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Boston Media Smackdown: WBUR vs. WGBH, Boston Globe vs. Everyone

At last weekend's NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON MEDIA REFORM, the Free Press folks asked me to bring together a cross-section of our fair city's movers and shakers for a panel called "BIG NEWS IN BOSTON: THE STATE OF BOSTON MEDIA." (You can stream the entire panel here or download it below.) These things typically turn into genteel supper-club conversations at best, and circle jerks at worst. Not this time. As it happened, we managed to get knee-deep in two major media feuds: WBUR versus WGBH, and . . . well, I guess maybe you could call it the Globe versus everyone. 

Today the Globe has a story by Johnny Diaz on the migration of thousands of listeners from WBUR to WGBH. If you were at our panel last week, when WBUR GM Charlie Kravetz went toe to toe with WGBH's Callie Crossley, this will not be news -- nor will it be news that the growing enmity between the city's two public-radio powerhouses is getting pretty heated. WGBH, the underdog, pissed off hundreds of Classical music fans when they switched formats to talk and offloaded their music programming to a weaker signal -- but nonetheless got the ratings boost they'd expected. Not surprisingly, that boost appears to have come directly out of WBUR's audience base. This is pretty standard local-radio warfare; what's new is that this kind of thing just doesn't happen in public radio. Until now, here. Afterwards, some out-of-town convention attendees expressed shock -- not only at the inter-station warfare but at the fact that station reps would go to war in public. Our response: Welcome to Boston.  

Meanwhile, some other news outlets have picked up on my criticisms of the Globe's paywall strategy -- which aren't new, but during the panel Globe managing editor Caleb Solomon offered some striking detail about the thinking behind the upcoming split. (From other sources, I'm still getting conflicting and unconfirmed reports about what, exactly, the Globe is planning -- last week, one editor described a much more porous paywall than had previously been talked about, suggesting that the Globe's strategy may ultimately include allowing non-subscribers a certain number of unpaid page views per month, a la the New York Times. If that's true, it's good news.)

Later, in the panel, the Globe took some hits from Crossley, El Planeta editor Marcela Garcia, and Dorchester Reporter's Bill Forry on the Globe's internal diversity and its coverage of Boston's ethnic and community news -- provoking the verbal equivalent of a WWE cage match. Afterwards, everyone shook hands and made up. But don't let that fool you: shit got a little hectic in there for a minute.

Bonus knowledge for anyone who listens to the whole thing: you will learn Charlie Kravetz's favorite TV on the Radio song, Garcia describing the worst thing about El Planeta being owned by the Phoenix, and which panelist hasn't joined Twitter yet. 

PODCAST: Big News In Boston: The State of Boston Media [mp3]

Panelists: Caleb Solomon, Managing Edtor, Boston Globe; Callie Crossley, host, The Callie Crossley Show (WGBH); Marcela Garcia, Editor, El Planeta; Bill Forry, Managing Editor, the Reporter Newspapers (Dorchester Reporter, Boston Haitian Reporter, Boston Irish Reporter); Charlie Kravetz, General Manager, WBUR Moderator: Carly Carioli, Boston Phoenix

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