In this week's East Boston Times there is a piece under the heading "Mr. Boston" that says city councilor-at-large Michael Flaherty took offense to a piece published on the Times' opinion page last week and came into the paper's offices "hot" and "serious as a heart attack." The column describes the inaccuracies that Flaherty pointed out in the previous story, published under the "Eastie Watch" heading, which said that the "word on the street" is that there are connections between the councilor and the Barletta Engineering Co., which has worked on the construction of East Boston Memorial Park.
The "Mr. Boston" piece laughs off Flaherty's objections, tossing out the old cliche that newspapers "never let the facts get in the way of a good story." In this instance, where the paper's credibility is being questioned, such a comment comes off as flip and foolish. Why, then, should we believe anything in the Times? The information that Flaherty says is not true is listed, but there is no attempt made to determine whether the councilor was being honest or whether the paper had the correct facts.
Shockingly, "Mr. Boston" goes on, according to the column, to tell Flaherty "not to get bent out of shape" because last week's piece was not in "a news column or editorial" and "he would never be treated in such a speculative way in an editorial or a news column." Huh? Every bit of a newspaper needs to be based on truth. Of course, editorials and columns contain opinion, while news stories are supposed to be objective accountings of fact. There is no place in any of those for untruths, and either the Times had the facts correct or it didn't.
Further, toward the end of the piece, it says that Flaherty would be treated differently if and when he announced his run for the mayor's office and that if he is elected "he would be treated with the deference the way (sic) Mayor Menino is treated." Why would a newspaper treat anyone differently? From top elected officials down to homeless panhandlers, what matters is publishing stories that are important, interesting and true. There is no other standard.
The whole tone of the piece is one prevalent in the unsigned "Mr Boston" columns: "Hey look ... I'm pals with all the politicians and the other big shots in this area" -- as in last week's adulation of outgoing EBSB chief Bob Verdonck. Meanwhile, we see photo spreads of those same few people every week. If someone who'd never visited Eastie looked through the Times each week he'd think that 15 people lived here.
Michael Flaherty is a top contender to be the next mayor of this city, and the residents of East Boston deserve to know about his connections to Barletta. If there are none, then the Times should apologize to him. Which is it?