The new communications director at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is someone with experience dealing with the agency. Mac Daniel has covered the Turnpike for years as a reporter with the Boston Globe. His hiring comes about a week after legislation went into effect making Governor Patrick's transportation secretary the chairman of the Turnpike's governing board of directors.See the full article at WPRI.com
I've talked with Mac personally a handful of times, he's a nice enough guy. And in the interests of disclosure I frequently do send in questions & tips to his email address: email@example.com
But he's been oft-critized by sites like BadTransit for being too "soft" on the MBTA and other transit agencies around Massachusetts. I don't really agree with that assessment, but I can see why...Mac rarely "went for blood" on his Starts & Stops column in the Globe. Granted, the Globe is not a "gotcha" news organization...they strive to be objective...but I do concede that our transit organizations here in Boston definitely need someone to smack them around on a regular basis, since the elected officials certainly won't (most Massachusetts transit agencies are havens for patronage jobs) and the public is routinely ignored by these organizations.
So you can see why I'm uneasy about Mr. Daniel leaving his job to report on the transit in Boston, to go work for one of the agencies he used to report on. It raises legitimate questions about the objectivity of his reporting.
For example, how long ago did he know he was a candidate for this job? During that entire time, his objectivity is completely in question. Now, carrying that train of thought to a logical (albeit extreme) conclusion...has Mr.Daniel always wanted a job like that? If so, then virtually everything he's ever written should be considered "invalid" because maybe he "took it easy" in his column to avoid annoying the people who are now his supervisors.
Again, for the record, I choose to believe that Mac Daniel has enough journalistic integrity that none of his writing should be questioned. But the problem (mostly for the Globe) is that there's no way anyone...even Mac...can prove that he did have that integrity. And as such, it looks bad.
As my journalist friends often remind me...when it comes to journalistic integrity, looking bad is the same thing as being bad. So that's why I feel uneasy about this.
But at the same time...it's not like he was writing columns for months or years while knowing he had this job in the wings. Charging Mr. Daniel with a conflict of interest feels a bit like a Catch 22; is he never allowed to ever have a job in a transit agency just because he covered transit while at the Globe? Maybe his column gives him valuable insight and experience for the job!
Argh. I don't need these moral dilemmas in the summer...it's too damn humid to think.