CEO Thomas P. O’Neill III Speaks at the Annual MassAccess Conference

TPO MassAccess ConferenceOn Friday, May 4, O’Neill and Associates CEO Thomas P. O’Neill III served as the Keynote Speaker at the annual MassAccess Conference.

MassAccess is the nonprofit trade organization representing community media stations throughout Massachusetts. The membership group works to ensure the future vitality of Massachusetts based community media centers. There are over 200 local access cable TV centers in Massachusetts, the highest concentration of media centers in the country.

Community media professionals, local filmmakers, vendors, industry experts, and producers come together each year to learn from the best in television, film, and management. Each year, the conference provides MassAccess members the opportunity to meet, learn, and exchange ideas.

In his keynote address, O’Neill addressed the importance of free speech – particularly in today’s world of 24-hour news cycles, social media, and diminishing newspaper presence. The number of reporters in newsrooms is dwindling and, as a result, less news is being covered. Local Cable Access Centers and PEG stations are of vital importance now more than ever…they serve as one of the last lines of defense of transparent and free speech. “Local television may very well be our last gasp of free speech, we must protect it,” said O’Neill.

Community media centers across the country are being attacked and, in some cases, pushed out of their communities and out of business. But the work being done at these centers is vital. It doesn’t end with cable access. These centers are not only the last hyper-local outlet for citizens, they also provide educational and media literacy training, while serving as community hubs and centers and a training ground for students who want to pursue careers in TV and film.

As part of their ongoing advocacy efforts to ensure the vitality of community centers, MassAccess has been working to advance their Bill, ‘An Act to Support Community Access Television,’ filed by Senator John Keenan and Representative Ruth Balser. The Bill seeks to allow community media stations access to Electronic Programming Guides and channel signal quality that is comparable to local broadcast stations – now and in the future. Passage of the Bill would require cable companies to allow for broadcast of PEG channels in HD format and inclusion of programming in viewers’ electronic guides. These two changes would allow for PEG channels to be on par with most other offerings in cable television, and allow for greater access for viewers.

In addition to legislative advocacy, MassAccess works to develop educational workshops, utilize technology to inform and enhance community media centers, and acts as government liaisons to inform supporters across Massachusetts regarding the current political landscape in regards to media.

Washington Post’s Marty Baron Speaks at Tufts Medical Center Working Wonders Gala

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By Vice Chairman Cosmo Macero Jr. 

With a Trump Administration that creates its own reality, and a White House communications strategy of undermining public confidence in the Fourth Estate, it’s a sad state of affairs that Americans, perhaps more than ever, need powerful reminders of the importance of a free press.

And so Washington Post editor Marty Baron delivered just that on Tuesday night at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. The former Boston Globe editor – flanked by many of his former colleagues from the Pulitzer prize-winning Globe Spotlight Team – was in town to receive the Ellen Zane Award for Visionary Leadership at the Tufts Medical Center Working Wonders Gala.

“The President has said (the White House) is at war with the press. Well I’m here to tell you we are not at war,” Baron told close to 900 attendees at the annual event, which this year highlighted the groundbreaking work of Tufts MC’s CardioVascular Center. “We are at work.”

The fundamental mission of the press remains unchanged, Baron said, even as technology and digital media platforms have had a dramatic and challenging impact on the news business. The job of the Post and other media holding the Trump White House accountable is straightforward: “Find truth. Verify. And publish,” Baron said.

Baron, who in addition to steering the Post newsroom through an unprecedented period in presidential and political history, is also charged with maintaining high quality journalism while the business evolves rapidly and sometimes unpredictably in a digital media age. He credited Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, with respecting the generations-old culture of the news organization while still encouraging innovation. He said the Post has a “commitment to experimentation” and noted that its digital presence is now rivaling that of the New York Times.

“The internet is a fundamentally different medium. News organizations that want to succeed must tell stories in new ways,” Baron said. “We are becoming technology organizations. But “no matter how our business changes, our values stay the same.”

MassAccess Backs Legislation to Support Community Access Television

MassAccess is a nonprofit trade group representing local community media stations throughout Massachusetts. We are the voice of the over 200 community cable access channels here in Massachusetts.

Currently, we are working with the Massachusetts legislature to promote a Bill that would allow viewers greater access to community cable access channels while improving the quality of the stations as well.

‘An Act to Support Community Access Television’, a bill filed by Senator John Keenan as well as Representative Ruth Balser and Representative Antonio Cabral proposes that community cable access channels, also called “PEG channels,” have access to Electronic Programming Guides, allowing viewers to access information about programs airing on PEG channels, as they would for broadcast channels. It would also provide PEG channels with better signal quality, making it comparable to larger local broadcast stations. If passed, the Bill would state that cable companies must allow PEG channels to broadcast in HD format. These changes would have a large and important impact across the state. Local access cable TV provides a wide range of programs and services, keeping citizens connected to local news and government activities as well as local events, athletic games, and public notices. However, their offerings to Massachusetts cities and towns aren’t limited to what can be seen on TV.

Mostly all local access cable centers are private non-profit organizations or municipal departments. As part of their mission, they are providing education, equipment and training for people interested in production or wanting to pursue careers in TV and Media. For example, Boston Neighborhood Network (BNN), provides month long workshops on how to create and edit your own TV program. Norwood Public Access Television (NPAT) has a similar program which allows Norwood High School’s LEAD Students to come to NPTA studios once a month and record their own show. LEAD is a program for students with special needs that provides them with job training and life skills. Their talk show “LEAD Update” provides information on what students are currently doing while also covering local events and stories. MassAccess hosts a statewide program sharing server where centers, individual producers and even Massachusetts state departments can share informative or entertaining programs across the Commonwealth with a simple upload and download process.

The passage of ‘An Act to Support Community Access Television’ is important to providing PEG channels and centers with the support they need to continue serving their communities. MassAccess proudly supports this legislation and we are optimistic that this Bill will provide local cable access channels with the equal footing they require to stay relevant in a time of ever-changing media technology.

Bill Nay

President, MassAccess

OA Hosts Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus’ “Post-Election Apocalypse” Media Panel

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MWPC Panel.JPG

                       From left to right: Hillary Chabot of Boston Herald, Andy Hiller of WHDH-TV, Lauren Dezenski of POLITICO Massachusetts, Mike Deehan of WGBH-FM, and Shira Schoenberg of MassLive

On Wednesday evening, the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (MWPC) hosted a “Post-Election Apocalypse” panel at O’Neill and Associates, which offered an insider’s view on the recent election results and a discussion on what happens next. Featured panelists included Andy Hiller of WHDH-TV, Lauren Dezenski of POLITICO Massachusetts, Mike Deehan of WGBH-FM, Hillary Chabot of Boston Herald and Shira Schoenberg of MassLive. This diverse group of panelists offered unique perspectives on the influential role that media played in this year’s presidential election.

 

The MWPC is a non-partisan organization that celebrates over 40 years of supporting women in politics and public policy. MWPC Board Member and O’Neill and Associates’ Senior Director Jennifer Krowchun started off the night by highlighting major gains for female politicians in this election and specifically for women of color. MWPC Board Member and O’Neill and Associates’ Senior Vice President Ann Murphy led the lively panel discussion.

While many things remain unclear, the need for unity and introspection was a theme throughout the evening. Collectively, both the panelists and the audience agreed that Wednesday morning’s results were shocking, especially given weeks of conflicting media messages and pollsters’ numbers. For the media, some panelists suggested that this election should serve as a call to action for Americans to take a step back and audit their sources from which they receive news, while also being mindful of the temptation to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals and media outlets.

For those not able to attend in person, O’Neill and Associates streamed the event on Facebook Live. If you’d like to hear more about what the panelists had to say, you can watch the videos on O’Neill and Associates’ Facebook page here.

To learn more about MWPC, visit its website.

Greater Media Celebrates 60 Years in Broadcasting

Greater Media 60 Years

Greater Media, Inc. (GMI) will be celebrating its 60th Anniversary in Broadcasting on Thursday, March 31, 2016.

Owned by the Bordes family, the company was originally founded in 1956 by Yale classmates Peter A. Bordes and Joseph Rosenmiller. Greater Media, Inc. is considered to be one of the premiere privately-held broadcast companies in America. GMI’s corporate headquarters are located in Braintree, Massachusetts.

From the ownership of a single radio station in Southbridge, Massachusetts, Greater Media steadily and quietly built a broad-based combination of successful communications companies, spanning America from coast to coast.

By the 1980’s, Greater Media’s business included radio, cable television, printing, publishing, and telecommunications operations. In 1999, the company sold its cable business in order to focus more exclusively on its radio and newspaper operations.

Today, Greater Media is the parent company of 21 AM and FM radio stations in Boston, Charlotte, Detroit, Philadelphia and New Jersey; a group of weekly newspapers in central New Jersey; and several telecommunications towers throughout the United States.

“I am very proud of the achievements of our company over the past 60 years,” said Greater Media Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Peter H. Smyth. “Greater Media is the culmination of Peter Bordes’ life’s work. I am grateful to our incredible employees for their continued dedication in making Greater Media greater on a daily basis over the past six decades. “

Greater Media, Inc. is the parent company of 21 AM and FM radio stations in the Boston, Charlotte, Detroit, New Jersey and Philadelphia markets.  The company also owns a group of weekly newspapers in central New Jersey and several telecommunications towers located throughout the United States.

 

Creating News Deserts

GateHouse Media New England’s closure of its Somerville office is the latest move in a growing newspaper trend: smaller, more corporate, fewer reporters. What does that mean for some of Massachusetts’ largest cities and towns?

Later this year, GateHouse Media New England will close its Somerville office and move reporters and editors for the Cambridge Chronicle & Tab and the Somerville Journal to offices in Lexington and Danvers.

It’s the kind of news that causes more uproar for ink-stained journalists than it does among the larger public. And that’s understandable, because we haven’t lost the newspapers. Ideally, reporters need only a laptop and an internet connection to work remotely from city hall or at a coffee shop downtown.

But the move is emblematic of the direction that many regional newspaper companies in the U.S., including GateHouse, have taken over the years: smaller, more corporate, fewer reporters. In their place, citizen journalism is growing stronger.

And the decision to take local reporters out of their cities will change things.

“Being able to walk through that town means a lot,” said the Boston Business Journal’s David Harris, who edited the Cambridge Chronicle & Tab for six years and broke the story about the Somerville office closure. “It changes the dynamics of what gets covered, whether it’s a business or a person that you run into on the street versus getting a press release via email.”

The Cambridge Chronicle & Tab will move 10 miles away to GateHouse’s downtown Lexington office, which is already home to the Lexington Minuteman, the Belmont Citizen-Herald, the Arlington Advocate and the Winchester Star. The Danvers shop will now be home to the Somerville Journal and more than a dozen other titles, including the Cape Ann Beacon, the Melrose Free Press, and the Newburyport Current.

That makes sense for a corporation that now operates more than 100 newspapers across the Commonwealth. Putting more titles under one roof means fewer offices. Additionally, GateHouse has centralized newspaper design in Austin, Texas, helping them save money on design staff.

But from a “community journalism” standpoint? It is counterintuitive that a national media company, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2013 to buy the Cape Cod Times, the Providence Journal, and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, is pulling money and staff out of Massachusetts’ fifth and twelfth largest cities. Cambridge and Somerville are two of the wealthier and more highly-educated cities in New England and could conceivably sustain more local news. This move is taking place in the middle of a growing economy when other media companies like the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald have taken steps to expand their offerings.

However, moves like these do seem to be working at least at the bottom line. GateHouse’s parent company New Media Investment Group led the newspaper chain to turn a profit for the first time in more than a decade. It’s encouraging to see that a newspaper company that is so important to local journalism in Massachusetts is making money.

But these moves are already transforming journalism in local cities and towns. When Patch and The Boston Globe (through “Your Town”) stopped using local reporters in 2014, their exit left GateHouse weekly newspapers as the sole newspapers of record in some of the state’s largest cities. For some of those cities, like Cambridge, the GateHouse weekly became the main source of municipal news.

Here is how newspapers in some of those cities and towns – home to 500,000 residents – are staffed:

Largest MA cities Population GateHouse news reporters and editors on staff
5. Cambridge 109,694 2
11. Newton 88,287 3
12. Somerville 78,901 2
15. Waltham 63,014 2
17. Malden 60,859 1
18. Brookline 59,334 3
20. Medford 57,437 2

With limited staff, these newspapers rarely make political endorsements and don’t often hold editorial boards. They don’t have columnists to deliver compelling human interest stories or crystallize key city issues. But Harris isn’t ready to declare these cities as news deserts yet.

“There’s a fear that that is happening,” Harris said. “I don’t think we’re completely there yet.”

That’s because residents are doing what they can to launch their own efforts to deliver citizen journalism. In the absence of big Boston newspapers, these citizen journalists are taking up the role of digging into city hall, the local police department, and the business community.

There is also a dedicated team of journalists working for the alternative press, led by DigBoston, the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the Bay State Examiner, and they are bulldogs on public records.

But it’s unclear how long local journalism can depend on reporting from part-time citizen journalists. In Cambridge, home to multinational corporations, world-class universities and high profile residents, journalists are vital to providing info on Planning Board approval of a sprawling new development or Google’s appearance before the City Council.

“There are stories that are probably going to slip through and probably have slipped through,” Harris said. “But there are some enterprising reporters out there who will find those great stories no matter what.”


In 2011, CommonWealth Magazine profiled the decline of newspapers, providing print circulation numbers for the state’s largest dailies. Here’s where some of those subscription numbers stand today. GateHouse numbers come from New Media’s latest annual report.

Newspaper Daily subscribers in 2000 Daily subscribers in 2015
Boston Globe 469,878 115,000
Boston Herald 261,017 65,000
Worcester Telegram & Gazette 103,054 46,634
Patriot Ledger 68,387 23,800
Cape Cod Times 50,106 29,750
The Enterprise 41,197 13,314
The Standard-Times 37,151 16,993

Alex Bloom is a director in O’Neill and Associates’ communications practice. Connect with him by email at abloom@oneillandassoc.com and on Twitter at @AlexBloom_05

Inbox Journalism

Director Alex Bloom

Director Alex Bloom

Everyday, I receive 15 different email newsletters.

My inbox populates with newsletters from well-regarded reporters and thought leaders who have spent the early morning reading and curating the news before sending out the best of the day’s clips to their subscribers.

A few examples (disclaimer, I’m an avowed political junkie):

It’s an interesting concept – journalists are being recruited to lend a critical eye to already-reported news stories and send an email assessing the day’s coverage. And the formula goes far beyond politics:

  • TheSkimm, a general interest newsletter geared toward Millennial women, now boasts nearly two million subscribers.
  • The New York Times christened POLITICO’s Mike Allen as “The Man the White House Wakes Up To” for his Playbook, with over 100,000 subscribers.
  • Dan Primack’s Term Sheet, at Fortune Magazine, is one of the best places to get up to date on the latest financial news and has over 50,000 subscribers.

Here in the Boston media market, newsletters are picking up steam. POLITICO arrived last summer, making a newsletter writer their first Massachusetts hire. As the Boston Globe launched STAT last fall, one of their first moves was to seek “a stylish and engaging writer,” according to a job posting, for a morning newsletter. Megan Thielking now anchors the Morning Rounds. The Boston Business Journal has 18 newsletters, Boston Magazine has 15 and the Boston Herald offers nine.

The best and most successful newsletters, according to WGBH’s Mike Deehan, are the ones that find and cultivate a niche.

Deehan spent six years as the author of MASSterList, growing the State House News Service product to 10,000 subscribers as he injected more and more of his humor and sarcasm into the each email. His goal was to take a morning news roundup that he inherited and make it “one that’s a little more enjoyable to read.”

There’s also a difference between authored newsletters – like MASSterList – and a collection of aggregated links without explanation, such as the offering from the newly-minted Crain’s Boston.

But overall, newsletters are growing in popularity, likely because newsletters are mobile-friendly. According to 2014 data from the Pew Research Center, nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone and more than half (55%) got news on their smartphone at least once over the course of a one-week survey period.

Deehan said that the user experience of reading an emailed breakdown of the news, rather than having to open your web browser to multiple different news sites, is a key aspect of the success.

“When it is mobile-first like that and phone-centric, you’re probably going to increase your readership because it is easier to read,” Deehan said.

The trend does present a dilemma for reporters, however. Appearing in a popular newsletter – like Allen’s Playbook – will give great exposure to a game-changing story. But it could also mean that readers don’t ever make it to the full story. For Deehan, who now finds his WGBH radio reports in other newsletters, it isn’t a problem.

“It’s gravy anyway,” said Deehan, who likes to amplify a story’s reach through his own social media. “It’s added to whatever the outreach of that story is going to be.”

For brands, these newsletters represent a great opportunity to get a press release or an announcement in front of key influencers and audiences.

Deehan believes the best newsletters have highly-specific audiences, creating communities around a “high interest” topic. And industry leaders seem to be recognizing that trend, as the New York Times announced this week that it will be creating a newsletter focused solely toward college students.

“The more successful emails are the ones that get ‘nichier’ and ‘nichier,’” Deehan said.

Senior Vice President Cosmo Macero Jr. also offers a glimpse into his inbox with a few of his favorite reads:

  • Dave Pell’s NextDraft is a collection of quirky stories from across the spectrum, making it one of the few successful newsletters that offers general interest news.
  • DealBook, by Andrew Ross Sorkin, comes out twice a day as the New York Times’ mergers and acquisitions reporter/Wall Street expert shapes world financial news.
  • For media insiders, the Morning Media Newsfeed newsletter from Mediabistro plugs readers in to the latest on media news.
  • 5-Bullet Friday captures the thoughts and ideas of Tim Ferriss, an author, investor, and expert on management and leadership.
  • Muck Rack Daily keeps you updated on the latest moves and changes in the world of journalism.

Alex Bloom is a director in O’Neill and Associates’ communications practice. Connect with him by email at abloom@oneillandassoc.com and on Twitter at @AlexBloom_05