Sunday, March 11, 2007

A reader writes: Disappointed in Mac Daniel's column today

[Until Charlie returns from the West Coast, I'll be occasionally fillling in for him. -- Ron Newman]

From today's mailbag:

Hi Charlie on the M(B)TA,

Below is a copy of a letter I sent to the Globe today. Nothing new
in it, but I was really dumbfounded by the silly Starts & Stops
column this morning
.

BTW, I'm a native SF-er who's lived in Boston for the past three
years. Glad you liked "my" city and its transit system. BART is far
better than commuter rail (hey -- it may be dirty, but at least the
lights work!), and I think is a good model for an commuter-friendly,
region-wide system.

MUNI has gotten a lot better over the last 10 years; former mayor
Willie Brown set out to fix it, and I think he did a pretty good
job. Shows that maybe even the stodgy ol' MBTA could be given a
shaking-up.

Jon Roberts
Boston, MA


Date: March 11, 2007 9:32:05 AM PDT
To: starts@globe.com
Cc: ombud@globe.com, letter@globe.com
Subject: Disappointed in reporting

Dear Mr. Daniel,

I enjoy your column and the "transport beat" that you have at the
Globe. But I'm starting to wonder where the teeth are in your
articles. In today's Starts & Stops, you mention three people who
complained to the T, but whose complaints the T has no record of.
A new customer service system "may" be the issue for having, it
would seem, systematically tossed complaint letters in the trash?
Why let it go at that? Why not ask the next five or ten questions
that naturally follow on?

It seems that of all the local travesties, the T is handled with
the "kiddest" of gloves. Massport, the Turnpike Authority, and
others all get a good grilling, but the T is let off with their
spokespeople saying "oh, good point, we'll look into it.".

I think the Globe really needs to turn its eye to some of the
fundamental issues at the T. A few that pop right to mind:

* Why is customer service responsiveness so poor? Why does the T
feel so unaccountable to its customers and to the media?

* Why are projects so delayed? Kenmore Station? Charles Street?

* Why is service so spotty? The boarding delays with Charlie on
the Green line? Commuter rail cars with no heat or lights?

* Are funds being spent properly?

These are important local issues that deserve strong investigative
reporting. The T isn't the Kremlin; it's a taxpayer-funded,
service-providing, fully accountable agency. I would hope Globe
would treat it as such.

Best,
Jon Roberts
Boston, MA

8 comments:

Brad said...

I've sent a few similar letters over to Mac asking why he doens't ask any type of follow-up questions. I have yet to receive any response. It seems that it is always the fault of the commuter in his columns.

Anonymous said...

Mac's using the MBTA's mailroom.

Kevin said...

Mac Daniels is a joke of a journalist. He freely admits to not riding the very system about which he writes, and brags about the "check engine" light on his Corolla. The MBTA has gotten a free ride from the Globe. Any reporter worth his salt could win a Pulitzer covering some of their bullshit.

Anonymous said...

I would recommend NOT writing to Mac Daniel, but writing to the Globe itself -- to anyone and everyone at the Globe. (perhaps to letter@globe.com, for letters to the editor, comments@globe.com, ombud@globe.com for "comments on globe content") Maybe if enough people complain they will start giving the stories to someone who will actually... oh, I don't know... do some reporting.

John said...

"Bad Transit" is the only blogger that, as far as I know, has met and talked with MacDaniel and he commented that M_D avoids hammering the T to the degree the ridership would like him to because he doesn't want to get cut off from his sources or have his input directly to T management ignored (like the rest of us).
My feeling is that the T does a fine job of publishing their own PR handouts, but M_D is the only dedicated MSM newspaper column in Boston that focuses on the MBTA. Use that! The ridership wants the T's feet held to the fire.
Covering the MBTA is not the same as joining a gentlemans club.

Grant Gould said...

His full name is perhaps Mac Daniel Grabauskas?

Okay, sorry, that was quite unfair. A journalist alone on his beat has to make nice with the powers that be, and Daniel is no exception. Without investigative resources, a reporter has to cultivate the good will of sources, even sources as openly dishonest and poisonous as the T.

If the Globe wanted real transit reporting, it would need enough investigative resources to get facts independently of the agency's spokesmen and press releases.

If the Globe put half as much effort into reporting on the T, which influences huge numbers of its readers, as it does into the lurid comings-and-goings of politicos ("Look how many 'civic leaders' you've never heard of lined up to fellate the governor this week!"), we'd see a lot better work from Mac Daniel.

John said...

Grant makes a excellent point, it's the resources stupid!
If the transit public act like sheep, i.e. by accepting year after year of double digit fare and parking increases, without a sound. Then why would The Globe put any more attention in that direction than they do.

Jon said...

I can see that a journalist would have to "make nice". But if the standard source is the press office -- the folks that have to deal with the media whether they like it or not -- does making nice really pay off?

I know nothing about the day-to-day life of a newspaper reporter. But so much good has been done by a watchful press (the scandal at Walter Reed comes to mind, as does the Globe's reporting on the Big Dig fatality) that I have to think that there is a better balance that can be struck.

Until MBTA general manager becomes an elected position, I believe the press has a responsibility to ask the questions that we as individuals don't get to. And, incidentally, I believe we as individuals have the responsiblity to plunk down our 50c each day to read what the reporters have to tell us.