Meet the press — somewhere else
Gov. Patrick, unlike his predecessors, doesn't use his press room to talk to the press
For decades, whoever occupied the third-floor corner office at the State House would hop into the elevator outside his (or, in the case of Gov. Jane Swift, her) suite to go down to Room 157, the first-floor room designed for press conferences.
That, however, has changed dramatically under Gov. Deval Patrick, who seems to prefer to meet the press outside his office, where a scrum often occurs as print and electronic media jostle in a tight space for optimal positioning in order to hear and be heard. And, for the most part, the reporters are baffled as to why.
“He prefers the cattle call outside his office for reasons I just don’t understand,” says WBZ political reporter Jon Keller, who’s been covering governors back to the Dukakis administration. “Outside his office, it looks like they’re under siege. He’s not the tallest guy in the world, sometimes he looks dwarfed. The angles from cameras perched on the stairs above [the gathering], they’re particularly unflattering. One-fifty-seven is a more orderly procedure.”
No one is saying Patrick meets less often with the press. His aides point out he’s readily available on issues and announcements outside his office and around the state; he just doesn’t like to meet in a room designed for that very purpose.
Michael Norton, a reporter for State House News Service, has been in the building for the better part of 25 years. He says all of Patrick’s predecessors, including the notably press-averse Mitt Romney, regularly held court in Room 157. Norton says previous governors used the room at least once a month, usually more like once a week.
“There have been significantly fewer than his predecessors,” he says of Patrick’s press encounters in the room. “About a year ago, there seemed to be a burst of availabilities but it seems to have kind of flamed out.”The room is set up with rows of chairs for the print media and a riser in back for television cameras, as well as plug-ins for audio and lighting. The stage can handle a Rockette-like line-up of speakers and, as Keller points out, he could take advantage of the podium in front of him by plastering the state’s website on it so it’s in every shot.
“No one cares about the comfort of the media, I understand that,” says Keller. “But the visuals, lighting, audio, it’s all better in 157. It’s not a big thing on the governor’s part, but it’s a dumb thing.”