The Public Needs Watchdogs Not Lapdogs



By: Christine Morabito, Greater Boston Tea Party – June, 2012

Gone are the days when local newspapers did anything resembling in-depth investigative reporting. Whether the issue is lack of funding, under-staffing or in far too many cases, blatant political bias, it is the news-consuming, tax-paying citizens who are left unprotected. In essence, the mainstream media have become lapdogs.

We are fortunate in the Merrimack Valley to have a news outlet with courage, independence and objectivity when it comes reporting on public officials. The Valley Patriot Publisher, Tom Duggan is frequently the first to break stories that are not covered by the traditional media until months or years later — if at all.

This is clearly evident in the Valley Patriot’s 8 year coverage of the ethically challenged Mayor of Lawrence, Willie Lantigua and recent investigations into Essex County Sheriff, Frank Cousins.

Duggan has latched onto these stories of corruption and graft like a pitbull, and refuses to let go until all the facts are known. Yet, time and time again, because of political favoritism, local newspapers refuse to investigate or report such stories until they are forced to, but not without first making themselves irrelevant. When the media lies down with corrupt politicians, who is looking out for us?

I picked up my local paper the other day to find a front-page story about several rogue cows that had crashed a back yard shindig and drank some beer. For a brief moment, I was transported to my childhood home in rural Missouri, where that sort of thing might actually be news. Admittedly, the story was cute, but much like the paper’s constant yapping about which politician’s offspring had a brush with the law, it’s annoying and it’s not news.

Then there is the Dominican election irony, long ignored by the lapdog media.

Duggan has been reporting since 2006 that Dominicans living in Massachusetts are required to show a Dominican-issued photo ID to vote in their homeland elections. Duggan has also reported that Dominicans living in Lawrence, Massachusets can vote in Lawrence for their Dominican President and have to show and ID here in the U.S. at the very same polling places that they vote in during American elections. 

Why is this ironic?

In November of 2009 The Valley Patriot continued
a long history of reporing on the shenanigans of
(then) Mayor-elect Willie Lantigua. This paper,
and its’ publisher have been exposing Lantigua’s
Misdeds for more than a decade while the
Merrimack Valley Delegation on Beacon Hill, city
councils, mayors and The Eagle~Tribune gave
him a free pass.

Because, opponents of Show ID in the U.S. claim it is racist. Using their distorted logic, the Dominican Republic would be perpetrating racism against its own people.

During this year’s Dominican election, Duggan again unleashed the story on his WCAP radio show, Paying Attention, and the local media was forced to cover it. Once people began sharing it on social media, the story went viral. 

The local print media is paying an enormous price for their journalistic neglect. Readership, subscriptions and advertizing are dwindling, and they are laying off reporters at an alarming rate. You might be tempted to blame the internet, but that does not explain why The Valley Patriot is expanding its distribution and constantly adding advertisers. Surely, they must be doing something right.

So, in an effort to do the job the mainstream media won’t do, the Greater Boston Tea Party will be co-sponsoring a Citizen Watchdog Training with the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. This all day event will be held on Saturday, June 23 at the DCU Center in Worcester and was designed to train and support citizen journalists as they work to sniff out and expose corruption, waste and incompetence at all levels of government.

Here are some training topics to sink  your teeth into: Five steps to becoming an information activist, interviewing and cultivating sources, investigative reporting, public meetings and open records laws, expanding your influence on the internet and using social media to hold elected officials accountable and drive mainstream media coverage.

Tom Duggan will be presenting a segment on Massachusetts media law.

Interested would-be watchdogs can register by viewing the calendar on our website or by visiting the Greater Boston Tea Party Facebook events page. The registration fee is only $10 for what promises to be an empowering and educational event.

Remember: Lapdogs are cute and snuggly,but they will not keep the scoundrels at bay.