We no longer claim that the Boston media is asleep on the job in terms of holding these 2024 Olympics fabulists accountable. From the Boston Herald to the Dorchester Reporter, there has been laudable deep reporting, as well as some of the most brutal condemnations of Mass politics as usual since our last Speaker of the House got sentenced and shackled. All this week, we’re excited to run with Boston’s hard-questioning press, as public hearings heat up along with editorial pages (at least we assume the latter). Still, as the old saying goes, if you have nothing nasty to say, then there’s no point in writing Media Farm. On that note …
Earlier this month, Boston attorney Joel Fleming released a trove of emails he obtained from UMass Boston through the Freedom of Information Act. Along with the group No Boston 2024, Fleming trumpeted his discovery of the inside correspondence, which details seemingly insidious discussions between city officials, UMass researchers, Olympic organizers, and The Boston Foundation. The latter is New England’s towering philanthropic behemoth, with board members ranging from partners at the city’s leading law firms, to private equity and banking executives, to nonprofit, media, and university honchos. But even though the foundation is guided by influential business interests, the media barely reacted to the Fleming documents, many of which outlined the nauseatingly sleazy process by which TBF manufactured the production and dissemination of a laughably boosterish Boston 2024 study and press release.
Other than some Twitter murmurings and a couple of pokes from Boston Magazine, no one seemed to really care or notice that a front for potential Olympic investors is pulling so many strings. It’s anybody’s guess why there’s been such a lack of public outcry, though one email dated March 16 of this year, from TBF VP for Communications Mary Jo Meisner to the UMass researchers with whom her foundation was collaborating, contains information that may explain why the Boston Globe hasn’t plastered herein revelations across page one (bold ours):
I have talked to Brian McGrory and then Jen Peter, the Metro Editor, at the Globe. Jen will get back to me shortly about who she is assigning to write the story (either Mark Arsenault or Michael Levenson apparently) and then I will send them the electronic version of the report and the final press release. Not sure right now whether they’d be trying to interviews today or tomorrow or both. We are embargoing it for their exclusive use first on Wednesday morning. How I handle the rest of the media is still being finalized. So I’ll be in touch as soon as I hear back from her. Thanks.
It’s silly to read too much into this stuff, as all reportorial types must finagle with leviathans from time to time, but it’s still worth highlighting. Public shaming serves as a good advertisement for the Dig, as none of us consult Meisner or any other outsiders about editorial decisions. In all fairness, the emails also include an intense exchange over op-eds and reports in the Globe, suggesting that while there are definitely hints of bondage, the foundation doesn’t have the grey lady in handcuffs just yet. In any case, while this publication has decisively condemned the Olympics, we’re still far less compromised than the pathetic sellout researchers at UMass. Take, for example, this email from Daniel Hodge, the Director of Economic and Public Policy Research at the UMass Donahue Institute, to TBF about a radio interview in which he shilled for them (bold ours).
I did find a time to mention the Boston Foundation but hard to know what they’ll use from the interview … The first question started with the premise that this is a positive story of economic impacts, which after the incredibly balanced Globe article was sort of interesting. I tried to pivot to the quote we used in the press release that based on current plans there are positive economic impacts.
You can almost hear the smack of the professor’s lips on Meisner’s bottom. You have to feel for the guy, as he gets absolutely reamed by the demanding communications maestro in other emails, like one in which she chastises edits he made to a press release (“I am not sure why you substituted that for the language that was in there”), and urges the foundation’s UMass monkeys to get in line. It’s hard to imagine how somebody like Hodge can live with himself, vicariously kissing the keister of millionaires through their tactless flack, and padding a study while calling yourself a professional. Behold another love note from Hodge to Meisner, in which he looks to shamelessly cherry pick studies that show how the Olympics benefit existing businesses:
Hi Mary Jo – upon further reflection, I think it might be helpful to follow-up with this professor to see if [he] has any published research (or similar) in this area. He references a “small but persuasive body of literature supporting the B2B value …” and I think it would be instructive to learn more about this.
As seen in the emails, this prostituting of the public interest ran unabated though said so-called research process, as it most likely has in the time since. Then again, if the memos reveal anything, it’s that what they say is true about a fart having no nose. While Olympic planners have implied that their detractors are motivated by something other than goodwill toward the community, they’ve spent whole entire threads concocting ways to deride haters. Yet somehow they appear to really believe the TBF study was “independent,” even as their mutual cooperation negates everything that word stands for.
It will be interesting to see how TBF “handle[s] the rest of the media.” All things considered though, it should be clear by now how we see fit to handle them.
[Media Farm is wrangled by DigBoston News + Features Editor Chris Faraone]