Jack Coleman's Journey from Reporter to Activist

For those paying close attention, the news that Clean Power Now -- a group that supports the controversial wind farm project in Nantucket Sound -- has hired Jack Coleman as a media consultant isn't too surprising. But it's part of an interesting story.

Coleman had covered the wind farm story at the Cape Cod Times, a paper that had become known for its staunch and relentless opposition to the wind farm, primarily on its editorial pages. Some observers also argued that the anti-wind farm animus had leaked onto the news pages, and there was some evidence that it had. One example was a March 2004 story reporting poll results indicating that a narrow majority of people surveyed opposed the wind farm project --without revealing the key fact that 20 percent of those surveyed did not respond to the question. 

When I wrote about that for the Boston Globe, Coleman, who helped write the poll story, went on the record with his concerns. Here's an excerpt:
When Coleman learned the following week about the large number of nonrespondents, he concluded that the paper needed to set the record straight. "I was flabbergasted. It was a sizeable portion," he said. "I talked to Cliff [Schechtman] about it, and I said I think we need to revisit it. He said he didn't think it was necessary. . . . It's not the way I'd prefer to go. But it's not my call."

In 18 years covering the media, I can honestly say that Coleman is one of a mere handful (if that many) of people who had the guts to criticize his current employer on the record. Coleman wasn't long for the Times after that. And last year, he wrote a piece for the Providence Journal strongly suggesting that his candor led to retribution against him and hastened his departure from the Times. Last summer, Times editor Cliff Schechtman also left the paper and headed for Newsday.

I frankly don't know whether the Times's campaign against the wind farm has eased in the wake of Schechtman's departure. But at least one former Times reporter who once worked that story has now firmly chosen sides. 


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