Running Local

This Train of Thought Makes All Stops

Using the Media

Posted by Bob Kohm on July 13, 2009

CNN has the breathless story– the Franklin Park Zoo, Boston’s only zoo, will have to euthanize its animals due to budget cuts made by Governor Deval Patrick. The horror!

This is far from the best media manipulation I’ve ever seen, but it is the most bald-faced I’ve seen in a while. The background story is that the Franklin Park Zoo was originally granted $6,500,000 in the Massachussetts budget for the upcoming year, which Governor Patrick slashed to $2,500,000 due to the ongoing economic crisis. Far from being singled out, the cuts to the payments to the zoo are accompanied by state budget cuts to services for children and families, elder services, education, agriculture, environmental protection, almost $200,000,000 in cuts to health care services, etc.

Enter Joyce Lineham, wife of ZOONewEngland CEO John Lineham, who works in PR. Suddenly we don’t have a budget crisis, we have Governor Patrick personally sticking the syringe of deadly chemicals into the gorilla’s butt. The budget shortfall for the notoriously in the red zoo wasn’t a reason to do some extra fundraising or improve business practices, it was now a reason to close the zoo and kill the animals that couldn’t find other homes.

Patrick successfully called the bluff, and ZOONewEngland released a statement on Saturday saying that they misspoke and that what they meant was that the state would have to care for the animals… rather than ZOONewEngland holding them hostage with a gun to their head.

Bad budget times bring out the worst in many agencies and enterprises reliant on state funding, but this one is about the worst manipulation I’ve ever seen, targeted as it was not at the Governor so much as at parents who have been explaining to their children all weekend long that the Governor isn’t going to kill their favorite monkey or lion.

I would expect the Linehams to be seeking new employment within the next 12 months, and for the Franklin Park Zoo to continue to receive visitors for decades to come.

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