Four smart people, two debates

In today’s Boston Globe, civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate and Globe columnist Scot Lehigh take on the issue of former Massachusetts Senate president Bill Bulger’s conduct with regard to his brother Whitey Bulger, the notorious mobster who’s been charged in connection with the killings of 19 people.

Silverglate argues that Bill Bulger, also a former president of UMass, was under no obligation to help authorities capture his brother, and that the testimonial privilege granted to spouses should be extended to other family relationships as well. Lehigh counters, “Faced with a moral dilemma, William repeatedly made the wrong choice, putting loyalty to his felonious brother over responsibility to his neighborhood, his constituents, or the larger public community whose university he led.” (Note: Silverglate and I collaborate occasionally, and the latest example will be online later today.)

On an entirely different matter, Slate media columnist Jack Shafer assesses Patch, AOL’s network of hyperlocal sites, and finds them lacking. “Besides being wildly expensive to create, hyperlocal news doesn’t seem to appeal to a broad audience,” Shafer writes.

That prompts a response from Howard Owens, publisher of The Batavian, an independent hyperlocal site in western New York. (Owens posts two comments; read the second one first.) Here’s an excerpt:

As my friend and fellow indie publisher notes, it’s only expensive if you have a big corporate structure to support and shareholder demands to meet. There are a handful of successful local online ventures that produce a ton of highly engaging, sought after, popular, memorable local news that do it at a fraction of the cost of the corporate entities.

I posted a brief comment as well, contending that Shafer’s complaint seems to be more about his lack of interest in community news than about anything intrinsic to Patch.

Instant update: Paul Bass, editor and founder of the New Haven Independent, just weighed in. And if you scroll way down, you’ll see a brief comment from another Media Nation favorite, Debbie Galant, co-founder and co-editor of Baristanet in Montclair, N.J.

3 thoughts on “Four smart people, two debates

  1. Brad Deltan

    I think Lehigh gets it 100% right, but he could’ve made a strong case into a bulletproof one had he made the following observation:

    William Bulger the Man has no obligation whatsoever to actively assist the police in arresting his brother, not beyond the strict definition of the law.

    William Bulger the Elected Official and Public Figure should, by definition, be held to a higher standard. He didn’t choose to be Whitey’s brother, but he sure as hell chose to be State Senate President and President of UMass. In making that choice, you are putting aside a great deal of your humanity and adopting the persona of a symbol that, ideally, others will look up to and attempt to emulate.

    Especially given how shameful it is that Bulger has effectively shown that he who makes the law apparently is above the law, too.

  2. Matt Kelly

    There’s a difference between *being* right, and *doing* right. Silverglate’s defense of Bulger very much hews to the former. And while I don’t delude myself that the rest of us would have the courage to *do* right should we be faced with that choice, I am confident that most of us would at least *hope* we’d do the right thing– help society catch a psychopath and serial killer. I’m with Lehigh.

  3. L.K. Collins

    I notice that Attorney Silvergate is not volunteering to be part of Bulger’s legal team.

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