The rush to be first, the need to be right

The Boston Herald and the Boston Globe each had exclusive stories last week that sent some warning temblors through Beacon Hill.
The Globe reported that a sworn affidavit from an unknown source triggered an Ethics Commission investigation into a potential conflict of interest by Gaming Commission chairman Stephen Crosby. The Herald splashed a piece about former governor Deval Patrick playing three-card Monte with state authority funds to finance overseas trade junkets.

Each story was the kind of enterprise piece that newspapers, especially regional ones such as the Globe and Herald, rely on to keep readers and stay relevant. Both stories had a number of follow-up articles buttressing the initial piece, and both now have observers scratching their heads, given that the assertions of the Herald story are coming under fire and the Ethics Commission has called off its probe of Crosby.

The Globe, which had ignored the Herald story despite promises from Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Stan Rosenberg to dig into the matter, finally weighed in today with what amounts to a stiff rebuke of the Herald. The only thing missing was a call to the tabloid for comment.

House Post Audit Chairman David Linsky, who started an immediate investigation of the allegations about Patrick, tells the Globe there’s no there there. Linsky says his review of the matter found that not only was Patrick up-front about shifting funds from different authorities into accounts to pay for trade missions, it appears the Legislature authorized some of the transfers as well as the creation of the trust funds that the Herald labeled “off-budget accounts” with the implication something was rotten in Denmark and other destinations that Patrick and his aides traveled to.

But Globe State House reporter David Scharfenberg included Linsky’s declarations of nothing to see here in a story that went a couple steps further. He looked back at news accounts and press releases to find that, indeed, Patrick made no effort to hide what he was doing.

“[A] Boston Globe review shows that, in budget documents and press releases, the Patrick administration was open about its plans to divert millions from a series of independent, quasi-public agencies to the state government in the midst of a historic recession,” Scharfenberg wrote. “The Legislature itself explicitly embraced the practice in at least two of its budgets. And officials with several of the quasi-public agencies, including Massport and the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, said their boards approved the budget transfers in open public meetings.”

Unsurprisingly, the Herald has no story about Linsky’s decision and the newspaper has continued to cling to reporter/columnist Joe Battenfeld‘s story that Patrick did something funny with the state’s money.

In the meantime, the Globe has some of its own ‘splainin’ to do regarding Crosby. While the newspaper’s initial story was based in fact – the Ethics Commission had launched a preliminary investigation into the conflict of interest story – it was based on a complaint to ethics officials by someone “whose identity the Globe does not know.” The complaint was read to the Globe “by someone familiar with the probe,” according to the original story by Andrea Estes.

On Thursday, Crosby sent out an email to Gaming Commission staffers letting them know the Ethics Commission dropped its investigation for “lack of evidence.” Estes, who authored the initial story and the follow-up, wrote in both pieces that the complaint letter was read to her “by someone familiar with the probe.” She also admitted that it was written by someone “whose identity the Globe does not know.”

It’s unusual for a reporter to base a story on a complaint by someone whose identity is unknown. Sources, while usually anonymous to readers, are almost always known – or should be – to both the reporter and editors. It’s how news people gauge the credibility of the source’s assertions. Knowing the agenda doesn’t necessarily disqualify someone as a source but it allows the newspaper to determine how credible the information is.

In this case, apparently, not too credible. The Ethics Commission received the complaint last October, according to Estes’s story, and that in itself could have been a flag. Perhaps the source was tired of – or nervous about – no action being taken and wanted to up the ante. That’s called an agenda.

But Estes, as smart and dogged a reporter as there is in the city, may be sending a message to both readers and her source about anonymity. “The ethics complaint contained some of the allegations in Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s recently filed expanded lawsuit against the gambling commission,” she wrote.




Gov. Charlie Baker backtracked and apologized last night for remarks in a radio interview earlier in the day in which he defended states that want to fly Confederate flags over their capitols by calling it a matter of “tradition.” Aides also corrected his declaration that Tom Brady donated his $170,000 speaker’s fee from Salem State University to the Best Buddies charity. (Boston Globe)


The state gives initial approval to a 40B housing plan in Shrewsbury over objections from town officials. (Telegram & Gazette)

New Bedford city councilors are looking to craft an ordinance to stem “aggressive” panhandling in the downtown area. (Standard-Times)

The Boston Public Library appoints an interim president and a new board chair. (WBUR)


Time details what is known about Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old white supremacist charged in Wednesday’s massacre of nine blacks in a South Carolina church. The Atlantic says the mass shooting in a Charleston church cannot be divorced from the ideology of white supremacy and its symbol in South Carolina, the Confederate flag atop the state capitol. The magazine urges the state to take the flag down. A Boston minister who grew up in Charleston shares his memories of Emanuel AME Church, the site of the killings. (Boston Herald) No joking from Jon Stewart.

The US Supreme Court rules 5-4 that Texas has the right to decide that the Confederate flag is too divisive to be put on state license plates. (Governing)

The US House repeals the medical device tax that is part of Obamacare, splitting the Massachusetts delegation. (Associated Press) Health care expert John McDonough posed a provocative challenge earlier this week in CommonWealth to those supporting the tax repeal.

A Telegram & Gazette editorial praises US Rep. Jim McGovern for pushing the House to debate war authorization powers.

Social media blows up with suggestions and criticisms for the government’s plans to put a woman on the $10 bill. (New York Times)


Boston 2024 proposes hosting basketball and gymnastics at TD Garden. (WBUR)

The feasibility of a private “master developer” remaking the area around Widett Circle where an Olympic stadium is envisioned may depend on the scale and density of the proposed buildout, says a local real estate leader. (Boston Herald)


The state’s unemployment rate continues to fall, reaching 4.6 percent in May. (Boston Globe)

State Street Corp. is facing possible federal sanctions over its use of consultants and lobbyists to win pension business. (Boston Globe)

A nonprofit Cambridge biotech that benefitted from the wildly successful Ice Bucket Challenge is set to launch human trials of a drug to treat ALS funded by money received from the viral fundraiser. (Boston Business Journal)


The Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School Committee in Danvers goes into executive session and then emerges to hire a Boston law firm, but won’t say why. (Salem News)

The MetroWest Daily News wants to see seat belts required for school buses.


William Bennett and Seth Leibsohn lament the marijuana lobby’s success in convincing people that the drug is no longer dangerous. (Salem News) Delaware decriminalizes pot. (Reuters)

Ten Massachusetts hospitals are graded poorly on safety. (Boston Business Journal)


Winter comes to the MBTA’s Orange Line next week; winter resiliency repairs, that is. The good news: The repairs will shore up the system to help avoid a repeat of 2015. The bad news? Shuttle buses.


The Globe‘s expert in all things Catholic, John Allen Jr., considers what impact Pope Francis‘s manifesto on the environment will have.


Ben Forman fact-checks the debate about incarceration rates in Massachusetts. (CommonWealth)

In a massive raid involving some 300 law enforcement officials, 48 people are charged in what federal officials call one of the biggest takedowns of a violent, drug-running street gang that Boston has seen. (Boston Globe)

Police raided three illegal massage parlors in Plymouth and arrested 10 people on prostitution-related charges in America’s Hometown. (Patriot Ledger)

A military jury has decided a Plymouth marine who was found guilty in a retrial of murdering an Iraqi civilian will not be sentenced to any more time than the seven years he has already served. (Associated Press)

Mourners at his funeral remember Jonathan Dos Santos, the 16-year-old Dorchester boy shot to death while riding his bike earlier this month. (Boston Globe)

A former Lawrence police officer is sentenced to 7 to 15 years in prison for child sexual abuse in New Hampshire. (Eagle-Tribune)


The Wall Street Journal begins laying off an undetermined number of employees. (Capital)

Brian Williams proves too big to fire. (Politico)