Editorial: Chris Lovett, neighborhood journalist, quits his TV role
There was a noticeable transition in the world of journalism in Boston last week. Chris Lovett, longtime presenter and news director of BNN-TV’s Neighborhood Network News, closed the program last Friday with a breaking news: it was his last show on the cable access network of BNN-TV. long time as the main presenter since 1987. Now 68, he plans to continue contributing to local journalism, but decided it was time to get away from the routine of producing a nightly information program.
“I’ve been a full-time staff member here for 34 years,” Lovett noted. “For this kind of work, it takes a long time.
His career in community journalism predates BNN-TV. Originally from Dorchester, Chris cut his teeth as a reporter and photographer for the former Argus-Citizen, then a bustling neighborhood newspaper that was part of a chain owned by the Harwich family, based in Hyde Park.
The son of a Boston firefighter who became a district chief, Lovett was a Boston Latin alumnus fresh out of Columbia University with a degree in comparative literature. He wanted to be a writer and followed this muse in the press. It has found its rhythm on its own ground, chronicling the rhythm of life in Dorchester and producing stories and images similar to the content found in the product you hold in your hands.
When cable television came to town in 1983 and an access station was established, a nightly news program was conceived soon after. Chris climbed into his first ranks with other community newspaper reporters. He was intrigued by the medium and its potential to elevate civic life in Boston.
His first “package” for NNN focused on an idea put forward by a guy named Bill Walczak to build a “flyover” inside the Red Line station at Savin Hill to give Dot commuters a chance to get on board. trains on the Braintree section that passed them otherwise. Eventually, such a design was used at the JFK-UMass station in Dorchester.
His producer, Kate Raisz, patiently taught him the ropes – “I thought I knew more than I really knew,” he recalls – and soon his creative wheels turned. In the Savin Hill T story, for example, Chris noticed how the B-roll footage they shot of a young man playing the drums while killing time on the rig captured an element of the story that a newspaper article would struggle to convey.
“I realized – despite my lack of admiration for television – that there were things television could do more powerfully than print media,” he said.
Chris took over as Anchor in 1987 and has propelled the show and its team – many of whom are budding journalists at BU College of Communication – ever since. Its newsroom has produced television reporters that dot studios across America. In the Boston market, they include current talent like Rhondella Richardson, Kathy Curran, Kria Sakakeeny and John Monahan, originally from Dot.
The peak of the program’s impact was probably around the year 2000, Lovett thinks, before the internet attacked most media standards. There was at the time “a very nice convergence of an audience that really needed the channel to get information and people who needed the platform and developing journalists who needed the experience. the low”.
The studio and the corridors surrounding it on Commonwealth Avenue – at the time also managed by Charlie Rassmussen – were a kind of “nerve center” for political and civic life. On my own bi-weekly visits to summarize the information Dot Reporter gathered, I would invariably see top reporters chatting off set, often while Mayor Tom Menino was in front of the camera with Chris for regular debriefings. Every political player in this city over the past 35 years has walked through those doors and sat down across from Chris Lovett. For most of them, it was their first experience on television – and Chris and his team went out of their way to make it as enjoyable as possible, without holding back on the tough questions.
But for all the “bold faces” that paraded on set at NNN, Lovett says the guests who “made him get up in the morning and brought him back” weren’t politicians with an ax grinding. or an election to win.
The people he most enjoyed chatting with, he says, were everyday Bostonians, some of whom survived violence or other serious trauma, who sat across from him for share their wrestling stories.
“What I like about people like this isn’t just that they take the time to be interviewed,” Chris said. “But that they were overcoming great obstacles to talk about what they were going through.”
And that was the mission from the start. Keeping his sights – and guest list – regularly drawn over Boston neighborhoods, Lovett and his countrymen have moved the needle through Boston neighborhoods in ways not yet fully appreciated.
“At our best,” Lovett said on her final show, “we have narrowed the gaps between communities, cultures and political differences, but also between the experience of life and how it was portrayed. I consider this a mission of plum.
We’re a better Boston because Chris Lovett took on this assignment and stayed for all of these years.