April 09, 2014

The other day at Harvard, Boston Globe Editor Brian McGrory explained to a group of solons-in-training at the Kennedy School of Government that, despite cutbacks over the last decade, the Globe remains a vital source of “accountability journalism."

As if on cue, metro columnist Adrian Walker served up a splendid example of the accountability genre in the next day’s paper. Walker heralded the Reverends Bruce Wall and Eugene Rivers for presenting transit firm Keolis, a subsidiary of the French-government-owned SNCF, an “invoice” for $105,000.

Walker, a cagey and sagacious journalist, is the one who put quotation marks around the word invoice.

My reading of Walker’s colorful account suggests that he thought the encounter between Rivers, who delivered the invoice, and Leslie Aum, the Keolis employee who received it, might not have been, well, Kosher — at least not in terms of Harvard Business School best practices.

The operative idea, according to Walker, was that Wall and Rivers, flying under the banner of an outfit named DRM Advisory Group (that’s D for Dorchester, R for Roxbury, M for Mattapan) was hoping to be paid better than $100K for giving the folks at Keolis advice on how to be good citizens. Keolis is taking charge of running the MBTA’s commuter rail lines. Wall and Rivers sensibly define a good corporate citizen as a company that hires plenty of people from Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan.

But that’s not really what caught my eye. Walker does a good job laying it all out, and you can just click here or above to read it.

What struck me was the extremely boring headline the Globe put on Walker’s front-page scoop.

“A jarring demand in a drive for diversity,” is how it read.

Come on, copy desk. I know accountability journalism is important stuff, but Wall and Rivers were engaged in some pretty creative stuff.

Nothing, I’m sure, illegal, but certainly innovative.

Heck, even Buddy Cianci, the former mayor of Providence and recipient of a Federal Department of Corrections Fellowship, never came up with a scheme this elegant.

If the desk at the Boston Herald were running this story, they might have manufactured something with more resonance. Given Keolis’ parent company's past history transporting Jews to concentration camps, something — perhaps — like this:

“Race-Centered Revs Go Nuts on Nazi-Loving French Firm, Seek $105K.”

How many Boston political stories can claim a Nazi angle?

I’m not sure how many people share my enthusiasm for creative political thinking, but recent years have been kind to political buffs. We’ve enjoyed “binders full of women”, marveled at the wonder of “some traffic problems for Fort Lee,” and now can appreciate the unbridled chutzpa of the below-the-radar invoice.

Emily Rooney will be delving into this issue in greater depth Wednesday on Greater Boston. You can tune in to Channel 2 at 7 p.m., or stream it here.

Bospoli, mapoli

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