Friday, November 09, 2007

Boston Globe: Covering the District 9 Race in 2002, But Not in 2007

It is straight-forward to see how the Boston Globe's coverage of the Allston-Brighton District 9 City Council race has changed from past coverage.

2002. In the special municipal election of 2002 to replace District 9 City Councilor Brian Honan after his sudden death, the Boston Globe ran two stories about the race, the candidates, and some of the issues:
These stories were followed by an endorsement of Jerry McDermott for the special municipal election, a short story on election day for the special municipal election, and a full story the day after the election saying who won:
2007. In the municipal election of 2007 to fill the seat being vacated by District 9 City Councilor Jerry McDermott, who chose not to run for re-election, the Globe ran the following news stories prior to the preliminary municipal election:


The editorial page ran an endorsement of Tim Schofield on 9/19/07, but no news stories. Nor did they run a story on the preliminary municipal election day saying it was happening or who was running. The Globe followed with a short blurb the day after the preliminary municipal election (page B2, 97 words) saying who ran and who made it into the final election, an editorial endorsing Mark Ciommo in the municipal election (along with an editorial reminder of that endorsement on election day), a single sentence on election day stating who was running, and then a single sentence the day after the election stating who won.

Comparing 2002 and 2007. What was different between the Globe's coverage of the District 9 races in 2002 and 2007?
  • In 2002, the news desk ran two stories about the race prior to the election -- one in the City Weekly, and one in the City/Region on the front page (B1). In 2007, the news desk ran no stories prior to the election.
  • In 2007, not even a single sentence on preliminary election day to tell you that it was election day today in Allston-Brighton, while in 2002 they did.
  • Information on the candidates and some of their positions on the issues was given prior to the 2002 election, but not prior to the 2007 election (with the exception of the summaries in the editorial endorsements).
  • In 2002, a full story about the election the day after, which included descriptions of some of the major issues in the race (university expansion, housing, bars).

Is this what we can expect in 2007 from the local reporters working under the direction of City/Region editor Brian McGrory? Yes, McGrory, the former Metro columnist who, earlier this year, referred to the "backwater known as the Boston City Council." Yeah, the same guy who, last year, referred to them as the "lapdog City Council."

Sounds like McGrory didn't care for the City Council when he was a columnist, and hence doesn't want to bother covering them as editor.

Am I being harsh and judgmental in making that statement? Am I being unfair in hypothesizing about what city issues McGrory might want to cover? Actually, no. In 2003, McGrory provided a description of exactly what he believed not to be worth the price of the ink:
Exactly one decade ago, after covering Thomas M. Menino's first election as mayor, I set a lofty journalistic goal. My goal was to never spill a drop of ink writing about the Boston City Council, because no reader with even the hint of a normal life could possibly care about the collection of political mis creants and misfits who make up that perenially underachieving group. [italics added]
No, I'm not making this up. This guy's in charge of the local news desk since May. With such leadership at the helm, it's no surprise the City Councilor-At-Large campaign barely got mentioned in the Boston Globe, and the District 9 City Councilor campaign not at all. It was the logical extension of a goal he set back in 1993.

The Boston Globe's editorial page thinks that we should consider re-vamping the election of Boston City Councilors in the wake of this week's election. No, no, no. What we need to do is make the job of Boston Globe City/Region Editor an elected position. And then let's see if he'll cover the race.

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