Boston Media Spins Itself Out of Control

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post in no way reflects the viewpoints of Joanna Marinova or Representative Gloria Fox, nor is it representative of any organization or individuals except for By Any Media Necessary and Cara Lisa Powers

Ridiculous Front Page of this Local Rag

Ridiculous Front Page of this Local Rag

Bill O’Reilly likes to call his show the “spin-free zone.” While that is laughable, Boston the last 48 hours has been in the spin-cycle. With pressing concerns about the economy, the MBTA, summer opportunities for the city’s tens of thousands of youth, the Herald’s incomparable (unless your comparison is Megyn Kelly, Michele McPhee or any other blonde republican bigot) Jessica Van Sack chose to focus on a meritless account of State Representative Gloria Fox’s visit on May 7th to the Old Colony Correctional Facility in Bridgewater, MA to visit inmate Darrell Jones. The name may sound familiar if you do any youth work or community organizing in Boston. In fact, you may have even been to OCC yourself or at least received a letter from Darrell, pressing for more accountable youth services and opportunities for youth as well as restorative justice.

Just over a year ago, Jones and other inmates made headlines for working with Teen Empowerment to create the Voices Behind the Wall video, an effort for prisoners to make amends to their community and not just do their time, but also give back to the families and communities that they’ve hurt. More recently, Jones and other inmates have come up against powerful prison unions in claims that they have been unfairly treated and retaliated against for drawing negative attention to the prisons. If you scroll down on this site, you’ll see that a community rally was called to make demands by the prisoners for their fair treatment. The rally, to be held May 11, was postponed because all of the demands were met.

May 7, Representative Gloria Fox and Joanna Marinova, a member of the End the Odds Coalition, a colleague and good friend of mine went to the prison to visit Darrell Jones, who had for two days been in solitary confinement and had the night before been taken to the prison infirmary for treatment for a supposed hunger strike. By the weekend, Darell had been moved (which was not one of the demands) and the demands of the coalition met. Those of us in the community thought that this was the end of the abuses of power.

The irony that the Herald would run with “anonymous prison sources” and claim some sort of abuse of legislative power is laughable. if anything the Herald and WHDH (which I’ll get to in a minute) should be cited for their abuse of the power of the press. As a community journalist and a media educator, I want to thank Jessica Van Sack and the crew at WHDH 11 o’clock news for keeping me in a job. With the submission of this unfounded diatribe, Van Sack has exposed a dear friend of mine to attacks from the press and unwarranted visits from reporters at her HOME. This character assassination is based on either (1) arrogant and willful exaggerations about the nature of Jones and Marinova’s relationship or (2) uninvestigated claims that Van Sack took as word from her anonymous sources without any proof.

But I expect all of this from the Herald, and anyone replacing the ranting Michele McPhee as their crime reporter. It takes a special brand of bigotry, allergy to facts, and terrible pun making to fill those pretty shoes. NBC’s Boston affiliate may have a bit more credibility (which they are rapidly losing), but they also ran with this story, claiming:

Marinova was turned away by a prison guard who said she’d been caught having sex with the prisoner in a visitor’s area several months ago

They also asked

Did Roxbury State Representative Gloria Fox use her special priveleges to try to unite a convicted killer and his girlfriend by sneaking her in?

Misleading statement from Prison spokesperson

Misleading statement from Prison spokesperson

The short answer: No. To be sure, Representative Fox did not arrive at the prison unannounced, nor did Joanna Marinova. I am speaking for neither of the women, or for anyone but myself. But I have seen the phone records and observed the phone call by Marinova to schedule a visit with Jones per prison policy (see here). So prison spokesperson Diane Wiffin misleads when she says that any representative can show up at the prison unannounced. While this policy exists, Fox was not using, and therefore definitely not abusing that privilege. As for allegations by WHDH insinuated by Van Sack’s hateful sensational article that Marinova somehow had sex with Jones in a prison visitor’s area, I challenge either to find a place in the visitor’s auditorium (think your doctor’s waiting room times 4) under constant supervision by prison guards to do anything more than talk. Having been in the visiting area at OCC I am shocked that someone would even have the gall to suggest such a thing is possible, let alone happened. Surely someone who investigated claims made by her story would know this, unless she’s willfully abusing the power of the press to her own opportunistic career gain… wait, I think I may have pin pointed what this is all really about.

Action Alert from Open Media Boston

Subject: Action Alert: Open Media Boston Ignored in Globe Article on Online News Publications – Public Responselogo

ACTION ALERT – 5/14/09

To the Boston area progressive community,

We don’t expect other Boston news media to mention us very often, since in some senses we’re a competitor.

However, it really drives us up the wall when another local news outlet runs an article on the new wave of online non-profit professionally-produced city-based news publications and not only doesn’t mention OMB, but also states that Boston does not yet really have such a publication.

Today’s Boston Globe Business section article by Johnny Diaz did just that. Which is frankly pretty insulting, and means that he just didn’t do his homework.

Check out the Globe piece here
http://www.facebook.com/l/;http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2009/05/14/online_upstarts_deliver_news_without_the_paper/

We therefore encourage you all to take a moment to help us demand the Globe correct the public record by giving OMB a reasonable plug sometime in the next few days. Either in the form of issuing a correction to the Diaz piece, or (better still) by doing a piece on us.

The best way to respond to Diaz and the Globe is to email him at jodiaz@globe.com and the Business section Assistant Managing Editor Shirley Leung at sleung@globe.com – and also to leave a comment to the Globe article online, using the provided link.

We’d appreciate it if you forward your responses to us at info@openmediaboston.org so we can keep a record of them.

Thanks in advance for any support, folks.

Cheers,

David Goodman, Jesse Kirdahy-Scalia and Jason Pramas
Editors
Open Media Boston
http://www.facebook.com/l/;www.openmediaboston.org

By What Media Necessary?

j4odpok702fw8yaz8c7rsbfzph418liLuckily for me, where I get on the Commuter Rail, about an hour 15 from Boston, there are no places to pick up a copy of the free Daily, the Boston Metro. I have taken to playing solitaire on my cell phone on the subway when I have meetings around the city- it seems to me more stimulative of my brain. But once in a while I will pick up the Boston Metro, and when I do I am always reminded why I don’t. Because if I spent all the time I’d like to invest in responding to the subtle racism, classism, trivialization and straight up lies in this paper, I would not have any time for the rest of my work. The Metro, it seems, is a perfect example of everything wrong with the newspaper industry today- it is chock full of AP, cutesy sidebars to supplement its tabloid-esque articles and sensational coverage of the statehouse and city hall.

Last week, while reading the Metro, I stumbled upon an article detailing the downfall of John Edwards following the revelation of his affair. Following the layout of a website, the bottom panel lays out other presidential cheats (Clinton a glaring omission), with no by-line, and goes on to note factually, that John F. Kennedy had a torrid affair with Marilyn Monroe and it somehow never became a scandal. That’s just a factual untruth. You apparently in this hey-day of newspaper greatness can print blatant rumor and conjecture (50 year old rumor and conjecture at that) and call it news. And now they want a bail-out. Business Insider had some concerns about a bailout, including:

  • Newspapers only ever thrived because they were monopolies.
  • 66% of people get their news from TV.
  • Newspaper owners think Google is a parasite.
  • Ask them when they last bought a paper, much less subscribed.
  • A government subsidized “free press” isn’t a “free press” at all.

Moreover, newspapers aren’t working. Investing in something that has time and time again not worked qualifies you, by most standards, for lock up in a mental institutions (trying the same thing and expecting different results). To that end, we need to invest in new and innovative strategies. If you need more proof, just look to the newspapers own coverage of the meltdown.

Here, the Metro’s own blah coverage of the crisis pits Rupert Murdoch vs. Arianna Huffington in web-like graphics with out of context quotes. The article itself has no insight, no conclusions, and no reporting. If we have an uninformed and unengaged populous, herein lies a major problem.

Luckily, David Simon has a solution. The amazing co-creator of The Wire testified before congress last week noting that neither online media nor newspapers seems to have the solution to this crisis in their stash.

Why? Because high-end journalism – that which acquires essential information about our government and society in the first place — is a profession; it requires daily, full-time commitment by trained men and women who return to the same beats day in and day out until the best of them know everything with which a given institution is contending. For a relatively brief period in American history – no more than the last fifty years or so – a lot of smart and talented people were paid a living wage and benefits to challenge the unrestrained authority of our institutions and to hold those institutions to task.

By all conventional measures, it seems that new media doesn’t yet have the capacity to do this and traditional newspapers don’t have the will. I hope we can look to models (that should be well-funded) like Open Media Boston to steer us in the right direction to the future. With a strong presence on the ground, I have no doubt that, given more resources this model could hold power accountable, ensure democracy, and set a high journalistic standard.

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BAMNI am launching today a new feature on By Any Media Necessary. For only $10 a month for individuals, you can receive a media based social justice workshop directly sent to your inbox at the end of every month. To get started, click on the appropriate link below. If you’re not sure yet, enjoy the workshop here free of charge to try it out!

This month’s curriculum examines some of the complexities of injustices in the Prison Industrial Complex.

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NBC Steals story from Kids

Full disclosure, I am the Co-Director of Press Pass TV, a youth organization in Boston. This weekend, we shot a story at the home of a community member, who had a scare Friday night when shots were fired outside his children’s bedroom. The upstairs neighbor had shots fired into her apartment as well. One youth interviewed them and other neighbors about the shooting, and about ways that they are getting involved to make their community safer. We sent the story to local media outlets with a press release to get our solution oriented message as far as it would go, and met success in two other local outlets, cross posting our story on their sites as a front page item. Then we saw the story on the 11 o’clock news on our NBC affiliate. I’m cross posting our response below:

pptvstoryHere at Press Pass TV we see ourselves as a resource for the community to get their stories out and voice their issues to a broader audience. For that reason, we were thrilled yesterday when the Dorchester Reporter and Open Media Boston picked up our story on concerned neighbors in Dorchester. We’re looking forward to building strong collaborations with both of these wonderful community news outlets.

In addition to these, we had also sent the piece out to other local news outlets like the Boston Globe and WHDH Channel 7, our local NBC affiliate station. We were concerned that this story, which happened on Friday had gone unnoticed over the weekend. All we asked was that any other news outlets that used the story let us know.

So we were surprised last night when we saw the story on the Channel 7 11 O’Clock News. Unlike Open Media Boston and the Dorchester Reporter, who were excited to promoted the wonderful work of Boston youth, WHDH sent out their own crew to interview the same people that we had already spoken to, capture similar b-roll, and add a few formulaic sensationalist twists.

Part of the mission here at Press Pass TV is to use the news as a source of empowerment, community building and to inspire people to action. We were happy to feature Darrin Howell, Cassie Grice and their neighbors in their dialogue about solutions to keep their children and their neighborhood safe. The story featured here on Channel 7 does none of those things, and instead perpetuates a lot of the hopelessness and fear we see young people already feeling aboupptvstoryoriginalt their communities.

Not only are we disappointed that NBC would chase a story already covered by youth without giving them any credit for breaking it, we are also saddened by their portrayal of our community. Check out our story in the post below, and the NBC story here, and let us know what you think. Also, be sure to write to NBC and let them know that you demand better for your community!

By Any Media Necessary Has Arrived!

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What’s News Got to do with it?

Apparently nothing.

Here’s some top stories from the last 24 hours-

Britney Spears’ twitter hacked
Obama girls start school
Sherri Shepard has a fight with Jeremy Piven
Levi Johnston quits job
Bristol Palin’s mother in law was given special treatment
John Travolta’s son died in tragic accident, and people won’t leave the family alone

and my favorite…

Caylee Anthony’s mother might watch her funeral from jail, where she faces trial for killing the toddler in a post-partum psychosis. The mainstream news networks have been feasting on the disappearance of this child for over a year, and have still not tired of the story. Meanwhile another toddler, the four year old daughter of Bay Area resident Oscar Grant, will have to grow up without a father. Mr. Grant, age 22, was unarmed when he was shot in the back by a transit police officer Thursday morning. The BART police force is urging the public’s patience in their investigation, asking any witnesses to come to them instead of the news media. Why are they investigating themselves to begin with? Why is the newsmedia more concerned with invading the privacy of celebrities and force feeding us kidnapped white toddlers than investigating injustice?

And I’d like to say that it’s only the mainstream media that’s perpetuating this gross disservice to the public, but even the popular left leaning Huffington Post has the murder of Oscar Grant buried beneath 11 other stories, including Levi Johnston quitting his job, and a man dangling pantless from a ski lift. Their headline is Ann Coulter being made fun of on CBS. Now, I like to make fun of irrational conservative women as much as anyone else, but I think that police shooting a young father while he lay on his stomach on a train platform is a little more important.

Shame on all of you.