Thursday, June 30, 2005

Nothing like a good sex scandal to kick off summer

Hey, thanks for the plug below, blogmate. I calls 'em as I sees 'em ...
Another eye-opener of a story in the CC Times today by Joe Heitz about the alleged prostitution ring in North Falmouth, the lady's mugs shots are shown here. Talk about a wealth of detail -
"Customers were given the choice of booking an hour with one woman for $250 or with both for $450, according to another investigator" (save $50!).
Yeesh, what else were they dispensing, legal advice?
What is it about madams, alleged or genuine, that imbues them with the three-name appellation? Remember Sydney Biddle Barrows, the "Mayflower Madam?" The troika name tag gets pinned to assassins, too. Must have something to do with notoriety. JC

Ya, Jake, but that blogger "Codder" said it best in her column:

"Promoting Falmouth's Red Light District"
Codder opines that the alleged prostition ring would be great for the cape's struggling economy, like these promotional ideas;
  • Enhanced vacation packages.
  • A concierge's dream come true.
  • Added stop for shoulder season bus tours.
  • Increase revenue for local restaurants and lodgings by attracting more bachelor parties and corporate get-aways.
  • May attract a professional sports team.
  • Legally keep politicians out of high-profile scandals.
  • Weather doesn't matter--it defies the Cape's pesky seasonality.
  • No more worrying about your philandering hound dog of a husband making that treacherous trip over the bridge for a little action.
Read her complete & hilarious screed here. WB

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Jake hits a homer

A skunk cabbage by another other name...
Jack Coleman's Wind Farm Blog continues to amaze. His recent entry "We'll just call it something else ... yeah, that's the ticket" did a comic limning of Delahunt's failure at saving Nantucket Sound for his rich contributors, ending with;

"...Imagine if it was Jim Gordon sitting on the board of the Center for Coastal Studies, and one of his employees donates $11,500 to the center, and the center spits out a report from a simpatico consultant extolling wind energy in Nantucket Sound. Think we would have read about that in the Times? You could bet the ranch on it."
Read the rest here. WB

Friday, June 17, 2005

Glasnost at Pravda?

Following up on the last posting, a second reason to sense a change in direction at the Times - Karen Jeffrey's story on Wednesday about the Christa Worthington case.
I was not surprised to see Jeffrey clarify the issue of a second possible suspect at the scene of Worthington's death, seeing how she's the best reporter at the paper.
Her story focused on the indictment of Christopher McCowen, the garbage hauler charged in the case, and stated that "sources close to the investigation say the man McCowen identified has an alibi for the time surrounding Worthington's death."
As for the alleged DNA evidence of a second man, as cited in a Cape Codder story last month - "according to a police affidavit filed when police sought an arrest warrant for McCowen, a chemist from the state laboratory has identified the male DNA found in and on Worthington as coming from the same source - McCowen," Jeffrey wrote.
Most likely scenario - McCowen, confronted with DNA evidence putting him in Worthington's house that day, admits he was there but blames her death on a phantom. Shades of the Stuart case back in '89 ...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Credit where credit is due

I've got to part company with you on that last one, Spyro. I think the Times deserves credit for avoiding the same flawed approach taken with last year's polling story on the Cape Wind project (I posted an item about this Monday at and won't rehash it here).
Where I agree with you is in the value of poll stories compared to news coverage. Given a choice, I'll almost always go with the latter. I stopped reading the series after the second day out of boredom. With the polling on Romney, let me guess - Republicans say he's doing fine and Democrats don't like him, right?
I doubt the results on the wind farm - a fairly even split between opponents and supporters and huge chunk of undecideds - were what the editorial board at the Times wanted to see. But the numbers were what they were, and the paper ran a story accordingly.
The Times gets its share of criticism here and we run the risk of sounding like Democrats grinding their teeth about President Bush if we don't give credit where credit is due.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Faking The News

It must be easier to commission a poll than to cover local news

Many times in the past, and most obviously recently as a previous entry on this blog has pointed out, (How Do They Miss So Many Stories), the Times has been scooped, beaten, and taken to the cleaners on a local story... when they bother to even run it at all.

They have reporters, they have editors. Shoot, they even have telephones and computers. It's gumption that they lack. Maybe it's pluck. What to fill the pages of the daily rag with then? They need something to put around all that advertising. Cha-ching!

Let's commission a poll, along with our friends at local public radio station. Of course, we'll have to pay for it, but NPR will give us the credibility we need. We'll ask a bunch of unrelated questions about topics in the news, (ironic isn't it), and create a week's worth of front page articles about the results. And since we agree with the outcomes editorially, we won't even have distort them this time.

NewsFlash: Cape Codders can't afford to live here! Cape Wind contest a tie! We still like Romey, as Governor! Read all about in tomorrow's headlines, The results are in on Gay Marriage! This is what passes for news in "The Cape and Island Daily Newspaper." SM

Monday, June 13, 2005

Not to worry, the man who killed Christa Worthington...

... is probably in custody. Probably.

Ever wonder what it must have been like to read Pravda, the news organ of the Communist Party in The Country Formerly Known As The Soviet Union?

Look no further than the bizarre coverage of the Christa Worthington murder case in the Cape Cod Times for the best example you're likely to find.

Two other newspapers - The Cape Codder weekly and the Boston Herald - have run stories about the possibility of a second man at the scene of Worthington's murder, based on a claim by c
hief suspect Christopher McCowen and DNA evidence.

I've lost count of how many stories about the Worthington case have run in the Times since the Cape Codder broke the news May 20 about a second possible suspect, but I do know how many stories the Times has run about McCowen's new lawyer - their last two stories about the case.

Let me see if I've got this straight - the possibility that Christa Worthington's killer could still be at large, and could kill again for that matter, warrants not a single word in the Times - but McCowen's new lawyer warrants two stories? Is this guy an advertiser by chance? Safe to say that McCowen, a garbage man by trade, probably wasn't.

If it isn't in The Times, it didn't happen?

Having been beaten by The Cape Codder on a major development in the biggest murder trial on the Cape in years, the editors at the Times are single-minded in their determination that their readers will never, ever learn of this shadowy second suspect.

The editors will, however, allow allusions to this person, as in the first paragraph of Stacy Myers's story on Friday about Robert A. George, "the scrappy Boston defense lawyer now representing the only person charged in Christa Worthington's murder ..."

" ... the only person charged ..." In other words, pay no attention to those rumors you may have heard about a second suspect. Why not just use the more straightforward, "the man charged"?

I have no idea why the Times is doing this, but two theories come to mind. They got beaten on a big story, again, right on the heels of blowing off the possibility of Otis closing after it was first reported at on April 15 (the Times did not shake the sand from its eyes and run a story on this until May 7). Or the editors at the Times think McCowen is lying and they won't spread his lie by publishing it.

If any of the second possibility is involved, the powers that be at the Times need a refresher course in civil liberties and criminal justice. Christopher McCowen may well be lying, but under our system of justice, flaws and all, he is presumed innocent unless and until he is proven guilty. And with the presumption of innocence comes obligations to the media - a defendant also has the right for his or her story to be heard.

And a precedent setting Supreme Court decision?

If this were the only example of the Times using Pravda-style groupthink to airbrush the official history, it would be one thing. But just last Monday, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in a dispute between the federal government and state of Alaska over jurisdiction of coastal waters.

If you are thinking that sounds like what is happening with the wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound, you are right. Whether Cape Wind Associates ever gets the permits it needs probably hinges on whether the federal government has jurisdiction over Horseshoe Shoal.

The court ruled against Alaska, setting in place a major potential precedent for Cape Wind.

If the court had ruled in favor of state jurisdiction, can there be much doubt the Times would have run this story out front the next day?

Editor's Note: In the former Soviet Union, the two major state-owned newspapers were Pravda and Isvestia. In the Russian language Pravda means "truth", and Isvestia means "information", to wit Russians used to joke, "there is no information in Pravda and no truth in Isvestia.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The coming Cape Cod media shake-up

New media giant heading our way?

A dozen years ago there were twenty-plus weeklies on the Cape while today there are only eleven; see here.

And the rumor mills are churning to suggest a massive media shake-up is pending with off-Cape EnterpriseMediaNews reportedly calling around to Cape publishers asking if their weeklies are for sale.

But they're not too far off-Cape at that. This media company owns longtime weeklies inthe two almost-cape towns of Wareham and Plymouth, and the group's head once ran a whole bunch of cape newspapers.

The Enterprise group (SouthOfBoston) includes two daily newspapers, The Patriot Ledger in Quincy and The Enterprise in Brockton, plus the weeklies Old Colony Memorial in Plymouth, Reporter publications in Carver, Halifax, Kingston and Pembroke, The Wareham Courier, The Sentinel covering Marion, Rochester and Mattapoisett, and new weeklies they bought this year in the Lakeville and Freetown area.

Kirk Davis, a formidable media competitor

The head honcho at SouthOfBoston is former Community Newspaper Company Publisher Kirk Davis, who personally owns Landmark Newspapers which includes a group of weeklies northwest of Boston.

Mr. Davis is a formidible media competitor, one of the best in New England, with a track record to prove it. He's more likely to start a new publication from scratch than buy one, something most newspaper publishers shy away from.

Herald Media's local Community Newspaper Company is well aware of the threat. They launched a new free circulation weekly the Plymouth Bulletin in "America's Hometown" a month ago as a sort of "shot across the bow" of Kirk's #1 weekly, the Old Colony Memorial.

An example of his dynamic methods, Davis lured Dave Johnson back to Cape Cod from his job as G.M. of an Ottaway daily in Stockton, Calif. Dave is very well known and admired here from his years as "Membership Director" (that means circulation) at the Cape Cod Times.

A media change for the good of Cape Cod newspapers

If all this did transpire, it bodes good for The Cape since these are local newspaper people who historically have shown they know how to succeed and please readers in communities like ours. This is decidedly NOT true with CNC's present owner, Pat Purcell, Publisher of the Boston Herald who seems to only want his profitable cape weeklies to support his money-losing Beantown daily.

Kirk's departure from CNC a few years back was apparently not to his liking, and as someone once said, "revenge is a dish best served cold."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Big media battle on a small island

Nantucket Inquirer & Mirror has another adversary

A generation ago the Ottaway Newspaper Company, owners of our daily the Cape Cod Times, bought the 183 year-old Nantucket weekly Inquirer & Mirror, known as The Inky by locals. The previous owners daughter, Marianne Stanton, is the publisher.

Around that same time another group launched a competing weekly named the Nantucket Beacon which quickly became THE island newspaper to read on the island.

The competition became so fierce that Ottaway bought The Beacon to protect its investment, but did they close down the wrong newspaper?

Beacon redux: The arrival of Nantucket Independent

Fast forward a dozen years and witness the arrival of another, brash upstart, the Nantucket Independent, which is repeating history on that storied island.

The Independent's Editor & Publisher is Don Costanzo, who had previously worked at the Beacon for several years and briefly at the Inky as well. He describes his publication as "Nantucket's ONLY locally owned weekly newspaper."

Within a year and a half, this latest competitor is about where the Beacon was when Ottaway bought it.

Maybe history will repeat itself, but if Ottaway buys yet another weekly on Nantucket, perhaps they'll close down the right one this time. See their respective web sites, Independent and Inquirer & Mirror.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

You are about to enter a dimension of sight, a dimension of sound ...

Maybe if Walter had called it "Bernardo's Blog" ...

An item in the Political Notes column of yesterday's Cape Cod Times described Assembly of Delegates' Speaker Tom Bernardo's unease with a blog created for him by publisher Walter Brooks, one of my blogmates here.

Bernardo asked Brooks to post a letter at his online news site explaining his position in a dispute over the county budget. "Brooks did one better - he thought - by creating 'Tom Talks,' a full-service Web log complete with Bernardo headshot," wrote Notes columnist Kevin Dennehy. "Bernardo didn't have a clue about his flagship entry, when asked about it" (hmm, so they are reading's blogs over at the Times ...)

"Walter's Walter," Bernardo told the Times. "It's like winning a raffle prize you didn't enter."

But the real money quote came when Bernardo described blogs as "twilight zones of reality."

Now when it comes to the county budget, I'm pretty confident that Tom Bernardo knows what he's talking about.

But when it comes to blogs, Tom hasn't got a clue.

The word "blog," as most readers here are already aware, is shorthand for "web log." Those two words pretty much describe what a blog is. After that, it's open to interpretation. All blogs are found online and most are updated on a regular basis. After that, blogs are as individual as the people who create them.

To say that blogs are "twilight zones of reality" is like saying that all public officials are hacks. Plenty of people will agree with both observations, except those who know much about either subject.

Funny thing is, the next item in the column described how Bernardo sent a message to the county administrator via this new-fangled invention called e-mail.

Monday, June 06, 2005

I read the tea leaves again, oh boy

Two other newspapers report another possible killer

Why is the Cape Cod Times determined to keep its readers from learning that the man who may have killed Christa Worthington could still be at large?

The paper's obstinacy about this verges on the bizarre. If ever there was an example of the public having a right to information, this is it.

Two other papers, The Cape Codder weekly and the Boston Herald, have reported on a claim by Christopher McCowen, the man charged with killing Worthington, that he took part in beating her with another man but the second man killed her when Worthington confronted him about stealing from her.

Is this to say we should automatically believe McCowen? Hardly. But as things stand now, he's admitting to being at the scene of Worthington's murder, which is a huge step toward finding out who killed her.

When I saw a story about the case in the Times last Thursday, I thought for sure that some mention would be made of a second possible suspect. Instead, staff writer Eric Williams wrote about a new lawyer representing McCowen.

The story also included this line - "According to authorities, McCowen told investigators he participated in the beating of Worthington and was present when she was killed," Williams wrote - which was almost word for word what he wrote in his lede on May 18 - "Christopher McCowen, accused of the 2002 murder and rape of Christa Worthington, told investigators that he participated in the beating of Worthington and was present when she was killed."

"Was present" with whom? Neither story says.

Why is the Cape's only daily newspaper keeping this potentially crucial aspect of the case from its readers, along with McCowen's claim to a romantic relationship with Worthington? At this point I'm beginning to wonder if the district attorney will ask for DNA samples from staffers at the Times. Yes, that was tongue in cheek, but not completely.

Perhaps the Times is looking the other way because they got beaten on this to begin with, and by a seemingly lowly weekly at that. Having spent two years working at weeklies before making the transition to daily newspapers, I know how hard many reporters at weeklies work compared to their often spoiled counterparts at dailies.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Kennedys of Onset

Reading in the New Bedford Standard-Times about the Onset man who allegedly threatened to blow up the Kennedy compound reminded me of a story that ran in the Aug. 1, 1994 edition of the Cape Verdean weekly newspaper, back when I was covering Wareham for the Brockton Enterprise.

A front-page article about Onset's popularity in the years before and after World War II included this paragraph - "You would see summer visitors such as Joe and Rose Kennedy with their children walking from their apartment in Onset (near Point Independent Bridge) to swim in the beach in Onset (they had spent the summers in Onset before they moved to Hyannis.

Both Publisher Manuel Neves and Bertie Cruz used to sell papers in Onset and Publisher Neves always remembered Joe Kennedy as he used to give Neves 50 cents for two papers - a 28-cent tip which was big money in those days" (the article did not elaborate as to who Bertie Cruz was).

This is the only published account I have ever read that refers to the Kennedys spending time in Onset before buying the summer house in Hyannisport, which was in 1927 or 1928, depending on the source.
Soon after the story ran in the Cape Verdean, I tried to contact Manuel Neves to learn more and was told by his wife that he had died.

But Mr. Neves is not the only source putting the Kennedys in Onset prior to Hyannisport. I used to work at the old Christo's restaurant in Hyannis, now a Chinese restaurant on Center Street, with a delightful elderly Greek gentleman known to all as Uncle John. Many years earlier, Uncle John told me, he delivered fruit and vegetables to Joe Kennedy at a summer house outside Onset near the Bourne line.

I was fascinated by Uncle John's claim because the house was just a few doors from one eventually owned by my mother. But I also had my doubts, because the house owned by my mother had passed through our family for nearly a century and none of my elders ever mentioned the presence of the Kennedys, way back when, just a stroll down the cove.