Looking at the Globe’s previous Republican endorsements

Despite The Boston Globe’s reputation as a Democratic paper, its editorial pages have endorsed Republican candidates for governor more often than you might think. Still, today’s editorial endorsing Charlie Baker over Martha Coakley is notable because it is only the second time in recent history that the paper has gone with a Republican over a more liberal Democrat.

Let’s look at the history of Republicans the Globe has endorsed starting in 1970.

  • 1970: The Globe did not endorse in the race between Gov. Frank Sargent, a Republican, and his Democratic opponent, Boston Mayor Kevin White. Winner: Sargent.
  • 1974: Sargent got the nod over a former state representative named Michael Dukakis. Sargent may have been the state’s most liberal governor until Deval Patrick; Dukakis campaigned as that year’s no-new-taxes candidate. Winner: Dukakis, who turned around and imposed a huge tax increase to cover the deficit left behind by the free-spending Sargent.
  • 1978: Dukakis lost the Democratic primary to a conservative, Ed King, whom he had removed as head of Massport. The Globe endorsed Republican Frank Hatch, a moderate who was the minority leader in the Massachusetts House. Winner: King.
  • 1990: The Globe endorsed moderate Republican Bill Weld, a former U.S. attorney, over conservative Democrat John Silber, the president of Boston University. Winner: Weld.
  • 1994: For the only time until now, the Globe chose the more conservative candidate — Weld, a moderate running for re-election, over then-state representative Mark Roosevelt, a liberal Democrat. Winner: Weld.
  • 2014: The Globe endorses Republican Charlie Baker, a moderate Republican, over state Attorney General Martha Coakley, a liberal. Winner: TBD.

MuckRock.com and the potential power of crowdfunding

Screen Shot 2012-12-18 at 7.58.38 PMThis interview was previously published at the Nieman Journalism Lab.

The first time I heard of Michael Morisy and MuckRock.com was in 2010, after the site was targeted by a bureaucrat working for Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.

It seems that MuckRock, using the state’s open records law, had obtained information about how food stamps were being used in grocery stores. The data, which did not name any individual food-stamp recipients, had been lawfully requested and lawfully obtained. But that didn’t stop said bureaucrat from threatening Morisy and his tech partner, Mitchell Kotler, with fines and even imprisonment if they refused to remove the documents from their site.

They refused. And the bureaucrat said it had all been a mistake.

Now Morisy is preparing to expand MuckRock’s mission of filing freedom-of-information requests with various government agencies and posting them online for all to see. The just-launched Freedom of the Press Foundation has identified MuckRock as one of four news organizations that will benefit from its system of crowdsourced donations. The best-known of the four is WikiLeaks.

The foundation’s board is a who’s who of media activists, including Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow, Josh Stearns of Free Press and the journalist Glenn Greenwald, now with the Guardian.

“The Freedom of the Press Foundation can be a first step away from the edge of a cliff,” writes Dan Gillmor, author of “We the Media” and “Mediactive.” “But it needs to be recognized and used by as many people as possible, as fast as possible. And journalists, in particular, need to offer their support in every way. This is ultimately about their future, whether they recognize it or not. But it’s more fundamentally about all of us.”

What follows is a lightly edited email interview I conducted with Morisy about MuckRock, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, and what comes next.

Q: Tell me a little bit about MuckRock and its origins.

A: I’d been really frustrated that we hadn’t seen much innovation in newsgathering generated by journalistic organizations. You see lots of innovations in how stories are told, but they’ve been generated by companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram — all wonderful organizations, but ones which generate news as a byproduct, and where the journalistic function is by far secondary to business considerations. My co-founder and I wanted to create a startup where creating news was a core part of the business, and where the news was both user-generated and -directed as well as verified.

Since requests on MuckRock come from — and are paid for by — our users, we are able to align our business and editorial goals almost perfectly. We don’t sell advertising, we don’t put up paywalls. We just help people investigate the issues they want to, and then share those results with the world.

We’ve know been growing as a business and as an editorial operation for three years, with a part-time news editor and two fantastic interns.

Q: What sorts of projects are you involved in today?

A: Our biggest project to date is a partnership with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called the Drone Census, which has broken a lot of major stories around the country. We let anyone submit an agency’s information and then we follow up with a public records request. So far we’ve submitted 263 requests to state, local, and federal agencies, the vast majority of which were suggested by the public. And it’s helped shed more light on a program that police departments and drone manufacturers are very purposefully keeping quiet.

We’ve also gotten to cover some really interesting local stories, such as getting the late Boston mayor Kevin White’s FBI file and taking an inside look at the timing of a drug raid, as well as national stories.

Q: What is the nature of your relationship with the Boston Globe?

A: MuckRock was invited to be part of the Globe Lab‘s incubator program a little over a year ago. We’ve received free office space and, most important, a good mailbox to receive the dozens of responses we get back every day. It’s also given us a chance to bounce ideas back and forth with their technology and editorial teams, and we’re in the early stages of a collaborative project with them.

They also recently launched The Hive, a section focused on startups in the Boston area. Given my experience running one and my editorial background, when they were looking for someone to manage and report for that section, I was a natural fit and thrilled to be invited to cover startups in the area. It’s a dream job, and it means I now have two desks, and often wear two hats inside the same building.

Q: How did you get involved in the Freedom of the Press Foundation?

A: Trevor Timm has been our main point of contact with the EFF working on the drone project, and he’s been absolutely great to work with. He reached out to us about a week ago and said that he was working on a new venture to help crowdfund investigative journalism projects, and we were honored to be thought of. It turns out he is the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, so we got lucky to be working with the right people.

Q: Do you have a goal for how much money you’re hoping to raise through the foundation? What kinds of projects would you like to fund if you’re successful?

A: We’re kind of going into this with an open mind and a hopeful heart. Any amount raised is greatly appreciated, but this will help jumpstart several new projects similar in size and scope to the drone effort, which has had an amazing response, including nods from the New York Times and many other outlets. It may also give us the flexibility to fund important stories that maybe are not as sexy. We were really interested in funding an investigation into MBTA price jumps for the disabled, for example, but our crowdfunding efforts on Spot.us are essentially dead on arrival. Having a reserve will allow us to take gambles on stories like that without having to choose between making rent and breaking news.

The never-ending story of “White Will Run”

Peter Lucas (left), George Regan and Emily Rooney

There have been a couple of additional developments in the brouhaha over the Boston Herald’s classic 1983 “White Will Run” story.

First, on Friday, Emily Rooney and company decided to broadcast an edited-down version of the “Greater Boston” segment with former Herald columnist Peter Lucas and longtime Kevin White spokesman George Regan that had been killed earlier in the week. I got to watch it on the set.

Rooney, on “Beat the Press,” explained that the video wasn’t too incendiary to air — rather, she and others at WGBH-TV (Channel 2) decided it was inappropriate for a show intended as a tribute to White and his legacy.

Second, today the Boston Globe publishes an op-ed piece by my Northeastern colleague Walter Robinson, who was the Globe’s City Hall bureau chief in 1983 when Lucas reported — erroneously — that White would run for a fifth term.

The dispute has always been over whether Lucas screwed up, as Regan claims — or if, as Lucas contends, White set him up as punishment for the rough treatment Lucas had meted out to him in his Herald column. I’m with Lucas, and Robinson comes down firmly on his side:

As the city celebrated the mayor’s life, warts and all, Regan tried to rewrite a settled chapter from the city’s rich political history, about a storied occurrence in which the mayor settled a score against a columnist he disliked intensely. Did he not remember that White, just after his declaration of retirement, hurried off to give Lucas a two-hour interview that Regan himself said that night was done “to make up’’ for the harm that was done to the columnist?

Denying that White was involved in such a clever prank, Robinson writes, would be “a bit like saying that Churchill didn’t much enjoy whiskey and a good cigar.”

Strangely, the Herald itself still hasn’t published a word about one of the most storied moments in its history. I’ve got to believe we’re going to hear something from 70 Fargo St. before this is over. After all, it’s the never-ending story.

A memorable remembrance of Kevin White

Kevin White (left), John Silber and John Kenneth Galbraith in 1977

My friend and former editor Peter Kadzis has written a remembrance of the late Boston mayor Kevin White for the Boston Phoenix that is striking in its depth and nuance. Phoenix publisher Stephen Mindich, a White admirer, makes a cameo as well.

Peter grew up in Dorchester and continues to live in the city. His intricate knowledge of Boston’s tribalism helps him negotiate the city’s complexities in a way that few others can match. For instance:

For most of his mayoral career, White was the candidate of middle-class aspiration. White was more than a politician; he was a symbol.

To those already in the middle class and to the far larger number of blue-collar families aspiring to that status, White validated the idea that social and economic mobility was real. A vote for White was a subliminal endorsement of the idea that each generation could expect to better itself.

In contrast, White’s mayoral rivals, School Committeewoman Louise Day Hicks and City Councilor Joseph Timilty essentially defined themselves by not being Kevin White. Hicks and Timilty offered no vision.

Kadzis reminds us that it was the Harvard economist (and Kennedy family intimate) John Kenneth Galbraith who stuck the shiv in White’s aspirations for the vice presidential nomination in 1972 — which, if it had become reality, might have led to a White presidential campaign four years later.

So I was thrilled to find the photo I’ve included here of White and Galbraith making small talk in front of a scowling John Silber five years later. (The occasion was Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler’s birthday.) Clearly White believed in keeping his friends close and his enemies closer.

Photo (cc) by City of Boston Archives and reprinted here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Lucas, Regan go at it over “White Will Run” legend

Now, here’s some must-see TV. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like we’re going to see it. Frank Phillips reports in the Boston Globe that former Boston Herald columnist Peter Lucas and the late Boston mayor Kevin White’s press secretary, George Regan, practically had to be separated by host Emily Rooney yesterday on the set of “Greater Boston,” on WGBH-TV (Channel 2).

Lucas, as you may know, had a legendary front-page exclusive in 1983 reporting that White would seek a fifth term. Lucas was wrong, and apparently on Tuesday he repeated his contention that White deliberately misled him as punishment for his tough, occasionally mocking coverage. Phillips writes that Lucas and Regan got into it hammer and tongs:

But the screaming match appears to have centered on whether White intentionally misled Lucas about his plan to run again, causing the erroneous headline and story or whether Lucas misinterpreted what White told him. The verbal exchange was intense enough that Rooney was forced to junk the take, calm down her guests, and reshoot the segment so it was suitable for television.

In an interview with Phillips, Regan denies that White intentionally misled Lucas. But as I wrote yesterday, I’ve heard Lucas discuss the incident before. It’s a great yarn — in Lucas’ telling, White gave Lucas the exclusive on the condition that Lucas not identify the mayor as his source, and then pulled the rug out from under him.

Lucas also claims that then-state treasurer Bob Crane was incredulous, telling Lucas he could have warned him away from the story. I’m not going to try to reconstruct something I heard Lucas say some 25 years ago, but essentially he responded that he saw no need to check in with Crane when he’d gotten his information directly from White.

Former Boston Herald editor Kevin Convey, who was a Herald staff member in 1983, tweeted this morning, “There was no doubt in Lucas’ mind or in the minds of the editors” that White had deceived him.

The “Greater Boston” segment was reshot, and Rooney’s conversation with Lucas and Regan is civil and noncontroversial. (Disclosure: I’m a paid contributor to “Beat the Press,” the Friday edition of “Greater Boston.) You can watch it above. The Lucas-Regan segment begins at 19:45.

Three observations: (1) I believe Lucas, even if White may have left himself some wiggle room; (2) I hope he writes about it; (3) it does not tarnish White’s legacy in any way to believe he was involved in a political prank of that magnitude. It only adds to his legend.

Peter Lucas on Kevin White: “He had style and class”

Kevin White in 1975

Former Boston Herald columnist Peter Lucas, now with the Lowell Sun, throws a change-up in his tribute to the late Boston mayor Kevin White.

Lucas, most closely associated with great mayoral nicknames like “Kevin from Heaven” and “Kevin Deluxe, the Mayor of America,” dwells at some length on White’s unsuccessful 1970 campaign for governor against the Republican incumbent, Frank Sargent. Lucas’ take:

Beaten politicians are usually humiliated in defeat. Not Kevin White. He grew bigger. While Sargent was ousted four years later by Michael Dukakis, White went on to get elected mayor three more times. And as the city grew, he grew, becoming almost larger than life. He had style and class. He made Boston come alive for the 16 years he was mayor. He put Boston on the map.

Lucas also makes a brief allusion to the “White Will Run” debacle of 1983, when the mayor gave him an exclusive: Lucas could report that White would seek re-election as long as he didn’t attribute it to White. The Herald went with a huge front-page headline the next morning. Later in the day, White publicly announced he wouldn’t run.

Years ago, Lucas told a hilarious version of that story at a meeting of the Northeastern Journalism Alumni Association to which I had invited him to speak. I hope he’ll tell it again.

Photo (cc) by the City of Boston Archives and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

My interview with Kevin White

Photos © 1978, 2012 by Barbara Kennedy

One afternoon in late 1978, my future wife, Barbara Tanski, and I were ushered into a dark, comfortable room in the Parkman House, a city-owned mansion on Beacon Hill. I was a senior at Northeastern University, and I was there to interview Mayor Kevin White for the Cauldron, the school yearbook. Barbara took the photos.

As you have no doubt heard, White died on Friday night at the age of 82. The must-read is Brian Mooney’s in-depth obituary for the Boston Globe. Also outstanding is this Hub Blog post by Jay Fitzgerald, who observes that White was the best of five consecutive good mayors.

In re-reading my Cauldron piece, I’m struck by how young White was. Just 49 years old at the time of our interview, he would walk away from public life at 53, and was rarely heard from again.

My story has a few cringeworthy moments, including some structural flaws I warn my students about. I’ve fixed a few typos. Other than that, here it is, exactly as it appeared in the 1979 Cauldron.

THIS IS THE CITY:
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS

The Mayor talks about his city … where it is
today and where it’ll be tomorrow

Kevin H. White sat down on a couch, balanced himself on the edge and pondered the comeback his city has made during the past five years.

“I think that a city is no different than a single individual inside of it,” he said, pausing every few words for emphasis. “You can just be depressed for so long. And there are periods in which you get hysterical and upset.”

As the 49-year-old mayor munched on cheese and crackers in the historic Parkman House on Beacon Hill, waiting for supper, he tried to explain the sense of optimism he sees infesting Boston today.

“I think that, probably, when you add in all of Vietnam, all the problems of Watergate, throw in busing — those are abnormal problems ladened on the problems of crime and taxes and those things that are normal. Then it does get you down.

“I think city people are particularly resilient and vibrant, and they can take the normal problems,” White said. “It was the abnormal problems thrown on top of them that depressed them, that gave them a sense of malaise and despondency I think hung on the town as you came in in ’74.”

***

It was a hot, muggy day in late September 1974 when the Class of 1979 arrived at Northeastern. Many students were seeing the city for the first time and had no idea what to expect.

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