This month’s Boston Magazine features a lengthy article about our city entitled, “The Mayor, the Muckraker, and the Bombshell North of Boston.”
The gist of the article, according to the sub-headline, is that a local newspaper (not us) “…..spent years reporting that the city’s highest-elected official was a corrupt politician who deserved to be thrown in prison. But what if it was fake news?”
The article goes into great detail about the publication’s constant criticism and attacks upon Mayor Carlo DeMaria, who now is suing both the newspaper and its editor for libel.
We’ll leave it to readers of the article to make up their own minds — which is why we urge every Everett resident to take the time to read the article.
However, the article makes two points that should resonate with every person, whether you have only a passing interest in the political life of this city or, like us, you have been involved for decades in reporting about municipal politics.
The first is that journalists should get their facts straight. We should always be cognizant of the maxim from Winston Churchill, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
In our hyper-internet age, that axiom is even more true, thanks to the omnipresence of social media. That is why, in our opinion, it is more important than ever for journalists to make sure that what they are reporting is accurate, regardless of the pressures to be the first to report something.
A good person’s reputation, even one that has been built up over many years, can be destroyed by just one untrue accusation.
Media companies of all sizes, including the New York Times and CNN, have been found lacking in this regard for many years, with the result that they have had to make retractions about some of their reporting.
This is an unfortunate trend that only reinforces the notion that journalists are more committed to the bottom line or to “getting a scoop” than to publishing the truth.
The second point we’d like to make is that in a small and tightly-knit community such as ours, there always is an impact upon the families of those whom we in the media place into an unfavorable light. This is something that the long-time publisher of our newspaper group, the late Andrew P. Quigley (who himself served in elective office for more than 40 years, including as a State Senator representing part of Everett) always emphasized to us.
We quote from the Boston Magazine article: “When DeMaria arrived home in the afternoon, his wife was sobbing and all three of his kids — ranging in age from 11 to 21 — were emotional.”
This goes not just for us in the media, but for everyone, in any context. “How will this affect that person’s family?” is a question that all of us should ask before we make statements about another person.
In the final analysis, the Boston Magazine article also seems to give credence to another age-old maxim: Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear (or read).