Pardon us

How the Mass media failed voters in 2006  
By ADAM REILLY  |  November 2, 2006

061103_politics_main

This year’s Massachusetts governor’s race was fraught with significance. On the Democratic side, we had Deval Patrick, an outsider with Bill Clinton’s communication skills and Howard Dean’s affinity for Web-driven grassroots organizing. If Patrick wins on November 7, he’ll be the first black governor in Massachusetts history and the second elected in the US. The GOP countered with Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, an inexperienced but fabulously wealthy candidate who vowed early allegiance to moderate Republicanism. If Healey wins next week, she’ll be our first elected female governor. Add the teetering national balance between Democrats and Republicans, throw in the potential implications for outgoing Republican governor Mitt Romney’s presidential hopes, and the stage was set for reams of incisive, thought-provoking political reportage.

But what stories ended up defining the race? Here’s my short list: Patrick’s reluctance to admit his ties to (perhaps wrongly) convicted rapist Ben LaGuer. Healey’s foolish, fear-mongering ad about LaGuer and Patrick. The revelation (from a still-unknown source) that Patrick’s sister was raped by her husband, Bernard Sigh, years ago in California, and that Sigh, who reconciled with his wife and now lives in Massachusetts, never registered as a sex offender.

Now let’s try a different question: without going to Patrick and Healey’s Web sites, what’s at the top of each candidate’s to-do list if he or she wins on November 7?

Well . . . Healey wants to finish cutting the income tax to five percent per the electorate’s 1998 vote. But I can’t tell you why Healey thinks she could pull this off when Republican governors Mitt Romney and Paul Cellucci couldn’t, or how much money Massachusetts would lose if she did, or how the rollback would be reflected in a Healey-administration budget. She’d also add charter schools, apparently, and get tough on illegal immigrants and sex offenders, somehow.

As for Patrick, who’s got a fat lead in the polls and seems certain to win, I know he says he’ll cut property taxes instead of the income tax, and spiff up roads and bridges. Apparently he’ll cut property taxes by beefing up local aid, theoretically. And he’ll fund those local-aid hikes and road and bridge improvements by raiding the state’s budget surplus — unless the surplus vanishes, in which case he’ll get the money somewhere else, maybe. Patrick also says we need to fix the funding mechanism for charter schools, which has some flaw I don’t fully understand.

It’s embarrassing to be this half-assed after covering the governor’s race for almost two years. My consolation, such as it is, is that I’m not the only member of the press who’s frustrated by his or her grasp of key public-policy issues — or who thinks that, collectively, we may have let Massachusetts down.
One reporter I spoke with recently rattled off a slew of key topics — taxes, the MCAS, charter schools, the funding mechanism for local aid — and offered this disheartening assessment: “The problem is, I feel like I don’t understand any more about any of these issues than I did before the whole thing started. No one has made any sense of these things. That’s our job, and I don’t think we’ve done it.”

1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |   next >
  Topics: Talking Politics , Deval Patrick, Mitt Romney, Joe Sciacca,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY ADAM REILLY
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   BULLY FOR BU!  |  March 12, 2010
    After six years at the Phoenix , I recently got my first pre-emptive libel threat. It came, most unexpectedly, from an investigative reporter. And beyond the fact that this struck me as a blatant attempt at intimidation, it demonstrated how tricky journalism's new, collaboration-driven future could be.
  •   STOP THE QUINN-SANITY!  |  March 03, 2010
    The year is still young, but when the time comes to look back at 2010's media lowlights, the embarrassing demise of Sally Quinn's Washington Post column, "The Party," will almost certainly rank near the top of the list.
  •   RIGHT CLICK  |  February 19, 2010
    Back in February 2007, a few months after a political neophyte named Deval Patrick cruised to victory in the Massachusetts governor's race with help from a political blog named Blue Mass Group (BMG) — which whipped up pro-Patrick sentiment while aggressively rebutting the governor-to-be's critics — I sized up a recent conservative entry in the local blogosphere.
  •   RANSOM NOTES  |  February 12, 2010
    While reporting from Afghanistan two years ago, David Rohde became, for the second time in his career, an unwilling participant rather than an observer. On October 29, 1995, Rohde had been arrested by Bosnian Serbs. And then in November 2008, Rohde and two Afghan colleagues were en route to an interview with a Taliban commander when they were kidnapped.
  •   POOR RECEPTION  |  February 08, 2010
    The right loves to rant against the "liberal-media elite," but there's one key media sector where the conservative id reigns supreme: talk radio.

 See all articles by: ADAM REILLY