Friday, May 06, 2005

SO NOTED. ABC's "The Note" has taken, well, note of an odd paragraph that appears in today's Boston Globe. It's in the lead story, by Frank Phillips and Shelley Murphy, who report that former House Speaker Tom Finneran may be on the verge of being indicted by US Attorney Michael Sullivan on charges that he perjured himself in a civil trial related to a racially insensitive House redistricting plan.

Near the end of the Globe article comes this:

The case is a high-stakes one for Sullivan, a Republican politician who once served alongside Finneran in the Legislature. The state Republican leadership is eager for Sullivan to run for statewide office.

It would be perilous for Sullivan, having launched the probe, to end it without indictment, and risk being viewed as soft on the once politically powerful former speaker. However, bringing indictment will provoke anger in the political arena, and possible retaliation from other politicians. Still, indicting Finneran, and failing to get a conviction, could create a perception that Sullivan overreached, and taint his reputation.

Here is what "The Note" has to say about that second paragraph:

Is there any other newspaper in America that would run an implication-laden paragraph like this one from today's Boston Globe front-pager about the reported plans of federal prosecutor Sullivan to indict former Massachusetts Speaker Finneran for perjury?

As for the questions raised by Phillips and Murphy, here are the answers, according to "The Note": "(1) We don't know; (2) we really don't know, and we don't know; and (3) NO!!!!!"

WOLFF V. SHAFER V. WOLFF. Vanity Fair columnist Michael Wolff and Slate media critic Jack Shafer are going at it hot and heavy over a just-published Wolff piece that is apparently unkind toward both Slate and Shafer.

Wolff's column is not online, so the conversation is rather one-sided at this point. But Shafer takes Wolff's head off here, and Wolff responds here - going so far as to challenge Shafer to prove one of his allegations or resign. (Media Log's money is on Shafer.) Wolff tries to drag Rory O'Connor into it, too. So far, O'Connor is keeping quiet - but stay tuned.

Last August, the New Republic's Michelle Cottle came up with a pretty brutal take on Wolff that is, unfortunately, available only to subscribers. But here's a paragraph that certainly explains why Wolff disdains the "school monitor type" of media criticism:

Much to the annoyance of Wolff's critics, the scenes in his columns aren't recreated so much as created - springing from Wolff's imagination rather than from actual knowledge of events. Even Wolff acknowledges that conventional reporting isn't his bag. Rather, he absorbs the atmosphere and gossip swirling around him at cocktail parties, on the street, and especially during those long lunches at Michael's. "He's around town enough to have those insights, to spot people, to come across [pieces of information]," says a friend. He also has a talent for making the most of even the briefest encounters. "His great gift is the appearance of intimate access," says an editor who has worked with Wolff. "He is adroit at making the reader think that he has spent hours and days with his subject, when in fact he may have spent no time at all." More than one chapter of Wolff's 2003 book, Autumn of the Moguls, spotlights anecdotes about random mogul sightings in his neighborhood. In contrast to The New Yorker's Ken Auletta, whose sympathetic portrayals of media moguls have allowed him to enter their inner sanctums, Wolff does not confer with the titans he covers. He channels them.

I've met Wolff twice - once at the 2000 Democratic National Convention, in Los Angeles, where then-Phoenix reporter Seth Gitell (now Tom Menino's chief spokesman) and I ran into him in a Starbucks at breakfast time, and once on the set of WGBH-TV's Greater Boston. Both times he was polite, even charming. I've never met Shafer, but we've exchanged e-mails, I've interviewed him by phone, and, I note strictly by way of disclosure, he's said some nice things about me. So yes, it's an incestuous little world in which we live.

In any event, I suspect this is a long way from being over.


Anonymous said...

perhaps i'm coffee deprived. but i read the note and it seems as though the three answers refer to three questions, with only the third refering to the globe.

for a straight newspaper like the globe to insert that kinda 'analysis' without attribution is ... not right, i think. but i guess you can get away without making phone calls at the velvet coffin. sigh.

Anonymous said...

"Since its founding, the press-critic racket has been dominated by liberals and leftists whose critiques have usually owed more to their political mind-sets than to the media they consume. On the litmus issues of big business, unions, "social justice," oligopoly, civil liberties, regulation, "reactionary" movements, markets, bias, foreign intervention, and the tyranny of centrism, to name just a few, the press critiques of most left-leaning writers could easily be mistaken for political tracts."
Guy has a point...

Anonymous said...

For somebody who allegedly couldn't write, I've enjoyed Wolff's stuff since he came on board @[i]VF[/i]sometime in '05. If he operates in some kind of journalistic netherword I'd say that's a problem for his editors to keep an eye on. But IMO,he's good.

Anonymous said...

"Since its founding, the press-critic racket has been dominated by liberals and leftists whose critiques have usually owed more to their political mind-sets than to the media they consume."

Nooooooo! Couldn't be, eh Dan.