Monthly Archives: August 2011

Karl from N.H. apologizes; still no audio from WTKK

I hear that Karl Zahn, a.k.a. Karl from New Hampshire, the comedian who told an offensive joke about dwarfs on Michael Graham’s show on WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) last Friday, apologized on air earlier this morning. Karl popped up on Jim Braude and Margery Eagan’s program on WTKK and reportedly said he was sorry.

Well, good for Karl. That doesn’t absolve Graham for his own offensive commentary about people with dwarfism, an example of which I posted earlier this week. And I still want to see WTKK post the audio of the entire segment from last Friday’s program. Despite calls to do so from this blog and from Boston City Councilor Felix Arroyo, the station has maintained radio silence.

Beam and Kennedy, together at last

Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam and I both have book reviews in the new issue of Columbia Magazine. Me first. I wrote about “Bad News: How America’s Business Press Missed the Story of the Century,” edited by Anya Schiffrin, director of the International Media, Advocacy, and Communications program at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs.

The book is a collection of essays and articles that examine whether the media could have done a better job of reporting the disintegration of the American (and world) financial system in advance of the 2008 collapse. My conclusion, based on the evidence Schiffrin presents: yes, but it’s naive to think it would have made all that much difference in the age of “Squawk Box.” We believed what we wanted to believe.

Beam has the fun assignment: “An Accidental Sportswriter,” by Robert Lipsyte, who made his bones at the New York Times yet somehow found himself fending off both Rupert Murdoch and David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz in a later incarnation at the New York Post.

The highlight, at least for me, is Beam’s recounting of Lipsyte’s gently worded but devastating observation of how the sainted A.J. Liebling was so skilled at getting good quotes. I’ll be thinking about that all day.

A pioneering community journalist

The Boston Globe today has a wonderful tribute to a pioneering community journalist — Rhoda Shaw Clark, who published the Claremont Daily Eagle in New Hampshire from 1950, when her husband died in a canoe accident, until 1963, when she sold the paper. Mrs. Clark died earlier this month at 99.

I particularly like this anecdote in the obituary, written by Gloria Negri:

As a top editor, she was known to be demanding, Charles Caruso of New York City well remembers. “I had gone there for a job, but before I went for the interview went to a road house where people were dancing. I saw this very pretty woman and asked her for a dance. As we danced, I told her I was nervous about an interview the next day with the publisher of the Daily Eagle. “‘I hear the woman publisher is a harridan, a real curmudgeon,’” he said. His dance partner turned out to be Mrs. Clark. He got the job.

The Eagle Times, as the paper was renamed following a merger, went out of business in 2009, but was revived later that year with the help of a $250,000 loan, 75 percent of which was guaranteed by the state — “an unusual deal because it involves a daily newspaper and the government it covers,” as the Nashua Telegraph put it.

I could not access the paper’s website, and according to this Wikipedia article, it’s been down since 2009. Too bad. I would have liked to see what the Eagle Times had to say about Mrs. Clark.

How will ruling in Scholz lawsuit affect the Herald?

A Superior Court judge’s ruling in the messy legal aftermath of Boston singer Brad Delp’s suicide represents a setback for Boston founder Tom Scholz, the Boston Herald reports. But what effect it will have on Scholz’ libel suit against the Herald itself is unclear.

Judge John Cratsley dismissed Scholz’s suit against Delp’s ex-wife, Micki Delp, ruling that Scholz failed to prove she had defamed him. Relying in part on quotes from Micki Delp, the Herald’s Inside Track reported shortly after Brad Delp’s 2007 suicide that she blamed her ex-husband’s death on Scholz.

But Cratsley’s decision goes on to say that some of the Herald’s reporting that might be found libelous was not traceable to Micki Delp:

While Micki’s statements speak to Brad’s “dysfunctional professional life,” … it is the Boston Herald writers who create the connection to Scholz and the possible implication that Scholz was responsible for the “dysfunction” and thus, Brad’s suicide.

Cratsley said that Micki Delp made six statements to the Herald (two of which she denied having made) and that those statements were about her ex-husband and his state of mind — not about Scholz. “The Herald writers, for whatever reason, added Scholz’ name and his quotes [in response to Micki Delp's statements],” the judge wrote. “So if there is any possibility that the article is ‘of and concerning’ Scholz, it is the Herald writers’ doing.” (“Of and concerning” is a reference to one of the legal standards for proving libel.)

As I wrote earlier this year, it would have a chilling effect if the Herald were held liable for statements by Micki Delp whose veracity the newspaper had no reason to doubt. But if Scholz’ lawyer, Howard Cooper, is able to show that the Herald libeled him on its own, without any reliance on Micki Delp, then that would be another matter entirely.

I realize this is all a bit murky. I hope one of our legal bloggers takes this on in the next day or so.

What Graham said in May about dwarfism case

Thanks to Media Nation commenter John Hall, I realized I could listen to Michael Graham’s earlier segment on Elsa Sallard, the woman with dwarfism who won a $75,000 anti-discrimination settlement from Starbucks last week. I couldn’t get the audio from the cached version of the page using Chrome, but when I switched to Safari, it came right up. So here’s Graham in a segment posted to iTunes on May 18 of this year:

Here’s the story. There’s a dwarf who wanted to work at the Starbucks in El Paso, Texas. But the dwarf got fired as a barista because, she claims, she’s a dwarf. Starbucks is denying it — quote, We definitely want to make it clear that we take all of these concerns seriously, we have zero tolerance for workplace discrimination — no, no, no! I want workplace discrimination. For example, I want the person who’s getting my coffee to be able to reach the actual coffee.

I am not anti-dwarf. I don’t have any strong feelings about dwarfs. I know there’s some people who are creeped out by dwarfs. Not me. No. Tall, short, big, fat, you’re just a person. If you can do your job, I am happy to pay you to do it. If you give me great service, I’m happy to get the great service. I don’t care if you have tats or not. As a customer, I don’t care if you’re a hulking giant or a dwarf. I just want my damn coffee. That’s all I want, is my damn coffee. And the idea that I’m going to have to stand in line for an extra 20 minutes while you skootch around taking care of the customers on your little ladder or stepstool or bucket or whatever — no, I’m sorry.

How many of you are with me, at 617-822-1969? Screw the PC. If I walk into Starbucks and there’s a line of 15 people deep and a dwarf, I’m out of there. I’m just gone. I’m not — [low voice] You know, we should all be — no! I’m sorry. I’ve got stuff to do. I’m going to go to the coffee shop that sells me coffee when I walk in the door, brought to me by people who can reach the damn coffee. This is not anti-dwarf. It is not bigotry. It is just — common-sensitry. I just want my stuff. That’s it. It’s that simple. So this woman’s suing, in the file of “people can sue for anything.” How can you possibly say that you can force me to hire you to do a job you can’t do because you can’t reach the buttons. OK?

At that point, Graham went off-topic slightly, praising the service at both Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, before returning to the matter of Elsa Sallard:

I’ve got to sit there and watch you step over your co-worker. [high, squeaky voice] Help me! Can you please help me? I can’t reach the mugs. You’re a dwarf! I’m not being mean. You’re just a dwarf. That’s all. I’m sorry. It’s not my fault. It doesn’t make you a bad person. I just don’t want to watch you climbing Spider-Man-like up to the fourth shelf to grab the cinnamon stuff for the cinammon coffee.

So that’s me, that’s my message to Dunkin’ Donuts, to Starbucks, to Shaw’s, to every other business out there. If you want me, Michael Graham, to be a customer, you have to hire people who can do the job that you have hired them to do. And if I show up and if I have to wait for the dwarf to pull out the stepladder and climb up? Bye. I’m gone.

After about four minutes, Graham switched to talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I stopped listening. Perhaps he returned to the topic, but that certainly seems like enough, no?

You should be able to listen for yourself here.

Updates on Michael Graham dwarfism segment

A few brief updates on the still-unheard Michael Graham dwarfism segment:

  • Apparently there was a fourth person on the air — a comedian who goes by Karl from New Hampshire, according to Media Nation commenter John Stewart. Although Stewart did not hear the segment, a commenter at Universal Hub says he (or she) did, and claims that it was Karl who made a “nasty joke” about the woman with dwarfism.
  • This is not the first time Graham has talked about the woman. Last May, when her complaint about being fired from Starbucks because of her height first became public, Graham did a segment that later got posted as a podcast on iTunes called “Not Grande Enough for Starbucks.” The description: “Starbucks fires a dwarf.” Kudos to Twitter follower @BEEBALM2010 for digging up the cached version of the page. Unfortunately, only the 30 most recent podcasts are available on iTunes.
  • Still no audio of the segment at WTKK’s website.

Will WTKK post audio of Graham dwarfism segment?

Felix Arroyo

My Saturday began with an email from a friend, who informed me that radio talk-show host Michael Graham of WTKK (96.9 FM) had had a good old time the day before making fun of a woman with dwarfism who’d won a $75,000 anti-discrimination settlement from Starbucks. (More about that here.) Graham’s guests were Rob Eno, publisher of the conservative website Red Mass Group, and Boston City Councilor Felix Arroyo.

My informant added that someone — it’s not clear who — made an alleged joke about serving food off the head of a dwarf waitress.

I hit Twitter and Facebook hard and got some results. Arroyo, about whom I’ve heard good things, said on his public Facebook page that he was the only one of the three to defend the woman, and he accepted my challenge to call on WTKK to post the audio of the segment. Nothing from ’TKK yet. The station posts one segment a day from Graham’s show, and the one from Friday is of something else. I’m guessing this isn’t happening, but we’ll see.

Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub picked up the story. Nothing from other media. I’d certainly like to see the Boston Globe cover it, and maybe there will be something tomorrow. Seems to me that both the original story and Arroyo’s statement are newsworthy. It would be nice if the Boston Herald covered it, too, but given that Graham is a Herald columnist, maybe not.

As you may know, Graham has a history of these things. Here is an exchange we had in 2007 over a dwarfism-related topic. I find it interesting that WTKK just promoted Graham to afternoon drive time in order to compete with Jay Severin, whom the station fired last spring for serial incivility, and who has now surfaced at WXKS (AM 1200). I guess the folks at ‘TKK think incivility is OK when it’s delivered in Graham’s high-pitched giggle rather than in Severin’s hateful sneer.

Starbucks shows how to mitigate a PR disaster

Yesterday I learned from Little People of America’s Facebook page that Starbucks had reached a $75,000 settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of a woman who was fired during training because of her dwarfism.

The Starbucks was located in El Paso, Texas. According to the El Paso Times, the woman, Elsa Sallard, was denied her request to use a stool or a stepladder, and was fired on the alleged grounds that she would pose a “danger” to others.

What made me curious was the low amount of the settlement. So I went back and saw that the folks at Starbucks corporate headquarters, to their credit, took this seriously from the moment they learned about it. In May, Starbucks spokeswoman Stacey Krum said the company had “zero tolerance” for discrimination, adding, “We definitely want to make clear how seriously we take the concerns that have been raised in the lawsuit.”

According to a statement by Robert Canino, a lawyer with the EEOC:

Starbucks’ swift action to work constructively with the EEOC in this case, not only by compensating the  applicant who was turned away, but by committing to additional training for  other stores in the El Paso  area, sends the right signal from the corporate office. The Starbucks customer environment is one  that is often considered comfortable and progressive. By fostering that same environment for people  behind the counter, Starbucks reinforces a positive public image.

In this case it looks like doing the right thing also saved Starbucks a lot of money.

Want to comment? Use your real name, first and last.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been getting an unusual number of comments lately from people who don’t seem to realize we have a real-names policy, first and last, at Media Nation — even though the first thing you see in the comment box is “Have something to say? Your real name, first and last, is required.”

Here is our commenting policy in more detail. And here is an interesting post on the good results news organizations are having when they turn their commenting system over to Facebook.

AOL would be profitable without Patch

Talk about burying the lede. The New York Times today reports on the latest regarding AOL’s long, slow slide into oblivion. Near the end is this:

Other ideas include closing Patch, AOL’s local news initiative that has reporters in 850 towns. Eliminating the money-losing service would free $160 million and lift AOL into profitability.

AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong insists he’s not going to abandon his strategy of transforming the service into a profitable content-provider. But the Huffington Post side of things brings in so many more visitors, with fewer employees, that you really have to wonder how long he and his shareholders can resist the urge to close Patch.

Not to repeat myself (OK, to repeat myself), but I don’t wish Patch ill. Given that it is hiring young and some not-so-young journalists, I’d like to see it find a profitable place in the local-news media ecosystem. But it’s never been clear how Patch can make money. Business Insider has been especially withering, but its negative outlook is hardly unique.