By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Jon and Barney Keller

Boston Globe reporter Eric Moskowitz quotes me in his story today on WBZ-TV (Channel 4) political analyst Jon Keller‘s family tie to Republican congressional candidate Jim Ogonowski. Keller’s son Barney is Ogonowski’s spokesman, which has raised questions as to whether Jon Keller has a conflict in covering the race involving Ogonowski, Democrat Niki Tsongas and three minor-party and independent candidates.

Moskowitz represents me accurately, so no need to belabor this. But I do want to expand just a bit on the points I made to him yesterday:

  • There’s no conflict quite like having a spouse involved in a campaign you’re covering, and that’s not what we’re talking about here. No one has any control over what his or her adult kids do, and it’s just not that big a deal. Moskowitz seemed surprised when I told him that, and asked whether it would be natural to think Jon Keller would want Ogonowski to win because of Barney’s involvement. My response: no.
  • Some degree of disclosure is appropriate, and Keller has been doing that. I don’t think he has to disclose every time, but he should remind people now and again that his son is working for Ogonowski.
  • The reputation of the reporter has to be part of this, which is what I was referring to in my quote that not everything is a “one size fits all” situation. If anyone has a reputation as an equal-opportunity abuser of politicians, it’s Keller. It’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t go after Ogonowski if he had a reason to do so — although perhaps in some people’s minds that’s offset by the fact that Keller is somewhat conservative by Massachusetts standards.

As I also told Moskowitz, Keller’s a friend. It doesn’t affect my thinking on this, but it’s something you should know. And, yes, I recommend his book, “The Bluest State.”

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  1. Anonymous

    Interestingly, having a Chief Justice of the MA Supreme Court married to a NYT writer was less troublesome to the Globe. Big surprise, eh? They have become a caricature of themselves.

  2. Rick in Duxbury

    “Moskowitz seemed surprised when I told him that, and asked whether it would be natural to think Jon Keller would want Ogonowski to win because of Barney’s involvement. My response: no.”Dan, any idea how old Moskowitz is? Naivete and/or self-absorption are common to most young people and Eric may have been projecting. (They obviously have Kool-Aid in the water cooler on Morrissey Blvd.)

  3. Tony

    For anyone interested, two things: 1) Here is a piece about Keller’s recent speech before the Belmont Media Center’s annual meeting, including video: Here is a bit I wrote about Eric after finding out he was leaving our local newspaper to go and work for the Globe:

  4. Anonymous

    Dan, Keller did not disclose that his son worked for Ogonowski until this week, according to the Globe. That’s not being forthright. Did he disclose because someone had complained? Did he disclose as a result of the incident with Blue Mass Group at at the NECN debate? And how often did Maria Shriver cover Kennedys while she was a reporter? You can bet that if one of John Kerry’s daughters was a reporter and reported something favorable about her father’s campaign, Keller would be all over it.

  5. Steve

    I was a bit surprised to hear Keller’s disclaimer the other evening. I don’t believe it’ll overtly bias his reporting, but I do think Keller should do a disclaimer every time he comments on the race in the 5th. Otherwise, an occasional listener might not hear Keller’s disclaimer at all.It might also be relevant to know if Barney is living at home. I would think it might become more like a spousal conflict, just because of the frequency of contact and conversation.

  6. Tobe

    If you extol the political power of the net, Keller’s disclaimer is sufficient. I’m curious how many denizens of Boston newsrooms have spouses, partners or kids that have donated to the Tsongas campaign.

  7. Anonymous

    Hey 10:28, did we read the same article?”Keller said he used his WBZ website blog to disclose his family connection to Ogonowski’s campaign in June, after discussing how to handle the situation with the station’s news director.””this week” is not “in June”. Easy on the partisan rhetoric, Keller is as good as it gets around here.

  8. Tony

    Dan, any idea how old Moskowitz is?To answer Rich’s question, I would guess he is in his early to mid-20s. He was the city beat reporter up here for the Monitor for about 18 months and then did the political beat for about 6 to 8 months before moving to the Globe.

  9. Anonymous

    10:28 here. OK, “never disclosed to his broadcast audience until this week.” Not much of a difference, I think. And I don’t have any connection to the Tsongas campaign, don’t even live in the district.

  10. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 3:25: I’m not sure that that’s right. I wouldn’t want to bet a week’s pay on it, but neither would I go to the bank on it either. I’m almost certain that Keller made at least one disclosure on television well before this week.

  11. Amusedbutinformedobserver

    It really doesn’t matter. Ogonowski is ten points behind, despite efforts to make it seem like a race.And I can’t believe that anyone pays much attention to Keller — the most spinnable of political commentators. For anyone who does, I recommend watching the dreadful come-home- for-supper disclaimer from Ch. 4.

  12. O-FISH-L

    By accident, I just saw on the Huffington Post that retired WNEV-Ch.7 consumer reporter Phyllis Eliasberg has donated $250 to the John Edwards campaign.Now that her son Jonatahan “Elias” is working as an anchor at CBS-4, aka WBZ TV-4 here in Boston, let’s see if the Globe is as quick to pounce on the Elias(bergs) when Jonathan presents news on the Presidential race.To quote Bob the furniture guy, “I doubt it.”

  13. The Scoop

    Let me get this right: The Globe wants to know if there is a conflict of interest when a journalist covers a campaign that his son works for, so they ask a media pundit — who happens to be friends with said reporter. That’s ironic.Dan, the fact that you defended Keller at least gives the appearance of favoritism. You had to realize that, right?

  14. Anonymous

    Dan, I believe you, but that’s what the Globe said, and I’m not a regular watcher of Jon Keller. My opinion thouugh is that no relative should cover another as a reporter. I don’t think the distinction you make about spouses is much of a distinction. Honestly, I don’t think friends should cover friends either, but that is impossible to enforce. Is this a crisis on the Jayson Blair level? Not even close, but this further erodes people’s trust in the media. (The Keller-Ogonowski issue ends next Tuesday anyway when Ogonowski loses).

  15. Anonymous

    ” Honestly, I don’t think friends should cover friends either”.Well, that pretty much leaves New York and Washington….

  16. Anonymous

    Keller’s ‘please come home for mommie’s supper’ was an ethnic performance right out of Judge Larry Seidin’s playbook.

  17. Peter Porcupine

    Dan – the most amusing part about this is the (implied) shock and horror on the part of the Globe that you, a well respected liberal academic, wouldn’t join the pig pile of criticism, based upon antique concepts like friendship, disagreeing like gentlemen, and respecting the expertise of a person whose conclusions don’t match yours.What is THAT next to Partisan Uniformity? You’ll be read out of the Rolls!Seriously, I’m surprised you made the article at all when your quote didn’t have sufficient leftward slant.

  18. Anonymous

    Ridiculous. It appears there are no standards left in journalism. No reporter should be covering a polical campaign for which a close relative is paid staff member. Period.

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