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See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale, October 2003),
Friday, March 19, 2004
EYE WITNESS NEWS. So I'm
reading bits and pieces of USA Today's account of former
reporter Jack Kelley's literally incredible fabrications. It took me
a while, but finally I got it: what the paper describes as
"[p]erhaps the most riveting story Jack Kelley wrote" was
also something that his editors had doubts about all
The story involved a suicide
bombing that took place in Jerusalem on August 9, 2001. The
that USA Today publishes today is worth reading in full. But
check out this paragraph:
Kelley could not have seen
three men decapitated. He wrote in his story: "Three men, who had
been eating pizza inside, were catapulted out of the chairs they
had been sitting on. When they hit the ground, their heads
separated from their bodies and rolled down the street." In a
first draft that Kelley submitted for publication, he wrote that
some of the heads rolled "with their eyes still
This is an astounding detail. No
editor in his or her right mind would take it out. Except, possibly,
for one reason: a suspicion that it wasn't true, that Kelley
hadn't actually witnessed such a horrifying event. So what did
the editors do? They removed the most compelling - and most obviously
fabricated - detail, and left the rest of the story pretty much
USA Today deserves credit
for coming clean about Kelley. But there remains much that hasn't yet
been reported about the culture that allowed him to thrive.
posted at 3:36 PM |
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THE "H" WORD. Cynthia
Cotts's new Village Voice column has some good dirt on
NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
(Motto: Speaking Pablum to Power!) Apparently Lehrer got very upset
when a guest said something naughty about Halliburton. Read Cotts's
Fairness & Accuracy in
Reporting has some
choice words for Lehrer's
suck-up performance as well.
And here's some unsolicited advice
for John Kerry: do not, under any circumstances, let Lehrer moderate
this year's presidential debates. As Jack Beatty explains,
Lehrer's unthinking even-handedness helped put George W. Bush in the
White House four years ago.
UNFREE PRESS. A major
press-freedom case is under way in Providence, where Jim Taricani, an
investigative reporter for Channel 10, has been ordered to pay a
$1000-a-day fine for refusing to say who gave him an undercover
videotape from the investigation of former mayor Buddy Cianci, who's
now serving time.
According to today's
(reg. req.), the feds are seeking to have the fines kick in
immediately, before Taricani has even exhausted all of his
This isn't exactly a First
Amendment case; reporters have no more right to protect the
identities of those they do business with than an ordinary citizen
does. Nevertheless, this amounts to federal harassment of a reporter
who was doing his job.
FLEET OF MOUTH. Look, I
don't want the Democratic National Convention to be held at the
FleetCenter. Neither do you. The South Boston convention center makes
all kind of sense. But it's March, and it's not going to happen.
Which is why this
item on the Romney Is a
Fraud weblog is so dead-on.
The convention has been in the
works for years now. It is cynical and ridiculous for Governor Mitt
Romney to jump on the South Boston bandwagon now.
The Boston Herald's Cosmo
Macero (sub. req.), who first floated this idea in December, hasn't
quite given up on it yet - although even
he admits, "It may in fact
be too late, and too costly, to do anything now but hope for the best
at the Fleet."
For Romney, though, it's not too
late to score some cheap points by getting behind a plan that doesn't
posted at 12:02 PM |
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Thursday, March 18, 2004
ODDS AND ENDS. I've fixed
to the MoveOn.org ad of Donald Rumsfeld getting an education about
his past statements courtesy of Tom Friedman and Bob Schieffer. Also,
tonight at 7 I'll be talking with Barry Nolan of CN8's
Nitebeat on so-called
posted at 2:29 PM |
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MARRIED WITH CONFLICTS.
Should a newspaper allow a married same-sex couple to keep covering
the gay-marriage debate? It's a hard question, but Media Log's view
is that it depends on the circumstances of the couple's
The San Francisco Chronicle
decided earlier this week that reporter Rachel Gordon and
photographer Liz Mangelsdorf could no longer cover the issue after
they got married at City Hall. Here
is editor Phil Bronstein's memo to the staff (via Romenesko).
This is a very, very tough call,
but I think Bronstein was right. The San Francisco marriages weren't
just marriages (though they were surely that); they were also acts of
civil disobedience by the mayor, Gavin Newsom. Newsom did a fine
thing by challenging state officials to recognize gay and lesbian
couples as being equal in the eyes of the law and the state
constitution. But for journalists to get married under such
circumstances and then continue to cover the story would be the
equivalent of carrying signs and shouting slogans at a demonstration
that they had been assigned to report on.
Here's the difference. If Gordon
and Mangelsdorf had waited and flown to Boston on May 18 to get
married, then no one would have had a right to complain. They would
have been legally married in accordance with the state Supreme
Judicial Court's Goodridge decision, and there would have been
no political overtones to their exchanging vows.
But that's not what they did. They
took part in a political act, and now they should sit it out, at
least in terms of offering straight news coverage. (No harm in
offering something more personal, with the appropriate
PlanetOut.com covers the story
DONALD RUMSFELD, LYING LIAR.
And in this
ad by MoveOn.org, his pants
are on fire. (Thanks to Michael Goldman.)
QUOTE OF THE DAY. "It is
absolutely ridiculous and unfair and a stretch. Tell them to come to
me and ask me about it and look me in the eye. I'll straighten them
out in good force - the yellow, rotten, dirty [expletives]
that they are. I commend Tim Cahill for looking beyond the political
and not falling for the [expletive] disgrace of caving in and
punishing a kid who deserves something." - State Auditor
DeNucci, in today's
Boston Herald, which reports that State Treasurer Tim Cahill
has promoted his son-in-law.
NEW IN THIS WEEK'S
PHOENIX. Former Bush speechwriter David Frum comes
thisclose to saying that John Kerry is Osama
bin Laden's candidate for
posted at 9:05 AM |
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Wednesday, March 17, 2004
DEMS STAY PUT. With the
logistical nightmare posed by holding the Democratic National
Convention at the FleetCenter becoming more and more apparent,
Governor Mitt Romney has lent his voice to those saying that the
gathering should be moving to the new convention center in South
Boston. (Globe coverage here;
Herald coverage here.)
Given that it's almost certainly
too late to make such a dramatic shift, it's worth reminding everyone
that the idea was publicly floated for
the first time last
December 19, in Cosmo Macero's Herald column.
Macero's money graf:
"If we got the call from
the mayor or the committee ... I believe we could do it," says Jim
Rooney, chief executive of the Massachusetts Convention Center
Authority and Menino's one-time chief of staff. "It would look
different. But it could and would be made to look like a good
media event, which is by and large what conventions are."
The traffic and security concerns
would be so much more easily solved at the desolate South Boston
location than at the FleetCenter, which is the hub of the Greater
Boston's public-transportation network as well as the nexus of the
city's highway system.
But, of course, the move isn't
going to happen. All we can do is hope for the best.
posted at 8:56 AM |
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Tuesday, March 16, 2004
WHAT KERRY SAID. You've got
to feel sorry this morning for Boston Globe reporter Patrick
Healy. It was his transcription of a March 8 speech by John Kerry at
a fundraising event that led to a week of controversy over the
senator's alleged assertion that "foreign leaders" had told him they
hoped he would beat George W. Bush. Healy was the pool reporter,
which means that the entire media relied on his transcript. And now
it turns out that mistakes
It was an easy mistake to make, and
I'm sure Healy is unhappy about it - make that very unhappy.
The larger question is whether the corrected transcript changes the
meaning of what Kerry said. I don't think it does. But unfortunately,
and characteristically, the Kerry campaign is using the error to back
away from this mini-controversy.
Here's an excerpt from
Glen Johnson piece in
A Globe reporter was
present for the fund-raiser as a representative of the newspapers
covering the campaign. The reporter initially sent out a report to
his colleagues saying that Kerry had told the crowd, "I've met
foreign leaders who can't go out and say this publicly but, boy,
they look at you and say, 'You gotta win this, you gotta beat this
guy, we need a new policy' - things like that."
Yesterday the reporter listened
again to the tape, previously transcribed on a bus and campaign
airplane, and said Kerry actually said: "I've been hearing it,
I'll tell ya. The news, the coverage in other countries, the news
in other places. I've met more leaders who can't go out and say it
all publicly but, boy, they look at you and say, 'You gotta win
this, you gotta beat this guy, we need a new policy' - things like
Kerry never used the term
"foreign" or, as some accounts have reported, said he had "met
with" foreign leaders. His comments were preceded by a statement
from Milton Ferrell, Kerry's Florida fund-raising chairman,
voicing foreign displeasure with the current president. Ferrell
said, "Europeans and elsewhere, they're counting on the American
people. They hate Bush, but they know we're going to get rid of
Based on that context, I'd say that
Healy got Kerry's meaning right, even if he didn't capture his exact
words. But the Los Angeles Times reports
today that the Kerry campaign is now trying to back away from the
controversy. Matea Gold writes:
said Monday that the Globe's clarification demonstrates some
ambiguity about what Kerry meant. His reference to "more leaders,"
said Kerry's spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter, "could mean anybody."
The media's repeated references to "foreign leaders" allowed
critics to suggest he was talking about heads of state. "He was
misquoted," said Cutter. "Had he not been misquoted, this wouldn't
be a story."
Really? Kerry has been pounded at
over this miniature issue. Even Secretary of State Colin Powell, who
doesn't normally get involved in partisan politics, challenged
Kerry to name the foreign
leaders he'd supposedly met with who support his candidacy. Yet Kerry
did not really contest the accuracy of Healy's transcript, at least
not until Sunday - and then, according to this
account in the New York
Times, he challenged something that Healy actually got
Mr. Kerry said on Sunday
that he had used the word "heard," not "met," prompting Mr. Healy
to revisit the recording. On Monday, he sent out a corrected
transcript, clarifying that the quotation actually began, "I've
met more leaders who can't go out and say it all publicly."
Here's what White House spokeswoman
Suzy DeFrancis told the LA Times:
The White House, when
asked about the Globe reporter's clarification of the original
remarks, said Kerry should have denounced the reported comments
earlier if he had been misquoted.
"It seems to us that Sen. Kerry
has affirmed the quote by his own reaction to it," said Suzy
DeFrancis, a White House spokeswoman." He's had plenty of time to
disavow it if he didn't agree with it
so I think he was
clearly probably describing foreign leaders."
I can't disagree.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. "Al
Sharpton yesterday conceded the Democratic presidential nomination to
John F. Kerry ... He now says he is close to signing a contract to
host a radio or cable television talk show." - Boston
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Monday, March 15, 2004
MIKE BARNICLE, MEDIA CRITIC.
In the New York Daily News, Barnicle weighs
in on the New York
Post front-page photo
of a young woman leaping to her death. (Via Romenesko.)
is Post chief copy editor Barry Gross's defense. So help me, I
agree with Barnicle. This was a suicide, with no larger implications
that would warrant running the picture. But what's Barnicle going to
say the first time the Boston Herald runs a photo like
posted at 11:58 AM |
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SPAIN SAYS NO. The terrorist
attack in Spain, and the subsequent victory
of the opposition Socialist Party, defy easy analysis. My thoughts
are completely conflicted. (Which is why I recommend this
New York Times Magazine essay
by the Kennedy School's Michael Ignatieff, a liberal supporter of the
war in Iraq.)
On the one hand, I believe George
W. Bush's decision to go to war on Iraq was ill-considered. There
were no weapons of mass destruction and no evidence that Saddam
Hussein's government was tied to Al Qaeda. In light of that, Spanish
prime minister Jose Maria Aznar's decision to support Bush's war
against the wishes of 90 percent of his own people amounted to
courage uninformed by judgment.
On the other hand, the Spanish
public, by flipping from Aznar's Popular Party to the Socialists
almost overnight, may very well have sent a signal to Al Qaeda about
how easily they can be swayed by a terrorist attack. Incoming prime
minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero says he'll pull Spanish troops
out of Iraq as soon as possible, and who can blame him? They
shouldn't have been there in the first place. But I'm afraid that he
- and the voters who just put him in office - are doing the right
thing for the wrong reason.
At such a time of uncertainty, it
can at least be helpful to find someone with whom to disagree. Andrew
Sullivan today offers the insulting headline "Bin
Laden's Victory in Spain."
What follows is only slightly more nuanced.
What Sullivan and his ilk don't
seem to get is that the way Saddam was removed was every bit
as important as the fact that he was removed. Saddam was one
of the most evil dictators of our time (though a piker compared to
the guy with the hair in North Korea), and the people of Iraq are
far, far better off without him.
But by arrogantly swaggering in
without the support of the United Nations and with phonied-up
evidence of Iraq's weapons capabilities, Bush and his handful of
friends have created a mess that may take a generation to clean
Sullivan's right about one thing:
Britain is the next logical target.
THE GOD OF REAL ESTATE. If
you didn't read Kevin Cullen's page-one story in yesterday's
Boston Globe about ex-gangster Eddie MacKenzie's virtual
takeover of a small Beacon Hill church, click
It is, as they say in the business,
a "holy shit" story.
PUBLIC RELIGIOSITY. I'll be
moderating a Ford Hall Forum discussion on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on
in Public." The panelists
will be Ellen Band, an artist and the creator of Portal of
Prayer, a sound-based work of public art; Wendy Kaminer, a
prominent civil libertarian and writer; and Victor H. Kazanjian, Jr.,
dean of religious and spiritual life at Wellesley College.
The discussion will take place at
the Old South Meeting House.
posted at 9:11 AM |
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MEDIA LOG ARCHIVES
Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.