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Paul La Camera on Mike Barnicle

Paul La Camera, general manager of WBUR Radio (90.9 FM), e-mails Media Nation about a recent report by Adam Reilly at ThePhoenix.com that he may bring former Boston Globe and sometime Boston Herald columnist Mike Barnicle to the public-radio powerhouse to do commentary:

Dan —

I write this as an individual with a personal history in the matter and not in any way on behalf of WBUR. I am also specifically directing this to you, since it appears your Media Nation site has become a certain center for the controversy.

Of course, the matter or the controversy I am citing are related to my long-time association with and still strong feelings for Mike Barnicle.

Not to rehash history of a decade ago, but when I stood with Mike some 10 years ago at WCVB-TV, it was based on what then was a 15-year working relationship during which he served our station in the highest professional manner. As you and others remind me, there was the George Carlin summer reading recommendation, which I continue to believe was blown out of proportion and hardly was a capital offense, particularly in light of 15 years of distinguished and unquestioned work.

If you recall, the frenzy even extended to irresponsible accusations about Mike’s military service claims. I was always grateful that I was able to address and right those charges as well.

Since all of the above transpired, including what occurred at the Globe, Mike has worked for any number of news organizations, including Newsweek.com, NBC, MSNBC, and I understand is currently preparing reports on the Pennsylvania Primary for the Today Show.

As I said to Adam Reilly of the Phoenix, it has been 10 years. From any rational perspective, as evidenced by the above listing of media outlets of the highest standards and standing, it is time to move on.

Mike has a remarkable gift and I continue to believe his voice is missed in Boston.

Sincerely,
Paul La Camera

So — will Barnicle actually pop up on WBUR’s airwaves? Stay tuned.

“I need weed”

The Globe’s Bryan Marquard pens a deft sendoff to Mr. Butch, a homeless guy who died yesterday in a motorscooter crash. I remember Mr. Butch lurching around Kenmore Square in the mid-1990s, but I hadn’t thought about him for years. It turns out he’d moved his base of operations to Allston.

Here’s the best part of the obit:

[Toni] Fanning’s favorite encounter with Mr. Butch was on Easter a few years ago. When she left home to visit a friend who was in bad straits, she was depressed about her friend, the day — just everything.

“And I walked outside and there was Butch standing on the corner of Harvard and Comm. Ave. with a big sandwich board that said, ‘I need weed,’ ” Fanning said. “I started laughing so hard that it got me through that entire day.”

I looked up videos of Mr. Butch on YouTube and found three. Two of them struck me as pretty exploitative, but this one captures him at his best:

Mr. Butch is also the subject of a nice obit in the Allston-Brighton Tab by Richard Cherecwich, which is reprinted in the Herald.

Welcome to Media Nation 2.0

Well, not quite. But I updated to the new version of Blogger a little while ago. It doesn’t look that much different, but it’s got some new features. I’m excited/intimidated by the ability to assign “labels” (what most Web 2.0 types call “tags”). Potentially it’s a great way to find related posts. But I can’t just jump in; I’ll need a system.

Does anyone have any solid tips for using tags?

Death of a newscast

Timing is everything. Last September, I wrote twice about the sale of WLVI-TV (Channel 56) to Ed Ansin, the Miami-based owner of WHDH-TV (Channel 7), lamenting the loss of a quality newscast. But no one was paying attention at the time.

In the past few days I’ve gotten a couple of e-mails asking why I didn’t write about the death of Channel 56. So I’ll say it again — briefly. The FCC shouldn’t allow anyone to control more than one television station in a market. Because of the agency’s deregulatory zeal, good people have lost their jobs. More important, viewers have lost a newscast that many people trusted and liked.

Kudos to retired anchor Jack Hynes for speaking out (click here and here). And be sure to read today’s Inside Track account of the no-class manner by which the 56 folks were shoved out the door.

We also talked about the demise of Channel 56 on “Greater Boston” last Friday. You can watch it here.

Together again

In an irony that only media junkies could appreciate, Boston Herald reporter Dave Wedge today grills Bristol County District Attorney Paul Walsh over his office’s decision to drop a drunken-driving case against a “politically connected socialite.”

It was Wedge’s reliance on sources in Walsh’s office (including Walsh himself) that led the Herald to lose a $2.1 million libel case brought by Superior Court Judge Ernest Murphy, who objected to being portrayed as a “heartless” judge who “demeaned” victims of crime. (As I argued at the time, Wedge’s reliance on those sources should have cleared him under the Supreme Court’s Times v. Sullivan standard. The verdict is currently under appeal.)

The socialite, by the way, is Suzanne Magaziner, the wife of Ira Magaziner, best known as the principal architect of Hillary Clinton’s failed universal health-care proposal.

A final irony is that Walsh lost his bid for re-election in the Democratic primary last September. He’ll be replaced by the victor, Sam Sutter, in a few weeks.

The Sun Chronicle of Attleboro covers the Walsh-Magaziner story here.

Carter and Dershowitz

Not Carter versus Dershowitz, which might have been worthwhile.

A day after the Boston Globe published an op-ed by Jimmy Carter whining about the treatment he and his new book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” have received, the paper comes back with a piece by Alan Dershowitz whining about Carter’s refusal to debate him at Brandeis (and whining about Carter’s whining).

It’s as though the Globe were letting Carter and Dershowitz edit the opinion pages, when it ought to be the other way around.

This shouldn’t have been difficult. Not many people are going to read Carter’s book. And not many people are going to read Dershowitz’s review of it on Frontpagemag.com (hat tip to Steve for the link). The Globe should have told Carter that if he wanted to write an op-ed, he should use it to make two or three key points summarizing his book. And then Dershowitz should have been told to respond. The op-eds could have run the same day or on succeeding days.

The Globe had a chance to educate its readers about an important subject in the news. Instead, it published 1,500 words about not much of anything. It was a lost opportunity.

Where’s Alan Dershowitz?

Last Saturday, the Boston Globe editorial page criticized Jimmy Carter for refusing to debate Alan Dershowitz at Brandeis University over Carter’s new book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” The editorial said in part:

Some of the fury Carter has provoked is so overwrought that it appears to confirm his own overstated contention that any criticism of Israel is treated like heresy by the mainstream media. But it is precisely because of the hyperbole of his critics, and the seriousness of the issues he wants to raise, that Carter should agree to debate that inveterate defender of Israel, Alan Dershowitz.

I agree. So I was a little surprised today when the Globe ran an op-ed by Carter in which he both flogs his book and whines about the way he’s been treated. Carter writes:

[T]here has been a pattern of ad hominem statements, alleging that I am a liar, plagiarist, anti-Semite, racist, bigot, ignorant, etc. There are frequent denunciations of fabricated “straw man” accusations: that I have claimed that apartheid exists within Israel; that the system of apartheid in Palestine is based on racism; and that Jews control and manipulate the news media of America.

Actually, the Carter op-ed isn’t a surprise. It’s the lack of a counterbalance from Dershowitz or anyone else — not necessary under normal circumstances, but necessary because the Globe just got finished applauding Brandeis for insisting on a debate rather than a monologue.

Coming tomorrow?

How old is Rocky?

New York Times: “Since he was last seen 16 years ago in ‘Rocky V,’ this two-time former heavyweight champion, now pushing 60 (Mr. Stallone’s age), has evolved a philosophy of the ring that befits an older, slower athlete.”

Boston Globe: “‘Rocky Balboa’ is about a 50-year-old boxer’s last shot at glory, but it clearly represents the 60-year-old Sylvester Stallone’s attempt to climb back in the ring after a career that has dwindled into inconsequence in the past decade.”

Fill in the blanks

Three or four times a year, the Boston Herald comes up with an easy answer to the arduous question of what to put on the front page. The editors follow a formula, reliable, predictable and simple. Just fill in the blanks:

___, the city’s/state’s (pick one) czar/czarina (pick one) of ___, has been running up exorbitant tabs at posh resorts and swank hotels in the Caribbean/ Hawaii/ Austria (pick one) instead of attending to taxpayer business.

During a stay at the ___, according to public records, ___ spent $110 wining and dining ___, head of the ___. The menu features such chi-chi fare as fire-roasted lobster with pine nuts and scallop-encrusted steak. Even a cheeseburger costs $24.95.

___ justified the trip by claiming ___ has promised to open a ___ in the city that would generate $__ million of economic activity every year. But ___, dragging her two/four/six (pick one) toddlers through a local Burger King yesterday, voiced outrage.

“Why should ___ get to travel to ___ when I’m stuck here?” she demanded. “Let him/her (pick one) see how the rest of us gotta live. Ya know?”

Put together a front page featuring the word “JUNKET.” Bake for 15 minutes. Serve when ready.

Today it’s Julie Burns, the city’s “$100,000-a-year arts and tourism czarina,” who, reporter Michele McPhee breathlessly tells us, “has traveled to Austria, Taiwan, Chicago and Philadelphia, but has yet to ink a deal due to her globe-trotting.” Burns has been on the job for only eight months. And, gee, why on earth would a tourism “czarina” be traveling, when she could, you know, be signing documents or something.

Then there’s this: according to McPhee, “most” of Burns’ junkets haven’t cost the taxpayers a dime, since they’ve been paid for by private groups. But hey, she traveled while on city time.

There’s also the matter of a proposed Montreal-to-Boston bicycle tour, which isn’t a done deal, but which was the subject of her trip to Austria. McPhee gleefully reports that Burns is worried the bike tour won’t happen if the Herald were to reveal it. And City Councilor John Tobin, who ought to know better, helps out by saying Burns should be bringing movies to Boston rather than cyclists. (Hey, John: Why not both?)

All of this is wrapped up with the front-page headline “PAGING JULIE JUNKET!”

This is the very definition of a non-story, fueled mainly by class resentment and the hope that readers are too stupid to understand why a tourism “czarina” can’t do her job holed up at City Hall all day. Enjoy.