Accuracy in Media

Despite the lack of media
coverage, Philadelphia’s local Boy Scout chapter
still faces the same choice which sparked so much controversy this Fall: suffer
a $199,000 rent hike or vacate their headquarters. Jeff Jubelirer, spokesman for the chapter, told reporters in 2007
that the new expenses “would have to come from programs. That’s 30 new Cub
Scout packs or 800 needy kids going to our summer camps.”

Spokeswoman Kera Walter recently provided an
update, saying that the chapter is still trying to work with the city for a
compromise. Options on the table include a more acceptable rent amount, or the
city could reimburse the chapter for 80 years of renovation expenses. The Boy
Scout chapter, known as the Cradle of
Liberty Council
, remains “hopeful” for such a compromise.  

The Cradle of Liberty Council
has occupied the historic Beaux Arts building since 1928. It agreed in the
1920’s to pay the city a nominal fee of $1 per year “in perpetuity.” After
nearly 80 years at these headquarters, the City Council voted last June to
declare the CLC anti-gay policies discriminatory and issued an ultimatum for
the Boy Scouts to either end their exclusion of homosexuals, lose their
preferential lease, or get out.

Ironically, the Philadelphia
chapter may actually adhere to the BSA policy on a “don’t ask, don’t tell”
basis. “We know there are gay Scouts…Of course there are. We don’t care.
Nobody cares. We tried to change the policy. National wouldn’t allow us. We’re
trying to do the right thing as all parties are concerned,” Jubelirer told Fox News.  

Fox News reporter Catherine
Donaldson-Evans quotes city solicitor Romulo Diaz as saying “You cannot welcome
people when you say to them publicly, you’re not welcome if you’re gay, but
privately you can come in…It’s like (posting a job and saying), if you’re a
homosexual, don’t apply here. That should enrage people.”
The CLC had in fact attempted
to appease the city council in 2003 by issuing a non-discrimination statement.
“Prejudice, intolerance, and unlawful discrimination in any form are
unacceptable within the ranks of Cradle of Liberty Council,” read the
statement, attempting to echo a similar New
York City policy. But opponents felt
the clause was inadequate. Under pressure from national Boy Scouts leadership,
the CLC repealed the language within weeks.

Since December, there has
been uniform silence on this issue, although the May 31st deadline for eviction
in fast approaching. This media silence likely reflects the perspective that
the Scouts’ capitulation—or departure—is a foregone conclusion.

  • The New York Times has not covered the Philadelphia
    controversy since December. “This week the Boy Scouts made their last stand and
    lost,” wrote NY Times reporter Ian Urbina in the December article.
  • The Washington Post has published no
    articles on the story for the last 60 days.
  • The
    most recent Los Angeles Times mention of the Boy Scouts of America is by columnist Jay A. Fernandez, who reflected on the dubious morality of
    allowing his stepson to join the scouts.

 An Eagle Scout himself, Fernandez writes

“From that accumulated
experience, I can tell you one thing for sure: Homosexuality was the very least
of the things a kid needed to watch out for at Camp Thunderdome. The
degenerates and bullies I went through Scouting with were generally lunk-headed
sadists who smuggled in porn, committed cruel pranks and tried to set each
other on fire. Be prepared, indeed.”

Despite the apparent demerits
of joining the Boy Scouts, Fernandez decided to allow his son join the local
chapter and admits that he is reluctant to give up his Eagle Scout badge
because of how hard he worked for it. Fernandez mistakenly disavows the
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit against the San Diego Boy Scouts,
an error later corrected by the paper.

On a local level, where the
Boy Scouts eviction might be more pressing an issue, the Philadelphia Inquirer has been silent—although it still publishes
letters from concerned Philadelphia
natives. The most recent commentary on the rent hike stretches back to
December, when columnist Ronnie Polaneczky excoriated the CLC CEO for his
exorbitant salary.

William Dwyer III earned $260, 352 in 2006—an amount
higher than his New York
counterpart, who earned $210,000. “But it’s hard to take seriously the Cradle’s
crying poor when its boss makes $136,242 more than the head of the Girl Scouts
of Southeastern Pennsylvania and $119, 922 more than the head of the Big
Brothers Big Sisters Pennsylvania,” Polaneczky sarcastically remarks.

The paper’s only recent
reference to the rent increase can be found in a January feature on
the city’s new mayor, Michael Nutter. The nominal three sentences, placed at
the end of the story, refer to picketing by Boy Scouts supporters outside the Academy of Music. But
don’t hold your breath for coverage of the protest. A search of the Inquirer’s
website reveals no further information.

Spokewoman Walters said that
on a local level the issue has “generated a lot of interest.” She believes that
the Inquirer has provided news coverage “when warranted” but that there “has
not been a lot of recent movement worthy of news coverage.”

While the May 31st deadline
may pass without note, the effects of the city council’s decision will remain in perpetuity. The Cradle for Liberty Council serves 69,000 youth in the
region, many from the inner city. Its inner city ScoutReach program serves 2,500 youth, supplying them with a
three-phase fully funded afterschool program. In three of its four sections
(Triune, Frontier, Delaware), the
majority of members are from minorities, with 29% to 64% African-American
participation. Only one of the sections, Northern, has more than 50%
non-minority participation. 

In a city with 392 homicides in one
year, Boy Scouts values—trustworthiness,
loyalty, helpfulness, bravery, etc.—could go a long way.

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