The Don't Quote Me archive.
Two-tier wage scale at Five on Five -- plus, Jim Braude seeks to reboot Otherwise
For 18 years, a guest appearance on WCVB-TV's Five on
Five has been one of the more lucrative perks available to those local
movers and shakers able to do the talking-head thing with some measure of
But that perk just got a lot less lucrative. In a letter sent recently to the
show's occasional contributors, producer Marjorie Arons-Barron announced that,
as of January 5, the fee is being cut from $350 to $150. Still not bad for an
hour's work on Friday mornings, when the half-hour show is taped. (It's
broadcast on Channel 5 on Sundays at 11:30 a.m.) Nevertheless, the new
arrangement has prompted some off-the-record grumbling among the show's stable
of irregulars. "It sucks," says one.
Although Arons-Barron declined to discuss names and specific dollar amounts
with the Phoenix, she did confirm that the show's regular panelists will
not be affected by the pay cut. Those regulars are Hubie Jones, an educator and
political activist; Doris Kearns Goodwin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian;
Avi Nelson, a conservative commentator; and Micho Spring, a politically
connected PR person who often fills in for Goodwin.
No permanent replacement has been named for the fourth regular, former Boston
mayor John Collins, who died a year ago. The Collins slot, as well as empty
seats created by vacations and illnesses, are filled by a cast that includes
Democratic political consultant Michael Goldman, former state senator Patricia
McGovern, Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, former Canton state
representative Jack Flood, incoming Cambridge state representative Alice Wolf,
and Lowell Sun columnist Paul Sullivan. (Moderator Peter Mehegan makes
Arons-Barron defends the measure as a reasonable cost-cutting move, adding
that she often hears from guests who'd be willing to appear for free.
Management decided not to cut the regulars' pay, Arons-Barron says, because of
the "long-term commitment" they've made to the show.
But the cutback is a reminder of the squeeze that TV news operations are under
these days. Channel 5 was once hailed as the best local news station in the
country. Though it's still the class of Boston, cost-cutting demanded by its
owner, the Hearst Corporation, and competitive pressures created by Channel 7's
fast-paced, tabloid-like news programming have diminished the product
"Some people would say, hey, at least they're keeping the show," says
A defeatist attitude, perhaps, but an understandable one in the current
Liberal activist Jim Braude's magazine Otherwise may not be dead, but
even he now concedes that it's on life-support. And without a rapid infusion of
cash, its most recent issue -- published in early October -- may turn out to be
Braude, the former executive director of the Tax Equity Alliance for
Massachusetts (TEAM), says he decided a month ago to suspend publication and
devote all his efforts to fundraising. He's hoping to raise enough money to
publish every other week for a three- or four-month stretch, which he thinks
would be enough time to establish a track record and thus keep the money
"It takes some doing to convince even politically active wealthy donors that
the written word can have an impact," says Braude. "This is very frustrating.
But after doing this for eight or nine months, I'm not only convinced that
there is a market for this, I'm convinced that this is what I want to do with
Otherwise debuted last April 4 as a biweekly, but to date only six
issues have come out. It's quick, opinionated, and irreverent, and it's
continued to improve following a rocky start. Certainly a sharp, locally
oriented liberal voice would be a welcome addition to the media scene; the
much-praised quarterly CommonWealth, founded last year by high-tech
entrepreneur Mitch Kertzman, is too ideologically mushy to fill that role.
Braude says he should know by the end of February whether he'll have enough
commitments to reboot Otherwise. Meanwhile, managing editor David Tyler
has returned temporarily to the Tab, where he used to be editorial-page
editor, and Otherwise's website has been turned off.
Though Braude remains optimistic, one of his columnists, advertising executive
John Carroll, thinks the activist has a right to be angry. "I can't believe the
so-called liberal community, which urged this guy to start this publication,
resolutely refuses to support it," Carroll says. "It really is very
discouraging, I think, for anybody who has any kind of hope for a progressive
voice out there."
The Don't Quote Me archive.
Dan Kennedy's work can also be accessed from his Web site:
Dan Kennedy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.