Q&A #1: Is The Globe In The Tank For John Connolly?

Welcome to Ask Me Anything Day! Starting off with a hot potato, “Rob” asks:

What’s your honest take on the mayoral coverage by the Globe? Is the perception by some that they’re in the tank for Connolly accurate in your estimation, and if so, has it influenced their coverage?

The editorial board endorsed John Connolly in the primary—along with John Barros—and I would assume they will do so again in the final. Some of the columnists at the Globe, including for example Scot Lehigh, have long had concerns about some of the municipal employee unions and are clearly skeptical about Marty Walsh’s ability to deal with those unions as mayor.

So, there’s that. But otherwise, no I really don’t think there’s been any significant bias in the paper’s coverage of the race. Of course, many of the people who think the Globe is in the tank for Connolly think I am too, so if they’re right, I probably wouldn’t see the Globe‘s bias, would I?

I don’t get where it’s coming from, to be honest, when I look at the actual coverage. (I also haven’t seen any significant bias in the Herald‘s coverage, where you might really expect it.) Part of the perception, I think, is the usual hyper-sensitivity—what I call “reading defensively”—that spikes with supporters on all sides as elections draw near.

But I also think that many on the Walsh team, and many of his supporters, seem to really think there is something unfair about the media’s interest in Walsh’s labor ties as a campaign issue—and they interpret that in large part as anti-union bias.

I fundamentally disagree. As I wrote five months ago:

Look, Marty Walsh is a terrific candidate, with an impressive organization. But at some point the other candidates will start asking rhetorically: “How can you expect labor’s candidate to negotiate union contracts that won’t bankrupt the city?”

I say rhetorically, because it really won’t matter how good Walsh’s response is. All that matters is how many Bostonians hear the question.

So, I think it’s possible that Walsh’s minions get him into the final, and it’s possible that the other candidate who gets through will have an even bigger albatross to carry, but that makes him an underdog to me, not a favorite.

It’s a big, legitimate campaign issue—if anything, bigger than I even thought back then, given the extraordinary percentage of Walsh’s financial support (to his campaign committee and outside spending on his behalf) that has come from labor. And, frankly, Walsh’s response in the campaign has been significantly worse (in my opinion) than I anticipated.

It’s not anti-labor to say so. (I’m generally a pretty big fan of labor unions myself.) It’s legitimate coverage of the campaign.

I’ve had other issues with the Globe‘s coverage of the campaign, but bias is not among them.


Read more from today’s Ask Bernstein Anything >>