Jim Braude‘s ease before the camera doesn’t come packaged with the polished pacing (or perfectly coiffed hair) of a television anchorman. It comes instead with a breezy manner and quick wit that seem born of a confidence in his ability to go toe-to-toe with big-shot newsmakers on the substance of the issues of the day.
That probably owes a lot to the fact that, far from a background in the blow-dried world of TV news, Braude cut his teeth in the real world of doing things that made news — as a legal aid lawyer, political activist, and even, briefly, an elected official. “There’s nothing I like less than talking heads who’ve never done what they’re talking about and no people I admire more than people who are doers as well as good talkers,” he told the Globe earlier this week.
All of that made it a little surprising to see Braude — who spent years on the set of NECN’s Broadside — evidencing some clear first-night jitters during the opening of Monday night’s Greater Boston, the long-running WGBH-TV nightly news show he’s taken over from Emily Rooney.
It did not take long, however, for the coming-right-at-you Cantabridgian to hit his stride. He started big, roping onto his set for the opening show Beacon Hill’s “big three” — Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Stan Rosenberg. As soon as DeLeo seemed to paint the state’s overall budget picture in a similar light as Baker just had, Braude zeroed in and asked him to talk instead about areas where he and the governor disagree — while the two leaders sat practically elbow-to-elbow on the set.
Not only did Braude pivot to the disastrous state of the MBTA and its deferred maintenance, a screen shot featured a quote in large letters from former John Hancock executive David D’Alessandro, who authored a 2009 report on the T’s finances. “It’s about DeLeo. It’s about every Speaker and senate president who have played this game for 25 years, called kick the can,” it read.
And on it went.
The show’s new format fits its new host — both have a higher energy and faster pacing than the Greater Boston of Rooney’s reign. Along with opening guests, the show has a feel-good segment on “Greater Bostonians,” less well-known figures doing something significant in the region, and a round dubbed “The Caucus,” which features three better-known local figures who weigh in on issues of day under Braude’s rapid-fire style of questioning.
One of the trickiest plays for Braude’s show, or any like it, is striking the right balance between offering public figures a welcoming and fair forum while not pulling punches so much that it becomes slow-pitch softball. At the root of the challenge: Braude controls the line of questioning, but no one has to go on his show.
Tuesday’s “Caucus” included Andrea Cabral, the former state secretary of public safety and one-time Suffolk County sheriff and assistant district attorney. Braude had Cabral and her caucus-mates (WGBH’s Adam Reilly and former federal administrator Michael Astrue) weigh in on Hillary Clinton‘s email scandal and the eye-popping payouts Boston 2024 is making to lots of Cabral’s former cohorts in the Patrick administration, including former governor Deval Patrick himself, who will pocket $7,500 a day for his work boosting Boston’s Olympic bid.
“Why are you not on the list?” Braude asked Cabral. “It’s sort of embarrassing, isn’t it? All these former Deval people making tons of dough? You’re not there.”
She did not seem happy to have the topic come up.
“You were in the news a lot lately,” Braude said.
“In only one place,” she interjected. (That was mostly, but not entirely, true, as the Globe eventually joined in the coverage.)
They sparred a bit over whether it was even correct to refer to the benefit as an “enhanced” pension. (Cabral insisted there is nothing enhanced about, while Braude maintained that’s the term for it.) Then the segment was done, and Braude went down the line thanking his three guests.
“Andrea Cabral, it’s nice to see you. I’m shaking your hand, this is how this works,” he said, as a moment of awkwardness apparently was playing out just out of camera view.
“Yeah, I’m thinking about shaking yours,” she said.
It was a full display of the Braude touch. As was true of his NECN show, Greater Boston under Braude will be must-see TV for the region’s poohbahs and news junkies as long as he keeps getting people on his set who are willing to take tough questions and even a punch — along with the smile and handshake that are his way of thanking them for not just playing duck and hide.
MARATHON BOMBING TRIAL
Jurors heard riveting testimony yesterday from Dun Meng, the man who was carjacked by the Tsarnaev brothers and was held by them for 90 minutes before he boldly escaped at a Cambridge gas station. Kevin Cullen points out that Meng’s conscientiousness about not texting while driving is what set his night of terror in motion.
The New York Times says the defense strategy by lawyers for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is ripped from the playbook of the legendary Clarence Darrow in the infamous Leopold and Loeb case a century before– admitting his clients’ guilt to save them from the death penalty.
Gov. Charlie Baker appoints a task force to examine what’s causing pockets of chronic unemployment across Massachusetts.
Rep. David Rogers of Belmont and Sen. Pat Jehlen of Somerville are the cosponsors of legislation that would legalize and tax marijuana sales in Massachusetts, WBUR reports.
The Herald says cash-strapped state government has lots of better things to do with $1 billion than expand the Boston convention center.
The Globe profiles liberal state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, whose appointment as Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Financial Services is likely being welcomed by consumer advocates and viewed a bit warily by leaders of the industries he now has oversight of.
Better off calling than emailing House Speaker Robert DeLeo. Secretary of State Bill Galvin, too.
State regulators say powdered alcohol is illegal in Massachusetts.
Worcester took in 2,196 foreign-born refugees over the last five years, about a quarter of all the foreigners who moved to Massachusetts. Iraq was the largest source of the city’s refugees, the Telegram & Gazette reports.
A simmering feud between the president of the New Bedford City Council and the councilor he beat by a single vote to win the post in January exploded in a profanity-laced shouting match outside the council chambers.
Beverly is going to court against the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, alleging the city is being unfairly assessed for a regional dispatch center that won’t provide any services, the Salem News reports.
The Marshfield fire chief, who was placed on leave pending an investigation of potential undisclosed criminal misconduct charges, resigned.
The Fall River fire department’s overtime budget is nearly depleted with more than three months still to go in the fiscal year, forcing Mayor Sam Sutter to order an end to all overtime and making it likely fire apparatus will be taken out of service.
In an interview with Keller@Large taped for broadcast this Sunday, Gov. Charlie Bakersays he still is not convinced of the merits of hosting the Olympics in Boston.
Shirley Leung delivers a tough front-page punch to Boston 2024 and its leader John Fish over their secretive ways, which required Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to publicly call them out in order to have the group reveal payouts it’s making, including the eye-popping $7,500 per day deal struck by former governor Deval Patrick to sell the bid.
The harsh winter has made graveside ceremonies and burials near-impossible, causing delays in funerals and interments.
Quincy officials turned a number of roads in several neighborhoods into temporary one-way streets to deal with snow mountains — but failed to tell anyone.
A Northampton attorney opens up an igloo speakeasy.
President Obama, appearing on the late-night Jimmy Kimmel Live, said the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, was a “criminal” act but said the protest preceding the shooting was a legitimate expression of outrage. It wasn’t all serious as Obama even took part in the popular “Mean Tweets” episode, where celebrities read critical Twitter messages aimed at them.
Why Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders probably isn’t running for president.
A new report says tech jobs account for a higher share of the employment base in Massachusetts than in any other state.
Wall Street is taking a hit as investors are starting to flinch over positive job numbers coming out that could signal a hike in the Federal Reserve interest rate.
Tewksbury officials grumble about a sharp rise in special education costs, as 19 more students are seeking placements in schools outside the town. The rising cost of special ed is canceling out plans for free full-day kindergarten, the Sun reports.
Brockton school officials are crafting a new social media policy, which was last updated in 2002 before Facebook even existed. The new policy will restrict student access to email and devices and mandate what employees can and can’t do online during school hours.
Methuen parents are upset that high school graduation this year won’t be held at Nicholson Stadium, which is undergoing construction, the Eagle-Tribune reports.
A new report suggests states should deal with the high cost of breakthrough drugs such as Sovaldi by bonding the costs out over time. The Baker administration is taking a different approach by trying to negotiate with the manufacturer a lower price for the hepatitis C drug that normally sells for $1,000 a pill. An in-depth report in CommonWealth examined the implications of drugs such as Sovaldi.
Another new report recommends raising the tobacco-buying age to 21, USA Today reports.
Is there such thing as too many choices? Those running the state’s Health Connector think so, and they are reducing by about a third the number of coverage options from the current list of 126 possible plans.
Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett says the state needs to provide drug treatment on demand if it’s going to fight the opioid epidemic, the Item reports.
A top Keolis official accused the MBTA of undermining the commuter rail operator’s bid to hire a chief maintenance officer, CommonWealth reports.
Attorney General Maura Healey comes out strong for renewables and downplays the higher cost by noting that subsidies for clean power help level the playing field with heavily subsidized fossil fuel power. She is also cautious on natural gas infrastructure expansion.
A new year, a new story on the monstrous pay increase ($1.3 million) landed by the already lavishly-paid electric utility CEO Tom May, who now pulls in close to $9 million a year.
Wet wipes, the handy baby bum cleaner of choice, are wreaking havoc with municipal wastewater treatment plants around the country as the use of the hard-to-dissolve products rises among adults who flush them down toilets.
William Flynn, who pulled the trigger at age 16 in the twisted murder case that sent New Hampshire teacher Pamela Smart to prison for life for the killing of her husband, will be granted parole after 25 years behind bars.
The state Supreme Judicial Court denied an appeal by prosecutors in the murder trial of Aaron Hernandez to overturn the judge’s ruling that a friend of the former tight end could not testify Hernandez bragged about having a gun.
MEDIARick Berke is joining the Boston Globe to lead coverage of the life sciences. Berke was executive editor at Politico and prior to that assistant managing editor at the New York Times.
Gov. Baker is taking the same view as his predecessors that, legally, his office is not covered by the state’s Public Records Law.