I’m always amazed when journalists find themselves unwilling to follow the simple ethical rules of our business. So this morning I find myself scratching my head over the news that Nina Easton, an ex-Boston Globe reporter who is still working as a journalist, helped former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney write his new book, “No Apology.”
Globe reporter Sasha Issenberg writes that Romney pays tribute to Easton’s contributions in the acknowledgments. And Easton, now Washington bureau chief for Fortune magazine and a commentator on Fox News, has this to say for herself:
Mitt asked me — as a friend and a book author myself — for some input on an early draft. I offered some writer’s advice on things like structure and how to better tease out themes in his writing. It wasn’t much.
No, not much. Just enough to disqualify her from commenting on the 2012 presidential campaign as long as Romney is a candidate. (And please don’t tell me that he’s not a candidate. Romney’s 2012 campaign began the day he dropped out of the ’08 race.) At least Easton left the Globe in 2006; it wouldn’t be good if her fingerprints were found on the paper’s massive 2007 Romney series.
Here, by the way, is Easton on Fox’s “Hannity” on May 28, 2009, talking about efforts by the Bush and Obama administrations to bail out General Motors:
How is it all possible, Sean? How is it possible is that the Bush administration punted on this. They punted by giving TARP funds, bailing out GM, and punting it to the next administration when, in fact, we should have gone through a Mitt-Romney-style plan, which was a government-managed bankruptcy, which would have left this company far more in the private sector.
Clearly the two presidents should have been wearing a wristband that said “WWMD?” — “What Would Mitt Do?”
Easton, of course, is hardly a pioneer. Perhaps the most memorable of such breaches took place in 1980, when columnist George Will helped Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan prep for his debate with then-president Jimmy Carter, and subsequently enthused over Reagan’s “thoroughbred performance” on “Nightline” without disclosing his role.
And, yes, Globe journalists have been known to lend a hand in various ways to Democratic politicians over the years.
But it’s a lousy practice, and I can’t understand why some journalists are so attracted to it. I mean, how did Easton ever get to the point at which she considered Romney a “friend” in the first place? This is someone she covers. Period.
More: I had not anticipated the demand for details I’ve received regarding the aid and comfort Democratic politicians have gotten from the Globe. I did have a specific incident in mind when I wrote that sentence, but it was a long time ago and I have my reasons for not wanting to get into it. Indeed, anything I could come up with would predate not just Marty Baron’s tenure as editor, but his predecessor, Matt Storin’s, as well.
For some insight into how the Globe and Democratic politicians once benefited mightily from each other’s favors, you might want to take a look at this piece I wrote some years ago (pay no attention to the date at the top of the page) about Jack Farrell’s wonderful book “Tip O’Neill and the Democratic Century.”