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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Michele McPhee, Determined to Make Life Phenomenal

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English BA, 1993

It began with the Steak Tips Massacre. Four men dead, one wounded, in an argument that escalated into a gunfight at the 99 Restaurant in Charlestown, 1995—this premise set Michele McPhee’s journalism career in motion. 
“I was on the city desk for the Boston Globe, and that was back when newspapers had money, so you could write. You could run around the city and just find little quirky stories, and make money.” 
As a student at the University of Massachusetts Boston, McPhee landed a six-month internship at the Boston Globe, which she was able to extend by commandeering a disused desk in the newsroom. She wrote incessantly. 
“I urge everyone at UMass, especially people who are into journalism, to write. Write often. Write for free,” McPhee says.
With single-minded tenacity, McPhee wrote a series of articles about the murder investigation for the Globe, and finally an in depth article for Boston Magazine. 
“That story that came out in Boston Magazine launched my career,” she says. “When it came out, it caught the attention of an editor at the New York Daily News, so I went directly to New York.” 
Now her byline appears in newspapers and magazines all over the world. After writing for the Globe, McPhee worked for a variety of magazines in New York, including the New York Daily News, where she was the Police Bureau Chief. 
“I was there for 9/11,” she says. “Because I had covered police and fire for the last decade, I knew a lot of the people personally who were affected. There were 343 fire fighters that were killed that day, another 23 New York City cops, and 32 Port Authority Police Officers, and among them were my friends, because I had been there for so long, and that was my beat, and my beat was my life essentially.” 
She moved home to Boston in 2006, and worked for the Boston Herald as a columnist and police reporter.
“I stayed after 9/11 working for about five years, and it just became so difficult and sad. Writing about the devastating losses people suffered made me realize that I was living in New York, and my nieces and nephews were growing up in Boston without me.” 
After moving, she worked at ABC News as a producer for the Brian Ross Investigative Unit, and now she hosts a talk show on WMEX, 1510 AM in Boston, weekdays 3-7 pm.
“His team is stellar, so I’m grateful to work with such unbelievable journalists. And it’s nice in this business to still be able to learn with your colleagues, and become better.”
McPhee also freelances and has written five true crime novels.
In October, 2014, an article she wrote about the lives of the Tsarnaev women—the wife, mother and two sisters of the Boston Marathon Bombers—appeared on the cover of Newsweek. That article evolved into a further investigation into Tamerlan’s relationship with the FBI, which is McPhee’s latest obsession. The terror that kept her writing in New York, and ultimately drove her home to Boston, returned.
“Once again I find myself on a blood splattered street in a place that is sacred to me,” she says. “It’s important to me to figure out what went wrong this time.”
The path that lead McPhee to a life of writing began with a class at UMass Boston called The City as a Hero. It was the only class she took in her first semester, and it hooked her. She signed up for more classes the next semester, and started writing for the student newspaper. 
“I worked at the Mass Media when I first started. That was my very first job in journalism and I loved it,” she says. “You are around every walk of life at UMass Boston. This is not just an extension of high school, which is what a lot of college campuses are, live-in high school. This is really like being part of a city.” 
She became a full time student, paying tuition by waiting tables at the Comedy Connection in Faneuil Hall, and at Destinations, which was a nightclub at Haymarket. 
“We used to call it Lacerations because there were so many fights and stabbings in there, and Bobby Brown could be found smoking crack in the bathroom. It was one of those nightclubs. I worked a lot, and I also worked at the co-op [internship], at the State House for the Globe.” 
Living in a ramshackle North End apartment for 400 bucks a month, she made ends meet while reporting for, “One of the great college newspapers.” 
“I never was more excited than when I first saw my name in print,” she says. “It was something I had always dreamed of. I took the long way around to get into colleg because I was an incorrigible high school student. When I saw my byline in the Mass Media, I actually saw I could acquire that dream I always had of being a reporter, and from there I wouldn’t give up. That first byline in the Mass Media is what catapulted my determination to become a reporter.” 
She hung out at the Wits End on campus, writing, doing homework, and chatting with a group of friends she found through the Mass Media. 
“If I was in between classes, that’s where you could find me always. So that’s where we would always meet up, me and Rob Vickerman, my best friend there, and we would talk about boys, and work, and school.” 
At UMass Boston, McPhee learned the value of community, and what makes a good citizen. 
“Being at UMass is like being part of a tight knit neighborhood. It’s like living in an eclectic city. You’re surrounded by people who have an appreciation for what they’re doing there. I just loved looking around and seeing people that come from everywhere going to such completely different places. The people there were determined. That’s the word I always thought about when I was at UMass. They’ve got people who are determined, just like me, to make their lives phenomenal.”

About the Contributor
Caleb Nelson served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years: Editor-in-Chief: Fall 2010; 2010-2011; Fall 2011 News Editor: Spring 2009; 2009-2010