Thursday, December 19, 2002

NU J-school director whacks Buckingham. Steve Burgard, the director of Northeastern University's School of Journalism and a former editorial-board member at the Los Angeles Times, e-mails Media Log on an additional reason why Virginia Buckingham would be a poor choice as the Herald's deputy editorial-page editor:

The Boston Globe has reported that Virginia Buckingham, a former head of the Massachusetts Port Authority, has been talking to the Boston Herald about becoming deputy editorial page editor. Let's hope that the lunch meeting she was spotted having with Rachelle Cohen, the editorial page editor, was that and only that. Lunch.

To see why having Buckingham as number two of one of the city's major daily editorial boards is a bad idea, look no further than today's (Dec. 19) Herald. In a story headlined "Logan hit hardest post 9/11," the newspaper reports on a study that found that Logan International Airport lost almost a quarter of its flights since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Massport's spokesman was quoted as citing drastic agency actions such as cutting budget, laying off 15 percent of its work force and delaying capital projects.

Readers look to major editorial pages to make sense of important stories like this. How much stock could they put in an institutional voice spoken by a former political appointee whose fingerprints were all over Massport and its troubles?

Editorial pages can and should have a point of view, but they will cheat readers of clear, independent thinking if they are too politically connected or ideologically rigid. Make no mistake either about the clout inherent in a deputy editor's position. At major newspapers, deputies exercise enormous influence over the daily editorial line, and when the boss is out of the office, they often set it.

Burgard's letter has already been posted by Romenesko, too. The Globe item described Buckingham as a "shoo-in." But you've got to wonder if the opposition of someone as respected as Burgard might make Cohen and publisher Pat Purcell pause.

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