Thursday, August 12, 2004

NOMAR-BASHING BY PROXY. The Globe's Gordon Edes might want to lay off the second-hand accounts of sports-radio tidbits. Today Edes writes:

"Curt on a car phone" - a.k.a. Curt Schilling - phoned in again yesterday afternoon to radio station WEEI to offer a few opinions on "The Big Show." According to co-host Sean McAdam of the Providence Journal, Schilling said Francona was being unfairly blamed for the team's erratic performance. During the course of a discussion regarding Nomar Garciaparra, Schilling brought up a comparison with Derek Jeter and said, "Derek Jeter is a winner."

I happened to be listening during an interminable drive home. And though that is what Schilling said about Nomar, it's not all that he said, and what got left out in Edes's account changes the meaning considerably.

In fact, Schilling said Garciaparra is a quiet player in the mold of his former teammate Randy Johnson, and that any Red Sox players who think Nomar's lack of more-vocal leadership had hurt their own ability to perform have no one to blame but themselves.

As to the matter of "Derek Jeter is a winner" (with the implication that Nomar isn't), Schilling said that in most respects he considers them to be nearly identical players. He added that Jeter has the image of a winner because he's been lucky enough to be on a team that gets into the World Series and help them win a championship - an opportunity Nomar hasn't had.

POLICY MEETS REALITY. Allegations of a horrible crime on the North Shore have led to an odd divergence in the way the media are playing it. Last week, police arrested Mary Jean Armstrong, 35, of Beverly, and charged her with prostituting her nine-year-old daughter in return for cocaine. Two men - Richard Lapham and Robert L'Italien - face charges as well.

The Globe has refrained from reporting that Armstrong is the mother of the alleged victim. In a piece published yesterday, reporter Katie Nelson wrote: "Because it is Globe policy not to reveal the identities of victims of alleged sexual crimes without their consent, the paper is withholding the children's connection to the suspects."

WBZ-TV (Channel 4) and WBZ Radio (AM 1030) have been following the same policy. I do not know what other broadcasters have been doing.

The Herald is making it clear that Armstrong is the girl's mother, as you will see from this Tom Farmer story. More to the point, so is the hometown paper, the Salem News. This piece, by Julie Manganis, was blasted across the front page yesterday. Manganis's lead: "Police say Mary Jean Armstrong confessed to bartering her daughter for cocaine, claiming she was so desperate for drugs that she traded sex with the 9-year-old as many as 50 times since last summer."

Nor was yesterday a first. Since the story broke last week, the News has reported on the mother-daughter connection on several occasions. (To my knowledge, no one has reported the daughter's name - nor should it be.)

What's the right answer? I'm not sure, though I'm leaning toward the News and other media outlets that have reported the relationship. This is a terrible story, and it's one that can't fully be told without noting that Armstrong has been charged with letting men rape her own daughter. I think the benefits to making the public aware of this outweigh any theoretical negatives.

As for the Globe and WBZ deciding to continue withholding that fact - well, two cheers for standing on principle. But they're no longer in a position to protect the victim, because the Salem News has already made the decision for them.

In a small community, what the local paper does is far more important than the choices made by big media organizations. That's because readers of the News are far more likely to know Armstrong and her daughter than are the Globe's customers.

NEW IN THIS WEEK'S PHOENIX. Forget the national polls. The presidential election will be decided in as few as 10 key states. So far, at least, it's looking good for Kerry.

Also, the sputtering economy forces belt-tightening at 135 Morrissey Boulevard.

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