Sunday, February 15, 2009

Behind the scenes with the Western Massachusetts press: I was part of a posse this week – chasing after an elusive hombre, Deval Patrick.

The governor was in Holyoke, first to check in at Peck Middle School and then to address the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce before swearing in a new judge in Springfield. Then I'll bet, he as heading to his house in the Berkshires.

Now I like the governor. he's a smart, witty, very personable guy who will admit his ignorance on a subject and do his homework. He has made some pretty boneheaded moves – his most spectacular was including casino income at a time there wasn't even approval for casinos.

He's been very attentive to this part of the state unlike any other governor of recent memory, including Acting Governor Jane "Where's my Helicopter?" Swift who hails from North Adams.

The point of a politician such as Patrick making these rounds is to be able to get his message to the masses in the way he would like and to deal with the press in a fairly controlled manner. The preceding statement is NOT a criticism. It's standard operating procedure. The press tries to subvert these plans as much as they can to fulfill their own agenda.

We all know this in the press and the pols all know it and at times it becomes a bit of a game. Nobody really talks about it, though.

I missed the Peck School appearance because I had another story to cover. I was told the governor would be at The Log Cabin banquet facility about 12:15 p.m. to speak.

The Chamber folks thought it would be closer to 12:30 p.m.

Now the day before a number of reporters had decided they would "force" an availability on the governor at the Peck School so they didn't have to go to the Chamber luncheon, where the gov's staff had decided he would meet with the press after his speech.

This is part of the game. The electronic reporters – being spread thin themselves – would rather grab Patrick, ask the couple of questions they have on the gas tax and budget and then clear out to the next assignment.

Being on salary and reporting for a weekly I have to do something different and something more complete. Going to the luncheon was fine with me.

But the rest of the lads were a bit cheesed as the governor's staff had prevented them access, forcing them to go to the luncheon and wait. Since Patrick is almost always late, this strained their deadlines and schedules. I listened to quite a bit of complaining.

Dobbs' first rule of journalism: learn how to wait.

Second rule: always bring a spare set of batteries.

Third rule: Unless you're paying for a meal, don't eat.

Other rules will follow in subsequent posts.

For me, the delay meant taking a gamble to fore go eating at the proper time and running the risk of my blood sugar dropping and being a shaky mess. I very narrowly averted a full shaky episode. Got to love being a diabetic!

The gov's speech did have some news value and there was time for about three questions at the end before he was whisked away for the next event. I didn't get a chance to ask my question as the TV and radio folks were facing the governor, while the print people were out of his line of vision at his sides. I did stick my MP3 recorder in his face to get his quotes as there is no way I can be close enough to him to hear him and to still have the room to take written notes.

The question I always ask myself is if I'm going to get something that will be of value to the readers. You see, I think my readers actually want to know this stuff. I go by comments that are made to be and the results of our circulation audits.

At least at this time I hope people are paying closer attention to what government is and is not doing.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

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