Iron Man run off by reporter

Robert Downey Jr.  was talking up the new Avengers movie in London when his TV interviewer suddenly started asking him questions about his past drug use, his politics, and his father. Downey eventually took offense, shed his microphone, and left. “It was getting a little Diane Sawyer and you’re kind of a schmuck,” he said to his interviewer on the way out the door.

The Downey interview showcases the ever-shifting boundaries between reporters and the people they interview. Downey went in to the interview with the understanding that he was there to promote his new movie, while the reporter decided to use his allotted time for something more. Where should the line be drawn?

Both Downey and Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Britain’s Channel 4 seemed to be feeling their way during the course of the interview. As Guru-Murthy slowly moves from questions about Iron Man to questions about Downey, the reporter volunteers: “I don’t want to pry, so if you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine.”

Downey keeps talking, but as the personal questions keep coming he realizes that the interview is veering far from his comfort zone. “Are we promoting a movie?” he asks.

The Boston Globe’s Ty Burr, a movie reviewer who has conducted numerous star interviews himself, said he sympathizes with both actor and interviewer. “There is nothing more dispiriting to a reporter than feeling that he or she is part of a big studio’s marketing apparatus, there simply to convey the awesomeness of the latest profit-seeking missile,” Burr writes in his column. “It’s not just my job to try to take one of these promo junket Q&As into wider territory, it’s my duty to the reader.”

Yet Burr also acknowledges the obvious: movie promotion interviews are a part of the studio’s marketing apparatus. “A nice way to describe a movie PR interview is as a quid pro quo between studio and news outlet,” Burr said. “A less nice way is to acknowledge that we’re all for sale.”

Reporting boundaries are also shifting outside of Hollywood. On Beacon Hill, for example, it’s rare to do an interview anymore without any ground rules. In my experience, the Baker administration’s PR apparatus always wants to know in advance what the reporter is going to ask about and then insists that the interview be conducted “on background,” with the proviso that a carefully crafted on-the-record statement can be issued later.

Business officials are even more cautious. Their public relations people often ask reporters for a list of the questions that are going to be asked during the interview. The request is typically characterized as a way to make sure the person being interviewed is prepared, but in reality it’s all about setting boundaries.

–BRUCE MOHL

 

BEACON HILL

MassINC Polling Group president Steve Koczela says the numbers on MBTA employee absenteeism don’t add up in the report issued by Gov. Charlie Baker’s special review commission on the T. (CommonWealthJoan Vennochi says the Carmen’s Union representing T workers nonetheless has work to do if it wants to be taken seriously as part of the solution, not the problem. (Boston Globe)

The Carmen’s Union has been hit with a $2,500 fine from the state campaign finance office because it did not disclose nearly $40,000 in cash as well as thousands of dollars in checks sent to politicians that were never cashed. (Boston Herald)

Lowell Sun columnist Peter Lucas gives kudos to Baker for taking on the T, but says his most important decision will be who he picks to run the transit agency. Lucas calls Beverly Scott a disaster.

Shirley Leung says in putting the brakes on the state convention center’s planned $1 billion expansion, Charlie Baker just schooled Harvard classmate Jim Rooney with a lesson on who’s in charge. (Boston Globe)

WBUR examines Boston venture capitalist Jeff Bussgang’s idea for a workaround to the H-1B visa program.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Boston state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz‘s move to raise the roof on her Jamaica Plain home with an addition is raising hackles with a neighbor, who is now suing over the expansion. (Boston Globe)

The FBI kept a file on late mayor Tom Menino. (Boston Business Journal)

OLYMPICS

At a community meeting in Lawrence with Boston 2024 officials, Mayor Dan Rivera says hosting the Olympics would benefit his city and others in the Merrimack Valley. (Eagle-Tribune)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Renee Graham defends the actions of Toya Graham, the Baltimore mother captured on videotape (now viewed 3 million times) smacking and scolding her 16-year-old son for taking part in the rioting there. Michael Cohen criticizes her actions and says the fact that she admitted to using corporal punishment on her son in the past is evidence of its ineffectiveness. (Boston Globe)

Indictments are coming down today in the New Jersey Bridgegate scandal. (NJ.com)

Former Supreme Judicial Court chief justice Margaret Marshall, who wrote the first opinion making same-sex marriage legal, and former attorney general Martha Coakley, who was the first to successfully challenge the federal Defense of Marriage Act, offer their views on how the Supreme Court may decide on same-sex marriage. (Greater Boston)

ELECTIONS

Amy Camire gets five write-in votes and wins the election to be constable in Swampscott. (Salem News)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

US Rep. William Keating is cosponsoring a bill that would release $100 million for fisheries research that is collected as a tariff on foreign-caught seafood imported into the country. (Standard-Times)

Massachusetts is number two in Measure for America’s lineup of best states, as documented by a variety of indicators. (Wonkwire)

Music streaming website Grooveshark shuts down. (Time)

EDUCATION

Worcester officials announce plans to increase security at the city’s schools, including deploying more police officers. (Telegram & GazetteT&G columnist Clive McFarlane examines the police presence in Worcester, Springfield, and Boston schools.

Former Westfield State University president Evan Dobelle has agreed to pay $185,000 to settle a suit brought by the state attorney general’s office that he lavishly spent university funds on expensive meals, hotels, and other indulgences. (Boston Globe)

A new study finds more than 43 percent of college students who have children live below the federal poverty line. (U.S. News & World Report)

HEALTH CARE

Modern medicine: A costly new multiple sclerosis drug developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals could bring tremendous benefit to thousands of patients — and $53 million in one-time bonuses to company executives. (Boston Globe)

Partners HealthCare says it is notifying 3,300 patients about a data breach. (State House News)

The director of the Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance rips state leaders over delays in the licensing of medical marijuana dispensaries. (CommonWealth) A Heraldeditorial says “anyone with a functioning brain could have predicted” a court decision this week overturning a Patrick administration decision to deny a company a license, adding, “the utter incompetence of DPH under Patrick has come back to haunt, and Gov. Charlie Baker is left with a mess on his hands.” (Boston Herald)

The Herald reports the story of a 10-year-old South Boston girl whose parents both fatally overdosed on heroin within eight weeks of each other, with the mother’s death occurring less than a month ago. (Boston Herald)

The Easton Housing Authority has banned smoking starting next month at all public housing units. (The Enterprise)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Federal regulators have rejected a proposal that would have closed Stellwagen Bank to charter boats and recreational fishermen. (Patriot Ledger)

Tesla’s Elon Musk unveils a new battery that will store power in the home. (Mashable)

US Rep. Joseph Kennedy is pushing federal officials to increase funding for the preservation of the Taunton River, which he says gets one-fourth of the money that other waterways in the National Wild and Scenic River system receive. (Herald News)

State environmental officials have fined the city of Quincy $28,000 for running a 75-foot pipe through wetlands without acquiring a permit. (Patriot Ledger)

Bloomington, Indiana, tries out RentRocket, which lets renters check out an apartment’s amenities and how much the utilities costs. City officials say the program is a way of promoting energy efficiency. (Governing)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Three former guards at Bridgewater State Hospital are being charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of a psychiatric patient in a case being handled by a special prosecutor six years after the Plymouth district attorney opted not to seek charges in the death. (Boston Globe)

Former FBI agent Robert Fitzpatrick is charged with 12 counts of perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with the Whitey Bulger case. (Boston Globe)

Boston police are investigating an incident in which a sergeant approached a man videotaping a scene on a street corner and waved in front of his camera a gun he said officers had just taken from a suspect. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

ESPN orders reporter Adam Shefter to take a break from tweeting during the NFL draft.