Are We Done Now?
Okay people, riddle me this: When is a story no longer a story? According to The Boston Globe, apparently six plus years isn’t enough. Here’s the back story. In 2003, Little Joe, one of Franklin Park Zoo’s western lowland gorillas, escaped. While outside of his enclosure, he allegedly attacked a little girl and her babysitter. Absolutely a terrifying experience for the victims, and one I’d never wish on anyone, but from all accounts (hospital reports and the fact that when the lawsuit finally came to trial last year minimal damages were awarded), it was hardly the “King Kong” scenario painted not only by the Plaintiff’s lawyer (expected) but also in graphic detail by The Globe time and again…literally in every story that had even the slightest connect to the Zoo. As agency-of-record for the Zoo, we had hoped that once the trial was over, it would signify an end to this chapter of sensationalist reporting by The Globe. Apparently, we were wrong.
Fast forward, February, 2009. To drive traffic to the Zoo during school vacation week, we planned a week’s worth of activities around Little Joe’s 16th birthday (yes, he actually turned 16 this month). Why? One, we regularly celebrate our animal birthdays as it offers visitors—especially kids—an opportunity to relate by understanding that animals are living creatures just like them, with likes, dislikes, friends and, yes, even birthdays. We believe this allows them to better empathize and, hopefully, grow into adults who are concerned with the world around them. Two, Little Joe and his gorilla friends live in the Zoo’s Tropical Forest, which is kept at a balmy 72 degrees year round. Realistically speaking, it’s unlikely that we’d entice visitors to the Zoo in February to celebrate a birthday for Cliff, the year-round outside-dwelling lion.
So we put together the listing, promoted it throughout the state and then, in Saturday’s paper, there’s a story entitled “Lawyer decries zoo’s party for Little Joe. Says officials are capitalizing on 2003 escape.” What pisses me off the most is that, from The Globe’s own quote, it appears that they actually reached out to the lawyer. (“It’s very frustrating to see this particular gorilla – Little Joe – used as a marketing tool given what happened,” Gibson said yesterday after being told of the party.) If they had written a story after Gibson had contacted them, that would have been bad enough. But the fact that they outreached to him—that it was their idea—wow. That they felt this was a worthwhile use of the increasingly diminished space for news coverage–honestly, I’m at a loss…
Zoo President John Linehan was given the opportunity to make some salient and well-received points, but it is the online reader comments that I found the most validating. One in particular summed it up best: “Talk about capitalizing on publicity. I think the good barrister Mr. Gibson is fully caught up in the practice we know as the pot calling the kettle black.”
I have no problem with the lawyer–he’s simply trying to milk what was probably the most high-profile case of his career for all he can. But editors at The Globe, c’mon…enough already. There’s so much that is negative in Boston (crooked politicians, wasteful spending, senseless murders, patronage beyond belief, etc.) to write about. FPZ is working extremely hard to become a world-class institution and offers major contributions to bettering city life and conservation efforts worldwide on a daily basis. Maybe if the good folks at The Globe stopped and thought about how they could help with this effort, rather than continue to focus only on the negative, they could actually do some good for the region. Let’s just leave it at this: Someone’s trying to capitalize on this history….and it sure ain’t the Zoo.
Posted by Marlo