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'Pay your writers': Why BU's commencement speaker got booed

Boston University graduates stand with their backs to the stage during Sunday's commencement address by David Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery. (Steven Senne/AP Photo)
Boston University graduates stand with their backs to the stage during Sunday's commencement address by David Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery. (Steven Senne/AP Photo)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's daily morning newsletter, WBUR Today. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here

Celtics fans weren’t the only ones booing this weekend. Let’s get right to the news:

David Zaslav, the CEO of the media conglomerate Warner Bros. Discovery, returned to his alma mater Boston University on Sunday to deliver the commencement address for this year’s graduating class. But as WBUR’s Walter Wuthmann reports, Zaslav’s speech was met with pickets and protests in support of TV and film writers, who launched the industry’s first strike in 15 years earlier this month.

  • Who is he? Zaslav took over in 2021 as CEO of the newly merged Warner Bros. Discovery. The studio is part of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which was unable to reach a deal with the Writers Guild of America on a new contract. Zaslav also got his law degree at BU in the 1980s.
  • What was the protest about? Amid a streaming-fueled boom in content, writers have been pushing for better pay, “residual” money from streaming, and safeguards around the use of artificial intelligence. They say studios can afford it, pointing to the big salaries made by executives like Zaslav, who earned nearly $40 million last year — and nearly $250 million the year before. “That would cover most of what we’re asking for — pay your writers fairly,” Anya Epstein, a New-York based TV writer and producer who traveled to Boston for the protest, told Wuthmann.
  • While nearly 200 protesters picketed on Commonwealth Avenue Zaslav’s speech itself was interrupted by boos and chants of “pay your writers” from graduating BU students. Watch the video here. (There was even a plane dragging a “pay your writers” sign.)
  • Go deeper: You may remember the last writer’s strike in 2007. From mini rooms to streaming, here’s how this one is different.
  • What’s next: We’re in the midst of college graduation season — with more big names coming to Boston this week. The list of local commencement speakers includes two U.S. senators, two high-profile journalists and — last but not least — Tom Hanks.

“A highly unusual situation”: Officials in Hull are asking the courts for more specific advice on handling their elections after a fire on election day last Monday blocked some residents from getting to the town’s only voting place. Due to the disruption, the town let about 80 people vote between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. after polls closed, but a judge later rejected their request to let those votes be counted.

  • The judge suggested the town hold a new election instead, but did not order one. As a result, Hull Town Clerk Lori West says they need more guidance on how to handle the situation.
  • The short-term solution: West says incumbents will remain in office until it’s solved.

Not loving that dirty water: Officials are advising people and their pets to avoid contact with Alewife Brook and parts of Mystic River in Cambridge, Somerville and Medford until at least tomorrow. Cambridge health officials say the city was forced to release sewage and storm-water runoff into the river on Sunday in order to prevent sewage from backing up into people’s homes.

  • Activities that should be avoided for now include swimming, paddle boarding, boating and fishing.

The Boston City Council is resuming its work this week to sign off on a new redistricting map after a federal judge blocked the city from using a previous map created by councilors. WBUR’s Amy Sokolow reports that the council will now work off a map proposed by Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune as a baseline for the discussion.

  • Louijeune — who chairs the committee spearheading the process — says that alternative proposals from Mayor Michelle Wu and Councilor Michael Flaherty include too many changes from the previous map to work through on their urgent timeline.
  • Time is of the essence. According to Wu’s office, the council needs to approve a new map by May 30 (that’s next Tuesday) in order to avoid delaying this year’s elections.

P.S.— Taylor Swift wrapped up her three-concert (and at-times rain-soaked) swing through Massachusetts last night. If you’re still buzzing from the show or can’t get “Lavender Haze” out of your head, check out Swift’s 2019 half-hour NPR Tiny Desk concert. It’s a little smaller venue than Gillette, but cool and unique watch nonetheless.


Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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