting last week between Pope Francis and Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk jailed for refusing to issue marriage license because of her opposition to gay marriage, should not be read as an endorsement of Davis’s actions. (New York Times) For what may be the most plausible — and unquestionably the most fun to read — explanation of the meeting, Charlie Pierce is at your service. (Esquire)


Maya Jonas-Silver of the MassINC Polling Group does a deep dive on the preliminary election results in the Boston City Council race between veteran incumbent Charles Yancey and challenger Andrea Campbell. It doesn’t look good for Yancey. (CommonWealth)


The insurance company for a Brockton gas station where customers pumped diesel fuel into their cars that had been mistakenly stored in tanks for regular gas has told automotive repair shops it will only pay for one-fourth of the claim amount submitted, forcing car owners to foot the remainder. (The Enterprise)


Lowell High School elects Anye Nkimbeng, an African-American senior, as class president, prompting a series of racially charged texts on social media that resulted in the suspension of six students. (The Sun)

Hingham school officials have suspended night games at the high school indefinitely after what the principal called “rude, mean-spirited, and totally unacceptable” behavior when students turned their backs on the Hingham High dance team during a performance at a football game. (Patriot Ledger)

State officials unveil their turnaround plan for the Holyoke school system. (WBUR)

CommonWealth dissects the salary of UMass basketball coach Derek Kellogg, the highest-paid public employee in the state.

At least 160 children, more than twice the year before, were unable to begin the school year in New Bedford because they lacked necessary immunization, including many immigrants from Central America. (Standard-Times)


Boston taxis plan to counter Uber with an app of their own. (WBUR)


The Obama administration on Thursday tightened the threshold for ground-level ozone caused by vehicles and industry emissions, but advocates on both sides are displeased with the new levels. (U.S. News & World Report)


Longtime Fall River City Councilor Patricia Casey is being investigated by State Police after the son of a deceased friend of hers filed suit claiming she stole two vehicles from the woman after she died and filed forged documents for the title transfer. (Herald News)

New Bedford is the most violent city in the state, with the highest per capita violent crime rate, followed by Fall River, according to data released by the FBI. (Standard-Times)

A federal court orders disgraced former tennis star and convicted child molester Bob Hewitt to pay $1.2 million to one of his victims, who is now a Reading Memorial High School teacher. (Boston Globe)

Using DNA evidence, authorities indict a Boston man for a 1992 murder in the city’s South End. (Boston Globe)

Four boys, ages 14 to 16, are charged with burning down a vacant building in Haverhill. (Eagle-Tribune)