The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Covering Petro

Caught Flat-footed Again

Petro and friends:
Mike Albano, Tommy Finneran, Cheryl Rivera and Sal DiMasi.

The release this week of the official report based on the investigation into probation department corruption charges originally unearthed by the Boston Globe still leaves in question what will become of one of the report's most vilified figures - Ludlow State Rep. Tommy Petrolati. Alas, it is too late for voters to simply show "Petro" the door, as the election was three weeks ago and in any case Petrolati didn't have an opponent. The fact that the report was held back until after the election, when it could do no harm at the polls to Petro's political allies, has also struck some observers as all too convenient.

Not that some local pols didn't try to make the controversy an issue anyway. As seen in the video below, unsuccessful West Springfield state rep. candidate Greg Neffinger tried to raise the issue of his opponent's close ties to Petrolati, but to little avail.

Now perhaps in the wake of the release of the report State Rep. elect Finn will hold a press conference explaining what it is he meant when he described those in the Globe articles as "good people." Or maybe the local media will pressure him into making a full explanation, but don't hold your breath. When it comes to local corruption, too often our Pioneer Valley news outlets have been a day late and an article short.

Indeed, the Globe's investigatory journalism on Petro is hardly the first time that Western Mass residents have had to read Eastern Mass papers in order to discover what was happening in their own backyard. Nor can our local media claim that they had no inkling that Petro might be crooked. For example, here is a video dating back to 2008 showing a Boston Herald reporter chasing Petro through the statehouse attempting to get Petrolati to talk about his connection to a Longmeadow mobster:

Too bad our local reporters don't chase down the politicians like that. But in fairness to the Valley media, they are better than they used to be. Gone are the days when it was commonplace for the media to openly act as cheerleaders for the local crooks, while ignoring critics (such as yours truly) who were trying to point out that something was wrong.

People like Frankie Keough, Papa Ray Asselin, Gerry Phillips and all the others whose reputations were eventually ruined by criminal probes all had glowing coverage in the local media right up to the moment when they were led away in handcuffs. Happily, most of the key figures at the Springfield Newspapers who were in bed with the crooks have since moved on, and been replaced by a crop of talented young reporters who appear less inclined to ascribe to the paper's former "go along to get along" culture.

Part of the change is that the paper itself is being eclipsed by its much more vibrant website, and with fewer people reading newspapers, their editorials in general sound as irrelevant as the wailing of a dinosaur sinking into a tarpit. The local broadcast media, long just an echo-chamber of the Springfield papers, is also being revitalized by the transformation of what we have traditionally called "television" into just another section of the internet.

To their credit, in the wake of the report The Springfield Republican the other day did a nice story with original reporting that looked into the hiring through Petrolati of Sheriff Michael Ashe's son. This is exactly the sort of local journalism we need to see more of. But if they really want to impress us, let's see an editorial calling for Petro to immediately resign from the legislature. Then we'll know that times have changed.

On my way to Springfield from Hamp yesterday I had to switch buses in Holyoke. That resulted in my first visit to the newly opened bus terminal across from Veterans Park. Frankly, I think it looks a little too modern for the historic setting. I mean, couldn't they have included a few red bricks in the design to make it fit in better with its surroundings?

On the plus side, the terminal itself is the old abandoned fire department headquarters, which in recent years was in grave danger of being torn down.

Here is the view of Veteran's Park out the window of the bus terminal.

I got off the bus in Springfield's ol' Pine Point in front of the site of the former Russell's Restaurant, now just a brown spot and a puddle.

Dylan on Boston Road.

Doyle the Twig Painter.

Madonna and child in Saint Michael's.

Summer's fade and roses die....

The last leaves are falling on the woodland way into downtown Northampton.

A stoned Northampton pumpkin.

Henning Ohlenbusch of Northampton is experimenting with sounds.

Trashcan Boxhead by Henning


Anonymous said...

Petrolati should have the decency to resign!

Larry said...

@Anon...."Petrolati" and "decency" do not belong in the same sentence.