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Notes and observations on the press, politics, culture, technology, and more. To sign up for e-mail delivery, click here. To send an e-mail to Dan Kennedy, click here. For bio, published work, and links to other blogs, visit For information on Dan Kennedy's book, Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale, October 2003), click here.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Mistakes are made. SB points out something I should have noticed: the quote that "God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew" came not from Pat Robertson but from one of his minions, Bailey Smith.

I've been thinking a lot about blogging lately, and this particular error plays into that. We all make mistakes from time to time, but it's far easier to screw up when you're writing a blog than when you're writing a piece for publication. You've got more time, it gets edited -- you know the drill.

We're at a moment when journalistic standards are under fire as never before. Do blogs add or substract from the sum total of our understanding? Is blogging an alternative to the mainstream media, or is it simply just one more thing for people to distrust? Am I contributing to that distrust?

Yes, there are some people who can bang out blog items flawlessly, almost never making a mistake. Right now I'm not sure I'm one of them. The idea is simple enough -- you rifle through the papers, you hit a few websites, you write, and then you go to work. But right now I'm wondering whether I'm really one of those people who can consistently do this sort of speed journalism without ever (or hardly ever) making an error.

I expect I'll muse about this more in the coming days and weeks. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts as well.

posted at 11:26 AM | link

Jacoby's wrong about Robertson. Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby must have missed this one when he penned his ode to the heretofore undetected philo-Semitism of that great theological thinker Pat Robertson. Quoth the good reverend:

With all due respect to those dear people, my friend, God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew.

Robertson, as you'll see if you follow the link, has also muttered darkly about the relationship between communism and Jews.

Jacoby might also read this exchange of letters between Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, and Robertson. Foxman accuses Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network of showing a film called The Easter Promise that "is saturated with sinister caricatures of Jews reminiscent of the anti-Semitic stereotypes promulgated only in the darkest periods of Christianity."

Foxman also notes that Robertson had not acted to take The Easter Promise off the air despite having been tipped off about its "vile" content five years earlier.

Robertson's response is all unctuous solicitude. But the bottom line is that he accuses Foxman of being an agent for the Democrats. Robertson closes:

But Abe, I understand your game. It is clear that your focus is not the defense of worldwide Jewry, but the domestic political agenda of the Democratic Party of the United States who has done more to poison the relations between Jews and Christians in America than you. I marvel that the Board of the Anti-Defamation League hasn't restrained you some time ago.

This despite the fact that Foxman makes not one political reference in his letter.

It is true that Robertson has been a staunch defender of Israel. But Jacoby really needs to be less promiscuous about which friends of Israel he chooses to honor.

posted at 8:50 AM | link

McGrory's Raines column runs. Today's Globe contains the Brian McGrory column that had reportedly been killed earlier in the week about Howell Raines, Jayson Blair, and Mike Barnicle. Or, at least, this is a version of it; who knows what got changed?

McGrory, an Irish-American who was promoted to fill the slot of another Irish-American, is very, very concerned about the perils of diversity. That said, it's not a bad column -- he worries, rightly, that this whole affair will be used to discredit African-American journalists.

posted at 8:50 AM | link

Thursday, May 15, 2003

New in this week's Phoenix. I take a look at New York Times executive editor Howell Raines's culpability in the Jayson Blair scandal. Plus, an NECN documentary on a remarkable camp in Maine that brings together Israeli and Palestinian teenagers.

No blogging today, as I will be taking part in an all-day seminar and will be disconnected from both my laptop and the news.

posted at 6:41 AM | link

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Toeing the tax line. Do not stop presses, but this is pretty amusing nevertheless. Toe-sucking political consultant turned conservative commentator Dick Morris has been identified as one of Connecticut's most notorious tax deadbeats, according to this story by the Associated Press.

Here's the actual list.

Morris, the architect of Bill Clinton's post-1994 "triangulation" strategy, pops up on Fox News these days, often on Hannity & Colmes, no doubt to make Sean look good. Next time will Hannity lambaste Morris for immorality or praise him for striking an anti-tax stand?

Of course, with Morris there's always a third way. In this case, he denies the allegations.

Here's Morris's latest column in the Hill, in which he handicaps the Democratic presidential candidates. His lead: "The very first thing to understand about the 2004 Democratic primaries is that they do not exist." Well that ought to save everyone a lot of time.

His early favorite in the non-primaries is Joe Lieberman -- "[b]ut only if he gets off his butt and raises some money." Hey, Dick: get off your butt and pay your taxes.

posted at 11:09 AM | link

An unwarranted gift. In a time of fiscal meltdown, why does House Speaker Tom Finneran want to spend $100 million on R&D for the technology industry?

It's a good question, and Globe columnist Steve Bailey is asking it.

posted at 11:09 AM | link

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Gasp! She dissed Nixon! The media template has been established: Teresa Heinz Kerry is outspoken and controversial. And nothing can change that -- not even sitting down for an interview with the New York Times' John Tierney and saying little of note.

Here's how Tierney's piece opens:

Even with two aides monitoring the interview, Teresa Heinz Kerry, the first Democrat to generate serious buzz in the presidential campaign, could not resist being candid when she was asked the other day her opinion of a warning issued by Richard M. Nixon in 1992. "If the wife comes through as being too strong and too intelligent," Nixon had said, referring to a newcomer named Hillary, "it makes the husband look like a wimp."

Ms. Heinz Kerry, the wife of Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts and one of the nation's leading philanthropists, promptly fired back at Nixon, leaving his wife as collateral damage. Saying that the former president had "personal quirks," she referred to his marriage to Pat Nixon and said with a shrug, "Well, we know Richard Nixon wasn't too much in contact with how women should be."

Casually insulting a dead president and first lady was probably not the message her aides had hoped for in the interview on Friday afternoon at the Pierre Hotel in New York. But then, ever since Mr. Kerry was discussed as a possible presidential candidate, he has often been overshadowed by his wife's frank comments about everything from her marriages past and present, her prenuptial agreement with Mr. Kerry, her botox treatments and the Bush adviser who accused her husband of looking French. As the Kerry campaign gets under way, she is being described as either its greatest strength or its biggest liability.

In other words, what Heinz gave Tierney were some exceedingly ordinary observations about Richard Nixon, our most despised former president, and how he related to women. But these comments must be made to fit the template, so Tierney writes that she "[c]asually insult[ed] a dead president and first lady." Really? Is that how any sane person would read this?

And, as the end of Tierney's opening suggests, what is to follow is all rehash. Yet this substance-free profile made the front page.

Okay, I like his line about Heinz being "the first Democrat to generate serious buzz in the presidential campaign."

posted at 9:03 AM | link

Paying tribute to Elizabeth Neuffer. The Globe has set up an online guestbook for people to share their thoughts about Elizabeth Neuffer. Many comments from her colleagues, many from those who knew her from other walks of life, and a few just from ordinary readers. It's sad and moving.

posted at 9:03 AM | link

Monday, May 12, 2003

Elizabeth Neuffer's legacy. It's sad but predictable that an outrageous eruption of journalistic wrongdoing -- the apparent fabrications and plagiarism of former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair -- has entirely overshadowed the death of Boston Globe reporter Elizabeth Neuffer.

But Neuffer is what this business is, or should be, all about. A tremendous reporter with an uncanny ability to drop into dangerous, chaotic places and make sense out of them for those of us back home, Neuffer and a Globe translator, Waleed Khalifa Hassan Al Dulaimi, were killed in a car accident in Iraq on Friday.

The Globe's Mark Feeney wrote a fine obituary that appeared in Saturday's paper. You'll also find links to her recent reports from Iraq.

Neuffer appeared on NPR's Fresh Air on December 3, February 3, and, most recently, March 20. You can listen to Terry Gross interview her by clicking here. Enter "Elizabeth Neuffer" in the "Find a guest" box.

Neuffer had a real sense of ordinary people's humanity. Her Globe reports from Rwanda and Bosnia, which she expanded on in her 2001 book, The Key to My Neighbor's House: Seeking Justice in Bosnia and Rwanda, are perhaps her most lasting legacy. I haven't read the book, but I've long followed her newspaper work.

I had exactly one encounter with Neuffer -- brief and from afar. At one point during the endless Woburn toxic-waste lawsuit, which I covered as a staff reporter for the Woburn Daily Times Chronicle in the 1980s, plaintiffs' attorney Jan Schlichtmann held a news conference outside the federal district courthouse.

Nothing particularly striking to report -- just that I remembered her and remembered her name as she established a reputation for herself. She was a great journalist, and if there's any justice, she'll be remembered long after the likes of Jayson Blair are forgotten.

posted at 9:15 AM | link

David Farrell on the Big Dig. I'm late in getting to this, but I want to call your attention to some online commentary by former Globe columnist David Farrell, who observes that the entire Central Artery/Tunnel Project never would have been necessary if Tip O'Neill and Michael Dukakis hadn't blocked construction of the Southwest Corridor and the Inner Belt.

(What Southwest Corridor and Inner Belt? Well, that's Farrell's point.)

A couple of counterarguments: (1) it wasn't all Democrats, as Republican governor Frank Sargent had a lot to do with the no-new-highways decision; (2) those massive highway construction projects would have destroyed entire neighborhoods, and thus there were good reasons for canceling them.

Still, Farrell reminds us of the law of unanticipated consequences.

posted at 9:14 AM | link


Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.

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