Primary choler

By JOHN CARROLL  |  October 4, 2006

Then there’s this intriguing subplot: WRKO morning host Scott Allen Miller wrote on his blog last week that Patrick had a — how shall we say? — saw-toothed voting record, which included missing three local Milton elections along with the 1996 general election. That means Patrick didn’t vote for the very president who two years earlier had appointed him civil-rights chief for the Justice Department.

(The Boston Herald, in a September 29 front-page story that cited Miller’s blog, added to Patrick’s AWOL list the 2000 presidential campaign and the 2001 special election to replace the late US Representative Joseph Moakley.)

But the most telling part of Miller’s blog entry was this statement: “I tipped off some folks in the press about this information, and one reporter (who will remain nameless) from the Boston Globe wrote back: ‘thanks, Scott — we scrubbed these records last year and came up with the same stuff — doesn’t amount to any real news story.’ ”

Really? Maybe it’s not front-page news, but no news at all? “We looked at some of the records, not all of them,” said Boston Globe political editor David Dahl, conceding that “we didn’t look at them as closely as we could have.”

But, he added, “On the day that story ran in the Herald, bannered across the front page of the Metro section we had the story of Deval Patrick meeting with [House Speaker] Sal DiMasi and [Senate President] Robert Travaglini, going directly at his contention that he’s an outsider.”

Beyond that, Dahl pointed to the Globe’s coverage of Patrick’s record as a corporate fixer at Ameriquest and Coca-Cola. “It’s not as if we haven’t examined his background.”

As for that primary-eve-eve poll, Dahl said that, far from being irresponsible, “We made clear that this was a snapshot taken the week before the election. It was part of the comprehensive package of stories the Boston Globe has done throughout the campaign.”

The thing is, those snapshots can easily turn into beauty shots, depending on the timing.

John Carroll is a mass-communication professor at Boston University and a correspondent for WGBH-TV’s “Beat the Press” edition of Greater Boston.

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