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'News desert'? Try to focus, ACMi tells Globe writer

Jeff BarndBarnd

The following letters from ACMi employees were submitted to the editor in response to this Boston Globe story by Hiawatha Bray.


Read your column from Sept. 25, “In Arlington, an AI news site takes root," and was somewhat shocked.

My name is Jeff Barnd, and I’m the news director at Arlington Community Media inc. (ACMi) in Arlington. We air a weekly newscast on our public, education and government channels every day - and post separate news stories to our Facebook and YouTube Pages on a daily basis.

ACMi News is the kind of news-gathering organization that many towns may not have. But Arlington certainly does.

Also, your column states that "Inside Arlington is taking the technology a step further. It tracks down city news with software that regularly scans government websites and captures the latest reports. It also monitors the city’s YouTube channel to obtain video recordings of public meetings.”

Arlington is a TOWN, not a city. It would be good for a journalist writing about Arlington to know that.

Also, the town doesn’t have a YouTube channel. All government meetings, events, elections and Town Meetings are covered by ACMi and posted to OUR YouTube page.

Finally, ACMi News has won the national “Hometown Media Award” for best newscast among ALL other access stations across the country!

And we’ve won it two years in a row (2022 and 2023).

Although we would very much welcome any additional news-gathering operation in the town of Arlington, I would hardly call the current situation a “news desert.”

Perhaps an effort to find what we’re all about would have given this column important additional information and resulted in a more accurate representation. 

Sean Keane added: 

I just read your article talking about "," and there are a number of details included that are incorrect. My name is Sean Keane, and I'm the government and programming coordinator for ACMi, Arlington's community media station. I am the person who films and posts all the government meetings from which "" is having AI grab captions. 

In your article you state: "It also monitors the city’s YouTube channel to obtain video recordings of public meetings." This statement contains two factual inaccuracies - Arlington is a town, not a city (an important distinction in Massachusetts), and the town has no YouTube channel of its own - it is in fact ACMi that records all the public meetings you reference. 

ACMi is a nonprofit public access television station that isn't affiliated with, managed or directly funded by the Town of Arlington. We film such meetings as Select Board, School Committee, Town Meeting and others that are broadcast on local television as well as streamed and posted online. 

Our news department, ACMi News, produces a weekly hyperlocal newscast as well as posting segments daily about news in Arlington. Our News Director, Jeffrey Barnd, is a 13-time Emmy Award winner in Television News broadcasting, and our former assistant news director, Anim Osmani, is now a production coordinator at Boston Globe Media. 

Reading that Arlington is a "news desert" comes as a surprise to me as both someone who works and lives in Arlington. The merging of The Arlington Advocate with The Winchester Sun has greatly reduced its relevance, but it still does exist as a published paper. ACMi News, as well as the website YourArlington, an independent nonprofit digital-only news website, have been publishing news in Arlington since 2006 during the decline and dissolution of the Advocate

To call Arlington a "news desert" without mentioning ACMi or YourArlington, which has filled the hole the Advocate left does your column a disservice. The subject of your column, "," is only able to do what it does because of our televised coverage of local government meetings, which "" crawls through to create highlights. ACMi News and YourArlington both regularly offer highlights from these meetings, with an actual human doing the work and making the necessary judgment calls. 

I take umbrage at your conclusion that "Still, it provides Arlington residents with useful information about city government — information that’s otherwise quite hard to come by," since you fail to acknowledge enduring news services in town that have existed for far longer. ACMi News has won the national Hometown Media Award for best newscast the last two years, and YourArlington has been publishing Arlington news since 2006. Presenting "" as the sole provider of local government news ignores the very originators of the content its AI-based system peruses for its posts. 

Please review some of the coverage we provide to Arlington residents, since it is the very content "" mines for its articles, before describing us as a news desert:



Below is an example of next-day news coverage of a local meeting where it became so heated police were called to the Arlington Town Hall:

Dan Kennedy, Sept. 26, 2023: No, Arlington is not a ‘news desert’ — and the Globe should have done some checking


This news announcement was published April 3, 2023, based on information from Amy McElroy and the Friends of the Robbins Library, and updated April 21 to add ACMi video window.

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