Thursday, August 24, 2006

CYA in SoWa

Oh, my. Regulars here know of my fondness for Bay Windows -- coverage you won't find in the Globe, at least until they've read that issue of BW. However, today's BW, my buddies are over the top in defending themselves in the Over-the-top defense section at the bottom of their editorial.

(Hmm. This could be recursive. If Susan attacks various bloggers attacks of her attack of their attack on her reporter's attack on...)

Anyway, in case it comes up over a drink, the basics are that BW ran a piece slamming gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick through GLBT activists who support other candidates. Hey, it's the political season. Those folk are pushing their guy by alleging that Deval folded on a key issue of supporting San Francisco same-sex couples wanting domestic-partner benefits for UAL employees per a city ordinance.

Blue Mass Group, Left in Lowell, Ryan's Take, this blog and others (Deval supporters, don't ya know?) cried foul. Fact is, you could look at the UAL board issue several ways. He supported pushing back on the ordinance, allegedly to keep the company from being captive to various local regulations. UAL eventually lost that suit in federal court.

Meanwhile, Deval claims that he pushed the board to do what it voted that year (1999), to set a companywide policy of domestic-partner benefits. This is where the BW editorial gets funky.

She claims that the strongly anti-Deval tone was fair inquiry in an election. She adds:
But the defense of Patrick offered by a number of letter writers to Bay Windows this week, who claim in feverishly hyperbolic terms that Patrick lead the effort at United to install a company-wide domestic partner policy is silly. Neither the Patrick campaign, nor the candidate himself, in a voice mail message left last week for Bay Windows reporter Laura Kiritsy, claimed that Patrick had done any such thing. If he had, don’t you think we would have heard about it long before now?
I think we can hold the drama (feverishly hyperbolic? silly?). Someone there needs to put out four bits for a Globe or log onto There in an August 18th piece, we see what Blue Mass Group quoted:
"My view was it was right to do domestic partner benefits," Patrick said. "I advocated for -- successfully -- that we provide these benefits companywide. . . . The good thing about this whole controversy is it also raised a serious policy question. And on the policy question the board got it right, and I'm proud about that.
So, while we have no way of knowing what Ms. Kiritsy asked or heard, but we do know Deval's position. It is surprising that the BW editor doesn't.

Yes, politics can be nasty. Yes, asking hard questions is part of campaign reporting. Those said, it looks like BW could do without the CYA in SoWa. If you have a reporter who doesn't like a candidate, give her space in editorials to say so and why. If you have an editorial claiming to speak for the candidate on what he did or did not do, let a little fact checking enter into it. It's fair to us loyal readers.

From here, you either believe that Deval did the right thing pushing for policy or that he chickened out when he had a chance to fight the good fight the first time. Actually, you can conclude both if you spread out all the facts and opinions. Just don't pretend that he is hiding from this or that he doesn't hold that he pushed for and got the policy.

BW Oddment: Strangely enough, the same issue includes another bottom-of-the-column angle on this. Deval supporters, such as ex-State Senator Cheryl Jacques, defend is UAL role and point to the companywide policy.

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Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,

Susan Ryan-Vollmar here responding to your post. Just for clarification:

1. The editorial addressed letter writers to the paper this week who claim, to quote one, that "thanks to Deval Patrick United Airlines changed its own policy for the whole company." That is silly. Neither his campaign, nor the candidate himself is taking credit for the domestic partnership policy change at United. No one disputes the claim that Patrick supported the change -- but the only ones claiming he brought about the change single-handedly are his feverishly hyperbolic supporters.

2. You note that if I have a reporter who dislikes a candidate, I should give them space to write an editorial. I can only assume that you're referring to Laura Kiritsy, who wrote the news piece on Patrick's time at United. She didn't write that piece because she dislikes Patrick. And I'm very surprised you'd even think such a thing. She wrote that piece because it's a good campaign story.

3. In no way shape or form has Bay Windows claimed that Deval Patrick shied away from "the good fight." We reported, accurately, that he supported the company's policy with regard to the San Fran Equal Benefits Ordinance. And we reported, accurately, that he supported the domestic partnership change. To conclude that we've done anything else is reading way too much into what we've published on this topic.

4. We didn't run a piece slamming Deval by interviewing LGBT activists. The Globe did that. When Laura did the original piece, the only people she talked with were people who had been involved in the San Fran EBO fight.

Anonymous said...

There really is a truly odd insistence by some of Patrick's supporters that everything he does, no matter what, is just another sign of his wonderfulness. I don't get it. And I don't have a problem with it being called 'feverishly hyperbolic' or 'silly' either, at this point.

The relevant question is: would UAL have offered DP benefits in 1999 if they had won their federal court case? The answer is no. The heroes of the UAL fight are the SF legislators who passed the ordinance and the attorneys who defended it successfully--NOT the UAL board members who resisted the policy for years.