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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, October 10, 2003

The end of Narco News. Today is a sad day for independent media. The Narco News Bulletin, produced by my former Phoenix colleague Al Giordano, will soon be no more.

For the past three and a half years, Narco News has offered an idiosyncratic, comprehensive look at the misguided US "war on drugs," told from a Latin American perspective. It's an issue that's not on all that many radars -- indeed, it's not on mine as much as it should be. But I always knew that Al and his "authentic journalists" were out there telling the truth.

Giordano writes:

It's been quite a ride. In these 1,275 days that shook América, we've witnessed, reported, translated, and participated in the growth of a visible drug legalization movement in Latin America where there previously was none. We've blown the whistle on attempted coups d'etat in Venezuela. We've walked side by side with, and reported from the fronts of, the growing social and indigenous movements that, from Argentina, to Bolivia, to Brazil, to Ecuador, to México, to Perú, to Venezuela, and elsewhere, have reawakened Simón Bolívar's dream of a Latin America united against impositions from above.

In December 2001, Giordano and Narco News won a precedent-setting First Amendment case when a New York judge threw out a libel suit brought by the head of Banamex, a powerful Mexican bank. Here is a piece I wrote on Giordano's victory; and here's an earlier piece that discusses the lawsuit in detail.

Giordano will continue to write his weblog, Big, Left, Outside, "Al Giordano's countercoup for authentic journalism, democracy and a free press."

Narco News will be missed, but I suspect Giordano will continue to be heard from, soon and often.

posted at 11:28 AM | comment or permalink

Thursday, October 09, 2003

More on Der Gropenfuhrer. Blogger Elisabeth Riba reports that I put up the wrong link to my Phoenix piece on Arnold Schwarzenegger and the LA Times. Here's the right one.

And here is Riba's take on why the tabloids went easy on Schwarzenegger during the recall campaign. It's not personal -- it's business!

posted at 11:13 AM | comment or permalink

That's Mister Ed to you, pal. The Globe Spotlight Team today has one of those long packages on an obscure topic that you wouldn't think you'd much care about: financial abuses at private foundations.

This one, though, is pretty sprightly, mainly because the paper has found some rather colorful characters with their hands in the till.

My favorite is Edward Lake, whose story is told in a sidebar by Francie Latour. A retired $20,000-a-year government clerk, Lake, through a chance encounter some six decades ago, lucked into serving on the Florik Charitable Trust, paying himself -- at most recent count -- $230,000 a year to look at the mail.

Latour's kicker:

"A lot of people thought I couldn't do this, see? I don't appear to be slick enough," Lake said. "But I fooled them. I fooled them all. When they say Mr. Lake, that means Mr. Lake. Nobody calls me Ed."

Urine trouble. Both the Globe and the Herald give front-page treatment to yesterday's regional drug summit at Faneuil Hall.

The Herald's Thomas Caywood runs hard with the most disturbing angle: White House drug czar John Walter's outrageous proposal for random school drug testing.

As the ACLU's Nancy Murray says, "It's just putting the emphasis in the wrong place. We don't need our schools to be more like prisons."

New in this week's Phoenix. The Wilson affair is potentially an enormous scandal that could endanger lives and national security. Will the media keep the heat on -- or just pass it off as a typical Washington kerfuffle?

California voters show the LA Times that they don't care about Governor-elect (imagine that!) Arnold Schwarzenegger's groping and humiliation of women.

And the Phoenix editorial calls on WEEI Radio to declare that Dennis & Callahan has completed its long-running engagement.

posted at 9:08 AM | comment or permalink

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Peter Meade, class act. Apparently it took an old pro from a different, better era of talk radio finally to knock some sense into the management at WEEI Radio (AM 850).

Both the Globe and the Herald report today that the station suspended John Dennis and Gerry Callahan for two weeks without pay on the same day that Peter Meade, the executive vice-president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, was yanking $27,000 worth of advertising off the air.

If you've just tuned in, this all arose last week, when the morning-drive-time hosts yukked it up over Little Joe, the gorilla who escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo.

Observing that Joe had hung out for a while at a bus stop, Dennis referred to him as "a Metco gorilla"; Callahan chimed in that he was "heading out to Lexington."

Though both papers mention Meade's action, neither points out that Meade was a talk-show host at WBZ Radio (AM 1030) during the 1980s. (He continues to do political analysis for the station from time to time.)

A moderate liberal, Meade hosted a show that directly preceded conservative David Brudnoy's. More often than not, they would kick issues around together during the crossover. It was a model of enlightened, civil talk radio of the sort that's almost impossible to find these days.

As for Dennis and Callahan, two weeks sounds about right -- provided the station is serious about changing its gay-bashing, misogynistic, and (in at least this one instance) racist tone.

Then again, we're living in an era when the likes of Michael Savage trash gays and lesbians on the air, and when even a reasonably intelligent host like Jay Severin refers to illegal Latino immigrants as "wetbacks" and Muslims as "towelheads."

No doubt that Dennis and Callahan crossed way, way over the line. But the line itself needs some heavy-duty recalibrating.

posted at 11:12 AM | comment or permalink

Monday, October 06, 2003

It's not what's in his heart, it's what comes tumbling out of his mouth. The Globe's Adrian Walker has a smart column this morning on suspended WEEI Radio (AM 850) host John Dennis.

Dennis wants us to know that he's not a racist. Well, I've never met the guy, and have no idea whether he's a racist. But what he said was racist, and that's the issue.

Cohost Gerry Callahan is on the air today, despite the revelation on WGBH-TV's Greater Boston on Friday that Callahan was in on the so-called joke.

Meanwhile, 'EEI hasn't changed the Dennis & Callahan website since this all began. The motto: "Home of Repeat Offenders." Nice.

Many zeroes. I've always enjoyed Michael Wolff's media column in New York magazine.

But I doubt I'll ever be able to read it again without remembering that Wolff is making $450,000 a year.

Call and response. Globe ombudsman Christine Chinlund has a meaty analysis of whether the paper gave former State Senate president Tom Birmingham a fair chance of responding to charges that he'd blown his budget -- thus putting his successor, Bob Travaglini, in an awkward position.

Chinlund rarely lets her colleagues have it, but in this case her conclusion is clear: what Birmingham had to say would have cast the story in a different light; and though he had been difficult about making himself available, in the end, reporter Raphael Lewis didn't try hard enough.

posted at 9:32 AM | comment or permalink


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

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