MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow opened her show the other night with a rare admission for a broadcast journalist: “We really depend on local newspapers.”
Maddow went on to praise the local reporters who doggedly pursue stories that turn into national news when bigger papers, TV stations and networks take notice.
“Anytime you see a story on national TV that starts in a small town, odds are that story began with local reporters who would not give up and who reported it right and aggressively ...
“And so it is with today’s bombshell news about the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the world’s busiest bridge and the manufactured traffic jam that choked the little town of Fort Lee. That story started with the local newspaper, The Record of Bergen County.”
Maddow then introduced the reporter who broke the Christie story for The Record: Shawn Boburg.
Shawn got his start with The Daily News of Newburyport’s sister paper, The Eagle-Tribune, and ran up an impressive record as a reporter before moving on to The Record in 2006.
He was one of the lead reporters on The Eagle-Tribune’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the drowning deaths of four boys in the Merrimack River in December 2002. A photo of Shawn and other staffers gathered at Columbia University to collect the prize is on my office wall.
Shawn also helped produce a string of investigative reports for The Eagle-Tribune, demonstrating the same resourcefulness and persistence that resulted in the Christie “bombshell.”
One was an expose of the epidemic of auto insurance fraud in Lawrence, reported and written with Mark E. Vogler and Marjory Sherman. That won a national Society of Professional Journalists Public Service Award.
Another was a series on chronic teacher absenteeism in public schools across the North of Boston region, a problem that robbed students of important learning time and cost schools hundreds of thousands of dollars.