“What really blew my mind, though, and made me wonder about the journalistic ethics in force at Channel 7 at the time,” Tivnan went on, “was that the four who the mayor had identified as not being there were simply eliminated from the story. In other words, they used the mayor to screen the story, to patch up its Achilles’ heel.”
But the story was even more seriously flawed than that. With several other media outlets hot in pursuit of the same tale, Kelly had obviously rushed his version onto the air, combining details from several meetings. And the actual solicitation of funds, subsequent reports tended to show, apparently took place not at the breakfast itself but beforehand. Details of the breakfast are still murky; the point is that Kelly’s clumsy handling of the story has made them all the more so.
In the midst of a campaign, White could hardly take the charges lying down. A few days before the election, the White camp counterattacked full force, hitting Kelly at what was perceived to be his Achilles heel — underworld links. While Police Commissioner diGrazia was openly telling reporters there was an underworld campaign to get the mayor because of “the heat we’ve placed on people in this city in the crime picture,” his underlings were covertly leaking information on Kelly to reporters they considered cooperative. Soon after diGrazia leveled his charges, a Globe story quoted a police report indicating that Kelly had been seen “in the company of known members of organized crime” on roughly 25 occasions.
In retrospect, it is undeniable that the Globe story and a similar one broadcast on WBZ-TV and radio were based on information from police Field Interrogation and/or Observation reports (FIOs), reports that might best be described as raw data intended for internal police use, data that upon closer examination might well prove unsubstantiated. Although such reports are supposed to be held in the strictest confidence by police, such lofty standards clearly did not apply when it came to Kelly: at the urging of representatives of the mayor, police officials sought to leak such FIOs on Kelly whenever possible. The campaign to discredit him hardly stopped with White’s narrow re-election victory; on one occasion in 1976, a high-ranking police official read material on Kelly from FIOs to a Phoenix reporter. (The FIOs included a report that Kelly had been seen helping his friend Jimmy Martorano remove liquor in the middle of the night from Chandler’s, a South End restaurant co-owned by Martorano, a few days before a suspicious fire struck the place. Kelly later told the Phoenix the story was half-true. “I never helped,” he protested. “I just was standing there watching.”) Even as recently as last week, the Globe chose to run this same FIO material — which the Phoenix never published — in a side-bar story on the day of the massacre.
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