About Me

My photo
I am a consultant and general counsel to International Ride Training LLC as well as a practicing attorney in Avon, Connecticut. A particular focus of mine is the legal needs of the amusement and tourism industry. My focus on the amusement industry derives from my pre-law career as an operations manager with Cedar Fair Entertainment Company and Universal Orlando. Having started my career as a ride operator at Cedar Point in 1992, I progressed through the seasonal ranks and ultimately became the Manager of Ride Operations and Park Services at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. I also worked in Universal's operations department during the construction and development of Islands of Adventure. Today, I am an active member of the New England Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions and the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions. I have been invited to speak at amusement industry meetings and seminars and have worked on a variety of matters relating to this industry.

Legal Disclaimer (because, you know, I'm a lawyer)

This Blog/Web Site is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice (or any legal advice). By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher and / or author nor can such a relationship be created by use of his Blog / Web Site. By using thisBlog / Web Site you understand that any statement on the blog site are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Wiggin and Dana LLP or International Ride Training LLC. By using this blog site you understand that the Blog/Web Site is not affiliated with or approved by Wiggin and Dana LLP or International Ride Training LLC. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state or jurisdiction. This blog is not published for advertising or solicitation purposes. Regardless, the hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Blackfish / White Lies? (An Epilogue): Responding To Your Comments


I lied.  I said my last post was my last foray into Blackfish.  But, I have been inundated with so many emails and comments that I thought I should write one last piece to address some of these points raised either publicly or privately.  First, let me say how grateful I am for most of the comments, even those that clearly think that I have missed the point of Blackfish (and, not surprisingly, there are quite a few of you out there).  The point of this blog is to generate discussion and debate and to provide information and opinion about the amusement industry to those that are interested, and those goals seem to have been achieved in this series.  But, having read hundreds of emails, comments, tweets, and Facebook posts about these pieces, I have seen some common themes emerging that deserve to be addressed - I just don't have time to address them individually.  So I thought it made more sense to post one last piece.  I wouldn't, after all, want anyone to think I was ignoring them.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Blackfish / White Lies? (Pt. 3): Undisclosed Facts & Muddled Messages

So here we are (a little later than originally planned), the final piece of this series, and my last foray into Blackfish until, perhaps, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals rules on SeaWorld's OSHA appeal sometime in the coming months.  In the time since the first two pieces of this series hit the blogosphere, Blackfish has moved from near-nightly airings on CNN to on-demand availability on Netflix.  Additionally, the film has stayed in the headlines due, in no small part, to the recent media attention surrounding the decision of several musical acts to cancel their appearances at SeaWorld in an apparent act of protest.  It is clear that the “Blackfish effect” is powerful both in its message and its longevity.  But what is its message exactly?  And do the facts presented in Blackfish support that message in a fashion that lives up to the claim of its director, Gabriala Cowperthwaite, that the film is nothing more than a “truthful, fact driven narrative” that errs “on the side of the journalistic approach”and is, in fact, “not at all advocating for anything.”  My belief is that Blackfish itself plainly belies any contention that the film is anything other than a piece of animal-rights advocacy – one sided in both fact and presentation.   

In the first two pieces in this series I looked at the people involved in Blackfish, many of whom have undisclosed (and sometimes radical) animal-rights agendas, and the filmmaking techniques used to steer the viewer toward one, and only one, position.   To finish, I thought we should take a closer look at Blackfish’s substance - the claims it makes and its overall message. 

Remember, Blackfish is being passed off by its director as erring “on the side of the journalistic approach.”  That means that its statements should comply with journalistic standards:  they should be fact checked, unambiguous, and not misleading.  Why is that important?  Because if the film conveys a false factual impression or is inaccurate or untruthful as to even a single point, it can (and does) degrade the credibility of the film as a whole.  To continue the analogy from Part 1 of this series, this film is, in essence, the star witness in the Court of Public Opinion's trial of SeaWorld.  The audience must, therefore, assess its credibility as to the facts presented, just as it would any other witness.  A falsehood, even a little white lie, calls into question the rest of what the film says.  If the film lies about little things, the audience - the jury in the Court of Public Opinion - has a right to wonder whether the film is lying about bigger things too.