While conservative commentator Laura Ingraham said yesterday on the Today Show that  President Obama has accomplished little of worth in his first two months in office, CBS  Evening News Producer Rick Kaplan would strongly disagree.

At a seminar held on Tuesday at  Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard, Kaplan said that Obama’s record  so far has been “extraordinary.”

The “first 100 days” is a construct that began with FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) and can be a useful time for judging what policies are most important to a president– before Congress and  administration insiders have  a chance to “carve out turf”… and “start bickering,” Kaplan said.

In his view, Obama has used this period well.

The President  has frozen all of former President George W. Bush’s last minute  “midnight regulations,” ended the  “gag rule” prohibiting mention of abortion in organizations receiving federal funds; put  forth ethics and lobbying bills; and passed the $800B TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) legislation, Kaplan said.

Equally impressive was  Obama’s performance at the recent G20 Summit in London.  “I’ve never seen anything like it,”  Kaplan said. At the meeting of the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, “people  listened and were impressed. When he stood up, it was a proud moment for America.”

At news conferences, “he let the other guy go first. He grabbed President Sarkosi and the President of China; he huddled with them and [got] them to agree on a contentious set of…offshore policies. He makes the deal and at the end, both Sarcozy and the Chinese leader are smiling.

“In a meeting with the Russians on an arms deal, he gets a promise for a summit.  He meets with the South Koreans to talk about their concerns about [that day’s] North Korean missile launch….”

“And as he’s leaving…in an ‘organized leak,’ he said he would allow Cuban nationals to go and see their families and give them money.

“It was extraordinary to see him work the room in a respectful, aggressive, impressive. way. The leaders didn’t all agree with him, but they liked and respected him.”

“He’s had an extraordinary run in just 60 days. He never shows tension, never seems impacted one way or another or angry. He’s the ‘coolest guy in the room.”

Still, Kaplan said, not all is rosy.

For example,   the  President had known  known for weeks that bonuses were to be paid in Wall Street firms receiving bailout money, which made Obama’s  expressed “outrage” seemed hypocritical.  The press “let him off the hook a bit… It’s great to have dialogue, and the press corps is nervous about shaking up the relationship”  at a time [of economic crisis] where everyone is looking for stability.”

Asked (by me) what he foresees for the future of print media, Kaplan said that papers like the Boston Globe must survive,  and that the current “unwinding” could turn out to be healthy in the long run. It will likely lead to new models and  put an end to newspapers driven by owners who are more concerned about investors’ profits than their own communities, Kaplan said.

AMH

The New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA.

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Was surprised last night  when  two Pulitzer-prize-winning journalists locked horns on WGBH-TV’s  Greater Boston.

In a heated discussion of the New York Times’ threat to shutter the Boston Globe if employment concessions aren’t made,  former  Globe Columnist Eileen McNamara, who now teaches at Brandeis, charged that the Times is only out to save itself and doesn’t care about Boston or the Globe. She and host Emily Rooney criticized the Times for a lack of “transparency,” in threatening  to shut down the paper just a week after some 50 reporters were required to take buyouts or risk being laid off. McNamara called for an investigation into how Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. could have  so mishandled the papers’  strategies and finances.

Alex Jones, the former New York Times reporter who now directs Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, said that Sulzberger has long been seeking ways to keep his papers on sound financial footing and pointed out that the Times and Globe are just two  of many papers threatened by  huge operating losses.  With countless subscribers migrating to “free” news on the Internet and advertisers cutting back in the current financial crisis, several papers have already declared bankruptcy.

I agree with Jones  that there’s no point in focusing on the New York Times as the bad guy in all of this;   the Globe is crucial to the Boston and New England communities, which must find ways to keep the paper alive.

The Boston Foundation  has put together a blue ribbon panel to seek with solutions–which might include a takeover of the Globe  by a consortium of nonprofits until the Globe’s economic situation improves.

The Globe reported this morning that both employees and management will be taking cuts in pay and security, and that 20 bloggers, organized by Paul Levy, president of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, simultaneously published a post asking readers to submit suggestions on how the Globe can improve its financial position.

(Levy’s blog is at runningahospital.blogspot.com).

I’ve joined the rally in a separate post.

I hope a solution is imminent  because good journalism provides crucial lifeblood to any community. As the so-called “fourth estate,” it serves as a watchdog on government, allows citizens to communicate with one another, and helps organize the thoughts, lives and livehoods of individuals and institution in a democracy.  Broadcast and Internet media certainly contribute to this–but, by and large, it’s  print reporters to do the heavy lifting.

AMH

Anita M. Harris is an award-winning former journalist who has founded a weekly alternative newspaper,  written for Newsday, produced documentaries for WRFM Radio and co-produced more than 100 live panel programs for the MacNeil/Lehrer Report (now the Newshour) of National Public television. She has taught journalism at Harvard andYale Universities and at Simmons College.

New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA.

The New Cambridge Observer is pleased to join Beth Israel Hospital’s Paul Levy et all in the rally to help the Boston Globe. Here’s the post, followed by a partial list of participating bloggers. I believe the idea is to leave comments on Paul Levy’s blog at runningahospital.blogspot.com, but if you leave them here, I’ll link or forward.  AMH
Here’s the post:

We have all read recently about the threat of possible closure faced by the Boston Globe. A number of Boston-based bloggers who care about the continued existence of the Globe have banded together in conducting a blog rally. We are simultaneously posting this paragraph to solicit your ideas of steps the Globe could take to improve its financial picture:

We view the Globe as an important community resource, and we think that lots of people in the region agree and might have creative ideas that might help in this situation. So, here’s your chance. Please don’t write with nasty comments and sarcasm: Use this forum for thoughtful and interesting steps you would recommend to the management that would improve readership, enhance the Globe’s community presence, and make money. Who knows, someone here might come up with an idea that will work, or at least help. Thank you.

(P.S. If you have a blog, please feel free to reprint this item and post it. Likewise, if you have a Twitter or Facebook account, please add this url as an update or to your status bar to help us reach more people.)

http://runningahospital.blogspot.com/
http://www.bluemassgroup.com/
http://www.letstalkhealthcare.org/
http://healthblawg.typepad.com/
http://geekdoctor.blogspot.com/
http://patientdave.blogspot.com/
http://endlessknots.netage.com
http://billives.typepad.com/
http://cseries.typepad.com/celebrityseries/
http://amatterofdegree.typepad.com/a_matter_of_degree/
http://venturecyclist.blogspot.com/
http://www.insideoutchina.com
http://www.negotiationguru.blogspot.com/
http://baystateliberal.blogspot.com
http://hilforum.com/
http://www.byeday.net/weblog/networkblog.html
http://www.healthbusinessblog.com/?p=2137
http://mikegil.typepad.com/

Paul Levy said…
And two more:

http://achronicdose.blogspot.com/2009/04/blog-rally-to-help-boston-globe.html

http://www.healthcontentadvisors.com/2009/04/06/blog-rally-to-save-the-boston-globe/

With the ever increasing fall of bookstores and impending newspaper layoffs, I’d like to echo Alex Beam’s call for readers to reach for their wallets.

In case you missed his January 9 column, “Closing Costs,” in the Boston Globe, it opens: “Here is a dispatch from the Land of No Suprises: Bookstores–buffed by the recession, by Amazon, by electronic reading devices–are closing their doors”. He points out that, easy as it is to go to Amazon for books and read newspapers online for free, by behaving normally, “you kill the things you love.”

In Boston, after several waves of reporter buyouts, people keep telling me that they’ve dropped their subscriptions to the Globe because it’s gone downhill, and, anyway, they can get it on line, for free. Duh.

My apologies for stating the obvious, but many of my friends don’t seem to get that, in  a vicious financial cycle,  with fewer paying customers,   the paper can get fewer advertisers, revenues go down, and, as a result, the Globe and many other papers have had to  “encourage”  their most senior,  talented reporters to leave.  The Globe announced  a new round of editorial layoffs just last week.

I’ll be writing more about this–but for the time being, please support the  free press–by paying for it.

The New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group, of Cambridge, MA.