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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 30, 2003

WBUR needs to let in Fresh Air. According to this story on (via Romenesko), WBUR Radio (90.9 FM) spokeswoman Mary Stohn says the station will bring back Fresh Air "very soon."

Fine. How about this Monday?

Look, I don't get to listen to Fresh Air much these days, mainly because even when 'BUR was running it, it was on at 1 p.m. -- not exactly prime listening time.

But it's one of the best shows on NPR, and host Terry Gross is just about the best interviewer in the business. I can still remember her classic interview some years back with Nancy Reagan, who nearly walked out on her. And how about Gene Simmons of KISS, neatly emasculated by Gross about 10 minutes into his moronic sex-god shtick?

Maybe WBUR could justify taking the show off the air during the war in Iraq. But even though it remains an important story, it's no longer the sort of white-hot breaking event that must be followed every minute of the day. Few people are going to mind a little less BBC now.

So bring back Terry Gross!

posted at 3:25 PM | comment or permalink

Philly scouts deal blow to discrimination. The best thing the Boy Scouts of America could do is drop its ludricrous and offensive policy of discriminating against gays and atheists. But that's not going to happen, given the huge number of Mormon and Catholic churches that sponsor scout troops.

The second best thing is for the BSA to devolve -- to decentralize, to lessen the power of the right-wing executives in Irving, Texas (where did those people come from, anyway?), and to allow local people to make local decisions.

That's why it's heartening to see that scout executives in Philadelphia have decided to take on the hatemongers -- during a national conference in Philly, no less. Here's the latest from the Philadelphia Inquirer, and here's a supportive editorial from the Philadelphia Daily News.

As this earlier Inquirer story notes, Boston's Minuteman Council adopted what amounted to a don't-ask/don't-tell policy in 2001. But Philly's Cradle of Liberty Council, the third-largest in the nation, appears to go Minuteman one better, flat-out rejecting discrimination against gay men and boys.

No such luck for the atheists, unfortunately. But a step in the right direction is better than no step at all.

posted at 7:44 AM | comment or permalink

The Bill and Dick Show. Doesn't it give you just a warm, fuzzy feeling that Microsoft and AOL Time Warner are going into business together? This Washington Post analysis by David Vise is particularly good on how Microsoft may emerge as the principal engine by which AOL Time Warner distributes its massive quantities of content.

The Wall Street Journal goes hard on the angle that this may be the end of Netscape, the software company that AOL acquired a few years ago for $10 billion to compete with Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Netscape Navigator was essentially the original Web browser -- an immediate descendent of Mosaic -- but has long since fallen behind Explorer, helped along by that massive distribution network known as Windows.

Of course, it was Microsoft's attempts to crush Netscape that made it the subject of an endless, celebrated antitrust case. But the buzz has long since departed Netscape. Indeed, the code was given away a long time ago. These days, the principal innovations to Navigator are made by the open-source techies at Mozilla -- which is definitely worth checking out.

posted at 7:43 AM | comment or permalink

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Outrage of the day I. No doubt we'll hear from conservatives in the next day or two as to how the New York Times' David Firestone got it wrong this morning. No doubt it will have something to do with how little low-income working families pay in taxes in the first place.

But can we nevertheless pause for a moment of outrage over this hidden gem in George W. Bush's wildly irresponsible tax cut? Because the fact remains that virtually the only Americans who won't be getting a $400 rebate are poor people who work.

posted at 7:58 AM | comment or permalink

Outrage of the day II. The Catholic bishops of Massachusetts are urging parishioners to lobby against same-sex marriage. (Globe coverage here; Herald coverage here.)

Apparently it is time to redefine "chutzpah."

posted at 7:57 AM | comment or permalink

Mulvoy for the defense. One of Mike Barnicle's enablers, retired Globe managing editor for news Tom Mulvoy, is still on the job, writing to the New York Times today that the poor guy got screwed.

Lest the historical revisionism begin to take, read this and this.

posted at 7:57 AM | comment or permalink

New in this week's Phoenix. "Republic of Fear," separating the reality of terrorism, disease, and economic distress from the virtual world of media hype and political gamesmanship. Plus, WBUR Radio brings home a luminous voice from Iraq.

posted at 7:56 AM | comment or permalink

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

An ode to Rupe. Media Log would be very surprised if Rupert Murdoch repurchased the Boston Herald as soon as the FCC's cross-ownership rules are dropped next week. As I wrote last Friday, Herald owner (and former Murdoch lieutenant) Pat Purcell may be going through a rough patch, but there are no signs that the wheels are coming off just yet.

But five years from now? Three? One? Well, who knows? And even if Purcell finds a way to maintain his independence, that doesn't mean deregulation won't present opportunities to do some kind of joint venture with his old boss, who owns Boston's WFXT-TV (Channel 25).

So it's predictable, I guess, that today's Herald offers a full-throated paean to Rupe -- a fight song presented in the form of an editorial, complete with attacks on the "loony left," Ted Kennedy, and the Boston Globe.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post's Frank Ahrens reports that progressive media groups continue to battle against what had been a foregone conclusion -- that the FCC would drop its rule against someone's owning newspapers and television stations in the same market, and also let companies own TV stations that reach 45 percent of the national audience, up from the current 35 percent.

Particularly aggressive is, which has reportedly gathered 170,000 signatures in opposition to the deregulatory scheme.

This fight may not be over yet.

posted at 8:36 AM | comment or permalink

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Cathy Young responds. "With all due respect, I don't believe the two situations are comparable at all. Surely it is not uncommon for public figures who have been 'savaged' in an article to challenge the accuracy of the report. The dispute, as I understand, was Glass's word against Jacobson's. Moreover, Howard Kurtz quotes Michael Kelly as saying: 'Jacobson accused Glass and the New Republic of shilling for Procter & Gamble.... It seemed to me then, and seems to me now, an utterly irresponsible and baseless charge. He did not have any right to accuse the magazine of something that serious without any evidence.... This was completely separate from whether Glass was a fiction writer.'

"Blair, on the other hand, was the subject of internal complaints within the New York Times itself."

posted at 9:52 AM | comment or permalink

More on the Times meltdown. Washington Post gossip columnist Lloyd Grove reported this last Wednesday. But even though Romenesko flogged it, the departure of New York Times photographer Edward Keating -- accused of violating journalistic ethics for staging a photo of a gun-toting boy near Buffalo last fall -- didn't get much attention.

Given the meltdown now under way at the Times, Keating's alleged misdeeds should be considered alongside those of former Times reporter Jayson Blair and suspended Pulitzer winner Rick Bragg, who tells the Post today that he will quit. (Bragg, by the way, tells Howard Kurtz that Times editors knew precisely how heavily he relied on interns and stringers, and that he's now being made into an object lesson. What about it, Howell Raines?)

The Keating affair dates back to last September 20, when the Times ran a front-page photo of a young boy aiming a toy gun, terrorist-style, in the Buffalo suburb of Lackawanna, New York, where federal authorities were investigating an alleged Al Qaeda sleeper cell.

According to this piece in the Columbia Journalism Review, several other photographers at the scene were convinced that Keating had set it up, and persuaded their editors not to run it when it came in over the wires. As the CJR reports, the Times eventually ran an "Editors' Note" stating "that the boy's gesture had not been spontaneous," and that the paper "regrets this violation of its policy on journalistic integrity."

Keating -- who denied any wrongdoing then, and who denies it still in an e-mail exchange with Grove -- was suspended, and eventually left the paper. And it was Keating who took the portrait of a cigarette-smoking Blair that landed on the cover of Newsweek.

posted at 8:48 AM | comment or permalink

Stephen Glass and second chances. The normally reliable Globe columnist Cathy Young made a whopper yesterday, and she did it in service of a dubious argument: that former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair was given more chances to screw up than a white reporter would have because he is black.

Her example: Stephen Glass, who left the New Republic in 1998 after it was revealed that he had extensively fabricated people, organizations, universes, you-name-it in his feature stories over the previous few years. Young writes:

No one says that Blair lied and plagiarized because he is black, only that an obsession with diversity may have helped him get away with it. Glass was promptly investigated and fired after the first alarm signals; Blair got promoted despite an editor's memo urging his dismissal.

Wrong. In August 1998, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz offered up this tidbit about how one of Glass's editors, the late Michael Kelly, reacted when Glass's integrity was challenged:

Stephen Glass, the New Republic staffer fired for serial fabrications, once wrote a piece savaging Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Jacobson was depicted as a fastidious eater, zealot and hype artist in attacking such products as Olestra, the fake fat made by Procter & Gamble.

Now Vanity Fair reports that Michael Kelly, the New Republic's editor at the time of the now-retracted piece, fired off a letter after Jacobson complained: "Mr. Jacobson, you lied, and you lied because lying supported your thesis, and you attempted to cover up your lie.... I await your apology to Stephen Glass and this magazine."

"Never in my life have I gotten a letter with the kind of vitriol Kelly was spewing out," Jacobson said. "He was defending an indefensible position, as was subsequently shown to be the case with the unmasking of Stephen Glass. "

Kelly says he was responding to an "outrageous" news release from Jacobson's group accusing the New Republic of mimicking other newspaper articles in "a larger, industry-backed smear campaign to undermine CSPI's credibility."

The Glass article in question appeared in TNR in December 1996. He was allowed to keep falsifying for more than a year after that.

posted at 8:47 AM | comment or permalink


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

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