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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Feeding frenzy

The new emanating from Beacon Hill was big. Heck, even the TV satellite trucks were there for the "Breaking News." Must be all that interest in Gov. Deval Patrick cutting local aid by record $128 million and calling for local option taxes.


Nope, the trucks were there for the hot rumor that House Speaker Sal DiMasi is stepping down -- as early as next Tuesday, certainly before Feb. 6 when he would have to file a statement of financial interest.

House Ways and Means Chairman Robert DeLeo says he has the votes to succeed DiMasi. No, House Majority Leader John Rogers says he does.

Welcome to a journalism feeding frenzy -- created by a local press corps that doesn't routinely cover the daily ins and outs of a $26-plus billion industry, prefers gossip and rumor over facts and wouldn't know context if it hit them in the face.

It's telling the Globe put the DiMasi rumor on metro and the local aid story on Page One (it's harder to know with the online Herald since they don't do Page One screen shots any more. Even if the Herald led the dead tree version with local aid, it's in keeping with their model to go with the gossipy DiMasi story online.)

The biggest question surrounding the eruption of DiMasi rumors -- one not asked amid all the frenzy -- is "why now?" This ongoing soap opera has killed a lot of trees and provided me endless hours of fun in analysis (the story, not a shrink!)

After all, he just won reelection as Speaker with a landslide and, with all due respect, he is not the greatest candidate right now to land a cushy rainmaker job. And how many of them are there anyway?

The toxic factor of pending investigations and trials of close associates -- and himself -- isn't the things most employers relish, although that didn't stop the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council from hiring Tom Finneran or Robert Coughlin (sorry Sal, that job is currently filled).

If anyone did want the high profile pick, they would need to wait a year, under state law, before he could start lobbying.

Speculators suggest the latest revelation -- Richard Vitale picking up the legal bills for DiMasi's in-laws -- was the final straw. That would be ironic since that action would be one of the only things Vitale is accused of that is clearly not illegal.

So stay tuned for the continuing saga of "As DiMasi Turns." It's also a lot more fun to ponder than how many police and firefighters are going to be laid off by local aid cuts and how icy streets are going to be when the money runs out for salt, sand and plow drivers.

But then again, maybe there is hope to make this story TV-friendly:
...[T]here was palpable tension in the Hynes Convention Center as Patrick announced his budget-cutting moves. At one point, the governor had a frosty exchange with Worcester Mayor Konstantina B. Lukes, after she appeared to smirk while the governor answered her question.

"Before you make a face, mayor, let me finish my answer, all right?" Patrick snapped.

Once he finished his response, he glanced over at her again and said, "Is that clear? OK. Now you can make your face."

"Mayor disses gov." Quick, everyone to Worcester!

UPDATE: Hat tip to Dan Kennedy for telling me where to find the Herald front (and sports) screen grabs. Glad to see I was right that they had a classic (and good) Herald hit as the lead. Their treatment of DiMasi as a teaser also matches the Globe's Page One treatment in philosophy, if not size.

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Blogger Southshore said...

Interestingly, Hunter S. Thompson commented on this type of behavior in writing about Watergate way back in 74. He was disgusted that it took a juicy scandal to prompt the national press corps to begin to work at its full might. He said the scandal never would have happened in the first place if the press hadn't fallen asleep and ignored what Nixon was doing between 68-72.
Well the same thing can be said for the Massachusetts press corp. Most couldn't even tell you how to find the House press gallery, let alone how things are actually being run beneath the Golden Dome.

January 27, 2009 9:08 AM  

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