If and when Carr starts broadcasting from WTKK’s studios, he’ll be going head to head with Finneran, which will make the ex-Speaker’s already dicey situation even more precarious. “It’ll make for an interesting battle because of the personal hostility between the two men,” says Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine. “But there’s no question in my mind that Carr is the more accomplished.” Being on the FM spectrum also stands to expand and diversify Carr’s listener base, Harrison adds: “FM talk is the coming wave, and new people might discover him who otherwise don’t hang out on the AM dial. There are a lot of young people on the FM dial, a lot of women.”
And let’s not forget the bottom line. Carr’s current salary at WRKO is unknown. But based on what comparable hosts have made here and elsewhere, it’s likely that he was at or over $300,000 — and that WTKK plans to pay him significantly more. Nice work if you can get it.
The permanent PR problem
Unlike some of my media-watching colleagues, I’ve never borne any ill will for Globe transportation reporter Mac Daniel; in fact, I think his Sunday “Starts & Stops” column is pretty good. Still, it was hard not to raise an eyebrow at the news that Daniel was leaving journalism to become communications director for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority — which, as the Globe itself noted, he’s been covering for the past five years.
As Aaron Read of the Fried Bagels blog promptly pointed out, Daniel’s move raises some perplexing questions. Such as: how long has Daniel been in the running for this job? And now that he’s got it, will his reportage from that period retroactively lose credibility? “[F]or the record, I choose to believe that Mac Daniel has enough journalistic integrity that none of his writing should be questioned,” Read writes. “But the problem (mostly for the Globe) is that there’s no way anyone . . . can prove that he did have that integrity.”
Read is right — but the problem is bigger than Daniel. Just before I joined the Phoenix, for example, Seth Gitell, this paper’s outstanding former political reporter, left to become Boston Mayor Tom Menino’s spokesman. I don’t think Gitell took it easy on Menino prior to getting this job; as with Daniel, though, there’s no way to conclusively prove this. The same goes for any reporter who takes a job with a politician (a pretty big list) or has ever considered doing so, however fleetingly (an even bigger list). In fact, the problem is vaster still: any time a journalist goes into PR — for a nonprofit, an agency, a trade group, whatever — there are going to be unanswerable questions about the objectivity and credibility of any stories that had any connection with their new career.
How to deal with this dilemma? If there were a mandatory waiting period on jumping from journalism to PR — a year, say — these doubts would be minimized, though not banished altogether. But that’s never going to happen. There’s no professional journalistic organization that could hammer out such a policy; even if there were, there’d be no incentive for a reporter leaving the profession to follow it. Ultimately, there’s no real solution. If a reporter thinks he or she might become a flack one day, all that person can do is try to leave behind a body of work that puts any retrospective skepticism to rest.
On the Web
Adam Reilly's Media Log: http://www.thephoenix.com/medialog