THURSDAY, AUGUST 8, 2019 The Boston Globe Opinion A
cal newsrooms are participat-
ing in the initiative, and seven
projects are specifically fo-
cused on state government.
Mobilizing college students
is also underway. In its second
year, Report for America is
placing 61 paid student jour-
nalists in 50 newsrooms span-
ning 30 states and Puerto Ri-
co. This year 940 students ap-
plied for the 50 spots, and
those selected will join news-
papers, public radio stations,
digital-first nonprofits, the As-
sociated Press, weeklies, and
local TV stations, all in an ef-
fort to bolster local news. They
hope to have 250 reporters in
the field in 2020.
But all eyes are on the
American Journalism Project,
a venture journalism fund cre-
ated by John Thornton, found-
er of the Texas Tribune, and
Elizabeth Green, cofounder of
Chalkbeat. Together they have
secured $42 million in com-
mitments from some of the
leading funders in journalism,
many of the same ones behind
ProPublica. These include the
Knight Foundation, Laurene
Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collec-
tive, Arnold Ventures, Craig
Newmark Philanthropies, and
industry giant Facebook,
through its Journalism Project.
These funders are supporting
this new nonprofit venture in
finding solutions to reinvigo-
rate local news that are scal-
able and building an ecosystem
The premise is built on the be-
lief that local journalism is a
public good and therefore a
nonprofit enterprise that
should be focused on civic
news. The question is: Will this
funding be used for editorial or
for digital transformation?
This summer, “civic news
organizations,” as the Ameri-
can Journalism Project calls
them, will be selected to bene-
fit from the funding collective.
Poynter reports that this group
of newsrooms will include a
few startups, with a preference
for nonprofits, but most recipi-
ents will have already launched
in their local communities as
nascent yet sustainable ven-
tures. “The objective is to cre-
ate much more high-impact,
‘mission-driven’ reporting on
state and local governance; the
grants will be for ‘revenue rais-
ing and tech capacity,’ ” Thorn-
ton told Poynter.
The hope is that philan-
thropic capital will bolster a
movement of civic newsrooms.
The Knight Foundation has
long donated to news nonprof-
it startups and is committing
almost half of the funds, an-
nouncing a $20 million, five-
year commitment. The target
is to fund 35 civic news organi-
zations and newsrooms over
the five years.
Two revenue paths have di-
verged in local news: dona-
tions or digital subscriptions.
As a result, we see for-profits
like the major dailies and na-
tional magazines doubling
down on transforming into
digital juggernauts that can
compete on those platforms in
delivery and win back sub-
scribers. We also see upstarts
and legacies converting into a
nonprofit for public good,
where donors keep the news-
room afloat. Either way, an in-
dependent press is the only
way to keep misinformation at
bay and democracy alive. Let’s
hope more mobilizers and
funders join the effort.
Heidi Legg is director of special
projects at the Shorenstein
Center on Media, Politics and
Public Policy at the Harvard
Kennedy School. She
previously founded The
Editorial, a local digital news
startup in Cambridge.
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For starters, we can block access
to killing machines
It has been just a couple days since the devastating mur-
ders in El Paso and Dayton, and there goes Globe columnist
Jeff Jacoby (“No, expanded background checks wouldn’t
prevent mass shootings,” Aug. 7) arguing about the futility
of legislation that can prevent future such atrocities.
Let me make a suggestion — and I do this as a lifetime
The Dayton gunman’s rifle, according to police reports,
fired bullets into the bodies of more than 20 innocent vic-
tims, nine of them fatally, within a span of a mere 30 sec-
onds. Can anyone in their right mind justify public owner-
ship of an instrument like that?
The time to control sale of such lethal weapons is now.
Assault rifles are not toys for big boys. They are designed
for a single purpose: killing human beings by shattering
their bodies. They need to be kept in the same place as ma-
chine guns, howitzers, and nuclear bombs: out of reach of
the general public. Perhaps this is where we can begin
proving that sensible laws are capable of preventing these
We can’t declare
gun control pointless
Whether background checks deter mass murder is debat-
able, and those debates go on, but at least Jeff Jacoby cites
evidence to support his claim that it does not.
However, his claim that no gun control measures can
make a difference simply does not follow. Certainly the re-
moval from the market of semiautomatic weapons and am-
munition clips of more than four rounds could make a dif-
ference. I believe that it would, and there is evidence to
support that belief. But I don’t conclusively know one way
or the other. And neither does Jacoby.
Not so hard to think outside the box
Jeff Jacoby’s conclusion, “If there were ‘common sense’ gun
regulation that could unfailingly foil mass shootings, we
would have adopted it long ago,” indicates that he should
get out more — perhaps to Japan, Greece, Canada, Spain,
Ireland, Australia, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, Nor-
way, or Britain.
Whatever you do,
don’t call Trump a populist
In “Trump’s crazy tariffs have outfoxed the Fed” (Opinion,
Aug. 7), Niall Ferguson explains how the Trump adminis-
tration has managed to manipulate the Federal Reserve
and its interest rate decisions. Ferguson attributes this trick
to President Donald Trump, who never has shown much
acumen about the workings of the Fed. Instead, I would
claim that loyal Cabinet members Steve Mnuchin and Wil-
bur Ross most likely have hatched this scheme for Trump
Ferguson also uses the phrase “populists in power,” a
gross mischaracterization of the Trump government. Dur-
ing the 2016 campaign, Trump walked and talked like a
populist to con gullible voters, but the first 928 days, and
counting, of his presidency have shown mostly actions in
favor of megacorporations, oligopoly, and kleptocracy.
Don’t confuse political drama
You’d think the so-called dismal science would escape the
reality TV-style framing of our politics. But a little mone-
tary policy knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Niall Ferguson (“Trump’s crazy tariffs have outfoxed the
Fed”) sees elements of a political game between the presi-
dent and the Fed. This is misleading and deepens a blind
spot in our civic understanding. If the Fed loosens policy in
a time of above-target inflation expectations, talk to us
then. Please don’t confuse political drama for economics.
We need less reality TV and more reality.
Regarding the inefficiencies at the Registry of Motor Vehi-
cles regarding alerts on law-breaking drivers, the comment
by Governor Baker was, if not disingenuous, then certainly
disappointing (“Registry lapses were surprise, Baker says,”
Page A1, Aug. 1). Stating that he was unaware of the back-
log puts part of the blame squarely on him and his staff. It
would seem to me that the governor should be holding a
regular meeting with department heads and that this par-
ticular matter should have been called to his attention a
few years ago. In a situation such as this, not knowing is in-
excusable, and Baker should be held accountable.
f you believed Christine Blasey Ford, “Justice on Trial”
won’t change your mind. It didn’t change mine.
But if you want to know how conservatives think, fight,
and win, it’s a must-read.
Authors Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino dra-
matically detail the nomination and confirmation of Brett Ka-
vanaugh to the Supreme Court, and the unsuccessful effort by
Democrats to use Ford’s accusation of sexual assault to stop it. The
book forces readers to consider the ferocity of partisan politics and
the human consequences. It also raises legitimate questions about
the #MeToo movement, and the commitment to believing victims,
no matter how fuzzy their memories, versus the rights of the ac-
cused to due process and presumption of innocence.
It won’t change any minds on that score, either. But it’s still
Above all, “Justice on Trial” is a lesson in how different things
look, depending on your ideology. When Kavanaugh testified, I
saw a privileged white man mad enough to cry at the prospect of
losing a coveted seat on the high court to a girl who wasn’t part of
his Georgetown Prep social circle. Kavanaugh supporters — most
notably, President Trump — saw a nominee locked, loaded, and
ready to fight to the death for his nomination.
Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a high
school party decades ago, a charge that went from anonymous let-
ter to riveting public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Com-
mittee. Even the authors seem inclined to believe someone as-
saulted her at some point in her life. But Ford couldn’t recall the
exact time or place of the alleged attack. No witness could corrobo-
rate her account, and Kavanaugh passionately denied it. The book
argues that there was never enough evidence to credibly accuse
Kavanaugh as the assailant and that, aided by a friendly media,
Democrats slimed a good man they were determined to destroy.
To that end, the authors defend Kavanaugh’s teenage honor to
the hilt, dismissing well-documented stories of a high school cul-
ture that celebrated drinking and partying. It also traffics in specu-
lation about Ford, suggesting she, too, was a heavy drinker with a
salacious high school past — as if that excuses any assault she may
For liberals, much of the book is like looking into a fun house
mirror. Everything is upside down and distorted. For example, Mela-
nia Trump telling her husband “You know that woman is lying, don’t
you?” (after Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Com-
mittee) isn’t a Stephen Colbert joke. It’s presented as a deep revela-
tion, “held by millions of other women and men who were silenced in
media discussions that day.”
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is not an
over-the-top Kavanaugh shill but a “volcano of indignation,” and the
engineer of an electric moment — “This is not a job interview. This is
hell” — that helped turn the tide for Kavanaugh. By the same light,
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine did not betray women by
supporting Kavanaugh; she withstood immense pressure from nasty
protesters and stood up for principle.
But the authors do make some valid points about discrepancies in
Ford’s story, which were drawn out by Rachel Mitchell, the Arizona
prosecutor whose questioning of Ford at the Senate hearing was
mocked by the media. And they also raise legitimate questions about
much-touted reports of other alleged sexual misconduct by Ka-
vanaugh. A Yale classmate recounted a story of a man who might have
been Kavanaugh exposing himself to her. Michael Avenatti, the lawyer
who once represented Stormy Daniels, who had an affair with Trump,
also put forward a woman who made gang-rape charges against
What the media saw as a pattern, Kavanaugh and his supporters
saw as desperation, and reason to fight. They did, and won.
Kavanaugh opponents aren’t giving up. Now House Democrats are
asking the National Archives to release records relating to Ka-
vanaugh’s time in George W. Bush’s White House.
Sorry, that’s a lost cause. Read “Justice on Trial,” and get ready for
the next big battle.
Joan Vennochi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on
‘Justice on Trial’
and the lessons
of the Kavanaugh
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