The writer is a former investigative reporter for WXYZ and Fox 2. He lives in California and runs Informant America, " a blog about the shadowy world of law enforcement informants with particular focus on . . . Richard Wershe, Jr." This column is republished in condensed form with permission. It is part of an ongoing series.
By Vince Wade
Detroit media coverage of the story of Richard Wershe, Jr., better known to the public as White Boy Rick thanks to relentless media use of that nickname, has been deplorable, shoddy and often wrong for nearly three decades.
Inexcusable, erroneous reporting calling him a “drug lord” and “kingpin” is one reason Wershe has been in prison since age 18. Detroit's news media owes it to this man to finally tell his story correctly.
My intent isn’t to pick a fight with old reporter friends, newbie journalists or past competitors in the Detroit media. Everyone makes mistakes. I’ve made my share, so this isn’t about casting stones in a glass house. The purpose of this blog post isn’t to ridicule any individual at the Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, The Oakland Press or Channels 2, 4 and 7, but rather to show how a steady drumbeat of sensationalized, distorted and in many cases just plain wrong reporting has contributed to depriving Wershe of liberty for almost 30 years.
Any reporter or editor currently covering the Rick Wershe story and working for a Detroit media outlet that was peddling news and information in 1987 has an ethical obligation to try to make up for some deplorable journalistic sins. It will take some hard reporting and a lot of skepticism about the prosecution claims over the years.
This past Friday I spoke with Rick Wershe by phone from Oaks Correctional Facility, where he is serving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug crime. I asked how inaccurate reporting over the years has affected him.
“It’s ruined my life,” Wershe said. “It (the media coverage) is one lie after another. It has taken my whole life from me.”
It’s time for reporters covering the Rick Wershe story to take an open-minded look at the other side of the story and report it.
Many people who are following the saga of Rick Wershe express frustration about coverage in comments on the Free Richard Wershe Jr. Facebook page. At the end of this post, I tell how to complain. Letters and calls may finally prod Detroit news organizations to get this story right, or at least not report falsehoods.
Judges and parole board members are influenced by what they see on TV and read in the papers. Anyone who argues otherwise is a naive fool. Media coverage becomes the prevailing wisdom about many things. If the media describe something in a certain way over and over for years, it becomes accepted wisdom and accepted truth.
This post is about the need for various news organizations to do a story correction as a group and offer an apology as a group for helping ruin a man’s life. There is a need — now — for accurate and balanced reporting rather than meekly assuming prosecutors are tell the truth.
Anyone reviewing 28 years of coverage about the man they like to call White Boy Rick will see a bias toward a corrosive and reputation-destroying description of this man as a major figure in the Detroit drug underworld. It is a ceaseless media portrayal that is not supported by facts.
Before we examine some specific examples, let’s review a few important facts.
Wershe did not become a dope dealer and then turn informant, as reported often. He was recruited — at age 14 — by the FBI to help investigate and prosecute the Johnny Curry drug gang.
Wershe had no involvement with drugs until law enforcement asked him to infiltrate that dangerous business so they could make a case. This has been verified, on the record, by several retired FBI agents.
Any media story calling him a dope-dealer-turned-informant is wrong and exactly backwards. Wershe turned to drug dealing when the Detroit federal drug task force abandoned him after they introduced him to the drug underworld in order to make a big case. After they no longer needed his help, they kicked this teen to the curb to fend for himself after teaching him how to live the life of a dope dealer.
Despite the endless media coverage calling him a “drug lord” and drug “kingpin.” Wershe was tried and convicted as an individual.
He was found guilty of “possession with intent to deliver over 650 grams of cocaine” -- not conspiracy, racketeering or anything else.
No Conspiracy or Racketeering
Nothing in state or federal court records charges Wershe with conspiracy or racketeering, the crimes essential to being a “drug lord” or “kingpin.”
The prosecution did not take down Rick Wershe and his “co-conspirators” because he had no co-conspirators. It was just him, trying to make it in an illegal trade he was taught by law enforcement personnel. They picked him for the job because he happened to know some guys they wanted to bust.
As veteran criminal defense attorney Steve Fishman has noted in interviews, Wershe’s name never came up in any way in the major drug gang trials of that era. As defense counsel in many of those trials, Fishman knows. Current reporters struggling with what to make of Wershe should interview Fishman.
I filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office for records or documentation supporting the allegation that Wershe had a drug gang, the official response was: “After a diligent search we certify the records do not exist.”
Yet Detroit’s newspapers and TV stations have routinely described Rick Wershe as a “drug lord” or “kingpin” for close to 30 years.
How could so many journalists get it so wrong for so long?
Reporters in Detroit and elsewhere need to recognize and come to terms with an unpleasant truth: They have been duped for nearly 30 years with a law enforcement Big Lie about the man they persist in calling White Boy Rick. His real name is Richard John Wershe, Jr. and the media perpetuation of the White Boy Rick legend — a Big Lie — has cost him his life.
Failure to Fact-Check
The news media bear a lot of the responsibility for the violation of Wershe’s Eighth Amendment rights regarding cruel and unusual punishment. Reporters, editors and TV news directors have consistently failed to fact-check, to find the hard-fact basis for routinely describing this man in news coverage as a “drug lord” and “kingpin.” It is journalistic irresponsibility at its worst.
For those who do not know, the Big Lie is a concept developed by the German dictator Adolph Hitler. “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed,” Hitler said. He believed if you tell a lie of colossal proportions and repeat it often, people will assume no one would have the audacity to distort the truth to such a degree so it must be true.
The urban myth that White Boy Rick Wershe was a drug dealer operating at the “kingpin” level in Detroit is a Big Lie repeated often, without question, by several generations of reporters and editors based on nothing.
The decades-long failure of numerous reporters to verify claims of a white “drug lord” in mostly black Detroit who was 16 to 18 years old. This is journalistic dereliction of duty of historic proportions. Overblown claims about Rick Wershe’s importance in the Detroit drug underworld don’t pass the smell test.
Journalism schools could offer courses on how shoddy fact-checking and the herd habit of rewriting each other’s Wershe stories aided and abetted what appears to be an audacious vendetta to keep this man in prison until he dies because he helped the FBI investigate and prosecute drug-tainted political corruption in Detroit.
The notion that certain police officers, prosecutors -- and perhaps some members of the Michigan Parole Board -- conspired to destroy one man as retribution for exposing high-level, politically connected drug corruption is hard to believe. So reporters have refused to investigate it, preferring instead to destroy the man they relish calling White Boy Rick.
The usual sources said it’s true, so it must be true. There has been a decades-long assumption by reporters that the police and prosecutors are telling the truth about Wershe. That's a dangerous state of mind for ethical, professional reporters.
The Richard Jewell case shows that shameful coverage of Wershe isn’t the first instance of large-scale malfeasance by a journalistic herd that swallowed a questionable story line from law enforcers.
Jewell, a security guard at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, came upon a backpack with three pipe bombs. He alerted the police and helped evacuate the area. At first he was hailed as a hero, but then reporters began reporting leaks from anonymous police sources that Jewell was suspected of planting the pipe bombs.
What followed was a journalistic stampede to crucify Richard Jewell in the papers and on TV. None of the “reporting” was supported by facts. Jewell’s reputation was trashed and his life was ruined. Jewell was dragged through the journalistic mud from coast to coast.
Eric Rudolph was eventually charged and convicted of planting the bombs at Atlanta’s Olympic Park. Rudolph was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences as a domestic terrorist.
Wershe's ordeal is as bad, perhaps worse, than what happened to Jewell. The Atlanta trashing lasted several months. The Michigan version has gone on 27 years.
A Stack of Press Clips
Wershe has been in prison that long as a presumed menace to society. At his only parole hearing in 2003, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office argued strenuously against his release. Their evidence he was a menace to society? Press clippings.
Wershe’s story is tainted by the fact he is not innocent. He did try to become a major illegal drug wholesaler. But he failed. He never came close to being a cocaine kingpin, even though he’s been described that way by some law enforcers in apparent retribution for telling on dirty cops.
With a few exceptions, most Detroit news media have ignored the evidence I have presented on Informant America every week for over six months. I have used the Freedom of Information Act, the archive documents of various lawyers and courts and on-the-record interviews to prove the White Boy Rick legend doesn’t hold up to hard reporting. None of these blog posts are based on anonymous or confidential sources.
Even if a reporter or editor chooses to dismiss me as an over-the-hill malcontent, a curmudgeon, a crank, that doesn’t change the false claim that Rick Wershe was a teen drug dealer operating on such a massive scale that he must be kept behind bars for life.
'Fed a Lot of Bullshit'
Richard Wershe has told anyone who will listen that his White Boy Rick reputation is built on lies, or as he puts it, “bullshit.”
“A lot of them believed what they were told by law enforcement,” Wershe told me this past Friday. “A lot of them were fed a lot of bullshit.”
Four retired FBI agents who worked with Wershe as an informant said on the record that he was instrumental in helping fight drug trafficking and public corruption — even from prison. And they challenge the notion that he was a kingpin.
All four of agents -- Gregg Schwarz, Herman Groman, Martin Torgler and Michael Castro -- are willing to testify in court or before the Michigan Parole Board in Wershe’s behalf if asked.
Schwarz, Groman and Torgler did that at Wershe’s 2003 parole hearing. Castro, who worked undercover in a major police drug corruption sting operation, says he owes his life to Rick Wershe who vouched for him when he was undercover playing the role of a Miami drug figure.
Lies Presented as Facts
It’s difficult for reporters to admit they are wrong; that they have reported lies as facts.
Add the fact that the Rick Wershe story is very complicated, with a cast of hundreds and a decades-long chronology. Most reporters would be inclined to shrug it off and just keep repeating the same libel, figuring no one will notice or care.
One fundamental of good reporting is fact-checking. If it had truly been done in the coverage of Richard Wershe, Jr. the story would be considerably different.
It is disheartening to look at some of the Detroit coverage. Many stories have been published and aired in Detroit about this one defendant/inmate. Below are examples out of many.
Before we look at the coverage, here’s the first piece of fiction about Wershe.
He was never known on the streets as White Boy Rick. The drug underworld knew him simply as Ricky, a white kid who was running with a black drug dealer named Johnny Curry who was convicted and sentenced to federal prison. He’s now out.
Arthur “Art” Derrick, now deceased, was an admitted major Detroit drug wholesaler with a small fleet of cocaine transport plane. Before he died from drug abuse, Derrick claimed under oath in a deposition that he is the one who gave Rick Wershe the nickname White Boy Rick to avoid confusion with a black customer also named Rick.
Derrick says he nicknamed the late Rick Carter “Maserati Rick” for the type of car he drove.
Narcs heard the White Boy Rick nickname from Derrick and loved it. They shared it with WXYZ reporter Chris Hansen, who introduced it to the public in the final installment of a July 1987 series about a police investigation of the Chambers Brothers, who arguably ran the biggest-volume cocaine operation in Detroit history. The last segment of the five-part series introduced viewers to a young man Hansen called White Boy Rick.
Unquestioning PR or Objective Reporting?
To develop the series, Hansen and a Channel 7 cameraman were embedded with a team of Detroit Police and DEA narcs who liked to call themselves the No Crack Crew. Some say Hansen was more than embedded with the narc crew; they argue he was figuratively in bed with the narcs with no daylight between the views of the No Crack Crew and what Hansen reported on TV. In exchange for hot drug raid footage, some say Hansen became an unquestioning PR mouthpiece for a team of glory-hungry cops.
In "Land of Opportunity," a book about the rise and fall of the Chambers Brothers drug empire, author William Adler describes Chris Hansen’s work in scathing terms and accuses Hansen of “virtually trading his press card for a deputy’s badge.”
Hansen’s competitors didn’t care. When they saw Hansen’s report about a white teen who was a drug lord among ruthless adult black dope dealers, they went bonkers. Headline writers had a field day.
Detroit newspapers seldom missed an opportunity to attach the terms "kingpin" and "drug lord" to Rick Wershe's name.
When Hansen jumped from Channel 7 to Channel 4 in Detroit, he continued to exploit the White Boy Rick legend he helped launch. Hansen suggested to Rick Wershe that he do an interview with him about police drug corruption.
Jittery Cops and Politicians
Detroit FBI agent John Anthony, now retired, urged Wershe not to do it. Wershe didn’t listen.
The interview spooked a lot of corrupt cops and Detroit politicians into thinking Wershe knew more than had been reported. All these years later Wershe realizes that interview may have contributed to the start of a vendetta against him. Today, Wershe says he never knew as much about the spider’s web of drug dealing, police corruption and city politics as many people think he knows.
Americans are supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Reporters give a slight bow to this concept by using the words “alleged” and “reputed” in covering criminal suspects. With Wershe, those qualifiers often fell by the wayside. In other cases, the reporters only got it half-right.
In the next examples, bold text is added to make various points.
Consider a story from the Detroit Free Press on May 11, 1988.
Detroit Free Press Headline
The headline reads: "Wershe asks deal in cop-drug probe." The front page story begins: “Convicted drug kingpin Richard Wershe Jr. offered Detroit police investigators a deal Tuesday: information on corrupt cops in return for dismissal of a cocaine charge pending against him.” The story is by Brian Flanigan, Joe Swickard and Jack Kresnak -- top-notch reporters, some of the best in Free Press history. Yet their lead sentence calls Wershe a convicted drug kingpin.
No, he was not. He was not convicted of conspiracy or racketeering. He was convicted of personal possession of illegal drugs in excess of 650 grams.
To be a kingpin, the prosecution would have shown the jury Wershe had a gang, an illicit drug organization with co-conspirators. He was neither charged nor convicted of anything of the sort. Yet here in a Page One story in the Detroit Free Press 27 years ago, three veteran reporters call him a drug “kingpin.”
There was no evidence then or now that Wershe was a “kingpin.”
Detroit News 'Dereliction of Journalistic Duty'
Consider this Page One piece from the Detroit News a day later.
The headline reads: ‘Police records on Wershe found in raid, sources say.’ The story begins: "The Detroit Police Department is investigating how police documents and home telephone numbers of ranking officers ended up in a house raided last June in which convicted east side drug lord Richard "White Boy Rick" Wershe Jr. was present, federal sources said."
The article is by Rob Zeiger and Mike Martindale. I’ve known Mike Martindale for years. We met often at crime scenes. He’s a good reporter. Yet, here is Martindale’s byline on a story calling Wershe a “convicted east side drug lord.”
This line in the story about Wershe being a convicted east side drug lord is totally inaccurate. We don’t know who the Detroit News editor was on that story but he or she is guilty of dereliction of journalistic duty. Editors are supposed to ensure the reporting is accurate. This editor did not; nor did many other editors at the Free Press and other papers with countless stories over the years routinely describing Wershe as a “drug lord” and/or “kingpin.”
Let’s go back and look at these stories from a different perspective. Each is about what Rick Wershe may or may not know about police drug corruption. That’s a potential story lead about public corruption.
I can’t cite enterprise reporting that sprang from these two stories because as far as I can determine, it does not exist.
Richard Wershe Sr. and Jr. tried to tell reporters they both had been paid informants of the FBI. The Free Press and Detroit News reported what the Wershes said, but apparently didn’t believe it after the Detroit FBI made the usual “no comment.” The FBI by policy does not talk about its informants, but that didn’t mean they were denying what the Wershes said. Retired agents later verified on the record that it was true.
Track the Trail
Let’s connect some coverage dots from 1988 to now.
The Detroit Police knew Rick Wershe was a paid FBI informant because two Detroit police officers worked closely with Wershe. They were assigned to a federal drug task force that was using the teen as an informant.
When Rick Wershe, Jr. started making headlines there are indications based on items found in a police raid that he knew some things about police drug corruption in Detroit.
It was the Detroit Police who arrested and charged Wershe with the county prosecutor's help.
The Detroit Police and Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office were the ones who leaked the “news” that White Boy Rick was a cocaine kingpin even though he was never charged with operating a cocaine conspiracy. No one was ever prosecuted at the state or federal level as a member of a White Boy Rick drug ring.
From 1987 to this day, Detroit news media outlets have persisted in describing Rick Wershe as a “drug lord” and “kingpin” without court records or verifiable evidence showing it is true.
Provocative Questions Linger
Rick Wershe’s one and only parole board hearing was under-reported by the media. It was all on the record and transcribed by a stenographer. The record is teeming with issues begging to be explored, with provocative questions as yet unanswered.
Three FBI agents testified for Wershe’s parole. Two DEA agents testified against it. One DEA agent’s “evidence” against Wershe was weak, to put it mildly. None of the Detroit Police narcs who arrested Rick Wershe testified. Detroit Police executives who admitted no personal knowledge of the man up for parole testified in generalities that crime is bad.
The Wayne County Prosecutor’s documentation in support of keeping Wershe in prison consisted of news clips and numerous suburban police reports of domestic disputes between Richard Wershe, Sr. and Rick Wershe’s sister, Dawn. The prosecutor’s office did not offer evidence or documentation to support the notion that Wershe is a danger to the community.
The late William E. Bufalino II testified under oath at Wershe’s parole hearing that Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, now deceased, warned him not to get involved in the Rick Wershe case because “this is bigger than you think it is.”
This provocative comment apparently did not stir any interest, any curiosity in Detroit’s reporters. Since both men are deceased we will never know.
According to the hearing sign-in sheet, one of those in attendance was WDIV reporter Kevin Dietz, who filled Chris Hansen’s role at the station when Hansen moved on to NBC "Dateline."
Channel 4 is Detroit’s NBC affiliate. Last winter, beginning with the night of the Super Bowl on NBC, Dietz renewed his coverage of the Rick Wershe Jr. story. His reporting on Wershe came on the heels of reports in the Hollywood trade press of interest in doing a movie about White Boy Rick. It’s not clear why it took Dietz 12 years to resume his coverage of the plight of Michigan inmate 192034 — Richard J. Wershe, Jr.
Lure of Hollywood?
Perhaps Hollywood’s interest reminded him Wershe was still in prison. But at least Dietz started stirring the pot about the inmate languishing behind bars, serving a life sentence. That’s more than competitors have done until the current re-sentencing issue bubbled to the surface.
WJBK, the Fox affiliate in Detroit, jumped on the story with inaccurate reporting, as so many others have done. Their Web site story about Wershe’s possible re-sentencing featured this headline: "Drug dealer turned informer 'White Boy Rick' up for resentencing"
This is wrong. It is exactly backwards. Wershe was an informer first and became a drug dealer later. There is a significant difference. The inversion of facts changes the story entirely.
Charlie Langton, a so-called legal analyst on Fox 2, seems to delight in calling Wershe a drug lord and kingpin. He uses the terms often when questioning guests who may know something about the case. His knowledge of the case is clearly negligible.
Tough to Get Replies
I tried to contact Kevin Roseborough, the Fox 2 news director and a former colleague about all of this. He didn’t return my call. I reached out to anchor Huel Perkins through a business social media site. He didn’t respond. Unlike the newspapers. TV stations generally make it difficult to reach staff by email.
WXYZ, the ABC affiliate in Detroit, has escaped criticism by essentially not reporting or barely mentioning the latest developments in a story they broke in 1987. The station has purged most of the staff that was around when White Boy Rick was front page news.
The current court-beat reporters for the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News seem to be trying to do a better job, but are struggling to get it right.
Free Press reporter Elisha Anderson began a Sept. 2, 2015 story this way:
"Richard Wershe Jr., a convicted drug dealer and former police informant known as White Boy Rick, is scheduled to appear in a Detroit courtroom Friday morning."
Calling him a drug dealer first and informant second makes it sound like Wershe became an informant to save his own skin. Not true.
As noted on Informant America many times, Wershe was recruited by law enforcement to get involved in the drug trade at age 14 because of neighbors he knew who were targets of investigation. It takes a huge leap to suggest a kid became a dope dealer and then became an informant, yet those phrases are in the headline (right)
Detroit News Slip Yesterday
At The Detroit News, Oralander Brand-Williams has treaded with more caution about calling Wershe a drug lord and kingpin. But just yesterday (Sept. 29), she gets it wrong when she reports: “Authorities allege he joined the drug trade at age 14.”
FBI agents who worked with Rick Wershe as an informant have stated on the record to me and reporters for several national news outlets that the bureau did, in fact, recruit and introduce 14-year old Wershe to the drug underworld to help them catch the Curry Brothers, big-time dealers who were Rick’s neighbors at the time.
There’s little doubt they will confirm it for The Detroit News if they are contacted. It’s also bitterly ironic for The News to use the term “allege” after years of routinely describing Richard Wershe, Jr., without qualification, as a “kingpin” and “drug lord.”
One Detroit journalist, a former reporter for the Detroit News and Washington Post, has been getting it right on a news Web site called Deadline Detroit.
Allan Lengel, now Deadline Detroit editor, has been writing stories for several years about the plight of White Boy Rick Wershe. Lengel, alone among the rest of Detroit’s reporters, has a solid grasp of what’s happening in this case.
"White Boy Rick: Time to Set Him Free?" is the headline on a story Lengel wrote in 2012.
"The Michigan Parole Board's Crime Against 'White Boy Rick'" was the headline on another story Lengel wrote in September 2013, two years before the current court battle over re-sentencing Wershe. To keep Wershe locked up is “gravely unjust for someone convicted as a teen,” Lengel wrote.
This is essentially what Wayne County Circuit Court judge Dana M. Hathaway is now arguing two years later in her effort to re-sentence Wershe to time served.
Earlier this month, a Lengel commentary at Deadline on Wershe was headlined: "Prosecutor Kym Worthy Needs to Stop Grandstanding in 'White Boy Rick' Case"
Another reporter/blogger in a category by himself is Scott Burnstein who writes for The Oakland Press and has a blog called Gangster Report. Burnstein has been writing about Wershe for a long time and he regards himself as in Wershe’s corner. His reporting is been more balanced than most, but on his blog he can’t resist linking Wershe to the gangster underworld since that is what his blog is about.
Here’s a paragraph he wrote earlier this year on his blog:
“The name White Boy Rick dominated the news media cycle in Detroit for much of 1986, 1987 and into 1988, as the fearless and magnetic teenage drug lord transfixed the area with his ascent in the murderous Motor City underworld and the high-profile romance he was carrying on with the Mayor’s niece, a woman almost 10 years older than him and the wife of his gangland mentor, kingpin Johnny Curry.”
The part about Mayor Coleman Young’s niece is true but notice he couldn’t resist calling Wershe a “teenage drug lord” and described his “ascent in the murderous Motor City underworld.” This unfairly implies Wershe was somehow involved in drug-related murders. He was not. William Rice, the former head of Detroit Homicide who is himself now serving a prison term (more police corruption) signed a sworn affidavit stating he never heard of Wershe in his 20 years investigating Detroit murders. Moreover, Wershe was never charged with drug violence.
There may be too much pride and ego on the line to expect the Detroit news media to admit they’ve been wrong about Richard Wershe, Jr. for nearly 30 years. But from this point forward there’s no excuse for the sloppy journalism to continue. There’s no reason to keep unjustly libeling a man as a "drug lord" and "kingpin" villain.
If you see any coverage where Rick Wershe is called a “drug lord” or “kingpin” or “drug dealer turned informant,” you are encouraged to reach out and raise hell.
Here’s who is in charge at the major news outlets:
Detroit Free Press
160 W. Fort St. Detroit, MI 48226
Editor and Publisher
160 W. Fort Street
Detroit, MI 48226
Vice President of News
48 W Huron St, Pontiac, MI 48342
WJBK-TV Channel 2 Detroit
16550 W Nine Mile Rd, Southfield, MI 48075
WDIV-TV Channel 4 Detroit
550 W Lafayette Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226
WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit
20777 W 10 Mile Rd, Southfield, MI 48075
The sorry state of reporting on Richard J. Wershe, Jr. spanning decades calls to mind a scene from the classic Western "High Noon."
The plot of the movie is that town marshal Will Kane, played by Gary Cooper, finds he must face a gang of killers alone because the townspeople are too cowardly to help him. The marshal tries desperately to organize a posse. As he strides the streets looking for citizen help he is confronted by Jimmy, a washed-up town drunk played by William Newell. Jimmy tells Kane he wants to help him face the outlaws who have vowed to kill Kane. It's Jimmy's shot at redemption.
The exchange goes like this:
Kane: What’s the matter Jimmy?
Jimmy: Nothin’. I been lookin’ for 'ya. I want a gun. I wanna be with you when the train comes in.
Kane: Can you handle a gun?
Jimmy: Sure I can. I used to be good. Honest.
The Detroit news media used to be good. Honest.