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

Further thoughts on the Ted Kennedy series

Last week I wrote about why I wasn’t reading the Boston Globe’s series on the life and career of Ted Kennedy. Today I want to explain why I think the Globe was smart to take on such a project.

One of the major challenges facing newspapers these days is figuring out how to draw traffic over a long period of time. Readers do not spend as much time with an online paper as they do with a print edition. When a news organization puts a lot of effort into a project, it makes sense to present it in such a way that readers will come back to it several times, and that other readers will discover it long after it’s been published.

With its skillfully done multimedia presentation, the Globe has ensured that the series will draw people in for some time to come. Though we might wish it were otherwise, Sen. Kennedy has come to the end of his life, even if he is able to enjoy some productive weeks and months ahead. When he passes on, the Globe series will stand as an important resource.

And it’s not just the text. Through historical front pages, political cartoons and video, the Globe has fleshed out its series in ways that words alone would not be able to accomplish. I’ve had a chance to watch a few of the videos. The video that accompanies Chapter 2 (produced by Ann Silvio), on the death of Robert Kennedy, is particularly moving. There’s a sequence in which Walter Mondale tries to recall Ted Kennedy’s words at the funeral, spliced with the actual eulogy, that will send shivers up your spine.

The Globe also deserves credit, at this delicate moment, for serving readers rather than the Kennedys. Last week the Boston Herald’s “Inside Track” reported, “Word on the Hill is that some Kennedy staffers are quite unhappy with the series, finding it far too critical of Ted.”

Indeed, in reading bits and pieces of the series, I was struck by how unsparing it was with respect to Kennedy’s behavior in the Chappaquiddick affair, and with his drinking and womanizing — problems he has long since put behind him, but which remain an important part of his story.

So when Kennedy agreed to talk with my former Boston Phoenix colleague Mark Leibovich of the New York Times over the weekend, I took it as a bit of puckish revenge on Kennedy’s part. After all, Kennedy had refused to speak to the Globe.

My friend the Outraged Liberal suggests that there must be some long faces at 135 Morrissey Blvd. over being bigfooted by their larger corporate cousin. Mr. O.L. may be right. But I’d say the Globe ought to take Kennedy’s interview with the Times as a signal that it had been appropriately tough.

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1 Comment

  1. NewsHound

    I enjoyed reading it and found it informative and entertaining. There are many parts to the series that are very, very touching, and a reminder that in our own lives we have faults and that Ted Kennedy has qualities that I and most of us lack. One of my favorite sections was when he loyally campaigned for his brother and with his fun-filled spirit took a 180-foot leap from a ski jump landing on his feet and on another occasion rode in a rodeo for about five seconds.Chappaquiddick is not a fun or entertaining section for any of us but no story can or should be told of Ted Kennedy without it. Unfortunately, it is characteristic of Ted Kennedy, just like the other sections. This section was so superficial. It left out so many important and significant elements I had to wonder if the entire series was not whitewashed. Indeed, though, when we look at Ted Kennedy’s entire life thus far, how he moved on from so many circumstances including Chappaquiddick and his devotion to politics, he truly is an extraordinary figure.It was touching to read how his brother JFK enjoyed the then junior senator’s company and often had him over at the White House, and how Ted had to deal with the loss of someone who cared so much for him.

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