Michael Graham and dwarfism: Final thoughts

Earlier this week the Boston Globe asked me to write an op-ed piece on Michael Graham’s demeaning shtick about dwarfism. It’s up this morning, and you will find it here. Barring any unexpected developments, I intend it to be my final word on the subject.


Graham points finger and apologizes

Well, now. A little after 3 p.m., Michael Graham addressed the matter of the dwarfism segment on last Friday’s show on WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) and apologized — not for anything he said, but for Karl Zahn’s so-called joke. The full transcript of Graham’s remarks:

If you listen to the show, you know that when I screw up, if I get a fact here wrong or whatever, I like to correct myself personally, and I like to do it right up front in the show. During Friday’s we had a conversation about Starbucks and a decision to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit. We were discussing the legitimate topic of a dwarf who had a job at Starbucks for which I feel she was clearly unqualified.

Well, during a roundtable some comments went too far. They weren’t funny. They were hurtful. Doesn’t matter who said them. It doesn’t matter that it was a wide-open conversation. This is my show, and I’m responsible. So I’d like to apologize for those comments. I’m sorry it happened. I wish that I could say nothing stupid will ever be said on this show again, but that is obviously impossible. People make mistakes. What I can promise is that I will take responsibility for mine.

I’m beginning to feel sorry for Karl.

Meanwhile, Heidi Raphael, a spokeswoman for Greater Media, which owns WTKK, told me in an emailed statement that the station will not be posting the audio. She added:

Please know we have spoken with Michael about his remarks, and made it clear this is not the type of commentary we expect on our airwaves. Michael’s comments do not, in any way, represent the views, opinions or company culture of Greater Media.

Please note the phrase his remarks in Raphael’s statement, which clearly refers to Graham, not Zahn.

Pending any new developments, I’ll be wrapping this up tomorrow. If you’ve been hanging in there to this point, please stay tuned.

Graham to speak

I just got word that Michael Graham is expected to address the offensive remarks he and his guests made about people with dwarfism shortly after 3 p.m. today on his WTKK Radio (96.9 FM) program. I’ll be listening.

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.