With all the hullaballoo going on nowadays about what “opinion journalists” (whatever that means) should or should not do, it’s well to reflect on the behavior of some of our local opinionistas. Dan Kennedy has done yeoman’s work keeping up with Howie Carr’s activities. Howie, of course, writes a regular column for the Herald, and also hosts a talk show on WRKO. He is also a regular at Republican fundraising events, as one can readily observe by heading over to, say, the Cape Cod Republican Club’s Facebook page.
Anyway, some, including Dan, see donating to political candidates as the clearest of lines that should not be crossed:
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.
This is obviously a hot topic in light of Olbermann-gate.
Who? Yeah, Royall Switzler ran a quixotic and unsuccessful campaign against Alice Peisch to represent Carr’s leafy (though apparently drunken-teen-infested) hometown of Wellesley in the state legislature.
Also, interestingly, Howie Carr used his Herald column to boost Switzler’s candidacy, thoughtfully including him in the list of legislative contenders he thought merited particular attention. In that column, Howie made “full disclosure” regarding a different candidate – something about free food from the Kowloon restaurant. But he said nothing of having donated to Switzler’s campaign a few weeks earlier.
If someone could explain to me how this is different from what Keith Olbermann did, I’m all ears.
Finally, for the record, I actually don’t agree with Dan that donating to political candidates is an especially important line that should under no circumstances be crossed. The free media that Howie and his ilk provide to candidates they like is far, far more valuable than the few bucks they are allowed to toss into candidates’ campaign coffers. Does the fact that Howie Carr donated $100 to Royall Switzler before shilling for him in his Herald column, or that Olbermann donated to candidates who he had on his show, particularly matter? I don’t really see how, and I think saying it does elevates form over substance. But for the formalists out there, make of this what you will.