One more on Bailey

Peter Kadzis, executive editor of the Phoenix newspapers, shares some thoughts on the departure of Globe columnist Steve Bailey and the rise and fall of the insider player. “The good news is that there is still a place for a smart and talented guy like Bailey,” Kadzis writes. “The bad news is that it is in London.”

The Bailey Cosmo-logy

Cosmo Macero Jr., the only journalist I’m aware of who managed to compete with Steve Bailey and not look completely foolish, blogs a tribute to the now-former Globe columnist for Boston Magazine.

Macero, who left the Herald a few years ago and is now a vice president at O’Neill and Associates, also happens to be one of a handful of plausible replacements for Bailey. So what about it?

Steve Bailey says farewell

The Boston Globe’s Steve Bailey, the city’s last bigfoot columnist, says farewell — and reminds us of journalism’s importance:

Newspapers, in print and online, continue to provide our common language. After a lifetime spent in newsrooms, I believe this as much as I believe anything. Flawed though they are, newspapers are our town common, the place where we meet, learn about one another, and debate what is right and what is not. They amuse us, and they anger us. And to the extent that people opt out of that common conversation, we are the lesser for it.

Bailey’s right, and he’s not being nostalgic. The conversation is moving online and spreading out, but it’s not separate and apart. It exists in a symbiotic relationship with journalism.

And best wishes to Bailey, who’s heading for London for a job with Bloomberg.

Bailey, Donovan and Larkin to leave Globe

The big news out of the Boston Globe today is that star columnist Steve Bailey is leaving the paper. Bailey — along with executive editor Helen Donovan and deputy managing editor Michael Larkin — are taking early-retirement incentives as the Globe goes through another round of downsizing.

The Phoenix’s Adam Reilly has a long memo from editor Marty Baron, who comes across as wistful and nostalgic. Uncharacteristic, but perhaps unsurprising. He’ll have been in charge seven years this summer. And though he’s had his share of triumphs, his regime has been marked by repeated orders from the New York Times Co. to cut. (Not that that makes the Globe different from any other paper.)

Insiders may feel the loss of Donovan and Larkin just as keenly as they do Bailey’s departure. But to readers of the paper, Bailey’s “Downtown” column has long been a highlight. Not the most graceful writer in the world, Bailey nevertheless is a relentless reporter who consistently breaks news. His voice comes pretty close to being irreplaceable.

“I was reflecting the other day on Steve’s career here,” Baron writes. “And it got me to thinking about how a single journalist can make such an enormous difference at a newspaper and in a community. Certainly, that is true of Steve, and it is true of all whose departures or new assignments are being announced today.”

Moving up are Caleb Solomon, who’ll be managing editor for news; Helen Ellen Clegg (I knew that; jeez), deputy managing editor for news operations; and Mark Morrow, deputy managing editor for Sunday and projects, all of whom will be doing more with less. As Baron puts it, “With these changes, we will be reducing the overall number of senior editors, just as we are reducing the total number of newsroom employees.”

Timing is everything

Among the blogging community, it’s no secret that the law firm of Ropes & Gray, which employs Gov. Deval Patrick’s wife, Diane Patrick, is a major force on the casino-gambling front. Peter Kenney, who blogs for Cape Cod Today, nibbled at it last September. Ryan Adams — who, as you’ll see, thinks highly enough of Patrick to post a picture of himself with the governor — took a bigger bite in December, writing of the Diane Patrick connection:

While I hate to be cynical, I don’t know if there’s another explanation that exists that can so easily describe why the Governor is pulling out all the stops on this issue, one that’s quickly turning his entire base against him.

But if anyone in the mainstream media has taken note of this conflict of interest, I’m not aware of it. Until today, that is. Boston Globe columnist Steve Bailey, a staunch casino opponent, has weighed in with a piece that lovingly details Ropes & Gray’s deep involvement in the gambling industry, including its defense of casinos that have been sued by “allegedly compulsive gamblers.”

The firm has an entire Web page devoted to its “gaming” practice (“gaming,” as I’ve pointed out before, is cleaned-up PR-speak for “gambling”). Among the so-called accomplishments it claims are helping Native American tribes deal with debt issues and — get this — “Defending a gaming company before the Federal Election Commission against charges of improper campaign donations.”

The firm assures Bailey that Diane Patrick is not involved in Ropes & Gray’s gambling operations, and, further, that Ropes & Gray claims no involvement in Gov. Patrick’s push for three casinos. No doubt that’s accurate, but it’s also irrelevant. If casino gambling comes to Massachusetts, lucrative business for Ropes & Gray awaits. And what’s good for Ropes & Gray is good for the Patricks.

How do you like the prospect of our governor’s creating the very “alleged” gambling addicts who’ll be suing companies represented by his wife’s law firm?

Needless to say, this is grotesque. It seems weird to suggest that Gov. Patrick should recuse himself from having any involvement in his own gambling proposal. But he’s the one who put himself in this position, not us.

With the gambling issue heating up, and with House Speaker Sal DiMasi’s opposition having come into question because of his golfing habits, Bailey picked the perfect moment to drop the bomb.

Not either/or

Personally, I wouldn’t mind paying a higher gasoline tax. As Boston Globe columnist Steve Bailey points out today, the state gas tax hasn’t been raised for years, and is now lower than it is in most nearby states. Besides, it’s good public policy — it would provide a disincentive for gas-guzzling SUVs, and a boost to public transportation as well.

But I have to disagree with Bailey when he writes, “Saying no to gambling is not enough; opponents must be willing to offer an alternative.” Massachusetts ranks 28th in state and local tax burden. So yes, 27 states take away more of their residents’ income, but 21 take away less. That puts us in about the middle.

So even if a higher gas tax makes sense, it’s wrong to say we’re so undertaxed that we absolutely have to do something about it. And certainly not on a day when a story like this appears on the front of the City & Region section. As a private-school teacher patiently explained to Tom Finneran on WRKO Radio (AM 680) this morning when he tried to defend this outrageous expenditure on pension-fund bonuses, most people in the private sector don’t even get pensions.

Bailey has been steadfast in his opposition to casino gambling, and I especially like his nickname for Gov. Deval Patrick: “Governor Slots.” But he’s wrong about this being an either/or proposition. Casino gambling is bad for the state, and opponents do not need to apologize or come up with alternatives. After all, it’s Patrick who proposes to sell out our future, not us.

Bailey shoots back

Globe columnist Steve Bailey goes after “the loony gun lobby,” which has worked itself into a lather because a squishy gun deal he wrote about a few years ago — and talked about on the radio recently — turns out to have been charged to his Globe expense account. According to Bailey, authorities have now confiscated the gun. He writes:

This is how it works. Intimidation is the stock in trade of the National Rifle Association and all the NRA knock-offs out there. Dare to say we need fewer, not more guns in this country, dare to say we need a uniform system for monitoring gun sales in this country and you become a target to be hunted down. Democrats and Republicans have allowed themselves to be cowed by this one-issue bloc for too long.

Of course, in this case Bailey is referring to an NRA knock-off — the Second Amendment Foundation, whose leader, Alan Gottlieb, Bailey reports, has had some problems with the Tax Man that were serious enough to strip him of his own right to pack heat, at least temporarily.

More: I want to address the idiotic notion that Bailey was involved in an illegal “straw purchase,” which at least one Media Nation commenter has fallen for. What straw purchase? Bailey gave money to Walter Belair, a former prison guard, in order to buy a gun. Belair didn’t buy the gun for Bailey; he bought it for himself, and, indeed, kept it until it was confiscated by the feds.

The last I checked, you’re still allowed to give people money. Bailey had no responsibility for what Belair chose to do with the money unless he had advance knowledge that Belair was going to use it to break the law. In fact, Belair’s purchase was entirely legal — that was the point of Bailey’s 2005 column. It strikes me as a virtual certainty that the feds will soon be returning Belair’s property to him.

Targeting the Globe

Visit the Web site of the Second Amendment Foundation — a pro-gun lobbying group — and here’s what you’ll find:

  • “SAF Files Ohio Lawsuit …”
  • “SAF Sues Library System …”
  • “SAF Files Texas Lawsuit …”
  • “SAF Files Amici Curiae Brief …”
  • “SAF Sues To Overturn …”

Keep that in mind as you read this Herald story about the foundation’s efforts to have Globe columnist Steve Bailey fired over an allegedly illegal 2005 gun purchase he was involved in while researching a piece on lax gun laws. (Why now? Bailey talked about it on Tom Finneran’s WRKO program recently.)

As former prosecutor Randy Chapman, who heads the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, tells the Herald, “I don’t see a criminal intent there. I just see someone facilitating a news story.” The Herald also notes that the SAF has gone after Sam Donaldson, too.

Here is the SAF press release on Bailey, in which the Globe is helpfully identified as being “owned by the anti-gun New York Times.” And here is Bailey’s 2005 column.

I hope the lawyers don’t tell Bailey he can’t write about this. It’s ridiculous, and the Globe ought to stand up to the Second Amendment Foundation, which makes the National Rifle Association look reasonable by comparison.