Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Times that tries men's souls

There was a comment posted a few days ago by a reader pointing out that this week's East Boston Times congratulated, on page 14, the graduates from the class of "2008." Paging through the June 10 issue I also saw that a headline identified photos from East Boston High School's "ACADMEMIC AWARDS BANQUET."

Of course, mistakes happen. The Times got the year right on Page 13, and the error on the following page was in a heading that was likely carried over from last year and just slipped by. Someone should have caught the misspelling of "academic" -- especially in a story about schools -- but I've edited newspapers, and I know that headlines and captions are often written last, sometimes moments before files are uploaded to the printer.

The things that really trouble me about the local weekly are elsewhere in this week's issue: on page 1 and page 20. The lead story opens with this paragraph: "A second East Boston school in less than a month has been shut down due to a nasty flu outbreak." That was breaking news on June 3, the day that the Boston Public Schools sent out a news release announcing it, but seven days later -- the day the Times hit the streets -- it was an old story. The article should have opened with "Youngsters at an East Boston elementary school return to their classrooms tomorrow after a sudden week-long vacation prompted by fears of a flu outbreak." Or something to that effect.

Besides the untimely angle, the Times story does not quote the school's principal or any teachers or any students or any parents. There are a couple lines in quotation marks from school superintendent Carol Johnson, but they are taken from the aforementioned BPS press release. Why not include comments from those affected by the story? Why not follow up on the closing of the Umana, which happened a couple weeks ago, by asking their principal how the shutdown affected his school?

On the back page is what we've come to expect from the Times: eight static photos of Chamber of Commerce members. (There is also the obligatory photo of politicians on page 1.) This marks 199 weeks in a row we've seen the same faces doing the same things in our local newspaper. The 2000 census said that there are 38,413 people living in East Boston. Not all of them can be found at meetings of the Chamber of Commerce.


Anonymous said...

One suggestion Jim, stop reading the paper and torturing yourself.

-John Lynds

Jim said...

This is what I don't get. Why isn't the response to what, at least from my point of view, is legitimate criticism a factual counterpoint to the comments, for example: "While you may be right about this, you're wrong about that and this is why..."

Instead, it is: "Stop reading," or -- more often -- "You're a jerk." I very well may be a jerk, but that is irrelevant to my critique.

Eastie Knitter said...

Hi, Jim. You have to hand it to The Times.

Recently, Mr. Boston dedicated an entire column to a dissertation on Tom Kinton. Sure, Mr. Kinton was highlighted in an earlier Boston Globe article about his receiving an award from a charitable organization, but the article had a shelf life of about an hour. The story had nothing to do with East Boston, or its residents, yet The Times felt it so important to be an apologist for Mr. Kinton. I found it a very strange column. Then, in this week's edition, the same writer felt it would be helpful for this community to be treated to an amateur's explanation of why a father's kidnapping of his child was of interest to the public.

But, hey, if we wait long enough, the writer will resume his pontification of the mayor's race...always in favor of the incumbent. Copy and paste should work well for that thread: same boring drivel, new edition of the paper.

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N.starluna said...

Is that really John Lynds? If so, the response is disappointing to say the least. Jimbo's comments are legitimate. It would be nice to have a substantive response.

Jim said...

Well, NStarluna raises a good point: I'm not sure who is posting the signed comments. I am not censoring them, but until they are verified I've hidden them so as not to potentially put words in anyone's mouth. (One criticized my beard!)

Anonymous said...


I agree 100% with your post insofar as it is an accurate portrayal of exactly what the East Boston Times covers. This is what I expect from my local newspaper - nothing more nothing less. If I want news about the brewing North/South Korean unrest, I don't expect the Times to have an AP feed or to send John Lynds to the peninsula for an in depth 3 part series. Besides, I go to a more experienced source for that type of news anyway - so I am not complaining. Like all media sources, I do take the Times for what it is - a local paper with local stories of what is going on locally. The editorials are more humorous than opinion swaying for me. Do they always get it right? No. Do they always spell everything correctly? No. Do they get the scoop on every story? Not always. But I guess that puts them in the same category of some others that you don't seem to be as harsh on. For example, like many of your fans, I too also like to read the Post Gazette sometimes to get a different perspective. I find that they have their share of gaffe's too (and lets not even talk about the dailies!). However, the less I read about who else screwed up on your blog and the more I just read about the knocks on the Times I really have to the Times really all that bad (relatively speaking) or are you just selective in your criticism? If not, I await patiently your first post about how La Gazzetta should be more broad in what it covers.

Keep up the good work! Love the Blog.

John Q. Public said...

Let me see if I got this right, Jimbo. The School Department puts out a release on June 3 (Wednesday) and the information is in the next edition of the Times (a weekly newspaper) that came out on June 10th - and you call it old news?

I hate to say it, but Jimbo's right folks!

Suggestion to the Times: in this age of technology and "get it now information", your paper really needs to get with the "Times" (no pun intended). I would suggest that you print the news (obits, sports scores, lottery, etc.) for the UPCOMING WEEK. Who the hell wants to read about the past week anyway.

From your assessment Jimbo, I suppose the only thing the Times could have really done to please you in this case was to run a "Special Edition" with this news perhaps on Thursday the 4th or Friday the 5th. I agree - by Saturday it would have been old news!

Eric Bradley said...

My goodness, you were right about stirring up some controversy only on local matters.

My suggestion: incorporate your political provocations into local coverage. Then maybe you'll get two camps screaming at you!

N.starluna said...

Generally, I am not one to jump onto the grammar police bandwagon outside of my own classroom. But I don't understand how anyone can defend the Times on this one.

I read the article about the Otis school online. Assuming the article online is the same as in the paper, it is written as if it is breaking news. Even the title of the article, "Flu outbreak leads to a second school closing in Eastie" (emphasis added) implies that the event just happened when it had in fact happened a week before. The verb "leads" is present indicative, in this case meaning that the action is occurring now or in the very near future. However, when the article was published, the action had long since occurred. The entire article is written as if the school had closed the day before.

Identifying and using correct verb tenses is part of the 5th/6th grade English language standards in Massachusetts. Elementary school children are tested on their ability to identify and use correct tenses. It is so much to ask that the neighborhood newspaper be written in a manner consistent with what we expect elementary school children to know?

Using incorrect tense is an easy mistake to make and is forgivable when writing comments on a blog. But tense problems are easily caught when there is some attention paid to editing. Unless a specific piece really is breaking news, I think encouraging the Times editor to pay a little bit more attention to these things is simply constructive criticism.

Jim said...

In response to the comments yesterday at 1:26 p.m.: If you check back to my post of Nov. 17, 2008, you'll find that I had a few unkind words for the Post Gazette, which I referred to as an "insipid, homely, narrow-minded weekly fishwrap."

The PG's pages are filled with much stupider crap than the Times, but they are, as I put it, "a bunch of cranks." On the other hand, at least they are passionate about their subjects.

Anonymous said...

"Stupider," Jim??? "More stupid" sounds a lot better, don't you think?

Jim said...

"Stupider" is acceptable usage.

Mary Berninger said...

I wonder if The Times will do an in-depth investigation of the following story.

I just read on the Boston Police report that officers, when investigating a robbery on Putnam Street, discovered what appeared to be a rooming house: several bedrooms with separate locks and dead bolts. I'm sure this is not the only such violation to be found throughout East Boston. One just has to notice the many mailboxes with multiple last names. I remember the recent story in the media about the basement apartment where sleeping areas where separated by just sheets. Using a bulkhead door was the way to access that "living space."

I know people have to have a place to live. I also know that neighbors have a right to expect that housing rules are being obeyed. So, we may be faced with a catch 22. However, I am comfortable with siding with those in this community who are tired of city, state and federal governments failing to enforce the laws, thereby creating the density situation and related problems that we now face.

Jim said...

I agree, Mary. That would be an important subject to take a look at. I'm sure there are dozens and dozens of situations like that in East Boston.

I'd also like to see a more detailed account of what happened to the Italia Unita festival. This was a big local event and its demise should be scrutinized a bit more closely.

Giordana said...

Like all media sources, I do take the Times for what it is - a local paper with local stories of what is going on locally.

Agreed, but it would be nice if John Lynds (et. al.) went out of their safe zone every once in a while. I suggest an article about:
1. How the "Silver Line" doesn't go to the airport T stop and therefore is useless to Eastie Residents
2. How the new signs at the Maverick T station are inaccurate, contradict each other, and have typos
3. A profile of the new Breakfast place in the marina, Scup's
4. A profile of the new fresh market going to open on Everett St.
5. An article about Zumix that interviews the kids who use their facilities, rather than a canned article directly from their press release
6. An explanation as to why Charlestown has a harbor boat to downtown and Eastie doesn't
7. Ditto on Mary Beringer's idea
8. An update on all of the waterfront condo projects' holdups
9. What the police are doing about the homeless/drug problem so close to the Barnes School on Border street
10. Why the Eagle Hill sewer re-do project is taking so long.
11. Why Massport hasn't turned on the spray pool in the Bremen Street park yet
12. What happened with the extension of the greenway out to Shay's (Constitution) beach that Massport blocked because of Sept 11

Just off the top of my head...

Jim said...

Those are some excellent ideas. How about soliciting guest columns from people in the community who are active on different issues and involved with different groups?

Anonymous said...

i say mary berninger has a weekly editorial...let's all be honest now, she said everything that we felt during her election...but...we went with comfort over change...and look where that's gotten us...i'd be interested to hear what mary's thoughts are on a lot of local issues...i like the perspective of a variety of residents for a local newspaper, rather than just one person's viewpoints...i mean, in order to form an opinion you do need to see all the facts...all the sides to every story...and there is ALWAYS more than just one side to a story...let's take the cancellation of the italian festival this year...i believe we deserve to know what is truly behind it's cancellation.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Jim it is an important subject--so important that it was an inside feature (w photos I might add) a few months back.
The story began describing the inside of my wife's old house on Meridian Street (a home I was very familiar with) and how it fell victim to a slum lord that turned it into an illegal rooming house.
Please Jim, read the @#$% paper before you criticize it!

-John Lynds

Anonymous said...

...And to Giordana, I have done stories on pretty much everything you suggested and I'll be glad to get you back copies because I assume, like Jim, you don't read the paper on a regular basis.

-John Lynds

Anonymous said...

Interesting dids.

Come on Jimbo,lets be real.

You know the Times is not the East Boston Times.

Its a self promoting pool of self endulgence politicians,who not onmly donante the paper ,but control it.

Its funny they call themselves the Independant news group> Yikes,Independant,no way.

No one is allowed many letters to the editor,esp if it casts shadows on our politicians,or the lack of coverage by the times on them.

The never ending vanishing,and secrecy of mitigation funds,such as the E.B.Foundation

Itis what it is,but can you image the lack of exposure for its advertisers.

Many are fed up.

Restructure,and bring in new reporters,who are not afraid.

Then print the correct amount for every citizen to read,let alone a spanish section.


Jim said...

I see the Times most weeks, and I did read the story on the house on Meridian Street. Maybe I'm wrong, but I didn't remember it talking broadly about the issue, citing statistics, quoting residents, homeowners, city officials, etc.

Anonymous said...

City hall could care less about the people at the Times.It is obvious that revenue and readership is down,and Menino could care less. So keep brown-nosing and watch your publication go under.The people at the Times are only hurting themselves by slanting the news.They are being used but will continue on the path they have chosen.They are on the road to extinction.

Giordana said...

Hi John Lynds,

I wasn't sure if it was you or a spammer here, now that I'm fairly certain it is actually you, I'm hoping I'll be able to bend your ear without seeming too critical, because I do truly love the Times. And the only reason I don't read it every week is that Savas' (on Bennington) doesn't get enough copies, and often my schedule doesn't allow me to get it from elsewhere. I would subscribe if I could-- have you explored that option? I'd pay.

I have read articles similar to the ones suggested in my post, (such as the article last year about Pier 1 stoppage), but what about the Boiler Works? New Street? Are they going to break ground, or are they just going to languish? And does the sewer project have something to do with the delay?

And I haven't seen an article about the incorrect signs in Maverick-- are you planning to write about that?

And I've been doing some research into the Silver Line issue, but no one has come up with a better answer than it's "redundant" because of the airport bus. No one has held Massport or the T's balls to the wall about this issue, and everyone I've talked to has given me the run-around.

Other topics you might consider writing about (if you haven't already):

*The new Eastie signage report put out by Valerie and the BRA, based on what was on our historical waterfront-- it's really cool
*Stores that are going into the Welfare building in Maverick
*The reaction against the recent Globe article on Eastie Police reaching out to the Hispanic community
*(You probably wrote this and I just missed it). How the Burger King in Maverick got approved with so much protest against it-- how much clout does community protest actually have?
*A community survey (even informal) about what kinds of stores and business Eastie residents need/want
*And although I love Taquerias, why do all 'other' restaurants eventually become them? Like that Moroccan one, the M+J, etc.

That's all I can come up with off the top of my head...

Murdock said...

My two cents: I read the Times and enjoy paper. While the stories and photos often seem to be “canned” or to revolve around the same groups and individuals, there is some worthy reporting of issues that affect the community. For example, I liked reading about how the D-7 police were stepping up their foot and bike patrols of Eagle Hill last summer, the work that is going on to address the trash issue, the city’s graffiti-busters program, updates on the red-blue line connection program, etc. Also, for the sake of balance, I do remember John Lynds’ story about his wife’s house on Meridian Street, reporting on the issues at Tequila’s (a paid advertiser in the paper, I might note), a controversial editorial about why the community doesn’t need its 1,000th taqueria (which I completely agree with), and coverage of opposition to the development of more affordable housing in the neighborhood (which I also agree with). So the paper does, occasionally, veer from covering local political hacks and the chamber of commerce. Are there typos in the paper? Sure, but I find them in the Globe and other magazines too. Rather than simply bash the Times, why don’t we continue to provide John Lynds with some ideas for stories and follow-ups so that he can report on issues that matter the most to us? I think Giordana’s comment about how the silver line doesn’t connect to the blue line definitely deserves some more coverage and an explanation from the MBTA. Bottom line, the Times, like this blog (which is also great) is a free publication/medium through which information is shared. I think we are all better off having the Times and this blog around than we’d be without them – even if we don’t enjoy or agree with every story.

Anonymous said...

Murdock offered some good information. Unfortunately the Times will not print a letter to the editor if its critical of anyone thats connected to Menino in any way. They dont want guest editorials. They have an agenda that they strictly adhere to,been that way for several years now.I dont understand the allegiance since it has destroyed the Times credibility,and greatly hurt revenue.But as the great James Michael Curley once said of East Boston,and I quote--"you can buy them for a baloney sandwich"

Anonymous said...

Here we go again Jimbo
Anther John Lynds !


How the hell do I figure in this blog topic,and why do others have to alert me to vicous attacks on your blog Jimb.


Now even though its an anon ,I am willing to bet its from John Lynds,or one of his blog slaves who do his anon dirty work.

Hey John Lynds
Heres an Idea for you.

100% legaly sanctioned ,and legits. A boxing match.

Since I can hardly walk from a stroke,have limited mobility in my left arm,cant stand without crutches,and am on 22 meds ,

As they try hard to savfe my left leg from being amputated.

Advantange yours.

Why don't you be a man ,meet me in Southies gym on Bradway.

Ill pay for 3 rounds,and lets see if you can inflict so such hatred on me in person.


You are a coward who shakes my hand in public,then slams me on this blog,and every where else.

My gues is your to afraid.
It will be 3 rounds 3 minutes each,sanctioned by a licensed ref.

Heck Ill even sign a waiver ,if you will so no one can sue if one or the others boxes the crap out of anyone.

Hate =Fear,and I am not afraid of you.,but ill bet your afraid of me

Come on its one spot your pen ins not mighter than your

Anonymous said...

John Lynds,

Your comments are disgraceful and the thought that you represent the Times is disgusting. I can't believe the paper allows an employee to act and write on this blog in the way that you do.

Bottom line: criticism is a good thing, we all get it. It is the way we handle it that seperates the boys from the men. You are proving once agian to be a boy.

Congrats...once again, nice photo spread of all your fellow boys who have let Eastie go to +*it. How about week after week writing about how dirty Eastie is and how bad the store fronts look and how all the illegal apartments and businesses still exist. Maybe then someone will get the hint and do something about wait, you and yours boys, don't CARE!!

John, please start acting like a man. No need to bad mouth, throw tantrums and sulk. Remember, be a professionl, even though, it is hard...I know that you can do it!

Here's a story idea...write about your brother who runs a lucrative foundation, gets a ridiculous salary and disperses money and his approval.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr.Resnick /owner of the Times

You should be ashamed of yourself for having John Lynds as a reporter.

I am glad I pulled my two ads,and can say the feedback has been great as I have a sign up in my stores letting people know I wont advertise in a hate filled paper.

The response is awesome,as most feel the same way,and commend me for taking a stance against hate.

As revenue drops do you sincerly think you can afford this path of hate,not to mention your Love affair with the politicians who most hate anyway.

Thats why most ads are from non eastie businesses


It was a once respectable paper,that is when Lou Torrone owned it,and John Lynds did not work there.

apx 38,000 peoplke in Eastie ,what do you print 8 ,000 copies,hardly a community paper. Thats also why I pulled out No Bang for my advertising money.