Published by: The Bisexual News Service – Reporting the news no one else will tell!
Media Chaos in Boston, News Coverage Declared Worthless
Boston, MA – December 11, 1998 – A coalition of different communities united today in street protest action, denouncing recent press coverage from their local media sources and demanding fairness and accuracy in reporting.
Gender activists, together with members of the bisexual, gay, and lesbian communities, joined with homeless rights advocates, advocates for social services, members of the Latino/Latina community, and advocates for communities of color to protest recent news coverage by the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, and Bay Windows. This highly unusual joint protest by a united body from many separate communities served to draw attention to the serious decay of substantive news coverage in Boston.
“There’s clearly a widespreak feeling that most of the present media coverage in Boston is utterly worthless,” explained David Rostcheck from the Bisexual Resource Center. “[The media] rattles on and on about Clinton and Lewinsky, as if anyone cared. Meanwhile, serious issues affecting our city get no coverage, or halfheared cursory coverage, or are continuously reported with gross factual errors that never get corrected.” The Bisexual Resource Center has recently helped launch a national response to the Christian Coalition’s “ex-gay” ads.
Members of the transgendered and intersexed communities protested the poor media coverage of the recent killing of Rita Hester, a transgendered woman killed in an apparent hate crime – the fourth such killing in Boston in four years. Media coverage of the killing has been relentlessly derogatory and insensitive, calling the victim a “gay man”, a “man who lived as a woman”, a “mystery to many”, and referring constantly to the victim as a male, though she had lived in as a woman for seven years, had never been known as a man in Boston, and was well known and liked in her Allston neighborhood.
Despite a storm of criticism levelled at the papers, they defended their practice of using a name the victim’s close friends had never known her by. Even the city’s largest gay paper, Bay Windows, drew heavy fire for its insensitive coverage – including pointed editorials articles from rival In Newsweekly.
Puerto Rican activists pointed to Herald acticles they considered blatantly offensive. These articles condemned the possibility of Puerto Rican statehood, extensively deriding the Puerto Rican natives as impovershed and unable to learn English. Numerous protesters, including Puerto Ricans both for and against statehood, and other Latinos and Latinas, waved Puerto Rican flags as passers-by waved from car windows and blew their horns. A sizeable contingent of motorcycle police helped manage the protest’s traffic flow.
Latino activists, met with Boston Herald editors, who offered to appoint a Latino affairs liason; the activists rejected this proposal, insisting that sensitive coverage involved making an actual effort to learn about the communities covered, not just getting one contact. The activists announced a boycott of the Boston Herald.
Activists for the homeless and for social programs described the lack of substantive news coverage given to the December welfare deadlines that cut aid to 4,000 Massachusetts women and and children. Governor Paul Celluci, who won recent re-election, has fought tirelessly to eliminate funding for human service programs, to the point where his most vicious vetos have been overridden by the state legislature, but his exploits have gone without significant attention from the Zippergate-enthralled Boston Globe and Boston Herald. Around the city, homeless shelters (which have been full all summer due to Boston’s catastrophic homelessness problem) have announced crash programs to scale up their capacity. Mayor Menino’s best efforts to highlight the problem and call for more aid have run up against media indifference. Because they feel they have no voice in the city’s media, the homeless print and distribute their own newspaper, Spare Change; its coverage of the problem has featured detailed interviews with Michael and Kitty Dukakis, Mayor Menino, and shelter directors.
Activists for the rights of people of color spoke about Mumia Abu Jumal, a one-time member of the Black Panthers who faces the death penalty for what many believe to be a trumped-up case. Members of the African-American community consider Jumal to be a political prisoner; his case, a subject of much discussion on the streets of Boston and Cambridge, has received little media attention and what news coverage it does receive is riddled with what many believe to be gross factual errors.
The protesters picketed in front of the Boston Herald offices, then marched in unity through the streets of Boston to the offices of Bay Windows where activists from the transgender and Puerto Rican communities spoke about Bay Windows’ coverage of the Rita Hester murder. The procession then marched on to the Christmas tree at Copley Square, where speakers spoke in support of one another’s causes. The speakers included Nancy Nangeroni (the host of GenderTalk Radio on WMBR 88.1), Kazi Toure for the Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Chris Sterling representing Queer Revolt, Lorenzo A. Rossello for the National Committee to Free Puerto Rican Political Prisioners and POW’s, and Leah Eckelberger from A Slice of Rice. The Truth Rally was sponsored by Tse (Two-Spirit Education, TLBG Prisioner support), Queer Revolt, the Lesbian Avengers, SOUL (Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation), M.O.C.A.A., It’s Time Massachusetts!, Boston Chapter of National Peoples Campaign and other organizations.
Boston activists declared the rally the beginning of a new city-wide collaboration between previously separated communities in support of each other’s issues. “It is the ongoing struggle of oppressed people that will keep this coalition going,” declared human rights activist Justice Williams. “The importance of the rally was that it was a learning experience for all. We were able to unite under one issue that effects us all, the media. Now that we got the ball rolling we will be continuing this coalition – I believe that we have become a force to reckon with.”
Published by the Bisexual News Service, a service of the Bisexual Resource Center, and copyright 1998 BRC. Reprinted here without permission.