!!PLANET EXCLUSIVE!! PETER MOORE’s FAMILY SPEAKS …THE BATTLE OF LETTERS or WHAT’S A JOURNALIST? WHO’S A JOURNALIST? THE PLANET RESPONDS TO BB EDITORIAL … plus … TWO CASES IN POINT THAT PUTS ‘FREE SPEECH’ TO A TEST (DO YOU DARE TAKE IT?)
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, JULY 13, 2012) — THE PLANET heard from a spokesman for the family of Peter Moore, victim of the negligent driving of Meredith Nilan.
Moore’s laborious recovery from his near-fatal injuries continues on schedule, energized by the fuel injection of family love and the determination of a strong man, who wants to regain as much of his prior life as possible. That prior life includes all the time from Peter Moore’s birth up to approximately 8:15 p.m. on the night of Dec. 8, 2011. That was the night Nilan ran into him with her SUV, after she crossed lanes on Winesap Road, Pittsfield, Mass. This action followed her attendance at a Berkshire Chamber of Commerce Christmas bacanalia, party held earlier that night at a restaurant in Great Barrington.
It’s not easy to recover from a life-changing event like getting run down by a negligent driver. When your neck is broken, when you suffer from traumatic brain injury, when you have broken bones, your have not only the physical recovery but also the mental, emotional, and spiritual one. Peter Moore is handling that recovery as well as anyone could be expected to do. One thing above all, however, sticks in his craw.
He Can’t, But She Can? What’s Wrong with that Picture?
The Moore family spokesperson said Peter can’t get over the fact that under Commonwealth statute, he had to prove he was capable of operating a motor vehicle safely. His license was suspended for three months, the spokesperson says, until Moore could demonstrate his competence. Meredith Nilan, on the other hand, did not lose her privilege to drive, the spokesperson said.
“Peter fully understands why his license was suspended due to the traumatic brain injury caused by Ms. Nilan,” the spokesperson said. “Moreover, he fully supports the state of Massachusetts mandate that he prove that was capable of operating a motor vehicle before he was allowed to drive one. He just thinks that it’s grossly unfair that the person that caused his predicament was not similarly sanctioned. He was without his license for three months.She wasn’t.”
Fair point. THE PLANET was not aware of the statute regarding brain trauma and driving. It’s reasonable and necessary, of course. We identify with the Moores’ frustration. He, the victim, is assumed to be incapable of driving safely. She, whose negligence factually demonstrated her inability to drive safely, is assumed to be OK. In this particular case, it seems they got it reversed.
BATTLE OF THE EDITORIALS: PLANET RESPONDS TO THE BB
On Wednesday, the Boring Broadsheet, a newspaper formerly known as the Berkshire Eagle, published the following editorial in response to Judge Mark Mason’s decision Monday in Nilan v. Valenti.
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Wednesday July 11, 2012
A Central Berkshire District Court judge made the proper call on a First Amendment basis Monday in lifting the harassment prevention order Meredith Nilan had filed against local blogger Dan Valenti. But while it was a victory for Mr. Valenti it was not a victory for all journalists.
Free speech and freedom of the press are concepts at the foundation of our way of life and judges must be careful not to set precedents that threaten them. District Court Judge Bethzaida Sanabria-Vega undermined those principles June 27 when she ordered Mr. Valenti to remove all references to Meredith Nilan, who struck and severely injured a Pittsfield man with her car last December, from his blog, and Central Berkshire District Court Judge Mark Mason’s ruling restored order.
Ms. Nilan is the daughter of Clifford Nilan, the head of the Berkshire Superior Court’s Probation Department, and the initial handling of her case led to considerable Internet speculation about possible favoritism because of her father’s influence. Much of this speculation was unkind and a Las Vegas man who allegedly threatened her life is facing criminal charges. We don’t doubt that Ms. Nilan found this attention to be upsetting, but while she asserted in court she wasn’t there to argue about free speech, that is what this case was indeed about.
Courtesy of the Internet, journalists now come in all stripes, and it is the responsibility of bloggers to act responsibly and
in so do doing protect the right to a free press and not hide behind it. In their battles with the traditional media that they regard as hidebound by all their rules involving fairness and fact-checking, bloggers often walk “a very, very fine line,” as Judge Mason cautioned Mr. Valenti in reference to one of his comments. Irre sponsibly crossing that line can invite court actions that may shake the First Amendment. Monday’s decision was less a journalistic victory than the dodging of a bullet.
As for the Nilan case, it was decided last month when one count of negligent operation of a motor vehicle was continued without a finding for six months and another charge was dismissed. There is really nothing more to be said, or blogged.
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We responded that day, by e-mail. Not knowing if the BB would not publish our editorial, we present it here (one of the perks about owning your own “newspaper”). As of today, the paper hasn’t.
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To the Editor:
In response to your July 11 editorial, we agree. Judge Mason’s decision in Nilan v. Valenti was a victory for the First Amendment and for me. We disagree, however, with your statement: “It was not a victory for all journalists.”
Do you not understand what and who is a journalist? Not all bloggers are journalists, of course, though they are protected by First Amendment rights of free speech and free press. As back in America’s founding days, anyone who printed a pamphlet or hand wrote a comment on a piece of paper had the right to publish those messages. Today, we have added cyberspace to the traditional media of print and broadcasting.
I have worked in print and broadcast all my professional life. I entered that life having earned master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University. I have published four million words, appeared on radio and TV 4,000 times, and have taught the equivalent of 4,000 college classes in writing, composition, communication, mass media, and journalism. That’s the kind of resume that makes one a journalist.
Judge Mason’s comment about “walking a fine line” was directed at one phrase out of the million or so words I have published on PLANET VALENTI. To take it out of context as your editorial does is to distort the meaning of the judge’s comment. I should know. I was in court that day. You weren’t.
Your statement that “the Nilan case” has been decided and that “[t]here is really nothing more to be said or blogged” sadly misses the mark. That attitude has kept your once-proud newspaper in the dumps. Our actions in practicing the art and science of journalism keep our circulation on the rise.
A blogger who attacked Sports Illustrated cover girl Kate Upton’s sexy figure, likening the curvy swimsuit model to a cow and a pig, is facing severe backlash for her comments.
The unnamed female blogger, who acknowledges preferring the “skinny aesthetic,” wrote in a July 8 post on the website “Skinny Gurl” that she has been deluged with angry emails and threatened with rape and death.
The controversy first began back in June when the blogger wrote that Upton was “confidently lumbering up the runway like there’s a buffet at the end of it,” and also called her a “little piggie” with “huge thighs, NO waist, big fat floppy boobs, terrible body definition … .”
She continued: “Did you know that humans are 80% genetically identical to cows? Well, allow me to prove it to you… .” That line was followed by an unflattering photo of the back of Upton’s lingerie-clad body on the runway.
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The vast majority of us would agree with the PLANET that the “Miss Skinny’s” words, though offensive, are protected. So what about the yahoos who got on her site with threats of bodily harm and rape? Is that allowable? Is that actionable? THE PLANET thinks, respectively and respectfully, Yes and No. The First Amendment must allow even the harshest and most offensive comments, all other things being equal.
“TELL ME: SHALL WE GO OR STAY?
SHALL WE ONWARD?