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See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale, October 2003),
Friday, May 02, 2003
More on Jayson Blair. Media
Log is still getting up to speed on the Jayson Blair story. It turns
out that the Washington City Paper broke the story on Tuesday
at almost the same time as the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz
it a tie.
Plus, the City Paper's Erik
Wemple has the additional detail that Blair lifted not just from the
San Antonio Express News but from the Associated Press as
posted at 12:34 PM |
Another media career in
ruins. The New York Times today announces that reporter
Blair has resigned after
writing a story about a missing soldier that he'd apparently lifted
from the San Antonio Express News. Blair also appears not to
have visited the home of the soldier's mother even though his article
gives every appearance to the contrary.
The soldier, Army Sgt. Edward
Anguiano, later turned out to have died in Iraq.
is Blair's story, published
in the Times last Saturday. And here
is the Express News story,
written by Macarena Hernandez and published on April 18.
Washington Post media
Kurtz actually broke the
story on Tuesday on washingtonpost.com. He wrote a follow-up
for the print edition the next day, and today reports on
According to Kurtz, Blair at one
point had been a reporter for the Boston Globe. (Must have
been for about two and a half minutes.) There is also this telling
sentence: "He has been involved in a number of controversies and the
paper [the Times] has run 50 corrections on his stories."
is all over this, too.
A sad story, but Blair obviously
has no one to blame but himself.
posted at 9:05 AM |
Today's civics lesson. Did
you know that "taking Article 12" is the Massachusetts equivalent of
taking the Fifth? Boston Globe columnist Steve
Bailey explains -- and
reports that few public officials are as experienced with the nuances
of Article 12 as our extremely ethical state treasurer, Tim
posted at 9:05 AM |
Manly on the Lopez case.
Judge Maria Lopez is the wife of Boston Phoenix publisher
Stephen Mindich. But you already knew that.
With that bit of disclosure taken
care of, run out and buy a copy of today's Boston Herald so
that you can read columnist Howard Manly's take on the Ebony Horton post-sentencing investigation. It is very different
from what you've read, seen, and heard elsewhere -- and, in my view,
very smart. (To pay to read it online, click
posted at 9:04 AM |
Thursday, May 01, 2003
Romney's permanent campaign.
Amid the squabbling over Governor Mitt Romney's reorganization plan
that leads both the Boston
Globe and the
Herald today is a
fascinating tidbit: Romney has launched a radio-ad campaign urging
listeners to demand that the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature
not raise taxes, even though absolutely no one other than a few
lonely progressives is talking about a tax increase in the first
This from the Globe story,
by Rick Klein:
On Monday, [House
Speaker Tom] Finneran reminded his colleagues at a closed-door
caucus of House Democrats that Romney may work to unseat them next
year, when all legislators are up for reelection.
"Romney and his team have
machine guns, and they have bullets with our names on them,"
Finneran told the caucus, according to several House members who
were in attendance.
Of course, Romney should
campaign to elect more Republicans to the legislature. Ultimately,
that's the only way he'll have any hope of succeeding. The problem is
that when he goes into political mode, his tendency is to be so
disingenuous and heavy-handed that he does himself more harm than
How to explain it? Here's a theory.
Despite coming from a political family, Romney seems to be entirely
unfamiliar with the political culture. Like a lot of people in the
business community, he appears to be deeply cynical toward
politicians, and therefore he assumes that this sort of crapola is
standard operating procedure.
Beacon Hill is far from perfect,
but most of the folks up there are not nearly as cynical as Romney
thinks they are. Urging voters to get riled up about a tax increase
that no one is even proposing is just a miserable way to do
posted at 8:56 AM |
More on Jerry Williams.
Reader Stuart Shiffman of Springfield, Illinois, writes to Media
I enjoyed your
thoughts on Jerry Williams.
For a few years he had a show in the evening in Chicago. I
remember one night that his guest was the famous Nazi George
Lincoln Rockwell. I was a high school student in Evanston
listening to the show. One on my friend's fathers, a Holocaust
survivor, became so incensed with the show that he got in his car
and drove to the studio to confront Rockwell. The police had to be
called to calm the man down.
Williams was a craftsman, and is
my memory fading or was he just so incredibly good at what he did?
He didn't insult, sensationalize, or do any of the things that
talk show hosts do now. I guess I am getting old.
posted at 8:55 AM |
In her own write. Here is
of the speech that MSNBC
reporter Ashleigh Banfield gave at Kansas State University. And one
clarification to my
previous item: the
interview she conducted that so incensed the easily incensed Michael
Savage was with terrorists from Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.
They may also have been "loyalists
to Saddam Hussein," as I wrote, but they were not Iraqis, as I
Here's the wind-up:
I'm hoping that I will
have a future in news in cable, but not the way some cable news
operators wrap themselves in the American flag and patriotism and
go after a certain target demographic, which is very lucrative.
You can already see the effects, you can already see the big hires
on other networks, right wing hires to chase after this effect,
and you can already see that flag waving in the corners of those
cable news stations where they have exciting American music to go
along with their war coverage.
Well, all of this has to do with
what you've seen on Fox and its successes. So I do urge you to be
very discerning as you continue to watch the development of cable
news, and it is changing like lightning. Be very discerning
because it behooves you like it never did before to watch with a
grain of salt and to choose responsibly, and to demand what you
Banfield has taken a lot of
criticism over the past few years (but not from me!) for being some
sort of shallow, unqualified bimbo. It's true that there have been
times when it's appeared that she was in a little over her head,
especially when she was anchoring a nightly show from Afghanistan
post-9/11. (Wasn't everyone, though?)
The truth is that she's a
hard-working journalist who's worried and disgusted about what's
happening to her business. We all should be.
posted at 8:55 AM |
New in this week's
Phoenix. Boston-based campaign-finance-reform
activist-lawyer John Bonifaz takes on a new cause: stripping
corporations of their First Amendment
posted at 8:54 AM |
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Test-driving Apple's online
music store. Media Log is taking the day off as the deadline for
another project looms. However, I did want to report the results of
my test-drive of Apple's iTunes Music Store. (It's not a website;
rather, it's accessed through Apple's iTunes software. But you can
learn all about it, and get started, by
Overall, I find it cool enough that
I feel compelled to say that I don't own any Apple stock. I suspect
it's a place I'll be returning to again and again. But you want to
know the particulars, right?
First, the bad news. Apple's
Macintosh computers already comprise less than three percent of the
personal-computer market. To take advantage of the music store,
though, you have to have not just any Mac, but one of quite recent
vintage, running OS X (preferably the latest, OS X 10.2, a/k/a
Jaguar), with a fast G3 or G4 processor, oodles of hard-drive space,
and a broadband connection to the Internet.
One correspondent suggested to me
yesterday that these stiff requirements might be Apple's way of
forcing Mac-owning music-lovers to upgrade. No doubt that's part of
it -- OS X is Apple's bet-the-company effort to keep Macs relevant,
so it makes little sense for Steve Jobs to keep catering to those who
own increasingly outmoded machines. But it's at least equally true
that the music store is a huge, complex operation that requires a lot
of horsepower. Designing a version for older Macs might have been
pretty much impossible.
I am perversely fortunate in that
my three-year-old PowerBook recently died, forcing me to buy a shiny
new iBook that I couldn't really afford. So I was good to
Before I could even enter the
store, I had to download two beefy pieces of software from Apple's
website -- QuickTime 6.2 (18.4 MB) and iTunes 4 (8.3 MB). Like I
said, you need a broadband connection.
The software installed quickly and
easily, though, and in way less than half an hour I was perusing the
store. It appears to be loaded with good stuff, including some online
exclusives designed to entice you to buy.
I settled on an alternate take of
Bob Dylan's "Everything Is Broken," from his Oh
Mercy album of 1989. I
entered some credit-card information, hit the "buy song" button, and
boom -- there it was, a few minutes later. (By clicking on song
titles, you can also get free 30-second samples.) A 99-cent charge
will show up on my credit-card bill at the end of the
"Everything Is Broken" sounded
pretty much the same as the original, only Zimmy was slightly more
energetic, and the lyrics were different in spots -- addressed
specifically to a woman, unlike the version he finally settled on for
the album. More important, the sound quality was excellent --
noticeably better than the MP3s I've downloaded from various free
sources. (Strictly for research purposes, of course!) That's because
Apple is using an enhanced version of MP3 known as AAC.
I can also burn the song onto a CD
or, if I had one, copy it to an Apple iPod MP3 player. I imagine you
could copy it to a non-Apple MP3 player as well, although it would have
to be converted to the regular MP3 format.
Though 99 cents seems more than
reasonable for a song, I question the $10 being charged for most
albums. For a few dollars more, you could get better sound (AAC is
still compressed, after all) and nicer packaging. And though I
haven't actually bought an album online yet, I'm pretty sure that
you're also not going to get all the liner notes.
Still, this is a deeply impressive
effort. This is sure to become the wave of the future -- provided
that the paranoid record companies don't lose their nerve.
posted at 9:39 AM |
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
The death of Jerry Williams.
The last time I talked with Jerry Williams was in November 1999. The
legislature had just tried to kill the voter-approved Clean Elections
law, and no one seemed to care. Williams -- who in his heyday could
get listeners to his talk-radio show to light up the State House
switchboard like missiles over Baghdad -- seemed dispirited by the
"Nobody knows anything. Everybody's
told me. "I imagine if the
president of the Senate walked out in front of the State House, no
one would know who he is."
If you're under 30, or if you moved
to Boston within the past 10 years, you might not know who Williams
was, either. But the veteran talk-show host, who
died today at the age of 79,
was a legend, a man who helped invent the talk-radio format in the
1950s and '60s, and who -- in a last, late flowering of his career in
the 1980s -- was as powerful and controversial a figure as there was
Following a stint in New York,
Williams returned here in 1981, taking the afternoon drive-time shift
at WRKO Radio (AM 680). A lifelong liberal who had interviewed such
figures as Malcolm X, the 'RKO version of Williams was something of a
reinvention: he became an anti-tax populist, though never, despite
what his critics thought, a true conservative.
(WRKO has put up a
Williams bio on its
website, along with some sound clips.)
Williams also became the scourge of
Governor Michael Dukakis, especially during and after Dukakis's
unsuccessful presidential run in 1988. The state budget was imploding
and Dukakis, naturally, wanted to keep the truth under wraps as long
as possible. Williams -- joined by Citizens for Limited Taxation
director Barbara Anderson and Boston Herald columnist Howie
Carr -- took to the airwaves as "The Governors," mocking Dukakis in
particular, and liberals in general.
Williams may also have been just
about single-handedly responsible for the victory of a voter
referendum to overturn an early version of the state's mandatory
seatbelt law -- a crusade that seemed as important as the hunt for
Osama bin Laden at the time, but that is now almost entirely
Williams occupied a special place
in the talk-show fraternity. He was neither as cerebral as David
Brudnoy and Gene Burns nor as knowledgeable about politics as Peter
Meade and David Finnegan. Rather, he was an entertainer who really
cared about issues, and who actually got his vast listenership to
care about issues, too.
And yes, it's true that he could be
irrational on the subject of Dukakis, one of the most ethical and
decent men to have served as governor of this state. And yes, his
anti-tax crusades were misguided at best. But he approached politics
from the point of view that people really mattered, and that they
could take charge of their own government. All that and his annual
sex survey, too.
The '90s were not kind to Williams.
At one point, the media conglomerate he was working for put him and
his erstwhile co-governor, Carr, opposite each other on two different
radio stations that it owned. Carr won the ratings bake-off, and
Williams was consigned first to a late-morning show, and then to the
audience graveyard of weekend afternoons.
Williams finally left 'RKO, but
never really gave up trying to revive his career. At the time of his
death he was doing a show for WROL (AM 950), a small station in
Quincy, a short drive from his home on the South Shore.
I once had an opportunity to do a
show with Williams under unusual circumstances. Lew Koch, then a
producer for a nationally syndicated talk-show host named Bruce
DuMont, called me looking for advice. DuMont, who was based in
Chicago, was coming to Boston to broadcast from WRKO on a Sunday
night. (DuMont's show, Beyond
the Beltway, is
apparently still broadcast on WRKO. Who knew?) DuMont was a
conservative, but Koch was a liberal. Koch told me that 'RKO was
pushing him to put Carr on the air that night to lend a little local
flavor; I urged him to get Williams instead.
So there I was, sitting in a studio
with DuMont; someone from then-governor Bill Weld's office; and
Williams, who sat in a corner looking sour. Weld had recently signed
a Draconian welfare-reform bill, and the governor's staffer and
DuMont were smugly holding forth about those damn welfare
Now, if Carr had been there, he
would have been sure to chime in about the "gimme girls," his
charming term for poor single mothers. But as I said, even though
Williams had turned into an anti-taxer in his latter years, he never
turned into a conservative.
All of a sudden, he roused himself
and started barking. "What are these women supposed to do?" he
demanded, leaning into the microphone. No one said a word. Williams
continued -- unfortunately, I have no record of exactly what he said,
but as I recall, he excoriated Weld for throwing poor women off
welfare without making any provisions for child care or health
It was a great moment, and I beamed
at my little subterfuge.
Perhaps the best-known episode from
earlier in Williams's career took place in 1972, when Williams --
then at WBZ Radio (AM 1030) -- took a long, anguished call from a man
who identified himself as a Vietnam veteran. Williams had a tape of
the call, and he played it occasionally over the years. It never
ceased to be moving.
In 1998 came a startling piece of
news: a Boston Globe piece by liberal activist Jim Braude, now
the cohost of NECN's NewsNight, claiming that the call was
actually a hoax perpetrated by longtime union activist Domenic
Bozzotto, who'd never served. Bozzotto denied it, but Braude appeared
to have the goods. When
I asked Williams about it,
he told me, "I have never known who it was. What he said was more
important than whether he was Joe from Framingham or Domenic from
Williams leaves a much-diminished
talk-radio scene. David Brudnoy, fortunately, is still going strong
on WBZ. These days, though, hosts are either nationally syndicated
right-wingers such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly,
or local trash-talkers like Carr and his drivetime competitor, Jay
Severin, who holds forth on WTKK Radio (96.9 FM), or sports talkers
Gerry Callahan and John Dennis on WEEI Radio (AM 850).
Six years ago I wrote a piece for
the Phoenix called "The
Death of Talk Radio."
Sadly, it's deader now than it was then. When you hear the
homophobic, race-baiting rants and foul language that pass for talk
radio today, it's hard to believe that Jerry Williams was ever
It's also hard to believe that he's
posted at 11:46 AM |
Banfield's too good for
them. Let me see if I've got this straight. Right-wing homophobic
talk-show host Michael
Savage, in his "book,"
The Savage Nation, jokes that MSNBC stands for
Snotty Nonsense By Creeps,"
and refers to MSNBC reporter Ashleigh Banfield as "the mind-slut with
a big pair of glasses that they sent to Afghanistan."
So how did MSNBC executives
respond? Why, they hired him, of course. And when he called Banfield
a "slut" on the air for daring to interview loyalists to Saddam
Hussein, his bosses reacted with silence.
has chosen to speak out,
criticizing the networks -- not just her own -- for portraying the
war as a glorious romp for democracy rather than the more complex and
bloody conflict that it was.
"You did not see where those
bullets landed. You didn't see what happened when the mortars landed.
A puff of smoke is not what a mortar looks like when it explodes,
believe me," Banfield said at a speech at Kansas State University
She also dared to take on Savage,
He was so taken aback by
my daring to speak to martyrs ... for being prepared to sacrifice
themselves, he chose to label me a slut on the air, and that's not
all, as a porn star and an accessory to the murder of Jewish
children. These are the ramifications for simply bringing the
message in the Arab world.
A rational response might be to
cheer Banfield for stating some obvious truths that few
mainstream-media people want to say. But, noooo. Instead, NBC
News released a statement saying:
Ms. Banfield does not
speak for NBC News. We are deeply disappointed and troubled by her
remarks, and will review her comments with her. In the meantime,
we want to emphasize how proud we are of the journalism produced
by NBC News and of the men and women who worked around the clock,
even risking their lives, to bring this story to the American
Unfortunately, what's going on is
very simple. Banfield is absolutely right about the war coverage, and
besides, she's simply defending herself from someone who has attacked
her twice in grotesquely sexist terms. But MSNBC's past attempts to
turn her into its hot-babe marquee ratings star failed, so she's not
allowed to speak out.
She'll be gone -- soon. So will
Savage, after it becomes clear that his hate-filled,
lower-than-public-access-quality talk show is a ratings loser. And
MSNBC will continue its long, unwatched march into
posted at 9:05 AM |
Green days. Today's
Boston Herald has some very, very hot news. Remember all
those stories about how rich Governor Mitt Romney, Lieutenant
Governor Kerry Healey, and some of their top appointees are? Well,
guess what? They're
posted at 9:05 AM |
Admiring, but not biting, the
Apple. So how come none of the reporters writing about Apple's
new online music store -- at least not those for the Boston
New York Times, or
News -- actually seem to
have tried it out?
Farhad Manjoo doesn't
explicitly say that he test-drove it, but he drools over it so
unquestioningly -- "Forgive me if the above sounds like a paid-for
marketing pitch for Apple" -- that he damn well better
As of late yesterday afternoon, the
service appeared to be up and running. Media Log didn't have a chance
to test it, but was it unreasonable to assume that someone actually
assigned to cover the story would give it a shot?
Paul Boutin tried it. He
posted at 9:04 AM |
Monday, April 28, 2003
A Napster that you pay for.
A year or two ago I was reading an article about the sorry state of
the online music business, with its high monthly fees, its patchwork
line-up of artists, and its odious restrictions on copying the music
you'd just paid for onto a CD or an MP3 player.
The smartest observation was from
an analyst who said that everyone already knew what customers
wanted: a Napster that you pay for. In other words, a wide
selection, reasonable prices for the music you want, no monthly fees,
and few or no restrictions on what you could do with your MP3s once
you'd downloaded them to your hard drive.
Today Apple will announce a new
music service that pretty much adds up to -- yes -- a Napster that
you pay for. The announcement will take place at 1 p.m. The early
word, according to this
Boston Globe story
by Chris Gaither, is that Apple will charge 99 cents per song (or $10
for an album), and that you'll be able to burn it onto a CD or copy
it to an MP3 player without any hassle, although there is supposed to
be some sort of restriction on how many times you can copy
Today's Financial Times has
good summary of Apple's
music service as well.
Last Friday the Wall Street
Journal's Matthew Rose had a
terrific profile of Apple CEO Steve
Jobs and of how he came to
see that the Next Big Thing was not digital video -- as he had
believed a couple of years ago -- but online music.
I suspect that Apple's announcement
marks the crumbling of the Berlin Wall. That is, the entire
music-industry infrastructure has been rotting from within for years
now, as its younger customers have taken to downloading all the music
they want for free -- illegally -- via such Napster successors as
KaZaA and LimeWire. Apple's move is spectacular on the surface, but
it's really just the last, inevitable step in a long
Most people are fundamentally
honest, or will be if they don't feel like they're getting ripped
off. Until now, though, the music industry has refused to reconfigure
its business to adjust to how its best customers now choose to obtain
Instead, the industry has filed
outrageous lawsuits against a handful of college students who have
acted not just as downloaders, but as enablers. As Harry
Shearer sneered in the
New York Times on Sunday: "Here's a business model with a
future: sue your customers."
By charging only for the music that
a customer buys, and by going easy on the copying restrictions, Apple
is the first legitimate business to try an approach that might
actually work. Of course, even though Steve Jobs deserves credit in
pushing this, it's clear that the music industry would never have
gone along if its executives weren't desperate.
Times' Matt Richtel
writes today, "Unless Apple unveils something radically unexpected,
its service will not represent a marked difference from some of the
Internet services already in existence."
Matt, cruise on over to Rhapsody,
the largest online music company. Yes, it does sound like you can do
pretty much what you want with songs after you've downloaded them for
99 cents apiece. But you have to pay $9.95 a month whether you
download anything or not. That's the barrier that Apple is now
trying to topple.
No doubt you'll be able to get all
the details on Apple's
website later today, after
If history is any guide, Apple will
succeed, but most of the economic benefits will accrue to those who
rush in afterwards. At least at first, Apple's service will
supposedly be limited to Mac users, but that will change. Apple's
Macintosh computers now only control less than three percent of the
market, and four of those computers are in Media Log's house. As a
technological innovator, though, Apple is without peer.
This will work.
posted at 8:41 AM |
Sunday, April 27, 2003
The truth about the state budget
crisis. Every member of Governor Mitt Romney's staff, every
legislator, and every no-new-taxes automaton should be required to
sit down and read this
article in today's
Boston Globe, by Peter Orszag, of the Brookings Institution,
and Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist.
The executive summary:
- Raising taxes is often the
least damaging way out of a fiscal crisis in terms of
harming the economy.
- Compared to other states, taxes
in Massachusetts are relatively low, both in relative and absolute
- The tax cuts of the 1990s
primarily benefited the wealthy -- those who can most easily
afford an increase now.
- Nearly all of the spending
increases of the '90s went to vital areas such as public
education, health care, and prisons.
Sadly, elected leaders are giving
into populist demogoguery of the anti-tax forces, as Boston
Herald columnist Wayne
Woodlief notes today. Mind
you, Wayne thinks that's good. (You'll have to pay to read
Woodlief's column. Is that a tax or a fee?)
The Herald website also
points to a
column by Tom Moroney, who
works for the MetroWest Daily News, a sister paper. Moroney
asks a lot of questions of folks he doesn't like, such as the
Massachusetts Teachers Association and the AIDS Action
Read it for yourself, but in the
meantime, I have a challenge for Moroney: explain precisely what is
wrong with Orszag and Stiglitz's analysis. If you can't, are you
willing to change your mind about the need for new taxes? And can you
think about this in structural terms, rather than nitpicking it to
death with little things that most of us already agree on, such as
the need to reform the Quinn law?
posted at 10:59 AM |
MEDIA LOG ARCHIVES
Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.