The Power of “The Power of Ideas”

POI April, June, July 2014As I worked to compile the list of thought leaders for May’s Power of Ideas issue of Boston Magazine, my editors and I quickly realized that the scope of Boston’s talent couldn’t really be contained to one magazine a year. So we decided to expand upon the concept. Within the past few months, we’ve launched a monthly page devoted to some of the city’s most ambitious thinkers whose ideas are shaping different corners of the city (or beyond the city, as the case may be). It’s been a tremendous opportunity to sit down with each of them and witness their passion. From left to right:

Gerald Chertavian is the CEO and founder of Year Up, which steers low-income youth into high-paying technology jobs in an effort to bridge the opportunity divide.

Nurys Camargo is the founder of the Chica Project, a volunteer-based organization that seeks to develop a pipeline of mentors to empower Massachusetts’ next generation of Latina leaders.

And Gilad Rosenzweig is launching Smarter in the City—the country’s first inner-city high-tech startup accelerator program—this month in Dudley Square.

In addition to the monthly magazine feature, we’ve also launched a series of “Power of Ideas” salons that will examine Boston from various angles. Our first, “Food for Thought,” launched late last month, and we’ll be planning more through the end of the year. Stay tuned…

 

The Power of Ideas

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I edited Boston Magazine’s annual power list this year, which we dubbed “The Power of Ideas.” The May cover package is our most ambitious ever, with 75 names culled from across the city. Here’s the gist:

“Ideas have long been Boston’s most powerful export—our thought leaders are driving new developments in everything from technology to energy, culture to politics, education to healthcare. Most recently, a new generation of leaders has begun to collaborate with these innovators to address challenges in the public arena as well. To celebrate this unprecedented convergence of minds, we shine a light on Boston’s new power class: the visionaries, idealists, and thinkers among us whose insights are transforming the way we live, work, learn, and play—not only here in Boston, but around the world.”

Ad Venture

In the Winter issue of Boston College Magazine, I profiled the three founders of Jebbit, an internet startup that’s hoping to rethink the way we interact with ads online. Here’s the gist:

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Tom Coburn is charming, and if he had gone through with his education plan—a biology major, graduation in 2013, followed by medical school—he surely would have developed a lovely bedside manner as a practicing physician someday. But today the redheaded 22-year-old Hopkinton, Massachusetts, native is one of Boston’s youngest CEOs, and on this autumn morning he’s targeting that charm instead at the construction workers building the brand new office space for his online startup, Jebbit, in the Landmark building near Fenway Park. Riding the elevator in the building’s historic tower, he chats easily with the hard-hat-wearing worker three times his age. The elevator doors glide open to reveal stunning floor-to-ceiling windows . . . and one of Jebbit’s programmers dangling like an orangutan, by one arm then the other, from the steel girders on the ceiling. The programmer grins goofily down at his colleagues slouched on a gray sectional sofa below him, their baseball caps turned backward and laptops on their laps. Coburn shrugs and smiles as he continues with the tour.

 

The construction worker chuckles and turns to Coburn: “I’ve been here a week and I still have no idea what it is that you guys do.”

“We’re in online advertising,” Coburn replies.

That’s certainly one way to describe it. Coburn’s company, Jebbit, is attempting to completely rethink the way we interact with ads online, and since sharing a first-place finish in the undergraduate Boston College Venture Competition (BCVC) in 2011, it’s gotten some significant traction. The past few years have been a bit of a blur for Coburn and his cohorts: They’ve been accepted to two of the country’s most competitive startup accelerators, raised $1.8 million in funding, found partners in brands such as Coca-Cola, Bose, and Ralph Lauren, and been named to the Boston Globe‘s “25 Under 25? hot list. Jebbit today has 13 employees, 10 of whom are under the age of 22 (and nine of whom occupy the same Cleveland Circle house). Last year, Coburn and two cofounders—chief technology officer Chase McAleese (also a member of the Class of 2013) and COO Jonathan Lacoste ’15—left Boston College before they could graduate to pursue Jebbit full-time.

Find the rest of the piece here.

#BCExperts

I had a lovely time chatting with Maura Johnston and the BC community during the first ever Boston College Google+ Hangout earlier this week. Maura and I answered questions about social media’s impact on journalism and reporting in the digital age.

Taming the Beast Within

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How do you solve a problem like pedophila? It’s a disorder without a cure–and one that, quite frankly, few people ever want to think about. But for my latest piece in Boston Magazine, I interviewed people who work with this population and are using medical interventions to help control their patients’ unwanted and inappropriate sexual desires. The method of choice is the drug Lupron, a injection that’s been dubbed “chemical castration,” and helps lower the sex drive and unwanted urges in patients. The problem, of course, is that it’s not widely used, and public support for the treatment is practically non-existent. I explore the ethical land mines that doctors who treat these patients face on a regular basis, and what it could mean for the public if we decide to treat these men with these drugs.

Losing Aaron

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Three years ago this month, the internet activist Aaron Swartz was arrested for downloading JSTOR files from MIT’s campus. A year ago, he took his own life.

When he died, the world lost a brilliant young man. Aaron’s father lost a son. In this month’s issue of Boston Magazine, I tell Bob Swartz’s story.

[Losing Aaron]

Photo by Mark Fleming

Six Heroic Saves

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Hippocrates was among the first to identify the importance of the doctor-patient relationship, and today it remains an essential tenet of medicine. So as we looked to put together our Top Docs issue together this year at Boston Magazine, we realized it made sense to look at the health care professionals who did such incredible work in the wake of the marathon bombings. I wondered: What bonds were formed in the first few hours after the blasts? Fortunately, I was able to find six tremendous doctors and seven patients who were willing to share their stories. You can find them all here online.

You can see my interview on Fox25 here as well:

Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

Giving Up the Gun

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This summer, as the number of shootings ratcheted up across the city of Boston, and there was a growing unease in many of the city’s neighborhoods that the spike in violence was being ignored, one nonprofit was doing their best to reorient the conversation. The group Citizens for Safety has been working to stop getting guns into the hands of would-be shooters for more than a decade. Their anti-gun trafficking efforts are important here in Massachusetts, a state whose strict gun laws can only do so much, particularly when lax policies elsewhere enable guns to be brought here illegally across borders.

“I always say, ‘We don’t have a gun problem in Boston, we have a gun trafficking problem,’” says Nancy Robinson, who heads the group. And when she began looking at one of the sources of that problem she came to a startling realization. Women were frequently being used to traffic guns because of their clean records. They were often caught holding or hiding guns in exchange for money, drugs, or protection. And while programs existed to help women who struggled with other life-threatening issues: domestic violence, drug abuse, or sexual trafficking, for example, no such program served to help women deal with the reality of guns. So Robinson created Operation LIPSTICK, an acronym for Ladies Involved in Putting a Stop to Inner-City Killings.

I profile the groups’ effort in the November issue of Boston Magazine.

A Mayor in Full

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The October cover package in Boston Magazine is devoted to Mayor Thomas Menino, who has been in charge for two decades here in Boston, but is stepping down from office at the end of this year. We look at old Mumbles from a variety of angles, but I was assigned two of the most fascinating ones. On the subject of race, Menino’s legacy is somewhat mixed. Yes, we’re a far less racist city than we were in the past, something that Menino roundly touts as one of his largest accomplishments. But there are still divisions, and many in the city feel that real parity on issues of poverty and education have not yet been reached.

Whereas Menino’s position on race may be left to the history books, there is little question that his stance on LGBTQ issues is solid. As supporter of gay rights since he first entered politics, he’s never wavered on his positions, and it’s something that the gay and lesbian community cherishes.  “We would not have same-sex marriage in America if not for Tom Menino,” one advocate told me. “Boston has been an incubator for those ideas.”

Armor All

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In the October issue of Boston Magazine, I have a piece that looks at the new body armor that was designed specifically for a woman’s body. Yes, this is something that is only happening now. And yes, “it fits like a prom dress,” according to the female soldiers who wear it. Here’s the piece online.