Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Menino has 25 fundraisers scheduled through Christmas.

Menino's magic for term five.
by Kevin John Sowyrda

How in the name of God does he do it? He's impervious to all the maladies of being an urban leader, including, shootings, an in the toilet real estate market, sky rocketing grocery prices, a continued exodus from the metropolis, a Swiss cheese tunnel, an airport that everyone hates more than Satan, a school system you wouldn't send your cocker spaniel to, real estate tax hikes which must have been authored by North End loan sharks and the ever growing schism between rich and poor, black and white, you name it. And yet, the Honorable Mayor Tom Menino - who apparently never heard John Silber's admonition, "when you're ripe, it's time to go," is raising cash hand over fist while not a single, solitary whimper of opposition can be heard from any nook or cranny in the Hub. Exactly how does Tom Menino seem to be heading for an unprecedented fifth term with no real opponent within a thousand miles; just as the chorus crows that Boston needs something different than, well, you know who?

Put more succinctly, what could possibly account for the mayor's Midas touch? He lacks the pizzazz of that new, French president who went Chernobyl on Leslie Stahl last Sunday and, with no disrespect intended, he's hardly a George Clooney type babe magnet. So where lies the attraction to four more years of an imperious and hyper sensitive city chief executive whose the only politician in America whose public verbosity makes that of George Bush seem erudite in comparison?

Boston journalist Dan Kennedy, a long-time observer of the media and politics in the Hub, paints a picture which is as simplistic as it is plausible. "The mayor strikes me as a very hard working guy and intelligent; and there are no alternatives power basis (to oppose him)," said Kennedy. "The city council just seems so diminished now, no one takes them seriously; and there's no elected school committee and none of the elected legislators take interest in it."

Kudos to my distant cousin, Dan. The WMD in Menino's political arsenal is that he has one and the other city politicians don't. Mayoral powers in Boston are on par with those of Czar Nicholas. The city council has all the prestige and political cache of an imperial Duma. For a less royalist analogy of the approaching mayoral race dynamics, bring to mind all those John Wayne westerns where the Duke was the only guy who could really shoot. That's Menino, and wealthy Bostonians with fat check book recognize that he's the only sheriff in town and that giving him money will pay back handsome dividends in approved development permits, city contracts and only God knows what else.

As for the members of the Duma - which is to say the Boston City Council - atleast one of the more prominent members appears to be undaunted by the Czar's powers, which are sure to be enhanced now that Menino has directed his lieutenants to plan atleast twenty five more fundraisers between now and Christmas.

Though admittedly a perspective candidate himself, who believes Bostonians are "looking for another big mayor's race in the city," front bencher City Councilor John Tobin is hardly reticent to acknowledge the mayor's prowess, which may not often project at the podium - but does at other venues. "It's almost magical how he does it," said the district city councilor from Jamaica Plain. "Menino deftly walks that balance between the high rollers and the regular 'Joes' you meet in the coffee shops."

Tobin said the mayor is something of a political hybrid; a public combination of the particular strengths showcased by two of his predecessors, Kevin White and Ray Flynn. Menino appears to emulate White's finesse with the business community, while not faulting as White did in the area of neighborhood services. He also practices Flynn's populist brand of politics, which was to champion neighborhood rights even when they conflicted with corporate wants.

Meanwhile, back at the palace, Menino's savvy ness, however non verbal, is rearing it's head. The mayor knows of one city councilor who, though politically impotent on that body politic, nonetheless has the ability to be financially competitive in a mayoral contest. As such, the worst kept secret in Boston today, confirmed for me this week by two city councilors, is that at-large City Councilor Mike Flaherty is close to a deal whereby Menino will back Flaherty in his bid for district attorney, thus keeping the popular councilor out of the mayor's race. This plot thickens as tongues wag that Menino, a long time supporter of the incumbent D.A. Dan Conley (the two were once neighbors in Hyde Park), will lobby Governor Patrick to find a refuge for Conley; which is to say a judgeship. The technical term for all this political intrigue is B.O.O. - buying off opponents.

Given the ongoing political migraines of Conley (the police and detectives unions have voted no confidence in his leadership and called for his resignation), Flaherty's weight as an opponent backed by the legendary Menino machine should make the councilor from Southie the 800 pound guerilla for a post he's coveted since D.A. Ralph Martin resigned for the private sector in 2002. Conley may well be scared out of the race, just as Menino is trying to intimidate potential opponents with his recent fundraising blitz.

But though its Halloween week, I don't see everyone getting scared. Tobin's correct. You can feel the electorates' anxiety and anticipate the hospitable welcome they would give a real, mayor's race; something we haven't had in this city since 1983. My radar screen says candidates are lurking beyond the horizon, sophisticated enough to comprehend that Menino's hard work ethic not withstanding, there's growing Menino fatigue in Boston.

Another savvy politician could take advantage of this sentiment and give Menino a run for his money - and he's got plenty of it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

WRKO woes.

Paris, I mean Boston, may be liberated soon.
by Kevin John Sowyrda

for Bay Windows.

If Boston's penultimate Gay basher, misogynist, low bowed bigot and all around obnoxious radio creature Howie Carr being caught between a rock and a hard place, shut-out from the airwaves, is not cause to celebrate like Paris did when the allies came marching in, then I don't know what is. But if for some strange reason that tidbit doesn't do if for you, then certainly this hot off the docket news from the Boston court house will. The infamous Howie Carr may be off the air for an indefinite period of time because the legal winds just aren't blowing his way.

All this simply must trigger elation deep within you soul; unless you're a member of The Klan, or simply a beer belly red neck who at age 55 still can't figure out where North America is on a map.

Yes, Howie Car is in a pickle. Right about the time on Tuesday that the Red Sox were figuring out how to recover from that so-called 4-2 baseball game on Monday night, Howie got whacked by a Suffolk Superior Court Judge who stood firm on his earlier decision that Carr can't exit stage left from his afternoon gig at WRKO AM for what the blabber of all blabbers sees as happier trails at RKO's nemesis and principal competitor, FM Talk Station WTKK. The 96.9 station is also home to the more sophisticated but similarly debauched Gay basher, Jay Severin. Birds of a feather wanting to flock together so badly, if only it weren't for those silly, little contracts.

Interestingly, Howie may finally appreciate how Whitey Bulger's victims felt - sort of that is. It's all rather ironic for the gossip writer whose made a mint scribing about the wanted fugitive from South Boston who showed his victims about as much mercy as the Judge has shown Howie these past many weeks. For Carr, it must be "murder."

Though Carr's spokeswoman promises an appeal, you don't have to be Judge Judy to figure out the ramifications of the heavy gavel that landed on Carr's thinning hairline this week. To Carr's dismay, Judge Allen van Gastel said the Herald Columnist and on-air dark-comedian must abide by the "right to match" clause in his WKRO contract. In non-legalize speak, that means Carr may be stuck at WRKO through the year 2012; a bit awkward given the fact that Carr told WBZ TV's Beth Germano in a puff piece interview that he must abandon Ship RKO because it's best to "'F' them before they 'F' you." TKK has offered Carr a sweet, seven million dollar contract, but Entercom owned RKO has matched the offer.

Well, for once in my life I agree with Howie Carr. It looks like he got, well, you know, but it was by himself and his inept agent Cary Pahigian, who clearly didn't hire the best of lawyers for this case. Pahigian is sort of the prince of darkness in the New England radio market, serving unique, duel roles as the marketing manager for a string of radio stations while also serving as agent to some of the stars. As Northeastern University journalism professor Dan Kennedy told me recently, Pahigian's working simultaneously as both a radio executive and radio agent is considered entirely unorthodox in the business.

But since when is unconventionality not the indelible trade mark of all things Howie Carr. For example, his nuclear attack against the station that made him more than just the muckraking columnist at the city's unofficial Republican Party tabloid is hardly normal or loyal behavior when you look at everything RKO has put on the table for Carr over many years. You may remember the media coup d' tat when Carr shamelessly did everything possible to take the job of his own mentor, the late Jerry Williams. Carr succeeded, and since then RKO has generously given the afternoon talk jockey more liberties to spew political venom, racist remarks and ludicrous soliloquy's regarding the Gay Community than Don Imus ever could have dreamed possible. A very timid sampling of Carr's missives is his past description of Deval Patrick supporters being, "Gay, bicycle-riding tax-hikers." Howie, don't dare go after my bike.

Why Al Sharpton isn't picketing outside WRKO by now, I'll never quite know.

But maybe it doesn't matter. The late, great WRKO is in such dire straights they may want to just call it a day and have the station simply packed away, sort of like Ted Williams was. Ratings are frozen if not melting and the paltry talent still clinging to the station consists of Tom Finneran, whose programming regularly features guest hosts recruited to shore up the timbers of the foundering morning show the former House speaker commands since his settlement with the justice department on perjury charges. If you ever want to experience pain beyond what Solzenitzen ever experienced in the gulag, just tune in any Thursday morning when Tom's co-hort is hyperactive lawyer Wendy Murphy. Picture Rosie O'Donnell, just with better dictum and without the Ritalin. When you turn the radio off, you can still hear Wendy screaming.......about nothing.

Accordingly, RKO's battle to legally maneuver for Carr's retainer is perfectly good business sense. He's all they got on the shelf. For all his warts and distortions and mean spiritedness, welcome to a city where there's sadly a big market for that sort of garbage. Accordingly, advertisers are known to be pulling their cash from RKO pending Howie's return, however disgruntled it is likely to be.

This prediction form someone who used to be in the business. Howie returns to RKO and performs so miserably - with intent - that they catapult him off the roof - from where Carr sees that WTKK has moved on to another bombastic host for their morning gig, thus leaving the King of Smear Radio with no port of call.

The cheers you'll be hearing will be from any Bostonian who long ago became beleaguered by the ugliest character Boston media has ever dared to showcase.

See what's new at and Make AOL Your Homepage.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Boston media.

Boston and Beyond web link - opinion section
Kevin John Sowyrda

What does Boston journalism and the Big Dig have in common? Both are broken, and events of the past few days at the local PBS affiliate and at the city's biggest daily newspaper prove this to be the case.

It's weeks like this that make me remember what a student of mine once asked me: What makes a good journalist? I answered that I'm hardly the best person to respond, but that for me a good journalist is suspicious. It’s that simple.

A prudent writer or television host should suspect any and all information for its authenticity. This attitude may be as harsh as it is pessimistic, but it should prevent the dissemination of misinformation to the public, which is the worst “crime” a journalist can commit, purposely or not.

It's with this in mind that we ponder the dilemmas of two journalists and their employers, Channel Two's resident Barbara Walters, Emily Rooney, and the Boston Globe and its scribe Joseph Kahn.
First, let's deal with Rooney (who is the daughter of the deliciously eccentric Andy Rooney of that used-to-matter network). On Mon., Sept. 24, Rooney interviewed several veterans of World War II as part of a tie-in promotion with the PBS documentary The War. One of them, Leonard Morris, told astonishing tales of heroic deeds as a member of what he called the Devil's Brigade. He also told chilling stories of having executed Nazi guards at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp, in Saxony, Germany. He and his comrades, he said, “set out to kill as many as we could.” As Morris went on, blithely noting that he and his comrades shot a guard in the head after hanging her to make sure she was dead, Rooney appeared to be flustered, and quickly talked over Morris to move the conversation along.

Just four days later, on Fri., Sept. 28, Rooney explained what had happened during “Beat the Press,” her weekly roundtable about the news business. The "war hero" was, in fact, nothing of the sort. Rooney told viewers that a Greater Boston researcher spoke with “close to 20 people,” including Morris’s family, contacted officials at the state military war records office, the U.S. Army and the president of a local holocaust survivor’s group in an attempt to verify Morris’s claims. It turns out that Rooney had been taken for a ride, big time, by a very pathetic figure.

I wonder if some of that fact-checking should have occurred before his being invited to the green room and then seated in front of the cameras. One Channel Two source told me that there had been some vetting of the vet before his appearance on the show. But it was clear from Friday's non mea culpa that the guest's background was researched thoroughly only in retrospect, instead of prior to placing him in a coveted position to disseminate false information — that journalistic 'crime' we mentioned earlier.

Rooney addressed this head on during the Sept. 28 episode: “So you wonder, ‘Why didn’t Greater Boston try to authenticate Morris’s story first?’ The short answer is, ‘We did.’ The honest answer is, ‘How far do you challenge an 87-year-old veteran of World War II?”

How far do you challenge an 87-year-old veteran? Is Rooney serious? Does she mean to tell us that Morris fed her and/or her staff some of his outrageous tales before he got on the air and they let it go because he’s 87-years-old? That’s pretty bad. But it’s worse when you consider that every media outlet covering the Mashpee Wampanoag casino story in Middleborough was bamboozled by former Mashpee Wampanoag president Glenn Marshall, who lied about his extensive war record in Vietnam. It took a blogger named Peter Kenney, who wondered aloud on his blog how Campbell, who claimed to have earned five Purple Hearts and a Silver Star during three tours of duty, managed to accumulate two Purple Hearts above the three that typically earned the recipient a permanent discharge.

It could be that Rooney, an admitted news hound, had somehow missed the Glenn Marshall-Peter Kenney dust up and the obligatory commentary on how the mainstream media had missed the story and how it took a blogger — a lowly blogger! — to bring the truth to light. But no! Rooney and her compadres on “Beat the Press” discussed this very issue. And Rooney herself interviewed Peter Kenney for an episode of Greater Boston Sept. 4.

Perhaps the irony of ironies here is that Rooney is Boston’s self-appointed media czar and she was taken in (and let’s face it, nearly everyone is vulnerable to an especially good liar), by a war vet telling tall tales right after every media outlet in Boston was, um, taken in by a war vet telling tall tales. Sheesh.

Meanwhile, skip across town from Channel Two in Allston to Morrissey Boulevard and you'll find that journalism is hardly blossoming at the Boston Globe, where there's more egg on faces than on the grill at Charlie's. Globe reporter Joseph Kahn wrote a moving story about a homeless man suffering from an inoperable liver tumor with only three months to live. Given that the man was homeless, hospital officials let him stay and the man had since forged close ties with his caregivers. The man, Patrick Conway, told Kahn the stories of his terrible past: Family members who had been killed by the Irish Republican Army while in London; a wife and daughter who had been killed by a drunk driver; and his move to Boston shortly after his wife and daughter’s deaths and nearly freezing to death.

None other than Rooney herself called Kahn’s story into question as part of the segment on her big boo-boo with Morris. (I guess she can be dogged when she needs to be. But I digress…) Kahn told her he was checking out some of Conway’s claims. Whatever. It’s clear that the Globe didn’t do its homework. It's all too reminiscent of the Globe's past journalism challenges (I'm being overly polite) which include a series of high profile plagiarism cases which resulted in the dismissal of two columnists, and the suspension of a third.

Is any of this shoddy reporting new? Is it a sudden aberration we've not seen in the past? You've got to be kidding. The Boston Globe, for example, will print just about anything. Just ask District 7 City Councilor Chuck Turner. On May 12, 2004 the Globe printed pictures that even Larry Flint would have passed on presented by Turner and so-called activist Sadiki Kambon. The photos portrayed U.S. servicemen in Iraq raping women. On May 13 the Globe admitted it had been duped and, in so many words, stated that the photos were nothing less than photo shop specials — something Globe reporter Donovan Slack had wisely warned her employer about before going to press.

Slack was properly suspicious. Her editors were not.

My suspicions are rather simple. I suspect that blogs and alternative news outlets will continue to grow, while viewers of Emily Rooney's TV talk show and readers of the Boston Globe will slowly but surely shrink.

Find Print Edition | Search | Archive | Register

© South End News 2007 | Console Login