Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Globe's Patrick Administration Shocker!

Pardon me for not reading the Globe before 4pm today, but let's just say I wasn't missing much. Their piece on Patrick today was a real stretch. Let's break it down:

First, we have the picture on top, featuring a more-than-content Governor and Lt. Governor, linked together in happy embrace.

Then, continuing with that meme, the Globe wrote about how the administration was raising money from sources that supporters wouldn't exactly approve of, keeping the link well established.

Governor Deval Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray have raised more than $1.4 million in combined campaign contributions since taking office, much of it by aggressively soliciting the same special interest groups that, as candidates last year, the Democrats denounced as wielding too much influence on Beacon Hill.
However, the Globe quickly went from questioning the entire administration into delving into how Lt. Governor Murray tapped Robert Platt, traditionally a Republican fundraiser, as one of his main fundraising gurus. Link severed:

Murray, Patrick's fellow Democrat, has been just as aggressive, raising $650,000 in the same span, an uncommonly large haul for a lieutenant governor. His fund-raising has come with an added twist: He has turned to Robert M. Platt, a State House lobbyist and Republican fund-raiser, for help building a campaign finance network. Platt worked against Patrick last year and supported his opponent, Republican Kerry Healey. And this year he is supporting Republican former governor Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.
That, in effect, was the story. This article wasn't really about the Patrick-Murray administration at all; it was grasping for straws about the Lt. Governor's relationship with Platt. Pardon me for perhaps sounding a bit like a conspiracy theorist here, but would this article merit front-page, above-the-fold treatment if the Globe stuck to the actual story?

No. Murray engaged in what Frank Phillips viewed as sleazy fundraising, but it was perfectly legal and legitimate. That's just not front-page news. Thus, we hear about how Patrick raised over a million dollars since taking office, "much of it" (a number never defined by the Globe) from "the same special interest groups that, as candidates last year, the Democrats denounced as wielding too much influence on Beacon Hill." Riiiight.

Uncareful readers may read how Governor Patrick raised 1.4 million since taking office and think it all from unsavory sources, but that's just not the case. The only number the Globe really does define is $60,000 - from a Murray fundraiser, some of which (though, again, the Globe doesn't give readers any answers) coming from Clear Channel. That's helpful. /sarcasm off

Maybe if Murray was somehow breaking the law, that story would sell. However, what he is doing is legal and, honestly, not exactly unexpected. There just isn't much of a story there. Hence, the Globe linked it to Patrick and turned it into an entire-administration thing, even though the bulk of their story - at least the bulk which readers would, you know, read - had almost nothing to do with Patrick.

In other words, this is pretty much a nothing story that the Globe went to great lengths to turn into something. It's not exactly awe-inspiring journalism. One of the biggest problems with today's journalism is if the story isn't there, papers and stations will do anything they can to package whatever scandal exists into front page news. Obviously, papers like scandals, but they also don't like to waste time and resources. However, in the long run, the costs against credibility with Frank-Phillips style journalism will hurt profit margins far more than some extra staff, or giving reporters either the time to craft their stories or the leeway to decide against printing something when there's nothing there.

In the end, today's report on the Patrick Administration was likely worthy of two back-page stories. The first being the Patrick Administration's take: of course, the Globe should examine who gave what and when and report it, even if there isn't much there. However, unless there's something glaring out at readers in the piece (such as breaking the law), that kind of article is never going to be an above-the-fold, front-page piece when it isn't campaign season. The second story was Platt's relationship with Murray, but since Murray hasn't actually done anything wrong, it's a tough sell to put it on the front page. Linking the two stories together and selling it as a front-page scandal, however, not only is an example of bad journalism, it also merits the Ryan's Take's "fake news" tag.


Anonymous said...

Frank Phillips is the only journalist in Mass. less ethical than Ron Borges.

BTW - he has strong ties to the new Senator, Jim Marzilli. Could be some interesting twists there.

HLPeary said...

Ryan, As pure as you want Deval Patrick to appear, it is appropriate that he would be in the same fundraising story as lt Gov murray. They both accept contributions from Republicans as most candiates do...what is the big deal. The Governor has received funds from the ikes of Gloria larsen and her husband who are longtime givers to the state GOP. So what. Most law firms in Boston give checks to all sides of the aisle to cover all of their client bases. Until we bring down the cost of campaigns (and media ad s in particular) candidates will be forced to raise enormous amounts of money year-round to compete.

Maybe Frank Phillips can offer a way for the Globe and the local TV stations to give free space and time to all candidates so they won't be extorted into buying it.

Anonymous said...

More interesting would be how much money casino interests have donated to the Governor's war chest. I doubt you would see that in the globe.

Ari Fertig said...

I found the quote about agriculture telling:

"In October, as Patrick was making a final decision on whom to appoint commissioner of agriculture, the governor raised $20,000 at an event at which farmers, commercial growers, suburban gardening outlets, and a host of other agricultural interests wrote checks to his political committee. In the end, Patrick appointed a legislator whom many in the agricultural community opposed."

That indicates to me that they're able to balance the money they receive with what they think the right policy decision is. It isn't that Patrick is "pure," hlpeary, it's that despite having to participate in the same-old, same-old fundraising, Patrick doesn't seem to be bought by any special interests.

Ryan Adams said...

As an aside, that person Patrick appointed commissioner was my old state rep, Doug Peterson.

I'm working with who I hope will be his replacement, the awesome Lori Ehrlich, right now =)

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