Waiting for Obama on the Vineyard

By Mark Shanahan & Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff / August 18, 2011

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OAK BLUFFS - As unpopular as President Obama is at the moment, the media may be even more loathed. During a discussion here yesterday moderated by celebrated Harvard scholar Charles Ogletree Jr., we almost put our notebook in our pocket as a panel of academics and others called the media a “monster’’ and a “machine.’’ On one of the loveliest days of the summer - a Wednesday, no less - hundreds of people filled an auditorium at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School to listen to professors Mark McPhail, Elizabeth Mehren, and Glenn Loury, PBS’s Gwen Ifill, former Virginia governor Douglas Wilder, and New York Times columnist Charles Blow talk about race and the media. President Obama doesn’t arrive on the island until later today, but he was very much part of the conversation yesterday. He was not applauded for his comments in the aftermath of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s arrest in 2009. “The only thing people heard him say was the Cambridge police were stupid,’’ said Ifill. The full-to-capacity forum was called “Heard It Through the Grapevine’’ because it also included a tribute to Motown founder Barry Gordy Jr. - yes, he was there - and a performance by Berklee professor Larry Watson. Among those in the crowd were former Motown producer Suzanne de Passe, PBS correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault, NBC Universal’s former chief diversity officer (and current GM of the Africa Channel) Paula Madison, Harvard’s Bob Mitchell and Lisa Coleman. . . . Elsewhere on the island, the owners of Irie Bites, a new Jamaican-flavored food truck, threw a party in Vineyard Haven. The truck is owned by photographer Peter Simon, his son Willie, and Melody Cunningham, former wife of late reggae legend Peter Tosh. Guests included Lady Gaga’s manager Troy Carter, who owns a house in Oak Bluffs.