Like most new CEOs, Jim Rooney (above) is looking to quickly make his own imprint on the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.
The former convention center chief (above) took over in July after longtime CEO Paul Guzzi retired. One goal of Rooney’s: including a broader swath of the region’s economy in the chamber’s fold. He wants to build a bridge to the young, entrepreneurial types who see little reason to join what they view as a stodgy, old business group.
Toward that end, Rooney has been busy assembling his own team at 265 Franklin St. He says he’s wrapping up the hiring of a new executive who will focus on the innovation community. The job, he says, attracted 130 applications in just 10 days. He’s also lining up someone who will handle “opportunity and inclusion.”
Rooney has already made some important hires. He recruited Carolyn Ryan from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation to oversee research and data analytics. That role was previously handled by Jim Klocke, Guzzi’s top lieutenant, before Klocke left to become CEO of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network. And Evelyn Barahona, who left health care training firm Quality Interactions in Cambridge, will be the chamber’s new head of membership, starting next week.
Terence Burke, meanwhile, left public relations firm Denterlein to join the chamber staff as Rooney’s new VP of communications strategy, and Katie Hauser just started as communications director. They are familiar faces: Hauser was Rooney’s communications director at the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, and Denterlein is the authority’s outside PR agency.
Rooney says he has held at least 160 meetings with business leaders, politicians, and some critics of the chamber since he became CEO to gauge their expectations and their biggest priorities. It meant “a lot of listening, a lot of absorbing,” he says.
Fox 25’s news ratings drop under new owner
We all know Boston can be a parochial city, a place where newcomers are often greeted warily. If the folks at Atlanta-based Cox Media Group didn’t understand that already, they’ve certainly learned it since they took over the Fox 25 TV station in a swap with Fox Broadcasting in October 2014.
We now have a full month of ratings to compare Fox 25’s news operations, year-over-year, since the takeover — and the picture isn’t pretty. The ratings are down for WFXT’s news shows in almost every time period, and most dramatically during the early-morning hours. For example, Fox 25’s ratings fell 27 percent in November from a year ago during the 5 a.m. hour for the 25-54 demographic, and 14 percent in the 6 a.m. hour. One bright spot: the 5 p.m. newscast, where viewership was up 6 percent, year over year.
Cox officials declined to comment about the ratings.
The Fox 25 management in Dedham — led by general manager Tom Raponi, who came here from a former Cox station in the San Francisco market — made some big changes to the station’s approach to news. Most notably, the station hired a crop of new reporters while significantly scaling back its on-air guests and commentary. But all that banter and opinions were one way to differentiate Fox 25 from the other local stations. An early high-profile result of that shift: Doug “VB” Goudie was out last November, soon after the Cox takeover. Goudie then reunited with Howie Carr to work on Carr’s radio show.
There have been a few other departures since then, including popular anchor Maria Stephanos, who left abruptly in September. Investigative reporter Mike Beaudet also departed, and later joined rival WCVB’s team. Their exits prompted Goudie to pen a column in the Boston Herald in September, opining that the local TV news programs are all too similar now.
Fox 25 still has plenty of familiar faces among its on-air talent, such as Mark Ockerbloom, Stephanos’s former co-anchor in the evenings.
But the November ratings decline puts more pressure on the newcomers to win over Boston viewers.
Tufts exec taking federal Medicaid role
An executive from one of Massachusetts’ largest insurance companies has been tapped to help Congress run one of the country’s biggest federal programs.
Christopher “Kit” Gorton, president of public plans at Watertown-based Tufts Health Plan, is joining a federal advisory panel on Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor. Gorton has been named to a three-year term, beginning Jan. 1, on the commission known in Washington-speak as MACPAC.
Gorton, a former pediatrician, has worked with Medicaid patients across the country in some capacity for more than three decades. The program is a lifeline to many people, he said, but it’s also a huge expense for taxpayers. In Massachusetts alone, where 1.8 million people are on Medicaid (known here as MassHealth), the program’s budget this fiscal year is $15.3 billion.
“The challenge is: How do we provide beneficiaries access to high-quality care, but keep costs under control?” Gorton said.
At Tufts, Gorton oversees health insurance for about 294,000 people who are on Medicaid or buy insurance through the state exchange.
His new appointment is not just a ceremonial one, Gorton said. MACPAC members meet several times a year, and they produce thick annual reports that tell lawmakers how to set policy.
Six other members were recently named to the commission, including Brian Burwell, a vice president at Truven Health Analytics, a health care data analysis company in Cambridge.
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