The Codcast: Filling the news hole

Everyone knows about the retrenchment and redistribution of resources by media outlets, especially newspapers. While some regions have filled the vacuum with blogs purporting to be news but are really opinion pages in disguise, true local news and events often go uncovered.

Here in Boston, though, some web sites have sustained long enough to become the go-to destinations for neighborhood residents who want those old “refrigerator stories” that were once the staple of local newspapers, articles about friends and families and events that would be clipped out and hung on the refrigerator door.

Two of the more enduring sites are NorthEndWaterfront.com, which as the name suggests, covers news and events in that neighborhood and along the city’s residential waterfront, and the granddaddy of city sites, UniversalHub.com, which since its inception in 2004 has become a must follow not just for residents and turkey sightings but for reporters and editors.

In a conversation with The Codcast, Adam Gaffin, the force behind Universal Hub, says things have changed over the years, with him now working the site full-time and covering City Council meetings and Licensing Board hearings.

“One of the things the mainstream media misses by not covering those meetings is a lot of the issues that come up in Boston percolate in the City Council,” Gaffin said. “A lot of their stuff is routine but there’s still stuff that keeps coming up.”

Matt Conti, who joined Gaffin on The Codcast, started NorthEndWaterfront.com in 2009 as a way to keep the neighborhood informed and allow residents to share news. The site now has the look and feel of a traditional news site with stories from a couple part-time reporters and sections covering everything from breaking news to politics.

Like editors of legacy news outlets, Conti searches for that balance between clickbait and substantive issues, such as climate change which he thinks is changing the neighborhood’s waterfront properties and could have a big impact in the not-too-distant future.

“I take the cues from the community,” said Conti, an amateur photographer and supervisor at Fidelity Investments. “It’s always disappointing to see what they’ll read. If I post about a celebrity at a North End restaurant, it’s always the top story of the day on the website. I’m trying to find that balance between what people will click on vs longer term.”

Both Gaffin and Conti said the Boston Globe and Boston Herald are increasingly combing their sites and giving them credit when they pick up and advance stories they’ve run.

The conversation was recorded before the election but it’s interesting to hear the observations of two people who have their ears to the ground in a way that mainstream media no longer can or does. Conti said the District 1 council race — a face-off between Lydia Edwards and Stephen Passacantilli — was much more important to people in the North End than the mayor’s race.

“The mayoral race has kind of taken a backseat,” Conti said. “Your district councilor is sort of your first line of defense, your advocate in City Hall.”

Gaffin said the issues that are important to residents are talked about in front of stores or in the neighborhood parks. It’s interesting to hear someone like Gaffin, a Boston resident, talk about gun violence, for instance, because it affects him in a personal way. He appeared emotional in discussing the recent killing of a 16-year-old in Jamaica Plain’s Bromley Heath housing development, a kid “who was doing everything right… and now he’s dead.”

One item that draws many readers from in and around Boston to Universal Hub is the MBTA. Gaffin regularly updates the site with the trials and tribulations of getting around on the antiquated system and does it by rhyming the headlines. (“Red Line ride turns to mush just as we enter the evening rush” “Oh, grrr, fark it, dead train just past Haymarket.”)

“One thing I get a lot is people saying it’s time to stop rhyming headlines about T delays,” said Gaffin. “I’m going to keep doing it until I reach the point that I can’t rhyme anymore. It’s a silly little thing but it brings attention to an important issue, which is the T is becoming unreliable. The T affects everybody. It’s the one thing that sort of unifies the region.”

JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

A group called the Volcker Alliance, working in cooperation with 11 universities, graded the states on their budget practices. Massachusetts received a C on forecasting, a D on budget-balancing maneuvers, a D- on legacy costs, an A on reserve funds, and a B on transparency.

Gov. Charlie Baker, wanting to keep all options available, declines to rule out new natural gas pipeline capacity. (State House News)

The Massachusetts Senate passed health care legislation that will now go to the House. (MassLive)

The state turned over the campus of the now-shuttered Worcester State Hospital to the Worcester Business Development Corp., setting in motion a plan to develop the area for biomanufacturing and life sciences. (Telegram & Gazette)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch is looking to sever ties with the state Group Insurance Commission and place the city’s 2,000 employees in a Blue Cross plan he says will cost less. (Patriot Ledger)

Police in Methuen conducted a massive search for a 15-year-old boy who jumped from his family’s car late Thursday afternoon. John Zell was found around 10 p.m. inside a home belonging to people who were aware of the search. No additional details were immediately available. (Eagle-Tribune)

A UMass Boston political science professor who was a policy adviser to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s 2013 campaign says he should offer vanquished rival Tito Jackson a job in City Hall. (Boston Herald)

The Stoughton Board of Selectmen, three of whose members are the target of a recall, was cited by the attorney general’s office for two violations of the state’s Open Meeting Law, making it three times they have been cited for violations in the last month. (The Enterprise)

Holliston selectmen will ignore a vote by the special Town Meeting last month and will discontinue tax-funded trash pick-up at condo complexes on Jan. 1. (MetroWest Daily News)

Weymouth public health officials have ordered residents of the Boston Motel to move out within 48 hours until the owner addresses numerous health and safety issues. (Patriot Ledger)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The Senate released its version of the $1.5 trillion tax cut bill which is dramatically different from the House’s, including maintaining mortgage and medical expense deductions while delaying the corporate rate reduction President Trump deems essential. (New York Times) The tax bill eliminates a credit for teachers who buy school supplies with their own money. (Time)

Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman says she was sexually abused by the former US national gymnastic team physician, Larry Nassar, who has already been accused of abuse by more than 130 other women and is serving a federal sentence on child pornography charges. (Boston Globe)

Several women accuse the comedian Louis C.K. of masturbating in front of them. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

The election of Lydia Edwards to the Boston City Council marks a changing of the guard in East Boston, says James Aloisi. (CommonWealth)

Ted Siefer analyzes Lowell’s very unusual single-issue election. (CommonWealth)

In a bombshell in the special election in Alabama to fill Jeff Sessions’s former US Senate seat, the Washington Post has a detailed and well-sourced story that the former state Supreme Court chief justice and GOP nominee Roy Moore pursued sexual relationships with teenage girls, including one as young as 14-years-old, when he was a 30-something prosecutor. Senate Republicans, who already had a squeamish relationship with the right-wing candidate, have abandoned him en masse. (U.S. News & World Report) The editors of the conservative National Review call for Moore to drop out of the race.

US Sen. Elizabeth Warren appears to walk back her claim that the Democratic presidential primary fight in 2016 was rigged. (MassLive)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Women are losing ground in top corporate jobs in Massachusetts as an annual survey by The Boston Club shows at least 10 percent of the state’s top 100 companies have no women as a director or chief executive. (Greater Boston)

A rift has developed between medicinal marijuana dispensaries that want a head-start in obtaining licenses for full retail pot sales and activists who say that will tilt the playing field against new entrants, including minority entrepreneurs. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

An audit says chaotic management and budgeting are behind the huge deficit run up at the University of Massachusetts Boston. (Boston Globe)

Framingham State University will open a free food pantry for students after a survey revealed many skip meals and go hungry because they can’t afford to buy food and it affects their classwork. (MetroWest Daily News)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Billerica sounds the alarm after three individuals overdose on fentanyl in one weekend. (Lowell Sun)

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that a combination of over-the-counter drugs ibuprofen and Tylenol worked as well as prescription opioids in relieving pain in emergency room patients. (New York Times)

Middleboro selectmen, bucking the statewide trend of hiking the age to purchase tobacco, voted to keep the minimum age for buying at 18 years old. (The Enterprise)

TRANSPORTATION

An Eagle-Tribune editorial urges the MBTA to privatize three bus maintenance garages and ignore protests from the union representing workers at the facilities and the political friends those workers have in Congress and on Beacon Hill.

The Globe tries to unpack what accounts for a decline in MBTA ridership.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A chaotic chase of a stolen police cruiser in Providence with more questions than answers resulted in the death of a man driving a pickup truck shot by several officers, a woman in the truck’s passenger seat critically wounded, and the suspect in the theft nowhere to be found. (Providence Journal)

Gov. Charlie Baker has ordered an investigation into the case involving a state trooper who was ordered to revise an arrest report by deleting embarrassing information about the daughter of a state judge. (Boston Globe) A Herald editorial weighs in against the order by higher-ups.

Baker, the state’s legal community, and the Governor’s Council that must approve judicial nominees are in a tangled spat over a North Shore attorney in line for a judgeship. (Boston Globe)

A jury found Sam Wassilie guilty of hiding his cell phone in a Dalton park restroom and recording 18 unsuspecting people. (Berkshire Eagle)

Mobster Robert DeLuca has reached a deal with federal prosecutors to testify against Frank Salemme at the one-time mob boss’s murder trial next spring. (Boston Herald)

MEDIA

Sports Hub radio host Michael Felger apologizes for on-air comments that former Major League Baseball pitching star Roy Halladay, who died in a plane crash this week, was a “moron” and “jackass.” (Boston Herald)

The Boston Globe was hit for the second day with cyberattacks. (Boston Globe)

Big layoffs are coming at ESPN. (Sports Illustrated)

  • Mhmjjj2012

    I hope physicians and dentists across the country get a heads up on the study finding a combination of over-the-counter drugs ibuprofen and Tylenol work as well as prescription opioids in relieving pain.

  • Mhmjjj2012

    I just read a truly shocking article in AlterNet, “The Super Wealthy Oxycontin Family Supports School Privatization With Tactics Similar to Those That Fueled the Opioid Epidemic.” The GAO released a report back in 2004 “Prescription Drugs: OxyContin Abuse and Diversion and Efforts to Address the Problem” -that’s right 13 years ago – finding: “Purdue conducted an extensive campaign to market and promote OxyContin using an expanded sales force to encourage physicians, including primary care specialists, to prescribe OxyContin not only for cancer pain but also as an initial opioid treatment for moderate-to-severe
    noncancer pain. OxyContin prescriptions, particularly those for
    noncancer pain, grew rapidly, and by 2003 nearly half of all OxyContin
    prescribers were primary care physicians. The Drug Enforcement
    Administration (DEA) has expressed concern that Purdue’s aggressive
    marketing of OxyContin focused on promoting the drug to treat a wide
    range of conditions to physicians who may not have been adequately
    trained in pain management. FDA has taken two actions against Purdue
    for OxyContin advertising violations. Further, Purdue did not submit
    an OxyContin promotional video for FDA review upon its initial use in
    1998, as required by FDA regulations.” So the FDA, DEA and GAO saw the opioid crisis coming more than a decade ago but somehow couldn’t prevent it. Great…just great.