Terrible precedent in Jamaica Plain

Jackson Square is well outside of the Reporter’s coverage area, but a controversy that has developed there involving a city-appointed community advisory committee (CAC) and the weekly community newspaper, the Jamaica Plain Gazette, has raised a serious issue that demands our attention.

In last week’s edition, the Gazette revealed that the CAC — whose members were appointed by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) — took a vote at their most recent meeting to ban the media from all future meetings. This vote was taken after the CAC had voted to ban reporters from covering their meetings in January and February.

Members of the community advisory committee have complained in the past about the presence of reporters and of the coverage the group has received from the Gazette. Maybe they have grounds to complain; we have no way of knowing for sure from this vantage point. Whatever their objections, however, they should make them known vigorously through letters to the editor and other media. Perhaps the group should consider starting a blog or posting their meetings on YouTube.

It is unacceptable, however, for a committee convened under the auspices of the BRA to review development projects on public land to ban media— or anyone, for that matter — from attending and reporting on their actions at scheduled meetings. The vote to ban the Gazette has drawn criticism from just about all quarters — local elected officials, the mayor’s office, Menino’s opponents in this election year, and the BRA itself. And well it should: This vote sends a chilling message about transparency at the grassroots level and sets a horrible precedent that must not be allowed to stand.

Jessica Shumaker, a spokesperson for the BRA, told the Reporter this week that the agency will no longer attend any CAC meeting that is closed to the press. That is a good start. But the BRA should take an even tougher stand by putting this CAC on formal notice that its ban —unless reversed — will render its further work moot. And if the group refuses, a new community process should commence that will include all members of the public — reporters included — in their meetings.

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We asked for your input last week on the changes to our police logs page in our print edition and a few people responded.

Connie Holmes of Elmdale St. writes: “ Love them......got concerned recently due to a rise of B&E’s in the immediate area which seemed to be concentrated. These will truly show those trends – fantastic idea and a great use of today’s mapping technology. Visuals get more attention I think you will see a greater interest in this section with the changes – nice addition.”

Another regular reader let us know that thanks to the new format she noticed a shooting— which happened on her street two weeks ago— but that she did not hear about. She organized a crime watch meeting last Friday which drew 25 neighbors after police on B-3 told her that there has been increased activity in the Walsh Park area.

Another anonymous reader didn’t like the new presentation.

“I don’t think I’m going to like it,” the person wrote. “I read the old format every week, but when I tried to read the new way, I got bored and didn’t read a quarter of it. Maybe I’ll get used to it, but I don’t think so. Why fix something that isn’t broken?”

As always, we appreciate the input and we’d like to hear more. Please send your thoughts to the Reporter editors at news@dotnews.com