Sunday, January 30, 2005

SIXTY PERCENT. The early returns from the Iraqi election are very promising. The Washington Post reports that turnout may have been around 60 percent, despite a boycott in the Sunni regions of the country. Here is a prescient piece from today's New York Times Magazine by Michael Ignatieff, who explains that the Iraqi people may get it right despite American arrogance and bumbling.

It's only one good day, but that's something, given how few there have been. It would be wonderful if, say, a year from now we can look back on this day as a turning point. The next big question: what will be the implications of the Sunnis' decision to disenfranchise themselves? Is there any real chance that Iraq can remain as one country. Should it?

COUNTING THE YEARS. Michael Kranish's piece in today's Globe on Social Security and African-Americans is hardly pro-Bush, and Kranish has pulled together a lot of information. Still, I think the statistics offered by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman on Friday provide a truer picture.

Kranish writes:

The question of whether the system is tilted against blacks has become a central argument in the debate over private accounts. The White House strategy for selling the idea of private accounts includes an effort to win over African-Americans, on grounds that black males, on average, die at age 69, compared with 75 years for white males. Social Security's full retirement benefits begin to be paid between age 65 and 67.

That's true. But as Krugman points out, those life-expectancy figures are calculated at birth. The principal reason that life expectancy among African-Americans is so low is that they are far more likely to die younger - much younger.

Krugman explains:

It's true that the current life expectancy for black males at birth is only 68.8 years - but that doesn't mean that a black man who has worked all his life can expect to die after collecting only a few years' worth of Social Security benefits. Blacks' low life expectancy is largely due to high death rates in childhood and young adulthood. African-American men who make it to age 65 can expect to live, and collect benefits, for an additional 14.6 years - not that far short of the 16.6-year figure for white men.

Thanks to Bob Somerby, who, unfortunately, is threatening to retire.

GROPING FOR THE TRUTH. The Herald's David Guarino and State Auditor Joe DeNucci are at loggerheads over Guarino's Saturday story reporting that DeNucci intervened in the groping investigation of his son-in-law. In today's Herald, DeNucci denies it.

BUSH ON KERRY. Today the Herald runs a transcript of its interview with George W. Bush. The president is among the least interesting of public figures, but his take on John Kerry is at least worth noting:

Q: We wonder what your relationship is with your opponent, Senator Kerry. Have you had a chance to speak to him after the election?

A: No, I haven't. When you're in a race as competitive as that, you, at least I, came to respect my opponent. And he ran a tough campaign and campaigned hard, and I was hoping coming down the stretch he would tire and lose his composure, but he didn't. He was a very strong candidate, and I hadn't talked to him except for Election Night, I guess it wasn't Election Night, the next day in the Oval Office, he called me at about maybe 10:00 or 10:30 in the morning and I told him then. I said I admired the campaign. I know it's not easy to lose, and you know, wished him all the best.

FIRE AWAY. The Globe's first installment on fire-department response times, by Bill Dedman, is a pretty astounding piece of work, and it's even more useful on the Web. Here is a website with additional resources, including something you'll go to right away: maps and detailed statistics for the city or town in which you live.

Numbers can't tell the whole story. For example, the town in which Media Log Central is based has a lower rating than another community that had actually cut its firefighting budget so deeply that other departments - including my town's - had threatened to cut off mutual aid.

Still, this is fascinating and useful, and it brings out into the light an important problem that rarely gets discussed.

PRO-WAR, ANTI-TORTURE. There's no reason conservative supporters of the war in Iraq should be any less critical of torture than liberal opponents. Nevertheless, in many conservative circles there has been a disconcerting reluctance to condemn the widespread torture of inmates in Iraq, at Guantánamo Bay, and elsewhere.

Which is why I say good for Jeff Jacoby. The pro-war Globe columnist not only says all the right things today, but he even nails the hypocrisy on the part of the conservative establishment, concluding:

If this were happening on a Democratic president's watch, the criticism from Republicans and conservatives would be deafening. Why the near-silence now? Who has better reason to be outraged by this scandal than those of us who support the war? More than anyone, it is the war hawks who should be infuriated by it. It shouldn't have taken me this long to say so.

No kidding. And Jacoby could have mentioned the shameful near-silence of much of the media as well.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

THE GREEN LINE. Oh, yes. One more thing. Jay Fitzgerald's blog points me to this Greg Gatlin story in the Herald about the Massachusetts Lottery's decision to pull $20,000 worth of ads from Boston's Metro tab, the latest shot in the Metro wars.

Treasurer Tim evidently takes sensitivity seriously: the Globe's Raphael Lewis reports that a son-in-law of State Auditor Joe DeNucci has been suspended from his Lottery job as part of a groping investigation.

GILLETTE &TC. Welcome to today's abbreviated bullet-point edition of Media Log. I'm up to my ears in other matters, but there are a few things I want to call your attention to. So let's get right down to it.

- Was there any funny business going on in the run-up to the announced merger between Procter & Gamble and Gillette? Brett Arends reports in today's Boston Herald that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating some mighty odd activity that could have put a lot of money in a few people's hands.

Dow Jones reported Friday afternoon: "Because Gillette isn't a volatile stock, its puts and calls generally don't attract zealous buying - since options tend to pay off when the underlying stock moves enough to hit certain strike prices. But Gillette call volume was noticeably heavier just before the deal was announced."

- Also on the Gillette front, the Boston Globe's Tom Palmer asks: as Boston companies continue to be gobbled up by out-of-town corporations, what's going to happen to all that office space?

- Mehsin who? Today's New York Times and Boston Globe have front-page lead photos of the same Iraqi man voting in Southgate, Michigan. The Times photo is not on its website, but the print version is in front of me; the paper identifies him as Mehsin al-Busaid, and the photo was taken by J.D. Pooley "for The New York Times." The Globe identifies him as Mehsin Imgoter, and credits the photo to Reuters.

No idea what the discrepancy is. I understand that people in the Arab world often have many names (I read somewhere once that Saddam Hussein has five or six names, and that neither "Saddam" nor "Hussein" would be considered a first or last name under Western naming conventions); but it seems strange that Mr. Mehsin would give two different names to two different photographers. In any case, the blue ink on his index finger is clearly visible, so it's unlikely that any James Michael Curley stuff was going on.

- Another David Nyhan tribute: Jeff Epperly writes for Bay Windows that the late Globe columnist was pro-gay-rights before it was cool.

- Sickening murder: the New York City slaying of Nicole duFresne, an Emerson College graduate and aspiring actress, is one of the more horrifying stories of the week. Here is yesterday's AP report. The Times' Michael Brick and Jennifer 8. Lee report on the murder today, and the Herald's Michele McPhee has more details as well.

Friday, January 28, 2005

HERALDING THE GILLETTE DEAL. I just got into the newsroom a little while ago after a day-long assignment, and have finally had a chance to get a good look at the print edition of today's Herald. The paper put together a terrific package on the Gillette deal, filling pages four and five. Greg Gatlin got quotes from workers who are worried about what it means to them. ("Change isn't always bad, but it doesn't sound so good.")

Sidebars look at what the sale of Gillette to Procter & Gamble means to the business community (written by Jay Fitzgerald and Gatlin) and to top Gillette executives (Brett Arends). Particularly interesting, at least to these eyes, was a Fitzgerald piece on the history of the company, and of how founder King Camp Gillette came up with the idea of disposable blades, proving the skeptics wrong.

A fine job, with the Herald beating the Globe on day one of a hugely important local story.

Meanwhile, Governor Mitt Romney, who made his reputation in part as a takeover artist, is nevertheless saying some critical things about the Gillette deal. In this AP story, Romney calls the merger a "real shame," and says that Gillette "did not need to merge to maintain its future and to have a bright future."

Good for Romney, but can he do anything about it? I would imagine that the answer is no.

RAZOR ATTACK. Guess we'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out whether anyone at Procter & Gamble plans to change the name of Gillette Stadium. Probably not. Still, it's huge news that Boston is losing yet another major local institution to out-of-towners. It would have given the late Boston Globe columnist David Nyhan another reason to lament what's happened to the city as well.

Both the Globe and the Herald lead with the Gillette story today, as well they should. Sadly, this isn't even the end of an era. Rather, it's just the latest in an era that began a long time ago. In many ways, Boston today is just another franchise town. If it weren't for the city's universities and medical institutions, it would be - well, I'll say Cleveland, because that seems to be what you're supposed to say in these situations, even though I've never been there.

MEDIA VICTORY. I'll have to wait until later to comment on the government's decision not to fight a court decision that overturned its plans to deregulate media ownership even further. But this is a huge victory for anyone who worries about corporate media consolidation. Here is the New York Times story.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

WHERE'S THE OUTRAGE? Over the next two years, opportunities for the White House and the Republican Congress to make blithering idiots of themselves will be endless. Democrats can take advantage of these opportunities - but only if they demonstrate courage rather than a craven willingness to suck up to people who will never vote for them anyway.

One such opportunity may be over just-installed Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings's outrageous, offensive criticism of the new PBS kids' show Postcards from Buster. Spellings has herself twisted into a knot because, in one of the episodes, Buster - a cartoon rabbit - visits a family in Vermont that's headed by a lesbian couple.

Yesterday's New York Times story is online here. Today the Boston Globe has a feature on the family.

PBS has backed off from distributing the show, which is pretty much what the network always does when confronted with controversy. Some PBS stations, including Boston's WGBH-TV (Channels 2 and 44), are going to show it anyway. Good for them.

Of course, the places where it won't be shown are precisely where the kids of gay and lesbian parents are most in need of some sort of validation. So what we end up with is a de facto situation in which anything deemed to be blue-state programming is seen in blue states only. Disgusting.

Conservatives are always threatening to cut off taxpayer funding for PBS. Well, after this, it would be nice to hear a few liberals call for funding to be dumped as well. PBS has gone out of its way to cater to its conservative critics, thinking that its traditional liberal supporters will put up with just about any insult.

Not this time? Maybe? Please?

METROMANIA, CONT'D. You would never read Cosmo Macero's Metro update (sub. req.) in today's Boston Herald unless you're an absolute junkie on the subject. Cosmo, as usual, has got some interesting stuff, but this is incremental. But if you're starting at a Herald box on the street, you see yet another front-page blowout: "METRO 'REFORM' A WHITEWASH."

Good grief.

NEW IN THIS WEEK'S PHOENIX. From deep in the heart of Blue America, Inauguration Day lamentations in real time.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

THE TIMES AND THE HOLOCAUST. Media Log reader S.M.M. called my attention to this fine James Carroll column in yesterday's Globe on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Carroll writes about the New York Times' unseemly reluctance to describe the Holocaust for exactly what it was: genocide aimed primarily at Jews.

Carroll says he learned of this history while conducting a study at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy, at Harvard's Kennedy School. The director of the Shorenstein Center, Alex Jones, is an expert on the subject: he and Susan Tifft are the authors of The Trust, the definitive biography of the Times' ruling family, the Sulzbergers.

The book is well worth reading. But this excerpt of an interview with Tifft and Jones, conducted in 1999, gets to the heart of the matter:

Equally interesting is the tale "The Trust" tells of the Ochs-Sulzbergers' conflicted dance around the question of the family's ethnicity. "The Jewishness of the family and how that has affected the news coverage of the Times is a very important aspect of our book," says Tifft.

"Adolph [Ochs, who founded the modern Times in the late 19th century] did everything he could not to call attention to the idea that this was a Jewish newspaper," adds Jones, "which meant sometimes turning a blind eye to terrible situations that involved Jews. He was afraid [that covering 'Jewish issues'] would attract the wrath of people who were enemies of The New York Times and would marginalize the Times' authority by saying they were just a bunch of Jews defending other Jews. He had it as a cardinal rule (which did not change until the 1960s) that the senior editor of The New York Times could not be a Jew."

Rarely observant, often not even self-identified as Jews, the Ochs-Sulzbergers nevertheless could not escape the often petty, sometimes catastrophic prejudice toward their ethnicity. The contradictions involved in trying to do so reached a crescendo during the Nazi era. "New York Times publisher Arthur Hayes Sulzberger (son-in-law of Tennessean Adolph Ochs) had encountered discrimination himself as a Jew," write Jones and Tifft. "He was very bitterly stung by the fact that he could not get into a fraternity at Columbia because he was Jewish. He was turned away at hotels because he was Jewish. But he very much wanted not to have The New York Times' authority compromised by being perceived as a Jewish newspaper. And you look back at the stories in those days, The New York Times did cover the rise of Hitler, it did cover what was happening in Europe, but when it came to the Holocaust, it buried the stories. Instead of putting them on Page One, they'd be on Page 12. They'd be short stories instead of long stories. The most telling example is when Dachau was liberated, the word 'Jew' was never mentioned, although the story itself appeared on the front page."

"This was a mistake, and The New York Times apologized on the centennial of the family's ownership explicitly for the way they handled the Holocaust," adds Jones. He believes that this and other examples of the newspaper's abdication of principle (suppression of information about the Bay of Pigs, editorial obtuseness during the Vietnam War) are a result of the publisher's desire to maintain the Times' influence on the political establishment.

The notion that the Times suppressed what it knew about the Bay of Pigs is a myth. In fact, the evidence shows that the paper published everything its reporters and editors had been able to confirm, on page one and above the fold. But that's a story for another day.

ALL KNOWN FACTS. Those of us who've been waiting for the Globe to weigh in on the Metro racism/sexism story in a significant way had to set aside some time this morning. I think it's safe to say that this effort, by Christopher Rowland and Charles Sennott, doesn't leave anything out.

Meanwhile, the Herald today tries to link the issue to Trent Lott and Strom Thurmond, and New York Times ombudsman Dan Okrent tells Rory O'Connnor that he wishes the Times would cover the story.

Monday, January 24, 2005

NOT ALL MEN. Media Log was reminded this morning that though the Boston Globe was surely a boys' club until the 1990s, there were still plenty of pioneering women at the paper. The best-known: columnist Ellen Goodman, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1980, and whose work continues to appear on the op-ed page.

Anne Wyman was editorial-page editor for a good stretch of the Tom Winship era. Loretta McLaughlin, a pioneering medical reporter, also did a stint as editorial-page editor. Muriel Cohen, who covered the education beat for years, helped the Globe win a Pulitzer for its coverage of the school-desegregation battles of the 1970s.

This is not meant to be an all-inclusive list - just a reminder that the Globe of David Nyhan's heyday wasn't exclusively an all-male preserve.

By the way, there are going to be a lot of tributes to Nyhan over the next week or so. Globe columnist Adrian Walker's piece today is well worth reading.

DYLAN IN BLACK AND WHITE. The most fascinating story in the Sunday Globe got buried in the regional Globe North section. It should have been on the front of Living/Arts - or maybe the front page. It's about an Amesbury photographer named Douglas Gilbert, who took some extraordinary photos of Bob Dylan in 1964 that no one knew about until a few years ago.

The story, by Steven Rosenberg, is here; and Gilbert's online Dylan portfolio is here.

DAVID NYHAN. The last time I interviewed David Nyhan, who collapsed and died yesterday after shoveling snow outside his Brookline home, was in the spring of 2004. I was working on an article about the ancient rivalry between the Globe and the Herald, which had just taken a new turn with the Herald's having hired former Globe columnist Mike Barnicle and reinventing itself as a New York Post-style tabloid.

Nyhan had played a role in getting his friend Barnicle the job, and there was talk that perhaps he would soon follow. Ultimately, though, Nyhan decided to keep doing what he was doing: dabbling in politics and writing a column for the Eagle-Tribune newspapers, a small chain north of Boston that included the first paper Nyhan ever worked for, the Salem News.

Nyhan retired from the Globe in 2001, but he wasn't particularly happy about it. Essentially he was forced out. The sense at 135 Morrissey Boulevard was that his florid, overtly liberal style of opinion-mongering was part of the past, and that it was time to make way for a newer generation of more analytical columnists such as Joan Vennochi and Scot Lehigh.

On the day that Nyhan and I talked, he expressed his unhappiness with the New York Times Company's stewardship of the Globe, blaming what he saw as the Globe's relentlessly negative coverage of the upcoming Democratic National Convention over pique back at the Mother Ship that the DNC hadn't come to New York. Nyhan speculated that "the corporate masters on 43rd Street" were "quite PO'd that Boston got it. And I think that the locally owned franchise reflects that view."

It also seemed increasingly apparent to him that the Times Company was intent on making sure the Globe would never be seen as anything but a satellite of the Times. "I believe that the business strategy of the New York Times, and you can find the spoor of it in the annual report - they want to be the dominant newspaper for upper-income Americans, which I applaud," Nyhan said. "But to do that I would argue that they have downsized the Boston Globe."

I don't buy Nyhan's critique; not all of it, anyway. My point is that Nyhan himself was passionate about newspapers, and he never lost that passion. He was part of a now-dwindling band of men - yes, pretty much all men - who brought the paper to greatness and prominence in the 1960s and '70s: the late editor Tom Winship; the late sports columnist Will McDonough; and Marty Nolan, who's still out and about. There were others, of course, but these four still stand out all these years later.

One of the last columns Nyhan wrote appeared in the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune on December 19. It was, in a sense, a summation of the lament that he had delivered to me several months earlier. Headlined "Boston Isn't Run by Bostonians Anymore," he wrote about the loss of local institutions such as the Bank of Boston, Jordan Marsh, John Hancock, and the like, as well as the increasing reality that the city's fate is controlled by business leaders who don't live here:

The banks and businesses that helped build Boston were taken over. "Such well-known institutions as the New England Telephone Co., the Shawmut Bank, Beacon Properties, Jordan Marsh and Filenes were sold, merged, or moved out of state," recounts Boston College historian Thomas O'Connor in "The Hub: Boston Past and Present." The Boston Globe sold itself to the New York Times. Fleet Bank, the merged progeny of the First National Bank, Bank of New England, Shawmut and Bank Boston, became Bank of America, controlled from North Carolina....

The executives now chosen to lead Boston-based institutions are now much more likely to be promoted and fired by people from away. They listen to stockholders and Wall Street analysts and bond issuers and investment bankers far from the corner of Park and Tremont streets. And there is less engagement in civic and philanthropic and educational and charitable endeavors when the bosses live far from area code 617.

Even though I'm pretty sure that Nyhan regarded me as a moralizing twit, I always enjoyed my talks with him. He was smart and funny, and he really cared. He was, in that old-fashioned sense of the term, a good guy, and the city will be a much lesser place without him.

THE METRO AND THE GLOBE. Globe ombudsman Christine Chinlund today weighs in on her paper's rather light coverage of the contretemps over Boston's Metro, whose parent company, Metro International, has had some serious problems with racist remarks. The Times Company is looking to buy 49 percent of the local Metro, and the Herald is fighting it on anti-competitive grounds. If you haven't been following the story, I've got a roundup online here.

Should the Globe have done more? Chinlund says no. I don't really disagree, although maybe one additional story, more prominently played, would have been in order. Still, from the start, this was more fodder for bloggers (including Media Log) and, of course, the rival Herald. Besides, this story isn't over yet by any means.

Meanwhile, Rory O'Connor, who started all this, is bugging the Times' public editor, Daniel Okrent, to write about it.

Friday, January 21, 2005

CRITICAL MASS. What little criticism Peggy Noonan offered of Bush's speech last night was pretty mild. Not today, though. Writing for, Noonan reminds us that she was a speechwriter for Bush I, not Bush II. Check this out:

The inaugural address itself was startling. It left me with a bad feeling, and reluctant dislike. Rhetorically, it veered from high-class boilerplate to strong and simple sentences, but it was not pedestrian. George W. Bush's second inaugural will no doubt prove historic because it carried a punch, asserting an agenda so sweeping that an observer quipped that by the end he would not have been surprised if the president had announced we were going to colonize Mars. [Media Log aside: he actually did, just about a year ago.]

A short and self-conscious preamble led quickly to the meat of the speech: the president's evolving thoughts on freedom in the world. Those thoughts seemed marked by deep moral seriousness and no moral modesty.

Less surprising, but far more vitriolic, is Bob Herbert's column in the New York Times. The lead:

Watching the inaugural ceremonies yesterday reminded me of the scenes near the end of "The Godfather" in which a solemn occasion (a baptism in the movie) is interspersed with a series of spectacularly violent murders.

Wow! It reminds me of a great Kitty Kelley line: when she first started writing about the Bushes, she thought of them as the Cleavers - only to realize they were the Corleones.

With Dick Cheney as Tom Hagen, of course.

OUTFOXED. The talk of the Internet this morning is Judy Bachrach's blistering performance on the Fox News Channel yesterday. The entire clip is online here.

Bachrach's a writer for Vanity Fair, and apparently the anchor, whose name I do not know, thought they were going to chit-chat about the weather and the parties. Instead, Bachrach unloaded on Bush for spending $40 million on his own inauguration during wartime.

Let's roll the tape:

ANCHOR: Judy, to be honest with you, I didn't want to argue politics with you this morning. I was was just - you know -

BACHRACH: I thought I was allowed to talk about what I wanted to talk about.

ANCHOR: Well, you certainly have that right.


And Bachrach was just getting warmed up. "During a time of war, 10 parties are not appropriate when your own soldiers are sitting ducks in very, very bad vehicles," she said.

When the anchor defended Bush by noting that he had attended a prayer service for the troops, Bachrach responded, "Well, gee, that prayer service should sure keep them safe and warm in their flimsy vehicles in Iraq."

ANCHOR: All right. Well, Judy Bachrach, I think we've given you more than your time to give us your point of view this morning.

BACHRACH: Well, thanks for having me on.

ANCHOR: All right.

All right!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

THE HEAT IS ON. Finally, The Daily Show is on. Other than a hilarious Stephen Colbert bit that is beyond my ability to describe, the best part was Jon Stewart reacting to Chris Dodd's remark that Dick Cheney's daughters would hold the family Bible during their father's swearing-in.

"Actually, it's not quite true," Stewart said. "Mary is not allowed to touch the family Bible." It was, he added, for her own good: "It burns."

Joe Lieberman will be on after the break, but that's all for Media Log tonight. Since I've never heard him say anything funnier than "Joe-mentum," I think it's safe to shut down.

STOP MAKING SENSE. Pat Buchanan, bless his tiny little heart, is making sense on MSNBC, and Joe Scarborough's having none of it. Referring to 9/11, Buchanan said, "Why do you think they were over here? Because we were over there!" He could barely spit it out before Scarborough was accusing him of blaming America, comparing him to the late Susan Sontag, and telling the viewers that Buchanan's next column would appear in the New Yorker.

All in good fun, of course!

Andrew Sullivan - who's getting absolutely creamed by Mickey Kaus - was sitting on the other side of the set. Maybe he'll give Buchanan one of his loathsome Susan Sontag Awards tomorrow.

DEMOCRACY'S LIMITS. CNN's Jeff Greenfield got two-thirds of the way there in his analysis of Bush's "almost startling" speech. In batting it around with Aaron Brown, Greenfield wondered what Bush intended to do about a country like Pakistan - an ally in the war against terrorism, but a country that doesn't hold elections.

What Greenfield left out was that if Pakistan did hold an election, a pretty good share of the populace would vote for Osama bin Laden.

He could have made the same observation about Saudi Arabia, too. And let's not forget that the mullahs came to power in Iran through popular acclamation, even if they're not too popular today.

HAPPY AND BORING. I indulged myself and skipped The O'Reilly Factor tonight. There's only so much one can be expected to take. I'm doing penance by watching Hannity & Colmes, but it's boring tonight. Sean, as usual, is wearing more make-up than Pee-wee Herman, which is always good for a chuckle. But there are no liberals for him to fight with, so the show lacks its only appeal - its car-crash-at-the-side-of-the-road quality that makes you watch despite yourself.

Rudy Giuliani? Please - he's the second-least-controversial Republican in the country after John McCain. Peggy Noonan? She can be wonderfully weird, but not tonight. Ralph Reed? Now that held some promise, but they never gave him a chance to go nutty.

Why on earth wouldn't Alan, at least, ask Reed if he and his fellow religious conservatives are pissed off that Bush is saying almost nothing about gay marriage? That might have been amusing. Instead, Reed was allowed to blather on at length about foreign policy. You'd think the guy was Prince Metternich instead of the little twerp who used to work for Pat Robertson.

Ooh, Bob Shrum's on Chris Matthews. Looks like I missed him. Damn! I want to know how the Democrats can take back the White House in 2008. Maybe by "fighting for working families," Bob? Jesus. I guess if you lose often enough, you become a pundit.

APPARENTLY DON KING WAS WRONG. Presidential nephew Pierce Bush just told Larry King, "Larry, you're the man."

FREAK FACTOR. On MSNBC, Juliette Kayyem was yakking with Keith Olbermann about the terrorist threat involving Boston. Dirty bombs, radiation, blah, blah, blah. You know what? If we're going to die, we're going to die.

So I switched to CNN, where Anderson Cooper, doing party duty, was interviewing Don King. Much better. If TV coverage of inauguration day has been lacking anything, it's the freak factor. I had hoped E! would have Joan Rivers yowling outside the parties, but no such luck. Right now, the E!'s showing some horrible program on Jerry Lewis. So Don King's as good as it gets.

King, whose hair isn't nearly the conversation piece that it used to be, was wearing a tux and more chains than a prisoner at Abu Ghraib. He praised Bush - or, as he referred to him about 15 times, "George Walker Bush." He compared him to Abraham Lincoln. He praised "No Child Left Behind, which is so vitally important." Hmmm ... is King getting any of that Department of Education money?

"You're the man, Anderson Cooper," King said, certainly the first time anyone has said that.

King also called himself a "Republicrat," a word that had Paula Zahn puzzled. "I don't think I've ever heard that phrase before," she said. Obviously she's never listened to Ralph Nader. Lucky woman!

DIAL "Z" FOR REALITY. Zbigniew Brzezinski absolutely ate Walter Russell Mead's lunch on The NewsHour tonight. Of course, Mead was at quite a disadvantage: it's not easy being an idealist when you're the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Mead's biggest problem, though, was that he really didn't have a coherent answer for Brzezinski's critique of Bush's "I Am the World" speech.

"If it was to be taken literally," Brzezinski said, "it would mean an American crusade throughout the entire world." Mead responded by saying that Bush may very well mean what he says (a view that Media Log shares, with considerably less happiness about that prospect than Mead evinced). Mead pointed to remarks by Cheney today that suggest the White House is already gearing up for its next foreign military adventure - this time in Iran, possibly using Israel as a proxy. Brzezinski replied that such an action would be "destabilizing." To say the least.

Brzezinski characterized Bush's speech as a repackaging of his old ideas in new containers. Instead of "fear," Bush is now talking about "freedom." Instead of "terrorism," it's now "tyranny." But when he pronounced Bush's goals as "vacuous," Mead differed.

That led to an exchange over China. What, Brzezinski wanted to know, could Bush possibly do about China and its horrendous human-rights record?

Mead started to say something about how the Bush administration could encourage China's dissidents. Brzezinski, obviously disdainful, cut him off. "We need to deal with the North Korean bomb. We need China for that," he said. End of discussion.

So thoroughly defeated was Mead that, as Margaret Warner tried to close the segment, he got in a shot about Brzezinski's days as Jimmy Carter's national-security adviser, and the criticism that Carter's concern for human rights was sometimes said to be more intense in places like, say, Argentina than in the Soviet Union. Brzezinski responded that the Carter administration managed to do both. And there it ended.

BUSH BY THE NUMBERS. Brian Williams tried out his best perturbed look tonight in noting that House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi today vowed to continue fighting Bush's "extremist" agenda. The wingnuts don't flood you with as many e-mails if you signal them that you think the Dems are looney-tunes.

But then Williams had to contend with a tough Bush critique from an unexpected source - NBC Washington-bureau chief Tim Russert, who wondered how Bush would apply his aggressive doctrine to Iran, North Korea, or Cuba. How indeed?

Russert, though, was just warming up. It turned out he had some new poll numbers with some very bad news for our only president. For instance:

- Bush's approval/disapproval rating is 50 percent/44 percent, the worst of any just-re-elected president since Richard Nixon.

- Only 40 percent of respondents say that removing Saddam Hussein was worth it; 52 percent say it wasn't worth it. Among independents, Russert reported, 56 percent say it wasn't worth it.

- Was Bush's victory a mandate to change Society Security? Thirty-three percent say yes; 56 percent say no.

- Just 33 percent say that congressional Democrats should act in a "bipartisan" manner; 57 percent say they should "provide balance" - as in, fight like Nancy Pelosi.

Russert: "The president has to be very, very careful not to overplay his mandate."

So how did Bush ever get re-elected, anyway?

SLATE CHECKS IN. Fred Kaplan and Chris Suellentrop both have good analyses of Bush's speech, even though I don't think either one quite gets it. Kaplan focuses on the liberty part, Suellentrop on the religion; neither thinks the rhetoric amounts to much more than - well, rhetoric. But that's not the experience of the past four years, is it?

INDECENT DISRESPECT. There's a lovely phrase in the opening to the Declaration of Independence that I think gets at much of what is wrong with Bush's presidency. Jefferson writes that "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind" compels him and his fellow revolutionaries to explain why they are separating themselves from the British monarchy.

During the presidential debates in October, John Kerry made this very point, saying that when a president takes military action, "you've got to do it in a way that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people, understand fully why you're doing what you're doing, and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."

A decent respect to the opinions of mankind, in other words. But Bush and his allies on the right sneered and smirked, accusing Kerry of sucking up to the French. Bush twisted Kerry's quote around into a cheap applause line: "America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people." That's not what Kerry said, but never mind.

Today the Guardian reports on the results of a BBC poll of people in 21 countries that reveals deep distrust of the United States under Bush, and that suggests negative opinions of the White House are beginning to harden into negative opinions about the American people as well. The nut:

Fifty-eight per cent of the 22,000 who took part in the poll, commissioned by the BBC World Service, said they expected Mr Bush to have a negative impact on peace and security, compared with only 26% who considered him a positive force.

The countries are a disparate bunch, ranging from Turkey and Brazil to Germany and France.

In the United States, the political conversation, aided by a fearful and compliant media, has become so dishonest and corrupt that it's impossible even to discuss such things as the BBC poll and be taken seriously. Try talking about this on Fox or MSNBC and you would be accused of appeasement, and our international critics would be portrayed as the "Axis of Weasels." Let's have another round of freedom fries, baby!

But that kind of superficial pap can't paper over the fact that Bush has destroyed our standing in the world, which is the single worst thing he's done during his four years in office.

I think the fact that Bush didn't actually win in 2000 gave us a lot of slack, making it easy for the world to despise Bush, but not the American people. Now, though, we've actually elected him, and we have to face the consequences of our decision.

The Guardian quotes one of the pollsters, Doug Miller, thusly:

Our research makes very clear that the re-election of President Bush has further isolated America from the world. It also supports the view of some Americans that unless his administration changes its approach to world affairs in its second term, it will continue to erode America's good name, and hence its ability to effectively influence world affairs.

This is what Bush has done to us. This is what we have done to ourselves. We had the world behind us after 9/11. And we've pissed it all away. Jefferson would be apoplectic. Something for the fat cats to think about as they make the party-going rounds tonight.

SPIFFED-UP DISSECTOR. Danny Schechter has unrolled a redesigned weblog - complete with audio.

MISGIVINGS ON THE RIGHT. Maybe we can hope that conservatives will slow Bush down. Peter Robinson, writing for National Review Online, was less than thrilled with Bush's speech. Robinson explains:

Bush has just announced that we must remake the entire third world in order to feel safe in our own homes, and he has done so without sounding a single note of reluctance or hesitation. This overturns the nation's fundamental stance toward foreign policy since its inception. Washington warned of "foreign entanglements." The second President Adams asserted that "we go not abroad in search of monsters to destroy." During the Cold War, even Republican presidents made it clear that we played our large role upon the world stage only to defend ourselves and our allies, seeking to changed the world by our example rather than by force. Maybe I'm misreading Bush - I'm writing this based on my notes, and without having had time to study the text - but sheesh.

In today's Boston Globe, conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby calls Bush a "radical conservative." More radical than conservative, wouldn't you say, Jeff?

WHAT'S A FEW MILLION? (PART II). Eric Boehlert writes in Salon that the true cost of Bush's inauguration party may be closer to $70 million than to the widely reported figure of $40 million. Boehlert explains:

For the media, simply reporting on the cost of the inauguration proved to be a challenge. Most major outlets stuck to the lower, albeit still unprecedented [er, not really], figure of $40 million, which the Presidential Inaugural Committee said it hopes to raise from private donors. But a more accurate figure may be $50 million. That's the amount cited by the Washington Times (which is plugged in to GOP circles). But even that number doesn't take into account the nearly $20 million that's being spent for security, putting the real cost at closer to $70 million, instead of the media's preferred $40 million.

I don't begrudge Bush his party, but $70 million would be more than double what Clinton ever spent. It does look like the feds have backed down on plans to stick the District of Columbia with the bill for security. But still.

JIBJAB IS BACK. Sequels are never as good as the originals, except maybe with The Godfather. But Second Term is worth a watch, even if the anti-Bush humor is so mild that it seems designed to appeal to Republicans as much as Democrats.

LIBERTY BULL. Bush did two things in his 21-minute inaugural address that were noteworthy. First, he linked the war in Iraq - and possibly wars to come, since he never actually used the word "Iraq" - to an American mission of spreading liberty across the world. Second, he wrapped up his domestic agenda in that quest for liberty, casting proposals such as the privatization of Social Security in the gauzy haze of freedom.

It was a skillful performance, but that was to be expected. Anyone who still thinks that Bush is going to fumble his way through the prepared text of a major speech just hasn't been paying attention for the past four years.

To the extent that one speech can help shape the national conversation, it was also incredibly dangerous. The projection of American values is not just a neoconservative idea - it was a central tenet of the muscular liberalism of the pre-Vietnam Democratic Party as well. But the Bush administration's planning and execution to date has been so arrogant and inept that it is terrifying to contemplate what he's got in mind next. Iran, perhaps?

The key to Bush's address came early:

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world....

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

Is that all? The problem with a goal this sweeping, as we've all seen, is that this president does not mean it as glittering rhetoric - he means it as something he actually intends to try to do. And though he said his march for freedom is "not primarily the task of arms," that has not exactly been the experience to date.

Here's how he tied it to his domestic agenda:

In America's ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence, instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence. This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act, and the G.I. Bill of Rights. And now we will extend this vision by reforming great institutions to serve the needs of our time. To give every American a stake in the promise and future of our country, we will bring the highest standards to our schools, and build an ownership society. We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings and health insurance - preparing our people for the challenges of life in a free society. By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear, and make our society more prosperous and just and equal.

Sounds good, doesn't it? Except that we already know what it means. It's the "retirement savings" part of this that seems closest to his heart. And what he intends to do is dismantle Social Security - a system whose finances will be solvent for decades to come if he just tweaks it a bit - in order to give us all a chance to gamble our retirement away on the stock market.

Despite Bush's narrow re-election victory and low approval ratings, he is treating his second term as a ratification of everything he's done to date, and as a mandate now to do more of the same. Even Tim Russert, usually more sycophant than cynic, criticized Bush for his already-notorious Washington Post interview of last weekend, in which Bush said that last November's election was all the accountability he needed for his preposterous Iraq policies.

What we can hope for, I suppose, is that Bush's hubris, already bursting at the seams, will trip him up as his second term gets under way, forcing him to be a very different sort of president than he might like. Second-term-itis ruined Richard Nixon, and it nearly destroyed Ronald Reagan's presidency as well. (I would invoke Bill Clinton, but I'm not sure that hitting on the interns comes under the category of second-term-itis.)

Unfortunately, unlike the situation with Nixon and Reagan, Congress isn't going to stop Bush. He can only stop himself.

PROPS TO GEORGE STEPH. Once a decade, I say something nice about ABC News analyst George Stephanopoulos. Today's the day. While over on CBS Bob Schieffer was puzzling over Bush's failure to mention Iraq by name, Stephanopoulos was holding up a copy of Natan Sharansky's The Case for Democracy, which Bush has reportedly found so inspirational that he invited the former Soviet dissident to the White House last fall.

Sharansky's book argues - as Bush did today - that the spread of democracy and liberty throughout the world will make us all safer.

It's hard to disagree. What I worry about is Bush's notion that he, personally, can make it happen - and that unilaterally invading a country is one of the ways of accomplishing it.

WHOLE LOTT OF LOVE. Two years ago, the Bushies got some well-deserved praise for pushing then-Senate Republican leader Trent Lott out of the way after he made his segregationist sympathies clear at a birthday party for Strom Thurmond.

So what was up with Lott's full-scale rehabilitation? It's not like he had been sent into exile. He's still a US senator from Mississippi. He has occasionally made himself useful, as in his opposition to the FCC's rush to deregulate media ownership even more than it already has been. But what has he done to deserve center stage at the inauguration?

Lott truly got to bask in the glow. He was just a few feet away when Bush denounced racism. He got to introduce and shake hands with Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell, an African-American minister who gave the benediction. I mean, Bush let old Trent get himself cleaned up real nice. But why? I don't get it.

PROTESTS ON CABLE. C-SPAN 2 is carrying the ANSWER Coalition's CounterInaugural live.

LIBERTY IN THEORY AND PRACTICE. I'll have more to say about the president's just-finished inaugural speech in a bit. It was important because there were so few euphemisms: he told us exactly where he's going. Duck!

Interesting, though, that in a speech in which he invoked the word "liberty" repeatedly, there was damn little of it in front of the Capitol. In just the last few moments, I saw a police officer lead away a woman who was flashing the peace sign with both hands, and a group of officers forcing other demonstrators to take down their banner. I could only make out the word "war."

I thought the authorities were on hand to provide security - not to protect the star attraction at this choreographed spectacle from the inconveniences of the First Amendment.

ENTER REHNQUIST. A truly moving moment: the elderly chief justice, suffering from thyroid cancer, just made his way to the stand, walking with some difficulty and assistance, although he managed the last stretch by himself. The tracheotomy tube is clearly visible, but other than that he looks like himself, right down to the robe with the Gilbert & Sullivan stripes.

RATHER PECULIAR. Within 30 seconds of my scanning around the tube, I heard Doris Kearns Goodwin (on NBC) and Jeff Greenfield (on CNN) voice lame bromides about bipartisanship. The hell with that. I know where I want to be: CBS, where Dan Rather is anchoring his first big event since we learned he'd taken back his apology over the National Guard documents.

He's got as his sidekick the ancient and obscure Republican operative Ed Rollins, which may be a sign of just how low the Dan's stock has fallen. Bob Schieffer's in the booth, too.

Bush and Cheney are both outside now, waiting for the proceedings to begin. The sunlight doesn't seem to be bothering Cheney. But he does appear to be looking furtively about - perhaps for a man with a hammer and a wooden stake?

Trent Lott is speaking. Why? Is Bush going to come out for segregation?

BLOGGING BUSH'S BASH. There's been a change of plan. I've returned to Media Log Central, and will be blogging the inauguration through most of the day. Only Hunter Thompson could do this hideous spectacle justice, but I'll do what I can.

A little while ago, during my drive back to the compound, I heard right-wing talk-show host Mike Gallagher interview Tod Brilliant, of Not One Damn Dime Day, which is urging a consumer boycott today to protest the war in Iraq.

Gallagher was amazingly polite - he's never going to be able to play with Rush and O'Reilly if he keeps this up - but his manners were exceeded only by his cluelessness. He asked Brilliant whether Not One Damn Dime's real goal was to find a way to make money on the Internet. After Brilliant assured him that was not the case, Gallagher followed up by asking whether Not One Damn Dime was "against capitalism." Really.

All this was interspersed with the clumsiest on-air sponsor announcements I've heard in quite a while - three times in 10 minutes, Gallagher had to interrupt Brilliant to read ads.

Gallagher also let Brilliant pull a fast one. Brilliant claimed that because John Kerry favored the war, Not One Damn Dime would have called for a day of protest even if Kerry had been elected president. I, uh, think not. (Maybe Brilliant, a Nader supporter, would have staged his own one-person boycott.) But Gallagher said nothing. Probably thinking about the next sponsor.

By the way, Gallagher, Ramblin' Gamblin' Bill Bennett, Hugh Hewitt, and an assortment of other right-wingers can be heard locally on WTTT Radio (AM 1150), which is apparently devoted to the proposition that Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and the like just aren't right-wing enough, damn it!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

WHAT'S A FEW MILLION? There's the Bush-whacking that he deserves, and there's the Bush-whacking that takes place because liberals can be just as stupid as conservatives. In the latter category: prolonged moaning over the $40 million cost of Bush's inauguration, as though he ought to take it all and donate it to tsunami relief. (Where money doesn't seem to be a problem, by the way.)

So where's the context? Here's the context. Cost of Bush's 2001 inauguration: $40 million; cost of Clinton's 1997 inauguration: just a shade under $30 million - down from the $33 million he spent in 1993. (By the way, the story I cite refers to Bush's spending this year as a "record," even though it appears to be basically the same as four years ago.)

Yes, Clinton spent a bit less, but not that much less. And of course you've got to adjust for the fact that Republicans drink better-quality booze.

NEW IN THIS WEEK'S PHOENIX. Google, the company everyone loves, knows more about you than you might realize. Also, how the Internet drove coverage of Metro International's bad behavior.

I'm on an assignment that keeps me away from my computer most of the time, so blogging is likely to be light for at least the next day or so.

Monday, January 17, 2005

METRO MARKET WATCH. There appears to be a lull in the Metro wars today, so I thought I'd take a closer look at what is likely to be the most enduring issue: the matter of whether the New York Times Company's acquisition of a 49 percent share of Boston's Metro constitutes a violation of antitrust laws.

Let me hasten to add that you won't find out the answer to that question here. Rather, I want to show that the Greater Boston newspaper market is a lot more complicated than either the Globe or the Herald has portrayed it so far.

According to reports, Herald publisher Pat Purcell, who has taken his antitrust complaint to the Justice Department, is defining the market as comprising three daily papers: the Globe, the Herald, and the Metro. Let's look at the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Because the Metro publishes only on weekdays, I'm only going to look at Monday-through-Friday numbers

  • Globe: 451,471
  • Herald: 240,759
  • Metro: 180,000 (est.)

Under this formulation, the Globe controls 52 percent of the market; the Herald, 28 percent; and the Metro, 20 percent. Purcell notes that allowing the deal to move forward will give the Times Company 72 percent, which, he argues, violate guidelines governing anti-competitive behavior.

In fact, though, Purcell could paint the picture in broader strokes. If you consider the entire Eastern Massachusetts market, the Times Company also owns the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, whose weekday circulation is 103,113. Purcell's Community Newspaper subsidiary owns four daily papers with a total weekday circulation of 50,608: the MetroWest Daily News (Framingham), the Daily News Tribune (Waltham); the Daily News Transcript (Dedham); and the Milford Daily News. That gives Purcell's Herald Media a total daily circulation of 291,367.

(Note: the ABC report for the MetroWest Daily News appears to combine the other three dailies, but that's not entirely clear. Nevertheless, the 291,367 figure matches up closely with a total daily circulation figure that appears on page 12 of Herald Media's online media kit. PDF file here. So if I'm off, it's not by much.)

Let's run the numbers again. Under this formulation, the Times Company's weekday circulation (the Globe, the T&G, and the Metro) would be 734,584, or 72 percent of the total daily newspaper market. Herald Media would control 28 percent (the Herald plus the four suburban dailies). With that exercise, the numbers look exactly the same.

But wait. In statements filed with ABC, Purcell says that the paid circulation of his weekly papers is 233,679. On the Herald Media website, he claims a weekly circulation of 517,242. The lower figure would appear to be for his paid, community-based weeklies (there are 89, though some are free); the higher number apparently includes all of his weekly holdings, which also comprise 21 shoppers and specialty publications.

How do Purcell's weekly papers affect his antitrust argument? It's hard to say. To be sure, it's an apples-and-oranges comparison, but when you factor in the weeklies as part of Purcell's holdings, there's no question that the Times Company - though still dominant - doesn't look quite as fearsome. The weeklies are a big business for Purcell, with considerable economies of scale in terms of shared expenses and the cross-selling of advertising.

Now let's go a little deeper. In their public statements about the Metro deal, Times Company spokeswoman Catherine Mathis and Globe publisher Richard Gilman have referred to Greater Boston as the most competitive newspaper market in the country. Whether that's technically accurate or not, it is certainly true that there are more options here than in many parts of the country. Here, for instance, are a few ABC figures for other daily newspaper groups in Eastern Massachusetts:

  • Ottaway Newspapers: the Standard-Times (New Bedford) and the Cape Cod Times; total weekday circulation, 85,313.
  • South of Boston Media Group: the Patriot Ledger (Quincy) and the Enterprise (Brockton); total weekday circulation, 92,228.
  • Eagle-Tribune Publishing: the Eagle-Tribune (Lawrence), the Salem News, the Daily News (Newburyport), and the Gloucester Daily Times; total weekday circulation, 105,524.
  • MediaNews Group: the Sun (Lowell) and the Sentinel & Enterprise (Fitchburg); total weekday circulation, 67,151.

There are small, independently owned dailies sprinkled across Eastern Massachusetts as well. One, the Daily Evening Item (Lynn), whose circulation is 14,764, is a content partner with Herald Media through the paper's affiliation with Purcell's And some of the aforementioned newspaper owners are formidable. Ottaway, for instance, is part of the Dow Jones empire, which publishes the Wall Street Journal, in some ways the New York Times' archnemesis. MediaNews is a national chain headed by the colorful, notorious Dean Singleton. His flagship paper, the Denver Post, is edited by former Globe managing editor Greg Moore.

There's no question that the Times Company is the dominant media organization in New England, never mind Eastern Massachusetts. In addition to the Globe and the T&G, it owns a piece of New England Sports Network through its part-ownership of the Red Sox. The Globe is also a content partner with New England Cable News. Adding the local Metro to its portfolio will make the strong stronger.

Nevertheless, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that this is far more complex than the tale of Boston's two dailies.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

MONEY SHOT. There's pseudo-news and real news in John Strahinich's Metro update in today's Boston Herald, which is accompanied by the characteristically restrained front-page headline "GLOBE PARTNER PEDDLES PORN."

The pseudo-news is that a Swedish company that televises nudie films owns a 28 percent share of Metro International - which, in turn, is the parent company of Boston's Metro newspaper. The New York Times Company, which owns the Boston Globe, plans to buy a 49 percent share of the local Metro.

Europeans tend to have a more enlightened view about all things sexual than Americans do, although I suppose it's noteworthy that the Swedish company's fare is racy enough to have raised the hackles of the Norwegians some 10 years ago. Come on, folks, just change the channel.

Still, there's big news farther down in Strahinich's story: Partners HealthCare and Brandeis University are reportedly rethinking whether to advertise in the Metro following reports of vicious racist jokes in the upper reaches of Metro International management. Partners is the parent company of Mass General Hospital and Brigham and Women's. Strahinich writes:

"We'd have to evaluate the situation, obviously, if we decide to do additional advertising in the Metro," said Partners spokeswoman Petra Langer. "It's obviously disturbing."

Added Brandeis spokesman Dennis Nealon: "Brandeis would not want to advertise in a venue that would be connected to this kind of behavior."

This is obviously a potential deal-breaker, and is the sort of thing that could persuade the Times Company to walk away from the $16.5 million deal - or to move ahead and buy the remaining 51 percent so that they don't have to do business with Metro International. Strahinich quotes an internal e-mail from Globe publisher Richard Gilman to the effect that things could change between now and the closing date.

Friday, January 14, 2005


JOHN WILPERS WRITES. The former editor of Boston's Metro, who was Rory O'Connor's principal source, sends this to Media Log. This is unedited - if you've been following the story, you'll get it. If not, you'll need to catch up.

As you can imagine, I've been following the dust-up over the Metro racism business since it finally came out. I noticed a comment or two on your blog suggesting that I did nothing when the event happened, that I should have walked out, and that I waited two years to "break" the story after I'd been "fired." ...

The morning after the event, I approached a Metro corporate exec suggesting that Steve apologize, much as I had approached an exec at AOL when I worked there when a speaker had made similarly offensive remarks about women. My appeal and others caused the AOL exec to force the speaker to apologize to the same corporate gathering the next morning. Now THERE was a corporate culture that "got it."

My similar suggestion (and I cited the AOL example) to the Metro exec, obviously, was not taken. I was not about to walk out of the dinner (as one blogger suggested) and jeopardize my job in what would have been a futile attempt to change a company whose culture was so sick as to not even realize the impact of the joke.

As to one blogger's suggestion that I waited two years and for the NYT-Metro deal to come out about this, I was interviewed by both Rory O'Connor and Alex Beam at least a year ago and haven't spoken to them since other than to get a call last week from O'Connor warning me that he was finally writing the story.

And, finally, I was not fired by Metro. They changed both Philly and Boston to bureaus with all or most editorial decision-making transferred to the NYC office. There is no more editor-in-chief of either the Philly or Boston Metro, just a news editor.

Now I'm the editor-in-chief of the Washington Examiner, a new attempt to redefine metro newspaper publishing by distributing a substantive (64 pages) daily newspaper free to homes in and around metropolitican areas, starting with Washington D.C. and San Francisco. We made our announcement Wednesday.

Wilpers and I actually competed with each other in the early 1980s. He was the editor of a few Boston-area weeklies, among them the Winchester Star. I was the editor of the Woburn Daily Times Chronicle's Winchester edition. You never know.