Boston Broadside Providing Voices For Conservatives Throughout Massachusetts

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Six years ago, a former local politician took on a new role: providing conservatives in the most left-leaning state in the country a printed outlet to get news and express their opinions.

Lonnie Brennan, the 60-year-old publisher of The Boston Broadside, a monthly conservative print newspaper, is a former Georgetown selectman. Before that he served for eight years on the school committee in Salem, where he grew up. He was a two-time candidate for state representative in the 18th Essex District, in 2006 and 2008.

He also wrote a column for a right-leaning regional monthly publication.

In 2014, repulsed by the left-leaning mainstream media and not happy with the right-of-center newspaper he was writing for, Brennan reached a breaking point.

“I got sick of everybody else writing the headlines,” Brennan told New Boston Post in a telephone interview. “This is probably the seventh or eighth paper I’ve been involved with if you count college. The last one I was writing a monthly column for, and I’m not sure if you remember the Justina Pelletier case, they came out and their big headline was that the government needed more money. That was it for me.”

“… I thought of the expression, ‘If not now, when and if not me, who?’ ” Brennan said. “I’ve been known to do stupid things in life. I’m sure you have too. I wanted to do something a little different and give voices to people who normally don’t have a voice.”

The Pelletier case involved a dispute between the parents of a 14-year-old Connecticut girl and Boston Children’s Hospital. A doctor at Tufts Medical Center diagnosed the girl with mitochondrial disease but sent her for a consultation at Children’s Hospital, where medical staff diagnosed her with a psychiatric condition. When her parents disagreed with the diagnosis, doctors accused them of child abuse, and the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families removed Justina from her parents’ custody. Medical staff also moved Justina to the hospital’s psychiatric ward.

The case outraged many, including advocates for parents’ rights and families. Brennan wrote a column about it, but he was disappointed to see it buried deep in the paper he was writing for at the time.

Shortly thereafter, Brennan, a technical writer by trade, launched his own publication in May 2014:  The Boston Broadside. The first edition ran about 1,000 copies. Six and a half years later, the monthly newspaper has published 80 editions and typically prints around 12,000 to 13,000 copies per issue. A yearly subscription by media mail costs $30.

The Broadside calls itself “The People’s Paper” and says it covers “New England Politics And Beyond — Without The Liberal Spin.” It typically runs 32 pages. Content includes exclusive news stories and columns by Massachusetts writers and activists; syndicated columns from conservatives such as Pat Buchanan, Michelle Malkin, and Ann Coulter; op-eds written by political candidates; and letters to the editor.

“There is no strategic plan,” Brennan said. “It’s basically wherever we can get it. I was very lucky to get a distributor because I had been turned down by many. At first, they’re all excited until they find out it’s not liberal like The Boston Globe and won’t touch it. We’re able to get it to several hundred stores in the central part of the state and southern New Hampshire and the rest is like water. Wherever it spills out — mostly volunteers spreading it on the North Shore, South Shore, the Cape, the South Coast, Falmouth.”

A hunger for news and information from a right-of-center perspective explains its success, he said.

“The people who subscribe really drive the paper. That’s what keeps it moving, keeps it growing,” Brennan said.

“We’ve done special editions of 16,000 or 20,000 copies, and one year, we had an election special where we had 100,000 copies and our volunteers helped us do that, as did the conservative politicians running for office taking out ads,” he added. “We had a lot of conservatives running for Republican State Committee and we were able to do mailings at a great cost. There were six people who took out full-page ads, and five of those six won.”

Brennan’s also paper took an interest in the Massachusetts Republican State Committee races earlier this year. The 80 races took place in March. While the races drew little coverage from the mainstream media, the Broadside not only had stories on the races, but it also offered endorsements of some candidates and disavowed candidates Brennan considered too closely associated with the state’s Republican governor, Charlie Baker, who is a fiscal moderate and a social liberal.

WRKO radio talk show host Jeff Kuhner said he has followed the Boston Broadside since its inception.

“I was immediately impressed by the paper — frankly by Lonnie. He’s an editor’s editor. He’s down the middle. It’s the facts, and follow-the-facts,” Kuhner said in a telephone interview with New Boston Post.

Kuhner often mentions Broadside stories during his 6 a.m.-to-10 a.m. weekday show on AM 680, The Kuhner Report. He said when it comes to welfare fraud, illegal immigration, sanctuary cities, and political corruption in Massachusetts, the Broadside is a vital resource.

“They break a lot of stories that The Boston Herald, The Boston Globe, and frankly the local media and the state media will not cover,” Kuhner said. “… It’s my favorite print publication in all of New England. To me, it’s what journalism used to be — what it should be.”

In fact, the first time Brennan handed out copies of the Broadside was at one of Kuhner’s events.

Kuhner helped organized a rally in support of the Pelletiers outside of the Massachusetts State House in Boston in May 2014. Since Brennan had dedicated the first edition of the Broadside to the Pelletier case, he went to the rally and started handing out copies. It caused a sensation.

“It was a blazing hot day, I had a stack of papers from the tips of my fingers stretched to what seemed the ground to bundles stacked way above my head,” Brennan said. “I must have looked like a circus juggler. I plopped down and the bundles scattered at the feet of the crowd assembling at the State House. Wiping my forehead, I took apart a bundle and started handing them around. I wanted folks to know that one paper was covering this, and giving them something in print they could share with others. 

“At first, folks naturally were reluctant,” he added. “Then they saw the paper, took the paper, read the paper, shared the paper. The place was abuzz. Within minutes more and more rally attendees were surrounding me, taking papers, and asking if they could help hand out the papers. Within what seemed liked five minutes, there were papers in so many hands, it was incredible.”

The Broadside also covered the rally, including photos and interviews with people who attended, in the June 2014 edition.

Brennan said one of the upsides to his publication is that he can give a voice to those who might not otherwise have one.

“Our best idea is that our best content comes from our readers,” Brennan said. “Right now, we’ve got subscribers in probably half of Massachusetts — mostly based on the east coast. We’re moving west towards Worcester as well. I’ll be happy when we have at least a few subscribers in each city and town, and we have subscribers in 31 states, so I’d like to beef up the map. I’m surprised by how many people in Texas and Florida get the paper. We only have a few in places like Arizona, but we’re mostly in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.”

One of those leaders is conservative activist Adam Lange, founder of United Cape Patriots.

“As a conservative leader in a blue state, there are very limited options for me to receive fair news coverage,” Lange told New Boston Post in an email message. “In 2020, local media outlets are more concerned with why everybody is not wearing a mask, rather than why 100’s of people have assembled to have their voices heard.

“The Boston Broadside provides conservatives with a sense of belonging, and has never misquoted me to further an agenda,” he added. 

Ted Tripp helps out the paper as a volunteer reporter. He says he that he enjoys contributing to the publication and being able to tell people things that the mainstream media will not.

“Back when I was involved in the Merrimack Valley Tea Party, I thought the area needed a newspaper or publication with conservative news stories,” Tripp said by email. “When Lonnie Brennan launched the Boston Broadside, I thought it was the perfect medium to promote a non-liberal message to readers around the state who are unhappy with traditional news sources. I jumped on board and decided to focus on Massachusetts politics that are rarely covered by anybody else such as how the budget works, showing light on little-known, liberal non-profits, or outrageous happenings which defy common sense.

“I feel the more that the Broadside can expose what’s going on in these areas, the more informed will be our electorate,” he added. “And an informed electorate should make better choices at the ballot box. That is the ultimate satisfaction. A bonus is when something we publish helps stop a bad bill or outcome, or helps to pass some good or important legislation.”

When Brennan started the Broadside, he had been writing regularly for The Valley Patriot, a monthly right-of-center newspaper that circulates in the Merrimack Valley on both sides of the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border.

Tom Duggan, owner of The Valley Patriot, told New Boston Post that he supports what Brennan does, but he says the two publications have different goals.

Duggan said he started his paper to be a news outlet with a conservative editorial stance, and that he has no problem publishing differing opinions. One example:  a pro-same-sex marriage lesbian has written a monthly column for The Valley Patriot, even though it generally takes conservative editorial stances.

Duggan said he prizes fairness and supporting free speech over sending a message, but that he also appreciates The Boston Broadside.

“We wish them well,” Duggan said in an email message. “We read it. We like it. It’s just not what we wanted to do. There is a market for the kind of publication. They are valued members of their community, and their point of view is sorely needed in this state. But they are not a ‘newspaper.’ They are an advocacy paper. 

“The Valley Patriot continues to be a newspaper after 16 years. We continue to promote conservative values, but we are not partisan. We do not let our editorial opinions color news coverage. We do not refuse submissions because we disagree with the content.”

The Boston Broadside is a labor of love for Brennan, not a vehicle of profit. Brennan says all the money the paper makes ordinarily goes to paying ad salesmen, paying syndicated columnists, and paying publishing costs.

Lately, though, he has had to divert some funds to defend a libel lawsuit filed against the newspaper earlier this fall.

The Broadside published an article in May 2019 about a Needham man in his mid-70s who said he was unjustly persuaded by a lawyer into signing away control of his assets. The man, who has no immediate family, was under pressure from town officials because six properties he owned were deteriorating and he was behind on property tax payments. The man has said that after he signed away control, he was subsequently steered to a nursing home and that he doesn’t get enough benefit from the money the property sales generated.

A Netflix series called Dirty Money subsequently ran a segment on the case.

One of the lawyers involved in the Needham case sued The Boston Broadside and the producers of the Netflix show for libel in October 2020, claiming that stories about the case inaccurately portrayed the facts and damaged his reputation. The lawyer, Nicholas Louisa, who has an office in Cambridge, said in court papers that the elderly man at the center of the case, John Savanovich, is a hoarder with memory problems who cannot take care of himself. Louisa also said he acted under the direction of the Probate Court when he oversaw the sale of the elderly man’s assets, and not on his own authority.

The lawyer also says he and another lawyer involved in the case have acted in their client’s best interests, and that the man has a court-appointed conservator who handles his financial affairs, provides regular updates to him on how is money is handled, and makes sure he gets a fixed amount each month, and that he can receive more upon request.

Louisa’s attorney, Howard Cooper, told New Boston Post by email, “Truth matters. We invite anyone interested in the truth to read Mr. Louisa’s detailed public filings in court including the 150 decision issued by [a probate judge]. Mr. Louisa fully looks forward to presenting his case to a jury.”

Brennan stands by his reporting, saying that it’s based on court documents. He says the articles he published offer important information about how the state’s probate system sometimes doesn’t serve the best interests of elderly people. He describes the libel suit as “frivolous,” and says it puts a damper on the pursuit of truth.

“It’s not just meant to silence us, but any senior or anyone who doesn’t have a voice, and to put fear into them, their siblings, spouses or whatever,” Brennan said. “It’s a scary thing. You don’t want to get letters from lawyers. My attitude has been, ‘Come get me.’ If we make a mistake, fine, we’ll correct it and print the truth, but if we’re printing the truth, you might not like it. You can print things that some people will be offended by.”

The case is pending in Middlesex Superior Court.

For a newspaper that doesn’t make money, a libel suit poses a threat to its existence. Supporters of The Boston Broadside have rallied to the paper in an hour of need, contributing to a legal defense fund.

As of Sunday, December 6, a GoFundMe campaign supporting the Broadside amid its lawsuit had raised $15,609.

Brennan said the response has thrilled him.

“I have to say, when we took in the first $366 I was stunned, and felt a touch in my eyes. When we hit $15,000, we were enabled to begin to fight back. Still, it’s outrageous …” Brennan said. “… I cannot begin to tell you how many hours I have had to spend in the past four months sitting before lawyers and support staff. It’s obscene. And, lawfare is costly. It’s even more costly if you don’t fight back.”

“I am grateful, humbled, and daily stunned at the ‘extended Broadside Family’ that has come to our rescue, to keep us in the game. It is amazing.”

Despite his current troubles, Brennan sees upward mobility for the Broadside.

“The goal would be to try to grow it whether by word of mouth or by continuing to put out papers. Everything that comes into the paper goes into the paper and growing the paper,” Brennan said.

As for Massachusetts, where Democrats outnumber Republicans nine-to-one in the state Senate and five-to-one in the state House of Representatives, Brennan also has high hopes.

He said he wants to see conservatives unite and revolt against the moderate-to-liberal faction of the Massachusetts Republican Party, and use every mode of media to get their message out. If they can do that, then he thinks they have a shot at serious growth in the state.

“Conservatives need to unite, and conservative candidates need to coordinate every aspect of their campaigns – everything:  message, presentation, canvasing, mailings, visibility, et cetera,” Brennan said. “Conservatives have virtually no ‘air game’ in most media. Conservatives need a message, a voice, a plan, and messengers. Think, for example, of Barbara Anderson. Prior to her death, she had an incredible name-recognition status. Anytime there was a bill at the State House about taxes, Barbara was on the talk shows, on the TV shows, on the local cable. She had her weekly column printed in the Salem Evening News and occasionally elsewhere. Yes, she did not tread gently into liberal bastions, she charged in, and explained and fought for the taxpayer.”

Brennan has a vision for Massachusetts government that for seem might seem breathtaking.

“Working strongly, together, conservatives can take over the House of Representatives,” he added. “Yes, it’s a long march, but doing what they are currently doing – leaving 83% of the Democrats unchallenged, year after year, is helping no one.”