Carr Maintenance

( – promoted by Rob “EaBo Clipper” Eno)

Does Howie Carr play by his own rules?

The legendary Boston Herald columnist and WRKO-AM radio host has found himself in the media-ethics crosshairs over his appearances at fundraisers for Republican candidates in New England. Carr was quite defiant in his July 18 Herald column, declaring, “What this sudden concern by the moonbats about my ethics really proves is how frightened they are about Nov. 2. In 2004, I had a fund-raiser at my house for then-Rep. Scott Brown during his first state Senate race. I even wrote about it, and nobody harrumphed. There was zero outcry from the moonbats…Here’s the problem–if you have only 15 Republicans in the 160-member House, it’s one-party rule, and one-party rule means the absolute most crooked hacks will rise to the top–think Felon Finneran, or future WRKO host Sal DiMasi.”

However, former Boston Phoenix media columnist Dan Kennedy noted: “There are certain ethical rules that journalists–even rabidly opinionated columnists–try to follow. You don’t donate money to candidates. You don’t put signs on your lawn. You don’t put bumper stickers on your car…[Appearances at fundraisers], unfortunately, have long since become acceptable for radio talk-show hosts, and that is Carr’s main job. But he’s still a columnist for the Boston Herald.”

Obviously, Carr’s hardcore fans will disagree with the contention that he has committed an ethical breach by appearing at GOP fundraisers. Even if Carr’s appearances constitute an undisputed violation of journalistic principles, one must ask: Should these events constitute a breach of said principles?  

It may be time to rethink the notion that opinion writers should avoid the explicit embrace of political parties. Why shouldn’t obviously partisan columnists and commentators make clear where they stand in terms of support for, or opposition to, certain political parties?

I’ve long felt that major media entities should be open about which political organizations they prefer, and not pretend to be, for lack of a better phrase, fair and balanced: it’s not like anyone would really be bothered if, for example, the New York Post openly declared its allegiance to the GOP. Why not move towards this model, starting with partisan columnists and commentators?

Let’s say Frank Rich of the New York Times wanted to raise money to help Democrats win the 2012 presidential election. Should that be considered a breach of journalistic integrity? After all, Rich is in the opinion business, and he clearly believes that the Republican Party panders to the most retrograde elements of American society. If his strong feelings compel him to work to keep the Democratic Party strong, is he really harming anybody, or any principle?

Can it not be argued that the folks who are most irritated by Carr’s actions want to maintain the ideal of a non-partisan media, an ideal that cannot possibly exist in our hyper-partisan age? America is an ideologically segregated society engaged in an uncivil war over the country’s future–why shouldn’t the country’s most prominent opinion leaders openly partake in this war effort?

Yes, there’s a compelling argument to be made that the Fourth Estate should at least attempt to unify Americans, and that having columnists and commentators blatantly wave the flag for Democrats or Republicans frustrates that goal. However, if such a goal cannot actually be achieved, then there’s no real harm in allowing partisan columnists and commentators to pursue partisanship to its logical end, is there?

Of course, there is a downside to having columnists and commentators openly support political parties–if the parties do things that are explicitly harmful to the country, these opinion leaders will be scorned by serious-minded Americans. Other than that, no harm, no foul.

If Carr wants to promote the GOP, fine–but what if the party screws up down the line?  

About D. R. Tucker

50 comments

  1. We already know what Howie would do because he’s doing it with Baker: silence.

  2. Rob "EaBo Clipper" Eno

    over something another opinion writer was about to do earlier this year. Her name is Jane Kirtley of the University of Minnessota Here was her response via email.

    The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics  admonishes journalists to “act independently.”  It goes on to say that journalists should avoid conflicts of interest, and should “shun . . . political involvement . . . if [it compromises] journalistic integrity.”

    Many news organizations prohibit their reporters from taking part in partisan political activities or political campaigns.   They believe that this compromises the appearance of independence.  Reporters are not supposed to allow their personal biases to influence their news reporting.  If a conflict of interest is unavoidable, it should be disclosed.

    I don’t know exactly how this panel will be run.  I note it is moderated by a professor, not a journalist.  I am not familiar with all of the journalists appearing on this panel.  They seem to come from a variety of publications that many people think represent a variety of viewpoints.   If they are all columnists (commentators), as opposed to news reporters, many news organizations would say that the policy is different for them.  They are, in effect, paid to have opinions and a point of view.  

    The rules of ethics are pretty clear.  

  3. Rob "EaBo Clipper" Eno

    Joan Vennocchi appeared at a fundraiser for the Massachusetts Women’s POlitical Action Committee earlier this year. Here is the press release.


    MASSACHUSETTS WOMEN’S POLITICAL CAUCUS PAC TO HOST FIRST POST-ELECTION DISCUSSION ABOUT U.S SENATE RACE TOMORROW NIGHT

    Join the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus PAC tomorrow evening for one of the first in-depth discussions about the outcome of yesterday’s race for the United States Senate, featuring insider analysis by some of Boston’s leading journalists and political commentators.

    The event, “An Inside Look at the 2009 and 2010 Elections: from Capitol Hill to Beacon Hill,” is a panel discussion that will be moderated by Elaine Kamarck of the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants include David Bernstein and Adam Reilly from the Boston Phoenix, Julie Mehegan from the Boston Herald, and Joan Vennochi from the Boston Globe.

    A question and answer period will follow what is sure to be a spirited panel discussion.

    The event, which runs from 6-8 p.m., will be held at O’Neill and Associates, located at 31 New Chardon Street in Boston.

    Tickets to the event are $50 for the general public, $25 for members of the MWPC Young Professionals group.

    For further information, please contact Priti Rao at (617) 451-9294 or info@mwpc.org.

  4. For the last four years, I have written a weekly opinion column for the Cape Cod Times

    My column tag line, which appears at the end of every column is – “Cynthia E. Stead serves as the Republican state committeewoman for the Cape & Islands. She can be reached at cestead@gmail.com.”  I refer to it as my ‘Surgeon General warning’.

    Now obviously, I break ALL of Dan Kennedy’s rules .  I not only have signs, I put them up on other people’s lawns as well. But I regard myself as an advocacy columnist, not a professional reporter – I do not write news stories, only commentary and analysis.

    But I disclose my bias up front, and people are free to take that into consideration when they read my thoughts.  And I regard that as more honest than many ‘unbiased reporters’ who claim to tell all sides.  

  5. not a journalist or reporter…he’s a columnist, radio entertainer, and author.  He doesn’t report the news, he talks about reported news.

    As such, I hold him to no non-partisan standard just like I wouldn’t hold Marjorie Egan to such an ethical standard……or any of the loons on NPR of the alphabets.

  6. The First Amendment is very clear that we have the freedom of speech.  That extends to all people, even reporters.

  7. at the North Shore Music Theatre last night. Am writing about it in my column this week.

    Glad most everyone seems to agree that there is a different between columnists and reporters. Howie is just like me, except his paper has statewide circulation, and he’s an opinionated talk show host instead of an organizational political activist.

    Now if we could just get all reporters to report the facts about candidates they adore, like Deval Patrick and Barack Obama.  Really missed the objective journalism I was accustomed to before the 2006 governor’s race and the 2008 presidential campaign.

  8. please read above post.

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