Thursday, October 24, 2002

Let 100 papers bloom! The Newton Tab has endorsed Green Party gubernatorial candidate Jill Stein -- a pretty amazing statement of support for someone who is almost certainly not going to win the election. The Stein campaign reports that the Cambridge Chronicle has also endorsed Stein, though I could find no evidence of it on the unfathomable Town Online website, which hosts some 100 Community Newspaper Company papers, including the Tab and the Chronicle.

The conventional wisdom has it that Democrat Shannon O'Brien is the best bet for liberals -- that she's a progressive-leaning centrist who knows how to get things done, and is the only candidate who can stop Republican Mitt Romney. But she is, the Tab editorial observes, an unlikely reformer at a time when reform is paramount. The editorial continues:

[O]ther than making a bold statement about supporting gay marriages (which according to some reports upset her handlers), Democrat O'Brien has done little to distinguish herself since the primaries or to suggest that she'll be the reformer Massachusetts needs. And the fact that House Speaker Thomas Finneran has been an O'Brien cheerleader should raise concerns among Newton voters who've been crippled by his heavy-handed rule on Beacon Hill.

That's a pretty tough statement. I suspect O'Brien would rise above her insider connections and be a much better governor than her detractors think. Yes, O'Brien is extraordinarily cautious and has allies who make me queasy. But she's smart, she seems to have good instincts, and she did an outstanding job of cleaning up the corruption in the treasurer's office left behind by her Republican predecessor, Joe Malone. Still, O'Brien has failed to articulate exactly what kind of a leader she would be, and Stein has done surprisingly well at appealing to disaffected liberals and progressives. The candidates get another chance tonight, in the televised debate at 7 p.m.

The Stein endorsements are as much a media as a political story. Both weeklies are part of Community Newspaper Company, the 100-paper chain that Boston Herald publisher Pat Purcell bought from Fidelity a couple of years ago, allegedly for the backbreaking price of about $150 million. Does anyone doubt that the conservative Herald will endorse Romney when the time comes? Obviously Purcell means it when he says that CNC editors will be allowed to decide what's right for their papers and their community. Good for him.

Under Fidelity's ownership, CNC wavered back and forth between letting local editors make their own endorsement decisions and dictating those decisions from headquarters -- although the company never, to my recollection, allowed individual weekly papers to do their own endorsements for statewide positions such as governor.

No comments: