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UPDATE: DIGBOSTON DISPATCH

Still from NOTES AFTER LONG SILENCE (1989) by Saul Levine
Still from NOTES AFTER LONG SILENCE (1989) by Saul Levine

 

News from behind the editorial curtain plus support for Saul Levine

 

Seeking next group of working-class journalists

In November, I put out the word that DigBoston was looking for working-class Boston natives to write for us.

 

Specifically, I called for locals with three of the four qualities we look for in good journalists: ability to communicate, compassion, and deep local knowledge. The fourth quality, formal journalism training, was something my colleagues and I were willing to provide at an introductory level to motivated applicants.

 

A very diverse group of 15 DigBoston readers hit us back, and we ultimately trained four of them in a free three-hour basic journalism workshop that Chris Faraone and I prepared for the occasion. Since then, two of the trainees have filed draft articles, and you can expect to see them published with us by summer.

 

So now we’re ready to accept new candidates for our next class of trainees.

 

And I’ll ask the same questions of interested audience members that I asked before: Are you a smart, compassionate, talkative person from one of Boston’s working-class neighborhoods? Can you put words in rows, and maybe take some pictures on your phone? Do you want to learn to be a journalist? Do you want to tell the world about the place you grew up? About its problems and its successes? About its corruption and its virtue? Its shame and its glory?

 

Yes? Then drop me a line at execeditor@digboston.com. Let’s talk.

 

Comment on reader feedback

A few weeks back, I asked DigBoston’s audience to send in comments about what they thought we were doing well and what they thought needed improvement. We then got a bunch of responses—most highly complimentary. Which were nice to read. But some folks also included some very useful criticism about some of our various beats and how we could make them better. We took those to heart and are working to make the requested improvements.

 

Follow DigBoston on Flipboard

In an editorial a couple of weeks ago, I announced that DigBoston is moving away from Facebook. Not so much because of the ongoing Cambridge Analytica scandal, as that the social media platform has become a drag to use and expects us to pay it to reach our own audience. Regularly. Naturally, the editorial was thin on specifics about how we would do without Facebook. I mentioned that Twitter was one logical place to focus our social media activity, but recognized that Twitter is not really so much different than Facebook that it will provide us with a long-term alternative.

 

However, there is one hot social network that can replace a big part of what news publications like DigBoston do on the internet… in a more equitable way for all concerned. While we participate in the movement to build the more democratic and decentralized social media we’d ultimately prefer to use.

 

Flipboard, which has been around for a few years, has more than 100 million users and growing, and provides a great way for people to share news articles with each other. And it’s perfect from our perspective because we don’t have to pay Flipboard to reach readers that follow us there. It pushes our latest articles to all our followers as part of its service.

 

After a couple of months’ wait, I’m pleased to announce that DigBoston has now been accepted as a Flipboard Publisher. And we invite all our readers to join Flipboard and follow us there. Here’s the link: flipboard.com/@DigBoston. You’ll find using Flipboard for your daily news dose to be a much more pleasant experience than using Facebook. And it’s just as social as Facebook with far more ways to share articles with your friends and family than the larger social network ever had.

 

Justice for Saul Levine

The Boston art scene was shocked last week when longtime MassArt film professor Saul Levine announced that he had resigned from his job after teaching there 39 years. Why? According to Levine, on the last day of his fall semester senior thesis class he was expecting students to present some of their work in progress. But they didn’t. Scrambling for something to discuss with them, he decided to review different editing constructions. He chose two of his short films to use as examples. One of which, NOTES AFTER LONG SILENCE, had a great number of fast cuts. He had shown the film every year in class since making it in 1989 and thought nothing of using it to make his points. The 15-minute film had some nudity and sex in it, but only a few seconds that go by so fast viewers typically barely notice it.

 

According to his friend, film critic Gerald Peary, in a Facebook post on Monday, at the end of the class one of the students asked Levine who was having sex in the film. He said, “It was me.” Then, unbeknownst to him, at least one student anonymously reported him to the MassArt administration for sexual harassment… or at least that’s what the school claims.

 

With no warning about what was coming, the administration called Levine into a Feb 8 meeting where he was “ambushed” and harangued for two hours by officials he felt sure had never watched the “offending” film. They apparently agreed with the anonymous student or students that his showing a movie in which he appeared nude and having sex (with a committed partner) did indeed constitute sexual harassment. Despite the fact that much of his body of artwork is very personal, and sometimes features him nude. And the fact that he had every right to show his own very public and very well-known artwork in his own class for completely valid pedagogical reasons. Artwork which is in no way prurient or pornographic.

 

Although he had a faculty union leader accompanying him in the meeting and was not fired immediately, Levine felt so pressured by the encounter that he decided to resign rather than wind up in a protracted and expensive legal battle with the administration to clear his name.

 

“I am a full professor in film and video,” Levine told me on Tuesday. “I am still teaching until 5/31. I chose to resign because I felt targeted. The 2/8 meeting let me know that they were gonna get me!”

 

Since making a video attacking MassArt last Thursday—excoriating the administration for effectively violating his artistic freedom, his academic freedom, and his rights of free speech and expression—his situation has received coverage in Artforum, Boston Globe, IndieWire, and other outlets.

 

Dozens of fellow artists and civil libertarians from around Boston and beyond are rushing to his defense. I strongly agree with them that MassArt’s treatment of him is unconscionable. I think the college should make a serious effort to bring him back. And its administration should put much more careful thought into how they handle similar incidents in the future.

 

NOTES AFTER LONG SILENCE can be viewed here: vimeo.com/73242778/. Levine’s video response to MassArt can be viewed at facebook.com/saullevine/videos/10215932754649479/. I encourage readers to watch both. And if they agree that justice was not done, to join me and other supporters of Saul Levine in contacting MassArt Interim Provost Lyssa Palu-ay (lpaluay@massart.edu, 617-879-7782) and Director/Title IX Coordinator Courtney Wilson (cwilson24@massart.edu, 617-879-7751) and demanding that MassArt apologize to him and offer to reinstate him to his former teaching post immediately—removing any blemish to his record that may have resulted from this unfortunate incident.

 

Levine concluded: “I’m out of MassArt but people should protest the attack on free speech—which includes showing my film and the manner in which I speak.” The last comment in reference to his lifelong speech and motor disabilities that he feels the college administration used against him.

 

Jason Pramas is executive editor and associate publisher of DigBoston. He is also arts editor and holds an MFA in visual art from the Art Institute of Boston.

EDITORIAL: FEEDBACK REQUESTED

 

DigBoston asks readers to chime in about our coverage, digital presence, and events

 

February 28, 2018

BY JASON PRAMAS @JASONPRAMAS

 

Frequent readers know that my colleagues and I on the new DigBoston staff like to hear from people from all the varied communities that make up our audience, talk with them, and hang out with them. So, it should come as no surprise that we’re very open to suggestions about what we do as a news organization and how we do it.

 

Nevertheless, we believe it’s important that we periodically extend a formal invitation to our audience—our extended community—to give us such feedback. To demonstrate that we’re not only amenable to two-way communication as journalists, but that we actively encourage it. And that, as we’ve said in the past, we think it’s impossible to be good journalists without it.

 

After running this paper for eight months, we can use specific input in three areas: our coverage, our digital presence, and our public events. We’d really appreciate it if respondents put some serious thought into their suggestions, and fill out the fast response form at the bottom of this page.

 

Coverage

The heart of any news publication is obviously its content. DigBoston has a number of regular sections, including News, Music, Theater, Film, Visual Arts, Comedy, and Comics. In addition, we run Chris Faraone’s “Dear Reader” editorial weekly, a number of columns, opinion pieces when we have them, and my occasional editorials (like this one). Increasingly we also have big special features that dive deep into important issues of the day. And nice photos and artwork scattered throughout our publication and featured on the front page of our print edition.

 

In terms of feedback on our coverage, we’d like to hear: a) what people like and want to see more of, b) what people don’t like and want to see less of, and c) what areas readers think we don’t cover but should.

 

General responses are appreciated, but specific responses are always more useful to us.

 

Digital

In this era, it’s expected that a print newspaper like DigBoston will have a robust online presence. We do our best with limited resources, but we know that we still have a ways to go before we’re up to speed on this front.

 

The core of a good digital news operation remains a website. But now that more and more people are getting their news from phones, tablets, and traditional computers alike, websites have to be upgraded to display properly on a variety of screen sizes.

 

At least once a week these days, one or more readers will hit us up to complain about our digboston.com website not being mobile-friendly. And we definitely hear them loud and clear. So this spring we’re building a new website that will look good on any device.

 

Still, since we’re just about to start work on that site, it’s a great time for folks to let us know what kind of other features they’d find useful on it.

 

We’d also like advice on a couple of innovations we’re planning to introduce on digboston.com. Namely, we’re thinking about eliminating ads from the site entirely, and about doing a pop-up on every web article that will take up the bottom third of the reader’s screen (like theguardian.com) and invite them to become sustainers (in exchange for invites to special events, etc.) to help make sure that we’re able to keep providing you all with the kind of hard-hitting news coverage and fun arts and entertainment articles that you can’t find anywhere else in our region. Any advice on those moves would be super helpful.

 

Also, you can find every Dig article on no less than six social media platforms. We post to them pretty much every day. Here they are:

 

 

You can also subscribe to DigBoston content for free on the following news aggregators: Apple News, Google Play Newsstand, and soon Flipboard.

 

We even make the pdf of our print edition available on issuu.com/digboston. And help manage the recently-reactivated /r/bostonjournalism subreddit at reddit.com/r/bostonjournalism/.

 

While that seems like a broad digital presence, there are new social media platforms and news aggregators starting up all the time. So we’d like to know if there are any we should be on, but aren’t. And are we using the platforms and aggregators in question in the best way? If digital mavens have any tips and tricks to share with us, please do.

 

Events

We organize public events all the time, and participate in the events of other organizations as well. We do talks, workshops, courses, concerts, conferences, fairs, and festivals. We now also do a discrete amount of direct political activism by working for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

 

Are you with an organization—particularly a group rooted in one of the many Boston-area communities we cover on a regular basis? Do you like what we do at DigBoston? Are you running an event you’d like us to participate in? Or would you like to propose organizing an event with us? Then drop us a line.

 

And readers in general, are there events we’ve done that you have some input on? Are there events you’d like to see us do? Let us know.

 

Anything else I didn’t mention about DigBoston that you’d like to comment on? Then, again, please fill out the fast response form at the bottom of this page.

 

Look forward to hearing from you all.


 

Jason Pramas is executive editor and associate publisher of DigBoston.