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.”

Records from the governor’s office confirm his aversion to meeting the press in the traditional room. Since the beginning of 2009 through the end of September of this year, Patrick has used Room 157 a total of 22 times, an average of a little more than four times per year. The governor has used the room each year to unveil his budget, but after that it’s used sparingly. The high point was six times in 2009. He used it three times in 2011 and three so far this year.

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.”

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

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.”