Friday, December 01, 2006

Pardon My Cynicism

An interesting story in today's Globe says a good deal about both Deval Patrick and the people who publish and edit Massachusetts newspapers.

Addressing the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, Patrick had the chutzpah to criticize unnamed reporters employed by them:

The former Clinton administration official also said some reporters "were openly contemptuous" of his campaign, and he suggested newsroom budget cuts have affected the quality of political reporting.

"Whether it was skepticism, distraction, or the cynicism so many of us try to pass off as sophistication, some of your reporters missed 'it,' " Patrick said. "And 'it' is a bedrock democratic principle: To make any difference in our common reality, people must see their stake again in their neighbors' dreams and struggles, as well as their own. Massachusetts government cannot move forward without Massachusetts people."

He then exhorted those who have raised cynicism to a Life Force:

"Put your cynicism down. Don't trivialize optimism and hope. It built this country. It built my life," Patrick told about 75 people attending the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association.

"Don't glorify the naysayers when the yeasayers have been at the center of progress since the beginning of recorded time," he said.

So what was the response from the audience?

The remarks were greeted by silence and most of the follow-up questions -- asked after prodding by Patrick himself -- focused on his support for a media shield law, as well as his defense of closed-door meetings with legislative leaders after pledging to run an open administration.

Heh heh. Translation: "Don't you dare touch our cynicism, and who the f**k do you think you are?"

I find it quite interesting that Patrick would go into a meeting of newspaper bigwigs and criticize the quality of their reporting, expecially since most of the newspapers endorsed him. As cynical as I am inclined to be about may politicians and events, I like the guy for having the guts to do that.

That said, I can understand how the crowd would choose silence when asked to respond to the notion that they somehow become cheerleaders for his new administration. As much disdain as I have for some of them, I still prefer that the news media be as tough on the new administration as intellectual honesty permits. Of course that last clause is a zinger, there is no such thing in the news business. (But that would tag me as a cynic.)

I must also say that if I were in the room and an editor asked Patrick about his "defense of closed-door meetings with legislative leaders after pledging to run an open administration," I might have been compelled to give the man a good slap, just for my own sanity. Talk about the height of cynicism and intellectual dishonesty. And the question's juxtaposition to that inquiring into his support for a "media shield law" suggests that someone's timing is a bit off.


This story reminds me of my one encounter with this esteemed group of powerful men (all men, at the time). When I was serving in the legislature, I had engaged in a bit of late-night budget hijinx.

At the time, the Boston Globe editors were rabid advocates for a budget amendment that imposed a tax on some sort of industrial waste in order to fund some Commission or other. It was a typical liberal goo-goo proposal that hadn't a chance in hell of being adopted, but the Globe was pushing, pushing, pushing for it and many members resented having to waste time on this amendment's debate in the middle of the night.

In order to inject some good humor into the debate, I scribbled out a proposed amendment to the amendment which deleted the entire text and substituted something else -- it proposed to REPEAL THE SALES TAX EXEMPTION ON NEWS PRINT AND INK (oh, you didn't know that newsprint and ink were not taxed?? How could that have happened!) and dedicated the sales tax revenue from those products to a new environmental fund to be known as The GLOBE Fund (GLOBE was an acronym for Greater Landfill Operations for a Better Environment).

I showed the amendment to Speaker Keverian, who was holding court at the Speaker's Rostrum. He read it, laughed out loud and said "gee, if I support this, I might I might get some bad press!"

The next day as the budget debate droned on further, I was visited by a fellow member who had teh day before attended the annual luncheon of the New England Newspaper Publishers Association. He was at a table at which the publisher of the Cape Cod Times (my district's paper of record) was also sitting. It seems that news of my proposed amendment had leaked out, and was being taken seriously.

Seriously, these fatheads thought the amendment was on the level. When someone at the table asked the Cape Cod Times publisher, "isn't he from your district," his response was "yeah, well don't worry, we'll take care of him."

With the member standing before me, I said "watch this," picked up a house phone and got the publisher on the line, so as simply to confirm that I had been given accurate information as to the facts, you see.

"Did you really say "we'll take care of him?" I asked.

It was the first time I had ever heard a newspaper man blubber, stutter and harrumph.

So you see how one can be cynical of those who are cynical of one who is not cynical.

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