Is the Globe entitled to a question?
Early on, young reporters learn one very important lesson: Editors don’t care one whit what you didn’t get and who you didn’t talk to for your story. Because readers don’t care one whit, either.
“But so and so wouldn’t talk to me,” many a newbie would whine to the crusty codger on the desk who probably said the same thing when he or she was in the same boat.
“Nobody cares,” said editor would retort. “And give me 600 words.”
The lack of comment is usually accompanied in the story by the ubiquitous phrase, “So and so declined comment.” But for some reason, the Boston Globe chose to give readers a taste of the sausage being made by detailing reporters’ futile attempts to get Gov. Charlie Baker to answer a question about education funding. He didn’t answer the question but, then, it was never actually asked.
The incident occurred Monday night at a speech by University of Massachusetts president Martin Meehan about the spiraling cost of higher education, a speech that was attended not only by Baker but House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Harriette Chandler, Education Secretary James Peyser, and a number of other administration, legislative, and education officials. But for some reason, the Globe writers focused their laser on Baker alone.
“We lost; the governor won,” they wrote, adding a touch of resentment. “If you call that winning.”
But the story’s details raise a number of issues about how they went about their job. The day-of story paraphrased DeLeo, whose interactions with reporters are famously controlled, but offered no quotes, and there was no indication anyone spoke to Chandler, the two leaders who control the education purse strings more than Baker. And they did speak with Peyser, who gave the administration’s response, and got a statement from a Baker spokesman.
What is most puzzling is that Krantz and Leung story talked about surrounding Baker and being “inches” from him. An aide even offered to let Krantz take a picture with the governor. And yet, they couldn’t bring themselves to just voice their question?
It’s a curious story, labeled as a “Reporter’s Notebook,” for something that goes on daily, from the governor on down, and that all reporters deal with as a fact of life. Indeed, Wednesday’s Globe contains at least seven stories where someone declined to comment or did not respond to a request for comment, including another story involving Baker.
Early on in her tenure, Sen. Elizabeth Warren was infamous for avoiding reporters, dealing with issues and questions through statements and press releases. She’s gotten a bit more comfortable, running town halls across the state, but reporters’ access before and after is still very limited.
The reaction is fairly predictable and pretty partisan, with many Dems jumping on as an example of what they say is Baker’s aloofness and inaccessibility. Even former gubernatorial aides who tried to limit their own guy’s exposure back in the day weighed in to criticize Baker. But what few are noting is that earlier in the day, as he does most days, Baker answered questions from reporters outside his office after his weekly meeting with Chandler and DeLeo.
“1. Governors avoiding reporters is always a frustrating thing,” MassLive’s Gintautas Dumcius tweeted. “2. This reads a bit like that time the Globe moved downtown and discovered the T.”
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