McCormack Speaks

November 2, 2017
by McCormack Speaks

Detecting Media Bias

by Matt Braman, McCormack Graduate School student

a stack of newspapersWith “fake news” attracting so much attention in the past year, I’ve found myself questioning my own news sources much more often. While I consider this to be a normal response in an unpredictable political climate, it has also led me to consider some of the other, more subtle, ways in which news presentation might misinform us. For example, how biased is our news media currently? And if our media are biased, how does that affect our understanding of current events?

Much of the research in this area finds that while people do frequently detect bias in news reporting, often their conclusions are unsubstantiated (Baum and Groeling, 2008; Lin, Haridakis, & Hanson, 2016). In what has been coined the “hostile media” phenomenon, individuals from completely opposite ends of the political spectrum often perceive bias from the same source, even when it is objectively considered to be “relatively balanced and non-partisan” (Vallone et al., 1985 as cited in Groeling, 2013).  Unsurprisingly, this not only makes detecting bias in the media difficult, but also makes attributing such bias to journalistic intent even more challenging (Baum and Groeling, 2008).  Continue Reading →

March 27, 2017
by McCormack Speaks
1 Comment

Time to Ditch Street-Cleaning Tows

by Chadi Salamoun, McCormack Graduate School student

tow truckTurning the corner from March to April means two things for winter-weary New Englanders: they’ve survived another abusive winter (amen) and better weather is right around the corner (AMEN!). Spring carries with it many happy thoughts: the start of baseball season, shorts, barbeques, long walks along the Charles, blooming flowers, friendlier Bostonians, and more.

It also means the start of street-cleaning season and the inevitable dispersion of bright orange or green tickets. For the next eight months, car owners without driveways will check and double-check parking signs, drive endlessly in search of legal parking spots, and lunge from their beds to the ominous roar of a not-so-distant sweeper. Continue Reading →

March 17, 2017
by McCormack Speaks

The Future of Food Stamps

by Anonymous, a McCormack Graduate School student

groceriesWithin the United States there has been an increasing level of opposition regarding one of the most important government programs for those in need, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP benefits are managed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered by state agencies. Within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Department of Transitional Assistance provides this food assistance to low-income households. SNAP benefits are essential in bridging the gap for those with low income, part-time employees, the elderly, the disabled, and other households in need.

Twenty years ago, welfare reform passed, transforming the welfare entitlement program Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) into the grant program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), TAFDC in Massachusetts. TANF gives states flexibility in the ways in which they allocate grant money and set the program eligibility standards. In fact, states can raise standards to decrease program eligibility and use funds for other approved programs.

Similarly, SNAP has become a target for reform, just as AFDC was leading up to welfare reform. However, unlike AFDC and TANF, SNAP benefits are specifically for food. It is SNAP’s status as an entitlement program that guarantees all of those who meet the federal qualifications will be provided with food assistance benefits, regardless of the federal budget. Food and water are basic necessities of life – an entitlement.

The current administration and the Republican-majority Congress have been working to revamp the SNAP program. Allegations of widespread fraud by non-citizens, the addicted, and the “lazy”  fuel their plans. Additionally, the increased numbers of program participants and resulting increases in the federal SNAP budget are seen as examples of a ballooning budget and further waste of taxpayers’ money. The proposed solution includes annual budget cuts for SNAP that would lead to its transformation from an entitlement to a grant program by as soon as 2021.

President Trump and our Congress should focus on the socioeconomic reasons that create influxes in clients needing SNAP, not on the program itself. Heavy reliance on SNAP represents an assortment of other problems including, but not limited to, low minimum wage, housing costs, education, and additional socioeconomic factors.

SNAP provides an essential resource to those in need. It is essential that these proposals to revamp it be stopped. Although I am not worried about the way in which Massachusetts would allocate resources, it is the future of food assistance within other parts of the country that is in jeopardy.

SNAP, a product of Lydon B. Johnson’s Great Society and earlier pilot programs initiated by John F. Kennedy, is a safety net depended upon by our friends, families, and fellow Americans.  Policymakers must keep this in mind when altering this program.

Anonymous is a SNAP supporter and studies public administration at UMass Boston’s John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies.

Please address any comments to Professor Christine Brenner, if you would like the writer to receive them:


March 13, 2017
by McCormack Speaks
1 Comment

Where are All the Black Public Managers?

by Carmillia Jackson, McCormack Graduate School student

Black female executiveGrowing up in one of the country’s most educated, healthiest, and wealthiest states, I have always taken pride in calling Massachusetts my home. Living in such a diverse community in which there are many my age who are first-generation American-born citizens with families who emigrated from the islands of Dominican Republic, Cape Verde, and Haiti, I just always assumed that the place where I lived supported the progress of the residents who made up the community.

Most of you may ask, “Well, what do you mean by this?”. Let me give you some personal and statistical insights into the demographics of our local government workforce.

I envision a diverse workforce that mirrors my neighborhood. I look forward to hearing local ideas to help build a better foundation for the disadvantaged in my community. As I became more educated and involved in my community, I find that most local-level decisions were being made for minorities, yet not getting a perspective from those in the community. And I discovered that I am not the only woman of color feeling the lack of diversity and inclusion within public agencies.

According to Boston by the Numbers, Boston is a majority minority city, as are other surrounding towns and cities in the area. However, the City of Boston 2015 Workforce Report, shows an issue of racial inequality when looking at factors such as department heads by race, wages by race, and the average annual income by race within our own local government agencies.

City of Boston Department Heads by Race previous administration

City of Boston Department Heads by Race (Current Administration)

City of Boston Annual Pay Rate by Race
When looking at the data presented, I can relate on many levels. As a person of color, I reflect on my every day experience working for a local municipality and see few minority public managers. But I also think about how public administrators might be missing out on insights and personal experiences from members of the community when seeking to find solutions to issues affecting them.

Breaking a system – one that has been in place for so long to ultimately prevent the inclusion and progression of black minorities – is still a work in progress in our country. Although we are better off than we once were, I still see a lot of headway to be made.

President Barack Obama talked frequently about inclusion, even ordering that local, state, and federal agencies take initiatives to diversify their workforce. But to my surprise, I found that this was going to be a slow, although necessary, dynamic, and cultural change.

I guess you can say that is the reason why I chose to pursue my degree in public administration. I aspire to be the face and the voice of those unheard and unknown. I want to bring forth issues and experiences that people in urban communities face every day, such as the struggle of dealing with mental illness, broken family dynamics due to the reality of the criminal justice system, homelessness, and other issues.

In conclusion, Massachusetts can be a model state to others in the country. Although it has a diversified population, government can better represent the demographics of the state and find solutions to issues that affect community members of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. Having people who work in public agencies who truly represent the community has the huge potential to make both working and living spaces more diverse and inclusive.

Carmillia Jackson studies public administration at UMass Boston’s John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies.

March 8, 2017
by McCormack Speaks

OD(T)’ing on the Election?

American flag with Democrats and Republicans printed on the sideby Enrico Manalo, McCormack Graduate School student

Ah, March of a post-election year; a time when campaigning has come to an end, a time when life goes on, a time when we can look forward to settling into the groove of things. What’s that? My apologies, I appear to be thinking of another year. Whether you voted Democrat or Republican (or not at all), this March we in the United States are still talking about the outcomes of the 2016 presidential election. In any case, change is in the air and what exactly that will look like over the next few years is anyone’s guess. Continue Reading →

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