Friday, April 29, 2005

GOOD BUSH, BAD BUSH. There were positives and negatives in President Bush's two main pronouncements at last night's news conference. Unfortunately, the pattern with Bush is for the positives to be strictly rhetorical, while the negatives actually get enacted as policy.

Bush's hour-long encounter with the press wasn't particularly newsworthy, so let me dispense with it in three observations:

1. He said the right thing about religion. Following last Sunday's Jesus-drenched satellite-television special on Bush's hard-right judicial nominees, the president was asked by NBC's David Gregory whether he agreed with the proposition that his choices were being filibustered because of their religious views. Bush's answer:

I think people are opposing my nominees because they don't like the judicial philosophy of the people I've nominated. Some would like to see judges legislate from the bench. That's not my view of the proper role of a judge....

The great thing about America, David, is that you should be allowed to worship any way you want, and if you choose not to worship, you're equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship. And if you choose to worship, you're equally American if you're a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim. That's the wonderful thing about our country, and that's the way it should be.

Bush's statement that secular people are "equally as patriotic" as those who are religious was significant, and it's not something he always remembers to say. Too often, Bush has allowed his presidency to be depicted as a right-wing religious crusade, which pumps up his base, but which has had the effect of intensifying the opposition as well.

Saying the right thing is important, because it sets a tone. Still, I'm not too impressed with the bone the president threw last night. That's because his answer, really, was an exercise in having it both ways - in letting the religious right do his dirty work for him, while he himself ever-so-slightly disagrees. As CNN's Jeff Greenfield put it last night, "he is once again the beneficiary of a base without tying himself to that base on this particular matter."

2. His statements on Social Security were a step forward. I'm not going to get carried away. Josh Marshall today is right to mock the "media swoon" with which Bush was greeted. But though Bush's embrace of "progressive indexing" is not new, his mentioning it in such a public forum shows that he's actually ready to do something he's never done with his tax cuts: help poor people by penalizing the wealthy.

That said, the full Robert Pozen plan that Bush seemed to endorse ought to be dead on arrival. Under it, your benefits will be cut if your "average career earnings" were $25,000 a year or more. That's absolutely ridiculous, and never mind that those earning up to $113,000 will be penalized even more.

Still, the notion that benefits should be judiciously cut without hurting those who most need is something that ought to be seriously considered. The late Paul Tsongas was talking about this back when he was a senator in the 1970s and '80s. Cutting benefits for the truly wealthy, as well as gradually raising the retirement age to 70, might not be a bad idea. (If anything, the modern equivalent of 65, the retirement age set in the 1930s, would be 75.)

Fortunately, the private retirement accounts Bush still wants to set up appear to be a political non-starter, and I'm not going to waste space on them except to say we should all have private retirement accounts, and that they're called IRAs and 401(k)s.

3. Give him an out and he'll duck the question. Not that that makes Bush unusual. By my tally, the worst question of the night was this one:

Mr. President, you've made No Child Left Behind a big part of your education agenda. The nation's largest teachers union has filed suit against it, saying it's woefully inadequately funded. What's your response to that? And do you think that No Child Left Behind is working?

The transcript doesn't indicate who asked this question, and I didn't recognize the reporter (Bush addressed him as "Richard"), but the flaw here is in the last sentence. Bush was directly asked about the lawsuit by the National Education Association and the accusation that NCLF has not been properly funded. But Richard couldn't leave well enough alone, closing with a general question that allowed Bush to puff NCLB and run out the clock. Bush:

Yes, I think it's working. And the reason why I think it's working is because we're measuring, and the measurement is showing progress toward teaching people how to read and write and add and subtract. Listen, the whole theory behind No Child Left Behind is this: if we're going to spend federal money, we expect the states to show us whether or not we're achieving simple objectives - like literacy, literacy in math, the ability to read and write. And, yes, we're making progress. And I can say that with certainty because we're measuring, Richard.

Etc., etc., etc.

Finally, after several minutes of this, the hapless Richard, no doubt having instantly realized that he'd fallen into a trap, interjected, "What about the lawsuit?" Bush claimed he didn't know about it. But by that point, Bush already appeared to have answered the NCLB question, and the moment was lost.

MORE ON THE NETWORKS. Jacques Steinberg, in today's New York Times, explains what was up with NBC and CBS last night. Frankly, I'd have more respect for them if they'd simply refused to carry the news conference. Cutting away with a few minutes to go was a no-class act.

OUR FRIENDS THE IRAQIS. I'm a day late with this, but if you missed it, you've got to read Thanassis Cambanis's account in yesterday's Boston Globe of Iraqi political figure Mithal al-Alusi. Alusi is a pro-Western secularist who would like to see better relations with Israel, and who has visited the Jewish state.

Alusi's reward: his two sons were killed in an assassination attempt aimed at him, he's been charged with treason for his trip to Israel, and he's been shunned by virtually the entire Iraqi political establishment.

This is what more than 1500 American troops have died for?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

NET STUPIDITY. I'll write more about George W. Bush's news conference tomorrow. Tonight, just a brief observation about CBS's and NBC's decision to dump out of the closing minutes so they could switch to their entertainment shows: unbelievable!

I'd been watching NBC when, a few minutes before 9, the network suddenly cut away to Brian Williams. Williams chit-chatted with Tim Russert for a few moments, and that was that. I also noticed Bob Schieffer wrapping things up on CBS. Of the three broadcast networks, only ABC stuck with it until the end.

Mind you, just before 9, Bush made a joke about wrapping up so that the networks could get back to fun and games. Little did he know that two of them had already left. And it's not as if he went over by much. By my watch, he ended at 9:01.

I'm not sure how to characterize the nets' decision. Disgraceful is a bit much; pathetic is more like it. Do they really expect anyone to take them seriously?

NEW IN THIS WEEK'S PHOENIX. The religious right attempts a coup against the federal judiciary. Will it succeed - or prompt a backlash?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

MORE ON BAY WINDOWS. Co-publishers Jeff Coakley and Sue O'Connell have posted this statement on the newspaper's website.

FREE SPEECH, 2; HOMOPHOBES, 0. Media Log has learned that the gay-and-lesbian newspaper Bay Windows will return to two supermarkets, Stop & Shop and Shaw's, perhaps as early as this week.

After objections were raised by the anti-gay Article 8 Alliance, Stop & Shop declined to carry the free weekly, citing the explicit personal ads. Bay Windows has reportedly moved to stop publishing such ads, and now Stop & Shop has decided to welcome the newspaper back.

The situation with Shaw's has been murkier, but I'm told Bay Windows will be back there, too.

Looks like Brian Camenker is going to have to update his website.

Monday, April 25, 2005

KELLER AT LARGE. Longtime WLVI-TV (Channel 56) political analyst Jon Keller, whose contract is up this month, has decided to leave the station. Here's an e-mail that went out today from Channel 56 news director Pamela Johnston.

Please join me in wishing Jon Keller the best of luck as he leaves us to pursue new opportunities. Jon has been with The Ten O'clock news for 14 years and through his tenure has emerged as the number one local political reporter in Boston. It is to our credit that Jon is about to embark upon bigger challenges. As you know, Jon is the consummate team player... bringing terrific story ideas to the table every day, always willing to work unique angles, dedicated to uncovering exclusive stories and the first to pitch in when breaking news happens. For many of us, myself included, Jon has been an uncompromising friend and confidant for years. He will be missed. Jon Keller's last day will be Monday, May 9th.

No official word yet on what those "bigger challenges" might be. Keller declined to comment, and his agent, Stephen Freyer, would say only, "We're working on details and ironing things out, and hopefully things will be worked out in a couple of days." But it's no secret that political reporter John Henning has retired from WBZ-TV (Channel 4), and that Keller is already a commentator on its sister operation, WBZ Radio (AM 1030).

Channel 4 spokeswoman Ro Dooley Webster put out a statement a little while ago that doesn't exactly discourage such speculation. "CBS4 News has no announcement to make at this time," she said.

I'VE FINALLY MADE UP MY MIND. Not to beat this to death, but since I've finally decided what I think about the Bob Ryan column on Nomar Garciaparra and his possible steroid use, I see no reason to keep it to myself.

1. It wasn't unethical. I don't really have a problem with a columnist writing about something that people have been talking about for years. It's inconceivable that anyone believes Garciaparra is (or was) a steroid user strictly as a consequence of reading Ryan's Friday column. The mainstream media's gatekeeper role is long gone, and it makes no sense for a paper like the Globe to pretend that if it doesn't cover something, people won't know about it. But -

2. It was useless. If a mainstream news organization is going to travel down speculative paths it might have avoided pre-Internet and pre-talk radio, it at least needs to add some value. Ryan's column was nothing more than what you might hear on sports radio. Obviously a columnist can't take the time to poke into a subject the way an investigative reporter would. But it strikes me that if you're going to speculate about Garciaparra's devastating injury, there are two obvious questions you might want to ask:

- Did Garciaparra stumble out of the batter's box in such an awkward way that anyone might have suffered the same type of injury, with the tendon pulling away from the bone?

- Was Garciaparra's injury of the sort that is known to be associated with steroid use?

Media Log reader E.K. offers some excellent ideas for a follow-up:

Rather than throwing out steroid claims which will never be proven, I'd rather see reporters check out the Athletes Performance Center in Arizona, where Nomar works out all winter. He, Schilling, and Arizona Diamondbacks Matt Kata and Robby Hammack also work out there and all have had some pretty unusual and serious injuries in the last couple of years (you can Google those last two to get the specifics). Maybe they're just doing the wrong exercises to be good baseball players. I'm sure David Wells would agree.

Finally, this is just hateful.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

MORE ON RYAN. Bob Ryan's speculation over Nomar Garciaparra and steroids is not playing well with two of his fellow sportswriters today. His Globe colleague Gordon Edes writes:

Garciaparra has had a startling run of injuries, but in the absence of any evidence, it is treading very dangerous ground to suggest that they were the result of his intense training program, or the muscle-building supplements (like creatine) that he has acknowledged using, or illegal substances he has vociferously denied using, an assertion backed up by Red Sox medical officials and teammates.

Here is Sports Illustrated's Stephen Cannella:

The point is, we don't know if Garciaparra ever has used steroids. It would be easy to name 50 other players about whom there were, or are, similar whispers. But there's a difference between rumors that swirl around the batting cage and what should make it's [sic] way into print or onto our TV screens. Let's face it: There's enough circumstantial evidence to indict nearly everyone who's worn a major-league uniform in recent years as a steroid user.

But without proof or probable cause - a failed drug test, a public admission in court or to a journalist, even an accusation in a tawdry tell-all book - reporters can't try to deduce who's using and who isn't based on appearance, home-run power or proclivity to major injuries.

The Herald's Tony Massarotti takes a pass today (click here if you want to skip the top; although it's about D-Lowe, so you might want to read it), writing a beefy Nomar item without mentioning either the Ryan controversy or the S-word.

I'm not sure if I'm going to follow this daily - it looks like it might blow over pretty quickly - but for further developments, keep an eye on the Phoenix's Mike Miliard and on the invaluable Boston Sports Media Watch.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

RYAN'S GOT THE JUICE. For years now, the possibility that Nomar Garciaparra's home-run power and brittle physique were the result of steroid use has been a regular topic of idle baseball talk. Still, it kind of took my breath away yesterday when the Globe's Bob Ryan said it right out loud following Garciaparra's devastating injury earlier in the week.

Ryan's column was not even close to the first time that Garciaparra has been linked to steroids. For instance, last December 4, the Globe's Gordon Edes wrote this in the middle of a piece on baseball's steroid scandal:

Former big league player Mark Grace told the Arizona Republic that he doesn't expect anything to change in a sport where a onetime 155-pound shortstop, Nomar Garciaparra, was proudly featured bare-chested on the cover of Sports Illustrated, flaunting a torso that appeared to be made of coiled steel.

On February 11, the Herald's Gerry Callahan, in writing about Jose Canseco's steroid claims, said:

Canseco hit just 52 home runs in his two seasons in Boston. He never wore a glove or a hat and spent more time in front of the mirror than on the field. But he was no pariah. He seemed to be friendly with a number of Red Sox veterans, including Mo Vaughn and Roger Clemens. Could a young Nomar Garciaparra have learned anything from Canseco when the two played together at the end of the '96 season?

But until Ryan came along, it's always been questions, hints, and denials from Nomar's former teammates. Ryan took it quite a bit farther than that, writing on Friday:

Look, I'm hardly the first person to raise the question. When he was with the Red Sox, who was bold enough to link our fair shortstop, a noted workout guy, with the dreaded S-word? But he did go from, like, standard athlete issue normal to ultra-buffed in one winter, and he has been - there is no other way to say it - systematically breaking down for the past six years, so you can't help wondering just what he's been putting into his body other than Wheaties and sirloin steaks. If we're going to assume that Mark McGwire's physical breakdown was because of a reliance on steroids, then it would be quite logical to adopt the same line of thinking about Nomar. It's a legitimate question.

Ryan did tone it down right after that, noting that it was possible Garciaparra's physical woes were the byproduct of a flawed workout regimen rather than steroids. But still, he'd said what everyone was thinking, and it makes a great deal of sense - even though he presents no actual evidence. Personally, I suspect Ryan is right on target. But it does raise an interesting question about media ethics, doesn't it?

Garciaparra yesterday dismissed the charges, and his Chicago Cubs manager, Dusty Baker, ripped into Ryan. According to the Chicago Tribune, Baker said, "How can you speculate that? That's not fair to Nomar and to the reading public.… I can't comment on what somebody says. But it's unfair, period." The story slyly notes that, in the past, Baker had defended Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa on steroid charges.

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Steve Stone has this to say:

All of us have suspicions as to who might have done what. However, it's really irresponsible to come out publicly and say this guy did this unless you know definitively that's the case. And to have horrific injuries and ascribe all of them to steroids might be overstating it a touch. From Nomar's standpoint, if he says it, I will believe he didn't do it.

What's happened to Garciaparra is sad. Whether he used steroids or not, his body has betrayed him, and it's getting harder and harder to believe he'll ever be a full-time player again.

What Ryan did wasn't completely novel. Rather, he put the steroid accusation out there somewhat less ambiguously than had been done in the past, and he did it right after Nomar had suffered a major injury, guaranteeing that his column would get a lot of attention. I'm still not quite sure what to make of it. Ryan leveled a serious accusation for which he has no actual proof, but for which there is a load of circumstantial evidence. Baseball is in the midst of a crisis over its inability to get a handle on juiced-up ballplayers. And now Nomar is the poster boy for all that.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Friday, April 22, 2005

SID STILL VICIOUS. Sidney Blumenthal has a really terrific piece in Salon detailing the political alliance between George W. Bush and Pope Benedict XVI, noting that then-Cardinal Ratzinger was a virtual running mate of Bush's in 2004. Blumenthal writes:

In 2004 Bush increased his margin of Catholic support by 6 points from the 2000 election, rising from 46 to 52 percent. Without this shift, Kerry would have had a popular majority of a million votes. Three states - Ohio, Iowa and New Mexico - moved into Bush's column on the votes of the Catholic "faithful." Even with his atmospherics of terrorism and Sept. 11, Bush required the benediction of the Holy See as his saving grace. The key to his kingdom was turned by Cardinal Ratzinger.

Benedict, as Blumenthal notes, was behind the call for priests to deny communion to politicians who favor abortion rights, something that caused John Kerry considerable grief.

Keep in mind that you can be a faithful Catholic who believes that abortion is wrong, a view that Kerry seems to hold quite sincerely. That's not good enough for Benedict, though; instead, he insists that politicians legislate that view for everyone else, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Anyway, read the whole piece.

NAMING NAMES. Media Log does not normally like to get bogged down in typos and misspellings, but here I go for the second day in a row. You'd think that, by now, someone would have fixed the spelling of Providence police chief Dean Esserman's name in the photo caption on the Globe's website. (And perhaps now someone will.)

It's also misspelled on the front page of the Globe.

GLOBAL DOWNSIZING. The Herald's Greg Gatlin reports that up to 40 positions in the Globe's finance and IT departments are being eliminated. Hmm ... who's going to fix the computers?

RADIO RADIO. I had a great time mixing it up with Scott Allen Miller this morning on WRKO Radio (AM 680). Ms. Mass Resistance managed to generate precisely one call during my two-hour stint, and she seems none too happy about it.

She also seems confused about who and what I am, so let me borrow a line from my friend Barry Crimmins: I'm whatever you fear most.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

SCOTT AND DANNO? Hmm, I don't know. "Dan and Scotto" sounds better, don't you think? Anyway, I'll be filling in for Peter Blute tomorrow from 7 to 9 a.m. on Blute and Scotto, on WRKO Radio (AM 680).

AND PEDRO WILL BE PITCHING! Sharp-eyed Media Log reader P.S. called my attention to a half-page house ad on page E10 of today's Globe. It's for an offer you can refuse: "Subscribe to The Globe at 50% off and you could win two tickets to Red Sox Opening Day!"

Just in case you're confused about when opening day is (or was), the ad goes on to say that the grand prize is "Two tickets to Red Sox Opening Day - Monday, April 11."

Follow the Web address that's listed (adjusting for the typo; sheesh), and you get "We're sorry. This offer has expired." Indeed.

MORE CHANGES AT THE HERALD. I'll miss his Monday column, but I'm glad that Joe Sciacca will be staying at the Herald. Here is Mark Jurkowitz's update on the Herald's ongoing cost-cutting efforts.

NEW IN THIS WEEK'S PHOENIX. Speaking of the Herald, I've got some advice - at no charge! - on how to save the struggling tabloid. Click on over to page two, and you'll find my thoughts on the announcement that the Atlantic Monthly will be moving from Boston to Washington.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

MEDIA LOG UNDER ATTACK! I just learned that the anonymous "Mass Resistance" blogger has come after me, and is urging readers to send me e-mail. To judge from the site, I'm hardly the first person to have his or her e-mail address given out for purposes of harassment. But unless I'm missing something, you can't talk back to the anonymous blogger. Nice!

MY WORLD AND WELCOME TO IT. Media Log reader "F&S" (for "Frank and Sue," judging from the incoming address) writes:

Those "hatemongers" at Article dare they speak out and stand up for decency? Look at all the good the gay groups have done for our state and our country now that they've come out? Because of these various gay groups, we now have state funded "instructors" teaching our kids how to properly perform constructive things such as...oral sex, how to figure out that maybe the reason you can't get a girlfriend is because your gay?, and of course proper fisting techniques 101. Face it Dan...nothing, but nothing good comes out of these groups. Go back in the closet and perform your sick sexual fantasies. It's odd how when a priest touches a child it's big news on every station, but when groups such as NAMBLA want to reduce the age for consensual sex to some ridiculously low age there is no OUTRAGE!

Hey I'm with you Dan...Bay Windows is just another great piece of media that will truly "help" better this country. I mean when we represent everything, and anything goes...I guess we really represent nothing. Hey Dan, why don't we just all walk around naked and marry our pet goats while we're at it then we could have sex with them in the street too! It's all about tolerance right? As a nation we should be able to tolerate that right? c'mon TOLERANCE. You know what's sad about this whole thing Dan? Its that some people like yourself can no longer discern between right/wrong or good/bad and where it will lead us. These same people (like yourself) for the most part are self serving idiots who never grew up nor learned anything about societal responsibility.

We've got problem with teenagers now having sex parties and doing all kinds of messed up things.....geeez, why do you think that is Dan? To much sex being spoon fed down their throats.

Good Job Dan....we need more intellectuals like yourself in the world to straighten us out so we're all more "tolerant"!

A few observations:

- What is it about homophobes and bestiality? It seems that folks like F&S can't get through one of their screeds without mentioning the critters. I actually took a look at this phenomenon a couple of years ago. Click here. (And is the "pet goats" reference some sort of subliminal George W. Bush thing?)

- I got called an intellectual. Woo-hoo!

- F&S does an excellent job of keeping the caps-lock key under control, which is not usually the case in e-mails like this.

- I'm offering a free subscription to Media Log to the first reader who can find one instance in which I've said anything nice about NAMBLA.

A MAN AND HIS MEDIA SITE. Jack Shafer has a smart commentary in Slate on how Romenesko's media site, part of, has changed the rules for both journalistic misbehavior and media criticism. One thing he leaves out, perhaps because it hits too close to home for him (and me!), is that those of us who write about the media for a living have grown accustomed to asking ourselves: How is this going to play on Romenesko? I'm not sure that's entirely healthy.

Personally, I have two rules: (1) shamelessly hype my stuff in e-mails to Jim Romenesko, and (2) never complain if he chooses to take a pass. I have noticed he's not crazy about linking to blog items, which probably makes sense: there would be no end of it if he headed down that road.

Shafer writes that Romenesko "never tips his hand to reveal his views or prejudices." I agree, but not everyone does. Andrew Sullivan, a frequent critic, has called Romenesko "a hard-line liberal who routinely refuses to link to any conservative media criticism." I don't get it, and I don't think it's because I'm a hard-line liberal. Shafer certainly isn't.

COSMO LIKES AMORELLO. The Herald's Cosmo Macero Jr. has a counterintuitive take (sub. req.) on embattled Big Dig chief Matt Amorello. According to Macero, if Governor Mitt Romney gets his way and forces Amorello out, the result could be a dubious - and possibly even dangerous - method of repairing the leaks.

As for Howie Carr today ... good grief. Did you know that state college presidents make a lot of money? Howie, you and I might remember who Gerry Indelicato is - or was - but I'm not sure anyone else does. The problem with recycling is that you occasionally have to throw something new on top of the compost heap.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

HOMOPHOBIA ON (AND OFF) THE RACKS. Brian Camenker and his merry band of hatemongers at the Article 8 Alliance are at it again. For weeks, they've been pushing for a ban on the gay-and-lesbian newspaper Bay Windows at local supermarkets. The Herald's Greg Gatlin has the latest today, reporting that the paper has, indeed, been dropped at Stop & Shop and Shaw's.

But it looks like Camenker's victory might be temporary - a spokesman for Stop & Shop says Bay Windows is likely to be back if the two sides can work out a deal to carry the paper without the personal ads. The spokesman adds that the Boston Phoenix is not carried for the same reason. (I didn't know that! Oh, well.)

The Article 8 folks, bless their twisted little hearts, have also included a link to this Washington Blade article about what you can do to get Bay Windows back on the racks. Thanks, Brian.

And here's a gutless anonymous homophobe with a blog who's getting involved in the action.

Good grief. I need a shower.

Monday, April 18, 2005

SCHEER LAZINESS. Connoisseurs of Media Log as well as the late, lamented will smile knowingly at Howard Kurtz's item today on columnist Robert Scheer. The hapless pundit picked up a story about William Bennett and the pope from the Houston Catholic Worker, of all places, without bothering to check it out. Says Scheer: "I should have been more careful." Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Here's the column.

Kurtz also makes contact with Barbara Stewart, the freelancer behind the Globe's fabricated seal-hunt story. I feel bad for her. This seems like one of those inexplicable errors in judgment that's going to hurt her for years.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

DOT DOT DOT. Cruise on over to today and take a look at what they've done to Peter Gelzinis. Just in case this changes before you can see it, the tease reads, "Numbskull fan's fiancée is world's biggest ho..." Now, that's language that Howie Carr might use, but I was startled to see it atop a Gelzinis column.

Click and you get the full headline: "Numbskull fan's fiancée is world's biggest homer."

Deliberate or accidental? Given the way some other words are cut off on the home page, I'm willing to believe it was an accident. But not a happy one.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

THE HIGH ROAD. Mike Barnicle makes a classy exit as a regular columnist for the financially strapped Herald, telling the Globe's Mark Jurkowitz: "I didn't want to be sitting around collecting a check from the Herald while someone who has been over there for 25 years or 25 minutes was getting laid off. I like the paper. I like the people. I wish them well."

Howie Carr, take note!

MORE ON THE SEAL HUNT THAT WASN'T. The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz today weighs in on the matter of the Globe and freelancer Barbara Stewart, who was dropped after it was revealed that she'd fabricated a story on the Canadian seal hunt. So do the Herald's Brett Arends and Jay Fitzgerald. (Disclosure: Kurtz and Arends, in a sidebar, quote me.)

Friday, April 15, 2005

PRETTY FUNNY STUFF. As with many websites, uses Google Ads to place advertisements related to the subject matter, based on searching the text. Well, if you click on my first item about the phony seal hunt off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, you will find an ad urging you to vacation in - yes - Newfoundland and Labrador.

SEAL OF DISAPPROVAL. Here are a few more details, courtesy of Reuters, on the partly fabricated seal-hunt story that the Globe ran on Wednesday. Look for more tomorrow. Also, Romenesko has found the original story.

AND NOW, THE REST OF THE STORY. Today's Globe contains an "Editor's Note" disclosing that, on Wednesday, the paper ran a story by a freelancer who reported on a seal hunt off Newfoundland and Labrador that had taken place the previous day. Except that it didn't. The note says in part:

In fact, the hunt did not begin that day; it was delayed by bad weather, and is scheduled to begin today, weather permitting. The article included details of the day's hunt as if it had taken place and without attribution or other sourcing, as if the writer had witnessed the scene personally. Details included the number of hunters, a description of the scene, and the approximate age of the cubs.

The note concludes that the unnamed writer had committed "clear violations of the Globe's journalistic standards" and has been dropped.

Here is an account from the CBC - posted today - that corroborates the Globe's findings:

ST. JOHN'S - After a couple of delays, the seal fishery off the northeast coast of the island has started.

Sealers have been waiting to go to the Front, the traditional name of the seal hunt area on the northeast coast, since Tuesday.

Heavy ice prompted the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to defer the opening of the hunt, while the coast guard juggled several dozen requests for icebreaking assistance.

The hunt opened early Friday morning.

The freelancer's story has been dropped from the Globe's website, but it's available on LexisNexis, with the "Editor's Note" attached. Here is the most startling paragraph, given that she wasn't actually there. Remember: the following did not really happen.

Hunters on about 300 boats converged on ice floes, shooting harp seal cubs by the hundreds, as the ice and water turned red. Most of the seals were less than 6 weeks old.

Wow. The freelancer's name, by the way, is Barbara Stewart, and it appears that this was the third story she's written for the Globe.

On February 20, the paper published a piece by Stewart on a deal that Newfoundland premier Danny Williams had made with the national government that will bring more oil revenue to the impoverished province.

On January 2, Stewart reported on a lawsuit brought by former residents of Africville, once Canada's oldest black community, razed in an urban-renewal effort in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the late 1960s.

MORE ON THE ATLANTIC. In retrospect, the tragic death of Michael Kelly may have sealed the fate of the Atlantic Monthly, which will move from Boston to Washington by the end of the year. Kelly was a real Washington guy - a native in a town of transplants. But after he became editor of the Atlantic, he found that he loved it up here, buying a big place in Swampscott near the ocean and commuting back and forth between Boston and Washington, where he helped run the National Journal, the Atlantic's sister publication.

Kelly's frequent presence in Washington was probably sufficient to make owner David Bradley feel like he was connected to the Boston office. But then Kelly stepped aside as editor so that he could cover the war in Iraq. And, as we all know, he was killed in an accident after the Humvee in which he was riding came under fire.

Bradley felt a kinship to Kelly, and I don't think he ever got over Kelly's death. But that is no excuse for Bradley now to dismantle a small but essential part of Boston's cultural landscape. This is a bitter reminder that owners can do whatever they like. If Bradley doesn't want to publish the Atlantic here, he ought to find out whether he can find a local buyer. Maybe not; but did he ask? (And is it too late?)

Bradley has gotten a lot of praise - in retrospect, more praise than he deserves - for his stewardship of the Atlantic. The magazine just won a National Magazine Award for fiction - right after dropping fiction except for a special annual edition and the website. (No, I don't read the fiction, but I like to know it's there.) And now this.

Bradley tells the Washington Post: "It's a Boston institution. It's a huge disappointment ... and I'm really sad about it. I've actually written an apology which I'm sending to all of the Boston staff tonight." Oh, please. He's portraying this as an economic move, but is he really going to save all that much money by no longer having to pay rent at 77 North Washington Street?

Managing editor Cullen Murphy won't make the move, so there's another loss. The Atlantic now becomes just another Washington political magazine. And an increasingly neoconservative one at that. Ugh.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

A BOSTON INSTITUTION LOST. A long-rumored, much-dreaded move has come to pass: the Atlantic Monthly, a legendary Boston institution, is being uprooted and moved to Washington, the home of owner David Bradley. Romenesko has posted the memo.

This is truly awful news. Bradley has been a reasonably good steward since buying the magazine from Mort Zuckerman, but owners come and owners go. Bradley may have the legal right to yank the Atlantic out of Boston, but he doesn't have the moral authority, any more than he would to roll up the Boston Common and spread it out a few blocks from Capitol Hill.

In October 2003 I did a column on how the magazine was faring following the tragic death of Michael Kelly, who had stepped down as editor in order to report on the war in Iraq. I asked Bradley about rumors of a Washington move, and he responded by e-mail that "the honest answer is that this is proving a harder issue than I had imagined. My original thinking (and statement) was that Atlantic would remain in Boston. As it remains. The problem, principally for my account, is that I'm finding it hard to lead a culture at such distance. Whatever my skills, they do not include a strong public presence, a natural gift for leadership."

Well, now he's done it. Almost as bad, managing editor Cullen Murphy has decided to step down rather than make the move. It's one more sign that Boston just doesn't matter anymore.

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. The Pennsylvania company that owns the Nashua Telegraph has purchased the Cabinet, a small, (formerly) independent weekly in Milford, New Hampshire. Founded in 1802, the Cabinet had been owned by the same family since 1809. Cabinet Press publishes three other papers as well, and those have been included in the deal. (Thanks to Media Log reader S.L.)

TERM LIMITS. Globe ombudsman Christine Chinlund has finished her tour of duty, and will become co-editor of the suburban Globe South supplement. Question: will the ombudsman slot be filled? Before Chinlund got the post, editor Marty Baron and publisher Richard Gilman briefly considered doing away with it. (See this Phoenix story from August 23, 2001.)

My guess is that the post will be retained. Three years and a half years ago, the last time there was a vacancy, the Globe's corporate parent, the New York Times Company, was well-known for its aversion to ombudsmen. But following the Jayson Blair scandal and the resignation of top editors Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd in the spring of 2003, the Times went the other way, creating a "public editor" position and handing it to a reasonably high-profile outsider, Daniel Okrent. I thought Okrent did a splendid job, and now he is due to be replaced by Byron Calame, a retired deputy managing editor at the Wall Street Journal.

(An aside to a few concerned Media Log readers: Calame is from the WSJ's news side, which has a reputation for being unusually segregated from the paper's ultraconservative editorial pages. Forget the traditional "church-state" separation; this is more like India and Pakistan.)

The Globe would do well to follow the Times model: a respected outsider who will serve for a limited time, and who will then leave the paper entirely. I would imagine that being the ombudsman is miserable enough without having to wonder about how your colleagues will receive you after your ombudding days are through.

Chinlund's new job was announced in an internal memo sent out by regional editor David Beard, and sent along to Media Log by an in-house source. The full text follows.


She talked the talk; now she'll walk the walk. Again.

Christine Chinlund is heading to Globe South as the regional edition's new co-editor, replacing the Business-bound Mark Pothier.

New arrivals know Chris as the paper's ombudsman, a tough task in which she has prevailed over the past three years. Chris was also the Globe's foreign editor during Sept. 11, as well as a former national editor and head of the paper's Focus section. Before that, Chris covered the 1988 presidential campaign and was a member of the Spotlight investigative team (which anyone who has read Gerry O'Neill and Dick Lehr's "Black Mass" soon would recognize). She began at the paper as a reporter in Metro's [as the City & Region section used to be known; this is not a reference to the free commuter tab] then-Suburban SWAT team. Like Pothier, she was a Nieman Fellow (note: not a requirement for the job).

After listening to readers and judging the paper for the past three years, Chris, with co-editor Kim Tan, has a new chance to make a difference. At Globe South's launch party 3 1/2 years ago, David McCullough said the section had a responsibility to a region that he claimed was the root to half of America's history. McCullough also said the Globe had a responsibility to place in context the local news that cost-cutting competitors in the region had been increasingly unable to do.

The regional editions are fortunate to have Chris aboard. She begins April 25. Please join me in welcoming her.


BOOBY PRIZE. The annual Jefferson Muzzles have been announced, and among the winners - given for doing the most to suppress freedom of speech - is the US Marshals Service, for going above and beyond the call of duty in protecting Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia from the media.

The Jefferson Muzzles, awarded every year since 1992 by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, are the inspiration for the Phoenix's regional Muzzle Awards, begun in 1998.

NEW IN THIS WEEK'S PHOENIX. While television network news flounders toward the future, the present belongs to NPR.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

FISH, BARREL, MARK STEYN. This is way too easy, but here I go anyway. Yesterday I was reading right-wing columnist Mark Steyn - who, you will not be surprised to learn, is a major fan of the red-faced ranting UN ambassador-designate, John Bolton - when my eyes alighted upon this extraordinary passage:

The assumption seems to be that, with things going Bush's way in Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Bush needs to reach out by stiffing the counselors who called it right and appointing more emollient types who got everything wrong. Each to his own. But as I see it, the question isn't why Wolfowitz and Bolton should hold these jobs, but why Kofi Annan, Jacques Chirac, John Kerry and assorted others still hold their jobs. (Mark Steyn, Chicago Sun-Times, 3/20/05)

Now, I realize it has become a sign of terminally unhip liberalism to point out that we supposedly went to war to root out Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. Nevertheless, I thought it would be fun to review Steyn's pronunciamentos before and during the war. Roll the tape:

There may be valid arguments for not going to war with Iraq, but not the ones that begin: Oh, even if Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, he'd never use them against the West. Never bet on a dictator's rationality. (Mark Steyn, Jerusalem Post, 1/22/03)

Let's say Saddam has long-range weapons of mass destruction. If he nuked Montpelier (Vermont), Chirac would insist that Bush needed to get a strong Security Council resolution before responding. If he nuked Montpellier (France), Iraq would be a crater by lunchtime. (Mark Steyn, Chicago Sun-Times, 2/7/03)

"Weapons of Mass Destruction. Remember them? Not a single one has yet been found" (Bill Neely, ITV, April 10). MBITRW [Meanwhile Back in the Real World]: Actually, I almost wish this one were true. Anything that turns up now will be assumed to have been planted. If I were Washington, I'd consider burying anything I found. After all, an America that feels no need to bother faking justifications for invasion would be far more alarming to most Europeans. Instead, horrible things will turn up, but will never be "conclusive" enough for the French, who've got all the receipts anyway. (Mark Steyn, Daily Telegraph, London, 4/12/03)

Maybe the Bushies took Steyn's advice and buried the weapons. Because here, lest we forget, is the conclusion of Bush's hand-picked weapons inspector, David Kay:

Two days after resigning as the Bush administration's top weapons inspector in Iraq, David Kay said Sunday that his group found no evidence Iraq had stockpiled unconventional weapons before the U.S.-led invasion in March. (CNN, 1/26/04)

Now, a fair-minded observer would note that Steyn never came right out and said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction - rather, he claimed that Bush's war was justified because of strong suspicions that Iraq had such weapons. True enough. Check the record, and you'll see that even Hans Blix thought Saddam possessed such weapons.

But what Steyn omits, of course, is that UN inspectors were on the ground, assiduously searching for those weapons, and were forced to leave only so that Bush could get his war on before the desert got too hot. Bush's mistake wasn't in being wrong, or in overhyping the evidence; it was in short-circuiting the very process he'd agreed to as an alternative to war. Sorry for the italics, but this stuff just drives me crazy.

And remember, Mohamed ElBareidi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, had already pretty much cleared Iraq of possessing nuclear weapons. (Yes, Saddam wanted nukes. News value, please?) Except that folks like Bush, Dick Cheney, and, of course, Steyn didn't believe ElBareidi. Except that ElBareidi was right.

But what about the progress Iraq appears to have been made? I'm glad; I hope it lasts; and it could have been accomplished far more effectively if Bush had been willing to build a genuine international coalition. Since the weapons turned out not to exist, then there really wasn't any hurry, was there?

Now, let me return to trying to figure out what Bush was right about, and what Chirac, Annan, and Kerry were wrong about. The mind boggles.

BARNICLE UPDATE. It looks like the relationship between Herald publisher Pat Purcell and columnist Mike Barnicle hasn't gotten any better since January. That's when I reported that all was not well, and that the Herald had killed a Barnicle column about former FBI agent John Connolly, now in federal prison for corruptly enabling organized-crime figure James "Whitey" Bulger.

As Barnicle's one-year anniversary with the Herald approached recently, Purcell told me that the columnist would be staying. Now Barnicle's former employer, the Globe, carries an item today (scroll down to "Job Description") that Barnicle and Purcell met recently, and that Barnicle "agreed to redefine and renegotiate my role." Whatever that means.

In any case, Barnicle remains under contract. But with Purcell looking to slash $7 million from his struggling tabloid's bottom line by June 30, this is one deal he probably wishes he'd never made.

Monday, April 11, 2005

PAT PURCELL, YANKEES FAN. It's true! It's true! Here is the lead of a short profile (free reg. req.) written by Shorenstein Center director Alex Jones for CommonWealth magazine in 2001:

When the Yankees came to town to play the Red Sox in the 1999 playoffs, Pat Purcell, publisher and owner of the Boston Herald, showed up at Fenway Park in a Yankee cap and jacket; he even wore a pinstripe shirt. It was an in-your-face demonstration of defiant team loyalty, displayed in enemy territory with a swagger intended to be a thumb in the eye of every Red Sox fan.

TEAMSTERS V. THE HERALD. The Teamsters plan to hand out leaflets about their ongoing contract negotiations with the Herald at today's Red Sox opener. The full text of the Teamsters' press release follows.


Union to Leaflet Fans at Red Sox Home Opener

(Boston, MA) - Teamsters from Local 1 in Boston, Massachusetts will hand out leaflets to fans at the April 11, Yankees-Red Sox game in protest of the continued refusal of the Boston Herald management to address job security and healthcare concerns of their mailroom employees during contract negotiations.

More than 50 workers have been working for two years through ongoing negotiations with the Herald. Management at the newspaper, led by owner and Yankee fan Patrick Purcell, continues to only provide the bare minimum to the employees for healthcare insurance and will not share any facts regarding the future of their jobs. With the Herald's recent announcements concerning the plans to reduce union jobs in the newsroom, the workers are understandably concerned.

WHAT: Leafleting

WHO: Teamsters Local Union 1 Members

WHERE: Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts

WHEN: Monday, April 11, 2005, 1:00 p.m.

Two observations: (1) Purcell does, indeed, have New York ties, but I have no idea whether he's a Yankees fan; (2) if management would like to respond, I will post it as soon as I'm able. Just send an e-mail to

Saturday, April 09, 2005

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES. No one other than Media Log e-mail subscribers will know what I'm talking about. Yesterday, though, was down for hours, and I was unable to post any content. I finally deleted the post and wrote a new one this morning.

But I've discovered that even though I couldn't upload yesterday's post to the Web, e-mail subscribers received it anyway. So if you're confused, that's why. (Unless you're confused by my prose, which I deal with below.)

LEXIGRAPHICAL DIFFICULTIES. Media Log reader M.B. suggests that my description of inside information regarding the Globe's business plans as "dirt" was, uh, imprecise. After consulting a reliable source, I would agree. And no, I don't suppose "lexigraphical" is really a word.

YOU WIN ONE, YOU LOSE ONE. The Globe exposed a significant ethical problem at the Herald yesterday - which the Herald corrected - but then had to run a rather abject "Editor's Note" about one of its own stories today.

First, the Herald. On Friday, Globe reporter Raphael Lewis revealed that former Romney-administration official Charles Chieppo, now getting paid to write a weekly column for the Herald, had just landed a $10,000 state contract to promote the governor's environmental policies. Weirdly, the Herald first stuck by Chieppo; does he really have that many readers? But late yesterday, after learning that Chieppo also had a $32,000 contract with the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, the Herald said goodbye.

And by all means, let's keep those conflicts of interest coming. In today's Globe, Lewis quotes Stephen Burgard, director of Northeastern University's School of Journalism:

As a regular op-ed columnist for one of two major papers in Boston, Chieppo couldn't go near two big subject areas without creating a conflict. Both the environment and tourism are significant arenas of public interest for editorial pages. It got to the point where he couldn't write credibly for the paper that hired him or, ironically, be of much use as a hired pen for either client.

My conflict in presenting this: I work as an adjunct professor for Burgard, and next fall will become a full-time visiting professor.

Another conflict! Though Chieppo was a perfectly legitimate story, it was overkill for the Metro to make it the page-one lead yesterday. Of course, it escaped no one's attention that the Globe's corporate parent, the New York Times Company, owns 49 percent of the Metro, and that the free commuter tab is now sharing content with the Globe.

Now, the Globe. Yesterday the paper led with yet another frightening story about the Big Dig. Reporter Mac Daniel's lead:

Numerous fire exit doors in the Big Dig tunnels are either boarded up or missing, and many fire exits are blocked, because of work to find and plug the hundreds of leaks in tunnel walls, a Globe survey found yesterday.

In a project marred by monumental leaks and falling debris, Friday's piece seemed like just one more piece of the puzzle. Who would have doubted it? But as the paper acknowledges in an "Editor's Note" today (appended to Daniel's story), it was wrong. Globe reporter Michael Levenson has a fuller explanation here.

By the way: if the Herald has anything on either of these stories today, it's not on the paper's website, other than some AP stuff.

HYPOCRISY DEFINED. A Romenesko reader posted a link to this wonderful Mitch Albom column from 2003 about Jayson Blair. The white Detroit Free Press columnist used Blair's fall as an object lesson on the hazards of affirmative action. Albom wrote: "It happens because newsrooms are so devoted to diversity, they sometimes overlook what no normal business would overlook: the incompetence of an employee."

Now that Albom has been exposed for writing a semi-fabricated column (does that make it a half-pipe?), perhaps we will be treated to a similar lamentation on the risks of loading up the newsroom with arrogant white guys.

Does this mean that Albom didn't really interview the five people you'll meet in heaven? And if Morrie Schwartz came back, would he claim Albom misquoted him?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

SPECIAL NARCISSIST EDITION! The Boston Herald's Greg Gatlin writes about me in today's paper. He includes some amusing quotes from the paper's editorial editor, Ken Chandler, as well as some real news: John Carroll, executive producer and on-air talent of WGBH-TV's Greater Boston, is leaving to teach at Boston University. Carroll and Terence Burke - a Greater Boston producer who's leaving to go to work for state attorney general Tom Reilly - will be missed.

And Ken, be careful what you wish for. My successor in this slot just might have you longing for the good old days.

More Gatlin-generated news: he's got some interesting dirt on plans the Boston Globe is making to hand out free shoppers in the suburbs.

NEW IN THIS WEEK'S PHOENIX. I put my deep theological expertise to work in explaining the phenomenon of Pope John Paul II: loved, admired, and irrelevant.

Also, checking in with Globe science reporter (and former Phoenix news editor) Gareth Cook, who earlier this week won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

PURCELL SPEAKS. Boston Herald publisher Pat Purcell popped up on WGBH-TV (Channel 2) last night to discuss the future of his troubled paper with Emily Rooney on Greater Boston. (So did I, in the set-up piece.) Purcell's strategy apparently was to sound candid without making any news. He succeeded.

Asked about the devastating cutbacks he announced on Monday - 35 out of 140 or so union positions will be eliminated in the newsroom, and that only accounts for $2 million of the $7 million he intends to slice out of all operations by June 30 - Purcell blamed the advertising market, and asserted that other papers, including the Boston Globe, have seen at least as steep a falloff as the Herald.

"You've got a period of economic softness that you have to fight your way through," Purcell told Rooney. "We've fought our way through for the last 20 years, and we're going to fight our way through for the next 20 years." He also insisted the Herald will be competitive on news, noting that, since 1984, the number of newsroom employees (union and non-union) has grown from 118 to 210. In light of that, he said, the paper should be able to eliminate some positions without affecting the coverage too much.

Purcell added that the paper now has "all sorts of other information that we can utilize," citing the Internet and his own chain of more than 100 community newspapers in Eastern Massachusetts.

Asked by Rooney what role high-priced star columnists will play in a dramatically downsized Herald, Purcell replied, "We're taking a look at everything.... I think it's safe to say that we're looking at all of our expenses." However, he added, "We're not going to do anything to shoot ourselves in the foot." Translation: Barnicle, Howie, et al. stay if Purcell is convinced that getting rid of them would cost him too much in terms of circulation. Otherwise - look out.

Asked about the possibility that he might embrace the free-distribution model being tried by the Examiner papers in San Francisco and Washington, Purcell conceded there has been "a lot of speculation," adding, "We have a business plan to do our own free competitor to the Metro." But what about the Herald itself? He noted that the reincarnated San Francisco Examiner has been on the streets for only six months, and the DC Examiner for less time than that, making it "a little funny that people [moi?] say this is a model for success. Who knows?"

Asked whether the Herald's current round of downsizing is being driven by the New York Times Company's acquisition of a 49 percent share of Boston's Metro - something Purcell tried unsuccessfully to fight by filing an antitrust complaint with the Justice Department - Purcell replied, "It just makes it that much harder to compete." He noted that the Times Company now owns the Globe, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, a chunk of New England Sports Network (through its minority share of the Red Sox), and nearly half of the Metro. However, he claimed, in the three years that the Boston Metro has been in existence, it "really didn't have an impact on us."

Asked whether he would consider selling if he's unable to succeed with a slimmed-down Herald, Purcell said, "The only way you can be sold is if somebody's interested in buying it. I think this is more of a strategy to make sure that we are viable. We've fought the good fight for a long time." (On February 25, I reported that Purcell had had serious talks with the Hollinger chain, which owns the Chicago Sun-Times and a string of suburban papers. However, since that time, principals at Hollinger have taken to suing each other, making a purchase pretty unlikely.) Purcell added that the other segments of his local media holdings - Community Newspaper Company (CNC) and his Internet properties - are doing well.

Two years ago, the Herald morphed itself from a somewhat sober purveyor of local news into a glitzy, gossip-heavy tabloid. Rooney asked Purcell, "How will you settle on what works? Is Boston really a tabloid town?" Purcell didn't quite answer the question, replying that the Herald has been a tabloid for a long time and that the Globe is now partners with a tabloid, the Metro. Come on, Pat - Rooney was clearly asking about sensibility, not size. Still, he then went on to say that the Herald would retain what he called its "entertaining" approach, and added that he's convinced it's had some success. "We're seeing less erosion. I think we've arrested the slide," he said. He also offered an unsolicited shoutout to business editor Cosmo Macero, saying, "Cosmo is doing an absolutely phenomenal job on the business pages."

Rooney's final question: will the Herald appeal a $2.1 million libel verdict that it lost earlier this year in a case brought by Superior Court judge Ernest Murphy? "We're still in the process of evaluating that," he said. "I think in all probability we're going to appeal."

THE LONG GOODBYE. You will find news about what I'm up to in the "Names" column of today's Globe. Scroll down to "Last Writes."

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

BODY COUNT. The Globe's Mark Jurkowitz has more today on those newsroom cutbacks at the Herald. Thirty-five bodies amounts to 25 percent of the union workforce in the Herald newsroom - and it sounds like plenty of non-union newsroom employees are going to find their heads on the chopping block as well. This is ugly, ugly stuff, and it makes you wonder what kind of a paper publisher Pat Purcell intends to put out.

Worth noting: the Herald has been pretty good about covering its own story, whether it was the libel trial earlier this year or the paper's economic woes. But nothing today - although there is this AP story on the paper's website.

Monday, April 04, 2005

A PULITZER FOR THE GLOBE. The Boston Globe wins its second Pulitzer Prize of the Marty Baron era and its first since 2003, when it received the public-service award for its coverage of the pedophile-priest crisis.

This time, science writer Gareth Cook wins for explanatory reporting, "for explaining, with clarity and humanity, the complex scientific and ethical dimensions of stem cell research." His portfolio is online here.

Gareth was the Phoenix news editor for several years in the late '90s.

TOUGH TIMES FOR HERALD STAFFERS. Word out of One Herald Square this afternoon is that publisher Pat Purcell has told the unions he needs to eliminate 35 jobs from the newsroom as part of his goal of cutting $7 million in expenses by June 30.

Given that there are already fewer than 150 union positions in the newsroom, this is bound to have a serious effect on coverge. More on this as it develops.

WHAT IS THE "CULTURE OF LIFE"? Sister Helen Prejean has a touching op-ed in today's New York Times on how Pope John Paul II decisively moved the Catholic Church against the death penalty. She writes: "The effects of the pope's leadership will be felt for years to come, both in the highest echelons of the Catholic hierarchy and among the Catholic faithful in the pews."

But then there's the story of Kathleen Moltz and Dahlia Schwartz, a lesbian couple with kids from Detroit, who are fighting to retain their health benefits after Michigan voters approved an anti-gay-marriage ballot question last fall. Last month the state attorney general, Mike Cox, ruled that the initiative bans health-care benefits for same-sex partners as well.

Would John Paul have approved of such wanton, dehumanizing cruelty? Oh, yes. Because what has happened to Moltz and Schwartz, and thousands of other couples, is supported by the plain meaning of the Church's 2003 JP-approved statement on same-sex marriage, which ordered elected officials who happen to be Catholic to fight against marriage rights by any means necessary.

That's the statement that carries such lovely phrases as "serious depravity" and "intrinsically disordered." And no, those are not references to people who would deny health benefits to families.

Cox, according to his official bio, is Catholic. We have John Paul to thank for having to point out such things again, 45 years after we had thought that John F. Kennedy had rendered it unnecessary.

The pope can do whatever he likes within his Church, and people can decide whether to stay or leave. But civil society has got to speak out against the Church's increasing insistence on messing around with the lives of the non-Catholic majority.

GO, LARRY! The question of the weekend goes to Larry King: "Jim, you think he's with Jesus now? We only have 30 seconds."

The answer didn't really matter. But "Jim" - James Caviezel, star of The Passion of the Christ - averred that, yes, the pope was with Jesus.

If Caviezel was right, perhaps J.C. is setting J.P. straight on gay marriage right now.

TERRI SCHIAVO AND THE DISABLED. Last week I was talking with a friend, a staunch disability-rights activist who believed Terri Schiavo's feeding tube should not have been removed. My answer - something to the effect that Schiavo wasn't so much disabled as virtually brain-dead - didn't satisfy either me or her.

Then I read this fine essay in yesterday's Boston Globe by Michael Bérubé and Janet Lyon, academics who are also the parents of a child with Down syndrome. Bérubé is the author of Life As We Know It, which I recommend as a way of thinking about disability and humanity, despite Bérubé's digressions into post-modern literary criticism.

Anyway, I'm sending my friend the link.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

POSITIVE QUOTE TK. This is hilarious. (Via InstaPundit.)

R.D. ON J.P. The networks aren't getting it done; CBS isn't even around a good part of the time. Neither are the cable channels, although CNN's got Aaron Brown in Rome and Christiane Amanpour in Krakow, so at least there are some signs of intelligence on the ground.

Then I hit upon New England Cable News, and saw an outstanding retrospective on the pope's life by R.D. Sahl. This is what you want to see. Click here, then poke around. It's right near the top as I write this.

Friday, April 01, 2005

ANOTHER "P" WORD. I couldn't care less if Jeff Gannon is a prostitute. But a plagiarist? That's another matter. Gannon, whose real name is James Guckert, was briefly famous a while back after he was exposed as a Republican activist - and former (?) sex toy - posing as a reporter at White House press briefings. Well, really now. Who's to say who's a reporter?

Now, though, the Raw Story is reporting that a Salem News staff writer has accused Gannon of plagiarizing one of her stories from a couple of years ago, when she was working for the Waltham Daily News Tribune. And her former editor backs her up.

Plagiarism is a loaded word, and I'm not going to use it myself. Based on the evidence as presented, it looks like Gannon lightly rewrote a piece by Melissa Beecher and passed it off as his own work. At the bottom, there's even a copyright notice for his ex-employer, the GOP-affiliated Talon News. Not good.

Raw Story editor John Byrne writes that Gannon did not respond to two e-mail requests for comment. On his blog today, Gannon writes, "Friday is a travel day for me, so don't think my silence means you should start seaching [sic] Ft. Marcy Park." What a sense of humor!

CLARIFICATION. Media Log reader M.D. (it doesn't stand for "medical doctor," but it could) has taken me to task for referring to the late Terri Schiavo has having been "brain-dead" for the previous 15 years. Based on all credible evidence, her condition might have fit a lay definition of the term; but it most certainly did not fit the medical definition. "Virtually brain-dead" would have been more accurate.