Phillip Martin

Senior Investigative Reporter, WGBH-FM

Since joining WGBH in the spring of 2010, Phillip Martin has reported on human trafficking in southern New England, the Boston Marathon bombing, Whitey Bulger, carbon offset schemes, police shootings, training and race, the Occupy movement and the fishing industry in New England, among other topics. 

On WGBH-TV, he is a regular panelist for Basic Black and an occasional panelist for Beat the Press, and hosted the World Compass 2012 presidential primary coverage. He is a Senior Fellow with the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism and a 2012 International Center for Journalists Ford Foundation Fellow.

In addition, Phillip is executive producer for Lifted Veils Productions, a nonprofit public radio journalism project dedicated to exploring issues that divide and unite society. His Color Initiative --an occasional series of reports about the global impact of skin color--aired on The World, a co-production of WGBH, the BBC and PRI.  Phillip has worked as a supervising senior editor for NPR and was NPR’s first national race relations correspondent, from 1998 to 2001. In 1995, in his role as a senior producer, he helped create The World.

He has received various journalism honors, including a 2014 national Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative journalism (Underground Trade),  2014 Clarion Awards, a 2012 PASS Award, a 2012 regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Ongoing Coverage (team award), the Margaret and Hans Rey WGBH producer of the year award, a 2011 regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Investigative Reporting, the 2010 Asian American Journalists Award for National Radio Reporting, the 2008 Ruben Salazar Award and the 2005 NABJ Radio Documentary Award. He is an adjunct professor at Brandeis University's Heller School of Public Policy.

Phillip was a Harvard University Nieman Fellow from 1997 to 1998 and a U.S.-Japan Media Fellow in 1997. He earned a master's degree in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and studied international protection of human rights law at Harvard Law School as well as journalism at the University of California at Berkeley in the Program for Minority Journalists. 


11:41 am
Fri November 20, 2015

Syrians in Massachusetts Respond to Their Demonization: "People looking at us as terrorists"

Syrian refugees on the move.

Forty-Seven House Democrats yesterday joined Republicans to pass a GOP-sponsored bill suspending an Obama Administration program to admit 10 thousand Syrian refugees.  The legislation mandates that high-level intelligence officials verify that each Syrian refugee poses no security risk.  Here in Massachusetts Syrian refugees and their advocates are concerned about the tone and politics of this debate on both national and state levels.

For example, Donald Trump has a recurring theme these days on the campaign trail.

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2:00 am
Wed November 18, 2015

Is It Safe Yet?: Boston Security In the Aftermath of Paris

Credit AP

Terrorism in the 21st century is recognized as a growing worldwide threat. And last week’s attacks in Paris resonated in Boston, which is still recovering from the psychic wounds of the Marathon Bombings.  

On the Boston Common—the historic intersection of public life in this city— police in greater numbers than usual are patrolling in squad cars and on motorcycles.  This week Marsha Minasian of Canton was crossing the Common in route to a rally in support of the people of Paris.    She echoed what many other visitors here described as the new normal.

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1:28 am
Tue November 17, 2015

Gov Baker: "I’m not interested in accepting refugees from Syria"

Syrian refugees on the move
Credit AP

For anyone hoping to see more Syrian refugees in Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker’s thoughts today were not encouraging.

“No, I’m not interested in accepting refugees from Syria,” he said during a state house press conference.

Noah Gottschalt, senior humanitarian representative for Oxfam America, says he’s disappointed in what he’s hearing now from Governor Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and other politicians.

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Local News
7:00 am
Mon November 16, 2015

Boston Police Increase Patrols On Mosques After Paris Attacks

Credit BPD News

The Boston Police Department has assigned additional units to patrol Boston-area mosques in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks.

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11:52 pm
Wed November 11, 2015

What Does Human Trafficking Look Like Today? How Do We Stop It?

Credit Phillip Martin / WGBH News

The wide-spread practice of forcing individuals — many who are very young — to toil in garment factories or on 21st century plantations and to use their bodies for the sexual pleasure of others is a global problem, and it is finally being acknowledged as such.

[video produced by the Freedom Fund]

Over the summer, I covered a two-day symposium of world-wide mayors on modern day slavery and climate change that was convened by Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Shortly after arriving to the meeting, the Pope’s first gesture was to embrace two women who spoke at the conference about how they had been forced into prostitution. The Pontiff called on the mayors to do all they can on the local level to end this scourge.

Action against human trafficking is also being called for on the national level in the US.

In a speech before human rights activists in 2012, President Barack Obama used the term “modern slavery” to describe the trafficking of people for sex or forced labor; a multibillion-dollar worldwide criminal-enterprise that is well organized and operates mostly undercover.

Two years ago I reported on this “Underground Trade” for WGBH News in cooperation with the Schuster Institute for Investigative Reporting.

The multi-part investigation sought to connect the geographic and commercial dots of this enterprise to New York City and Southeast Asia. It focused heavily on survivors and those who are trying to end this illegal practice and provide justice and resources for victims. I traveled from New England to New York to Thailand to Vietnam to China’s southeast border to expose trafficking routes and venues, and to bring attention to sex and labor exploitation in areas as diverse as a bucolic Boston suburb to bustling Bangkok.

Last week I returned to Thailand and met villagers along the Thai-Myanmar border who said that the practice of forced labor is widespread in the logging industry and on plantations inside Myanmar and Thailand.

And in Cambodia, on a plantation I visited northeast of Phnom Penh, badly paid workers who live on the land told me about friends who left the area to seek a better life on fishing boats in Thailand but never came back.  Some are believed to have been killed or perished on the high seas.

Migrants around the world seeking a new life in the US, Europe and developed Asian nations are particularly vulnerable. Many become indebted to smugglers who play a dual role as traffickers. 

Human trafficking is fueled by poverty and displacement and abetted by many of us, often unknowingly, by rarely questioning where our fish comes from or who is painting our nails or making our clothes.

Sex tourism to Asia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, as well as Las Vegas and New York, among many destinations, perpetuates human trafficking.

But so too are the many conditions within America’s foster care system that leaves many young adults upon turning 18 at the mercy of mean streets, long-term addictions and pimps; another word for a human trafficker.

The Forum at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Tuesday took a closer look at this modern slave trade and its impact on public health worldwide, including in cities and rural communities across the USA.

We discussed how conflict and extremism, such as that carried out by brutal groups like ISIS and Boko Haram, contribute to this modern day slave trade. Most importantly, we talk about what some are doing to end this horror, from Vietnam-based Blue Dragon to US domestic groups like GEMS of New York and My Life My Choice in Boston.

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Local News
3:28 pm
Wed November 4, 2015

Another $75+ Lets You Jump The Line For A Road Test At Mass. RMV

A driving school student waits for a road test at the Watertown RMV.
Credit Laura Owens / NECIR

Outside the Registry of Motor Vehicles in Watertown, three Ugandan students sit in a van waiting to take a road test.

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Local News
2:38 pm
Mon October 26, 2015

The Case Of DJ Henry, Five Years Later

Danroy "DJ" Henry.
Credit "Justice for DJ Henry" Facebook page

Five years ago this month, an Easton, Massachusetts student, Danroy “DJ” Henry, was fatally shot by a policeman under questionable circumstances in Westchester County, New York. Over the weekend hundreds attended an event in Boston’s Seaport District in memory of “DJ” Henry.

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Local News
3:32 pm
Wed October 14, 2015

DNA Leads To An Arrest In The 23-Year-Old South End Murder Of Lena Bruce

A suspect linked to one of Boston’s most notorious unsolved murders was arraigned Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court. On June 12, 1992,  21-year-old Lena Bruce’s body was discovered by her roommate in their South End apartment.

5:53 am
Mon October 12, 2015

Forced Removal of Native American Children From Parents Exposed in 13 Minutes

Filming "First Light" in Maine
Credit First Light

A 13 minute documentary about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), set up in Maine to investigate the forcible removal of Native American children from their homes over many years, debuts today.

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3:53 pm
Mon October 5, 2015

Mrs Reynolds Goes To Washington (To Greet The Pope)

Among a select group of 50, 000 ticket holders was Marjorie Reynolds of Salem, whose life ambition has been to be in the presence of the Pope.
Phillip Martin WGBH News

A little more than a week ago— before the overwhelmingly positive reviews of the Pope’s visit were nearly hijacked by news of his brief audience with controversial Kentucky clerk Kim Davis—a Salem woman whose life ambition was to be in the presence of the Pontiff found her dream come true. 

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11:45 am
Mon September 28, 2015

Sounds Of The Supermoon Eclipse

Supermoon "blood moon" lunar eclipse
Phillip Martin/ WGBH News

Sunday night tens of thousands of area residents ventured outdoors to watch the event of a lifetime---a Supermoon lunar eclipse known as a 'blood moon'.  The eclipse began shortly after 8pm on the East Coast and by 1:30 am it was nearly complete.   WGBH’s Phillip Martin found couples sitting in beach chairs and on park benches all along the Charles River taking in the moon, the stars and the serenity. 

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12:08 pm
Mon September 21, 2015

Oxfam America Wants More Refugees. But Some Warn of Radical Jihadist Infiltration

A Syrian refugee and her child in Lebanon
Credit UNHCR

Tens of thousands of war-weary refugees and migrants are on the move from Syria to Europe.   And soon some will be coming to the United States per order of President Barack Obama.  But "not nearly enough", said representatives of Boston-based Oxfam America, which had asked the U.S.

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8:43 am
Fri September 18, 2015

Investigators Allege a Clergy Abuse PipeLine: From The USA to Latin America

Pope Francis arrives in the United States next week and will be traveling to DC, New York and Philadelphia.  Boston, the nation’s 4th largest archdiocese, is not part of the Pope’s agenda on this trip.   No doubt such a visit would have resurrected still unresolved issues connected to the Sex Abuse Scandal.  But this week the issue came to the surface with the publication of a new investigative report tracing some accused clergy to parishes outside the U.S.

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Local News
2:25 am
Wed September 9, 2015

President Obama's Visit to Boston Puts Labor Movement in the Spotlight

President Obama greets labor activists and union members at annual Labor Day Breakfast in Boston. Long-time activist, Mel King, is to Obama's right in white shirt.
Credit The Associated Press

President Obama was greeted with rock star enthusiasm at this annual gathering of union members and labor activists at the Park Plaza Hotel.   

Bounding onto the stage minus a jacket and tie, the President spoke off the cuff about his memories of Boston as a Harvard Law student, the city’s response to the marathon bombing AND the topic of the day: The challenges facing wage earners and the middle class.

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Local News
4:22 pm
Tue September 8, 2015

Summer: Please Don't Go!

Phillip Martin WGBH News

WGBH News Senior Reporter Phillip Martin muses on the end of summer — which comes too soon, as he sees it. 

Many are now counting down the days. With a mixture of regret for those who like to sweat and exhilaration for those who prefer falling leaves:

But summer provides a kind of freedom that we can only dream about in Fall and Winter.  Sleeveless, coatless walks along the Charles, outdoor dining on the Boston harbor, picnics in Franklin Park, fishing on the Spigot River in Lawrence, pickup basketball games everywhere.

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4:39 pm
Mon August 31, 2015

Do Feel-Good Slogans like "Resilient New Orleans" and "Boston Strong" Mask Income Inequality?

Painting by Dwayne D. Conrad. "it’s good to wake up in the morning and say ‘hey man, how you doing’? You don’t get that everywhere. This is one of the few places where somebody will actually say ‘man, how you doing this morning.’
Phillip Martin WGBH News

Bostonians in the aftermath of the Marathon bombing like to remind themselves that Boston is Strong.  A similar sentiment is echoed hundreds of miles to the south in New Orleans on this 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Its slogan is Resilient New Orleans.  Yet, beneath the slogans, Boston and New Orleans still suffer pessimism reflecting deep racial and economic divides. 

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7:31 pm
Mon August 17, 2015

Julian Bond's Love-Hate Relationship with Boston: The Last Interview

One of the very last interviews with Julian Bond before his untimely death over the weekend was conducted by WGBH Radio News Senior Reporter, Phillip Martin.  Phillip interviewed the civil rights leader at Brandeis University where Bond was honored in the spring.  Bond offered opinions on  a range of issues including the issue that continues to plague Boston; the reputation it garnered during Boston's violent anti-busing years.

Julian Bond arrived at the Brandeis University television studio 20 minutes ahead of our scheduled interview this past April.  It was in keeping with his reputation that spanned decades as a man ahead of his time.  He joined the civil rights movement in the late 1950’s as a 17 year old, was the youngest founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SCLC) and had his name placed in nomination for vice president at the fractious 1968 Democratic National Convention.  He withdrew because he was too young to assume the office.    

But Julian Bond not only made civil rights history, he chronicled it, including the history of Boston desegregation, as we heard in the locally produced 14-part Award-winning PBS series “Eyes on The Prize” that was narrated by Bond.

Bond was not detached from the subjects of his narration, and in my Brandeis interview with the civil rights icon, Boston’s unrelenting reputation for bigotry lingered in his mind.   

“I hate to say it.  I’m a little wary of Boston today.”

And for Bond, the Red Sox–the last major league baseball team to admit black players— was still a source of trepidation.

“I’m married to a woman who is a tremendous sports fan and she wants to go to a baseball game.  And I said, ‘no, I don’t want to go.  I don’t want to go to a game there.’  And it turned out in this particular case I went with her.  And the people in front of us are telling us jokers—they turned out to be college students looking for recruits to their college—and they said they made sure they never told any black people about their college.  They didn’t want that to happen. And it just reinforced my feelings about Boston.”

He’s [Mayor Marty Walsh] got to find someway to engage white Bostonians and tell them they’ve got to behave better – Julian Bond on his lingering concerns about Boston in the post-busing era.

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Local News
8:37 am
Thu August 13, 2015

A Tit-For-Tat Social Media War for Gang Respect May Be Behind 3 Boston Killings

Police in Boston, Cambridge and Everett are searching for suspects in what is at least for now considered five unrelated shooting deaths in those cities this week.  Meanwhile, a police SWAT team last night raided a Dorchester home looking for a gunman in a non-fatal shooting yesterday in that neighborhood.

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Local News
12:35 pm
Mon August 3, 2015

In Search Of Cardinal Bernard Law

Cardinal Bernard Law in 2014.
Credit AP Photo

When Bernard Cardinal Law, Archbishop of Boston, fled to the Vatican in 2002, he left behind a trail of human and financial wreckage: 550 victims abused by parish priests and court judgments that eventually topped $85 million.

Meanwhile, Law was assigned a comfortable post in Rome, where he disappeared from the headlines.

Law led America’s fourth-largest archdiocese for 18 years. His reputation as a public figure peaked during Boston's court-ordered school desegregation crisis, when the cardinal emerged as a steadying voice of sanity.

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Local News
10:32 am
Fri July 24, 2015

Marty Walsh Is Back From Pope Francis' Climate Change Conference. Now What?

Pope Francis greets Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino as he meets mayors gathered in the Synod Hall during a conference on Modern Slavery and Climate Change at the Vatican, Tuesday, July 21, 2015. One row back is Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.
Credit AP Photo

At the office of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the staff is cleaning up, lingering mayors from overseas are packing up, and the organizer of the mayors conference targeting climate change, among other issues, was left to answer the question: now what?

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Local News
10:46 am
Thu July 23, 2015

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh Addresses Vatican Conference

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh addresses the Vatican Conference.
Credit AP Photo

Day two of the Symposium convened by Pope Francis to call attention to climate change and ecocomic disparities began with a slide presentation by noted economist Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University. It showed Boston and dozens of other cities swathed in ominous shades of red to signify when they will end up underwater in the 21st century if global warming is allowed to accelerate.

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Local News
10:33 am
Wed July 22, 2015

Pope Francis Ties Human Trafficking To Global Warming, Recruits Mayors To Fight Both

Pope Francis speaks in the Synod Hall during a conference on Modern Slavery and Climate Change at the Vatican, Tuesday, July 21, 2015.
Credit AP Photo

From the very start of the day, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he knew it would be one of the more unusual 12 hours of his lifetime, and not just because he would be in the presence of the pope by the end of it.

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Local News
1:34 pm
Tue July 21, 2015

Marty Walsh A Late Addition To Vatican Conference Speaker Roster

Pope Francis addresses mayors from around the world.
Credit Phillip Martin / WGBH News

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh will address the Symposium on Modern Slavery and Climate Change at the Vatican on Wednesday, after his name was added to the agenda Tuesday.

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Local News
10:32 am
Tue July 21, 2015

In Rome For Vatican Conference, Marty Walsh Sees Power Shift From Legislatures To Mayors

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and New York Mayor Bill DiBlasio listen to California Gov. Jerry Brown at the Vatican Conference in Rome.
Credit Vatican

Boston Mayor Walsh will meet with several well known municipal leaders who are addressing an unprecedented assembly of mayors from around the world at the Vatican, including eight from the U.S.

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Local News
5:53 pm
Mon July 20, 2015

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh Arrives In Rome Ahead Of Vatican Conference

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh boards a plane for Rome.
Credit Phillip Martin / WGBH News

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh arrived Monday in Rome ahead of a Vatican conference Tuesday and Wednesday on climate change and human trafficking.

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4:45 pm
Fri July 17, 2015

Defining Domestic Terrorism Part Two: Legal Meaning of a Loaded Word

Alleged Killer Dylann Roof: " Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”

The FBI is pursuing a terrorism investigation into the killings of four marines in Chattanooga, Tennessee by a man described as a devout Muslim.  But 30 days after a white supremacist allegedly murdered nine black church-goers in Charleston, South Carolina, the Justice Department at this stage has declined to characterize that incident as an act of terrorism. And many are asking why?  In Part 2 of a 4 part series, WGBH Radio’s Senior Investigative Reporter Phillip Martin looks at the legal meaning of a loaded term: domestic-terrorism.   

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2:33 pm
Tue July 14, 2015

When The Lights Went Out in New York: A Tale of Two Nights

Credit Blackout . American Experience .WGBH | PBS

Thirty-eight years ago this week, the lights went out in New York City. Chaos ensued. But the nature of the disruption was far from simple. Tonight, PBSs American Experience chronicles and deconstructs that intense 1977 experience.

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Local News
2:16 pm
Fri July 10, 2015

Defining Domestic Terrorism Part One: Hate Groups Move Online and On Campus

A white supremacist group called the National Youth Front posted this flyer at Boston University.
Credit National Youth Front

On a recent night near Kenmore Square, bright red posters, printed in Boston University colors, were tacked and taped on doorways, poles and windows all along Commonwealth Avenue. The posters condemned an incoming African-American professor, Grundy, who sent out a controversial tweet criticizing white males. The posters reference that tweet and complain that "Black privilege means not being fired after saying that white college males are a problem population."

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Local News
7:29 am
Wed June 24, 2015

Tsarnaev: Death Sentance To Be Formerly Imposed, Will The Boston Marathon Bomber Address The Court?

Lawyers for Tsarnaev are preparing an appeal that will focus on the jury selection process.
Credit FBI

Today Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be formally sentenced to death in US District Court by the same judge who oversaw his trial.  

The question many are asking is:   Will the former defendant speak on his own behalf at today’s hearing.  


Nearly thirty survivors and members of their families have asked to address Dzhokhar Tsarnaev face to face at his sentencing.  US Judge George O’ Toole is expected to honor most or all of the requests.  


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1:50 am
Wed June 24, 2015

Mass. AG Says There May Be More Than Two Waltham Triple Murder Suspects

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Brendan Mess and Ibragim Todashev
Credit Associated Press

The Middlesex District Attorney’s office may be looking at additional suspects who carried out an infamous triple murder in Waltham in 2011 that authorities have suggested is linked to one of the Boston Marathon bombers.  This according to Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey.

In mid September of 2011, the girlfriend of a man living at 12 Harding Street in Waltham made a grisly discovery when she entered his apartment.  Brendan Mess and two other men were dead inside; their throats slashed and nearly decapitated. There was no sign of a break-in.

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