Media Awareness Project



DrugSense FOCUS Alert #277 September 21, 2003

Below are the stories covering the Boston Freedom Rally as presented by The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald. One would have a hard time believing that the reporters were at the same event. Let's look at the differences.


Pubdate: Sun, 21 Sep 2003
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2003 Globe Newspaper Company
Author: Ron DePasquale


There may have been a haze in the air, but organizers of the annual Freedom Rally on the Boston Common clearly saw their goal, to decriminalize marijuana and allow medicinal use.

As the smell of pot mixed with incense, and the band onstage competed with numerous bongo players and guitar strummers, organizers from the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition spoke of their confidence that marijuana will be decriminalized in the state. They cited the non-binding results of votes last November in 20 districts where citizens, by an average of 2-to-1, instructed their state representatives to decriminalize pot. No bills have made it out of committee, but that has not discouraged MassCann president Bill Downing .

"We expect very soon to see Massachusetts decriminalize marijuana," Downing said. "It will probably have to be done through the initiative process, because legislators are reluctant to pursue it unless they are forced to do so."

About 45,000 attended the festival, Boston police said. At least 45 arrests were made on drug-related charges, police said. An organizer said attendance appeared to be down from last year.

Canada's decision to decriminalize possession of less than two-thirds of an ounce of marijuana also encourages MassCann, Downing said, along with the case of Ed Rosenthal , a Californian who was deputized by the city of Oakland to grow marijuana for medicinal use and convicted in January in federal court of cultivation and conspiracy to grow more than 1,000 marijuana plants, after a raid on his home.

A judge sentenced Rosenthal to a one-day prison term and said he had already served it after he was arrested. The activist has since become a symbol of the movement and spoke twice at yesterday's Freedom Rally.

"The government did in six months what I've been trying to do for 35 years," said Rosenthal, coauthor of "Why Marijuana Should Be Legal" and author of 12 other books about marijuana. "The whole legal situation has catapulted me into being a spokesman for the movement, and I really appreciate their help."

Rosenthal is appealing his conviction, while federal prosecutors are appealing his sentence.

Rachel, a 34-year-old government worker in Rhode Island who did not want her last name used, called Rosenthal "courageous" after buying two of his books.

"I'm glad to see people getting together on the issue," she said. "Most people walk around and don't express an opinion, because they're afraid of persecution. But the numbers here speak for themselves, when you look at everyone who's come here."

Good reporting by the Boston Globe. Covered what happened well. Worthy of a pat on the back Letter to the Editor.

But what did the Boston Herald write?


Pubdate: Sun, 21 Sep 2003
Source: Boston Herald (MA)
Copyright: 2003 The Boston Herald, Inc
Author: Jules Crittenden


Police arrested 45 pot smokers on Boston Common yesterday as protesting hempheads called for an end to the war on drugs and a diversion of billions of anti-drug dollars to the war on terrorism.

"Fight terrorism! End prohibition," yelled Joe Bonni of MASS CANN/NORML, the pro-weed lobby that organized the event. Citing the transfer of narcotic agents to terrorism duty after 9/11, Bonni said, "Imagine how safe we'd be if they had been on home security in the first place. We need to make the nation a safer place, and one of the ways to do that is to end the war on drugs."

Thousands of cannabis enthusiasts along with anti-reefer activists descended on the Common for the 14th annual Freedom Rally, where pot, politics, tie-dye styles, head-banging punk rock, Christian evangelism and fried dough converged in a big, sweaty, sun-baked mass yesterday.

Clouds of marijuana smoke wafted across the green, and by 5 p.m., undercover officers had arrested 45 people for possession or distribution of marijuana.

A reporter's approach made one 50-year-old pot smoker jump.

"I'd have some explaining to do," said the Waltham man, who identified himself only as "Joe." He estimated that he had been smoking pot for at least 32 years, and said he considered it a crime that it is still illegal.

"The penalties people get for smoking pot are ridiculous," Joe said.

Where two main paths crossed, a series of activists with placards angled for the attention of passersby. They ranged from an evangelist beseeching sinners to change their ways, to a pot proponent protesting NORML for proposing legislation rather than fighting a court battle on constitutional grounds.

An earnest young law student clutching a hefty tome argued the issue with him. Another man nearby simply held up a store-bought utility sign that said, "Keep Off the Grass."

A blue-haired, black-clad youth said he came because he thought the Freedom Rally would be a patriotic event featuring punk rock bands like Scissorfight.

"I think pot should not be legalized. I'm a born-again Christian. Why do you think I wear this stuff?" he said about his "Abortion is Homicide" T-shirt.

But Joyce Walsh, 73, a former Beacon Hill resident now retired in Savannah, Ga., said, "I think it's way overdue to legalize it.'

What kind of reporting is this?

Arrests are the most important, lead paragraph?

"UP IN SMOKE" "POTHEADS" "hempheads" "pro-weed lobby" ???

Only "thousands" - not 45,000?

Where is the coverage of what happened on the stage, the messages from well known activists? Instead we get "Where two main paths crossed...."

Well, you can all see the differences. Thankfully the Boston Globe is the far larger newspaper, with a strong Sunday readership throughout the New England states.

The clear bias exhibited by The Boston Herald is a tradition for the paper. Reporter Crittenden was most likely told the kind of story he had to write. Where does a Boston Herald reporter go to advance his career? The supermarket tabloids?

Please also consider writing a Letter to the Editor to the Boston Herald about their biased reporting.


Source: Boston Globe

Source: Boston Herald


With a Sunday circulation of 704,926, The Boston Globe is the #1 circulating newspaper in the six New England states. Sunday circulation for the Boston Herald is 156,234.

The body of the average published letter in The Boston Globe is 176 words in length. But well focused and written letters as long as 330 words have been published.

The Boston Herald prints only short letters, averaging 117 words, with the largest about 170 words - probably preferring to give more space to their prohibitionist polemics.

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Prepared by: Richard Lake, Sr. Editor, DrugNews,

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