Monthly Archives: November 2011

Why liberals should be rooting for Romney

In my latest for the Huffington Post, I argue that liberals should be rooting for Mitt Romney to win the nomination. If he fails, it could be disastrous for the country, for the Republican Party and even for the Obama presidency. I’ll be talking about my piece tonight between 8 and 9 p.m. with Ian Masters, host of the radio program “Background Briefing.”

A Thanksgiving tale

Old friend Yvonne Abraham (OK, she’s not old, but I am) has a lovely story in today’s Boston Globe about a group of blind, mentally disabled friends who were rescued from the hell of the Fernald School by a caring, progressive staff member. It’s accompanied by a really nice video by Scott LaPierre. It’s a reminder that we all have much to be thankful for.

Romney, Nixon, untruths and lies

Willard M. Romney

I was driving east on Route 2 last night, somewhere in the Land of the Yellow Traffic Barriers, fiddling with the CNN app on my iPhone so I could listen to the latest Republican presidential debate.

Moderator Wolf Blitzer was joking about his first name, which prompted Mitt Romney to say this: “I’m Mitt Romney and yes, Wolf, that’s also my first name.”

I nearly drove off the road.

As many of us know, Mitt is not Romney’s first name. It’s Willard. I wouldn’t quite call what Romney said a lie, because to qualify there has to be some intent to deceive. And Romney’s full name is not exactly a secret.

For some reason, I thought immediately of Richard Nixon, who beat Romney’s father, George, for the Republican nomination in 1968. A generation earlier, in 1952, Nixon was on the ropes. Shortly after having been named Dwight Eisenhower’s running mate, the Trickster was caught in some minor money-grubbing scandal, and delivered a nationally televised speech (a true rarity in those days) in an attempt to save his career. It was dubbed the “Checkers speech,” after the Nixons’ dog, which Nixon shamelessly invoked in a bid for sympathy.

Anyway, at one point Nixon said this, bringing his poor wife into the fray:

And now, finally, I know that you wonder whether or not I am going to stay on the Republican ticket or resign. Let me say this: I don’t believe that I ought to quit, because I am not a quitter. And, incidentally, Pat is not a quitter. After all, her name is Patricia Ryan and she was born on St. Patrick’s Day, and you know the Irish never quit.

In fact, Pat Nixon’s name was not Patricia. She was born Thelma Catherine Ryan. Her birthday was March 16, which, the last time I checked, was the day before St. Patrick’s Day. As with Romney last night, I don’t think it’s quite fair to call what Nixon said a lie. She reportedly used Patricia on occasion, and March 16 qualifies as close enough.

Still, Romney’s statement showed that even after running for president full-time for seven years now, he is still weirdly clueless about what people will pick up on. There’s a lot of buzz about it this morning, and it’s detracting from Romney’s more important message: That he’s so desperate to become president he’s willing to put out a television ad that flat-out lies about what Barack Obama said regarding the economy during the 2008 campaign.

Now that’s leadership.

The absent women of “Page One”

Recently I gave a thumb’s-up to “Page One,” the documentary about the New York Times media desk. I did have a quibble:

As a friend observed, the documentary was heavily tilted toward men, which seems odd given that before it ends, we see the executive editor’s baton being passed from Bill Keller to Jill Abramson.

Now Jim Romenesko reports that two women on the media desk, Stephanie Clifford and Motoko Rich, were asked to take part and declined. Perhaps filmmaker Andrew Rossi could have tried a bit harder to get a female perspective, but now we know that he did make an attempt.

Calling all advertisers

I am renewing my request for an advertiser or advertisers who’d be interested in the top-of-the-page banner. Would I accept political ads? Yes. In fact, the vertical Google ad slot features politics from time to time. I don’t want to be partisan — in a perfect world, for instance, I’d have ads for Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren alternating in that space. But let’s talk. My email address is dkennedy56 at gmail dot com.

Romenesko and the perils of aggregation (III)

Jim Romenesko has written an understated but emphatic post on his new site about what really happened between him and Poynter Online editor Julie Moos. It’s painful to read, but it’s ameliorated by the fact that he emerged with his good name intact.

I think it’s safe to say that Poynter is going to have to respond. Nevertheless, it’s clear that Moos bungled a legitimate issue over Romenesko’s sometimes-hazy use of quotation marks, conflating his method of aggregating into an absurd accusation that he was unethical.

Earlier posts here and here.

A rant for the ages against the corporate media

James Craven

Following the most recent round of layoffs at GateHouse Media, one newly unemployed journalist decided he’d had enough. James Craven, who worked for GateHouse’s Norwich Bulletin in Connecticut, wrote a blog post headlined “Goodbye Norwich” in which he ripped into GateHouse management for deciding “to cannibalize the newspaper.”

You will not be surprised to learn that Craven’s post has been taken down. But thanks to the glories of Google’s cache feature, you can still read it here for what I’m sure will be a limited time. So click while it’s hot. (The Google cache version is now gone, but I’ve posted it as a PDF.)

Among other things, Craven writes that it’s his understanding the Bulletin is profitable, yet GateHouse laid off seven members of the newsroom staff. He continues:

[T]he most recently ordered layoffs will sap The Bulletin of nearly 20 percent of its newsroom staff. That will, of course, allow the president of Gatehouse Media to follow up on his $750,000 bonus to himself with an equally staggering and incongruous gratuity this year. Merry Christmas Mr. President.

Craven is referring to GateHouse chief executive Michael Reed, who did indeed receive a bonus of $750,000 last year. GateHouse president Kirk Davis got “only” $275,000. One other mistake: Craven prematurely offs Philip Meyer, who can now invoke Mark Twain.

Craven also writes:

The thing about reduced community coverage is that you do not notice it while it is happening. It is, if I may be so bold, like a cancer. It works below the surface, until one day when suddenly it becomes all too apparent. There will be referendums that may not be covered as fully. Some school functions — that first grade play that in the past featured your son or daughter — will be bypassed. On holidays, like Veterans Day, decisions will be made to forfeit coverage in some communities because there just is not an extra reporter.

According to Craven’s Twitter feed, he is “an award winning journalist but due to a corporate layoff is now job hunting.”

Craven has written a rant for the ages. And he raises an important point. We all know that the newspaper business (like most businesses) is struggling. What is less well-known is that many of these papers are making money, but are being ravaged by their corporate owners, which are staggering under the debt they took on to build their empires and whose executives remain addicted to paying themselves bonuses.

Craven comes across as a journalist who really cares, and I wish him well. I have no idea if he could make a go of it financially. But how great would it be if he started a Norwich community news site to compete with the Bulletin?

About those non-public public records

It’s Day Two of Hard Drive-gate, and I’ve got a few questions.

As you may know, the Boston Globe reported yesterday that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s office let staffers buy their computer hard drives on their way out the door, and servers were scrubbed clean, meaning there are no email records from Romney’s time in office.

Anyway, here’s what I’d like answered:

  • The Globe reports that the emails are not public records, and would not be subject to a public-records request. Yet Secretary of State Bill Galvin says the emails nevertheless should have been turned over to him for filing in the state archives. Are there any circumstances under which the records could be made public? If not, isn’t this a story about nothing?
  • Why wasn’t this an issue in 2008, the first time Romney ran for president? Romney wasn’t some back-of-the-pack lightweight that year. He was the most credible alternative to John McCain. Did no one ask for this stuff back then?
  • Doesn’t Romney’s campaign have a point when it claims that the revelation may be a politically motivated attack by Gov. Deval Patrick? After all, it comes during the same week that Patrick slimed former attorney general Scott Harshbarger, the most prominent opponent of his cherished casino plan.
If Romney had destroyed public records that we had a right to see, that would be one thing. So far, though, it’s unclear whether the emails met any reasonable legal definition of public records.

Why small cities may hold the key to the future

There’s nothing quite listening in on a smart conversation by two old friends. In this week’s Boston Phoenix, Catherine Tumber talks with Jon Garelick about her new book, “Small, Gritty and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World.”

Cathy’s big idea is that down-on-their-luck cities like Lowell and Springfield may be due for a revival as economic and environmental constraints make urban living more appealing. And unlike major metropolises such as New York or Los Angeles — or Boston, for that matter — small cities have the capacity to develop their own self-sufficient ecosystems, including locally grown food.

The book is based on an essay Tumber wrote for the Boston Review in 2009 titled “Small, Green and Good.”

I read “Small, Gritty and Green” in galleys last spring, and I recommend it highly. Cathy also has given me invaluable advice for my own book-in-progress on the New Haven Independent and other community news sites, tentatively titled “The Wired City.”