Deadline Looming? Taxi!

If journalists can’t find news at the Democratic Convention — and, it seems, no one can — they can always take a page from the Thomas L. Friedman manual of reporting (“Everything I needed to know about outsourcing I learned from Harish, who drove me to my Mumbai hotel …”). In other words, get “news” from their taxi driver on the way to or from the airport, hotel, or event they are supposed to be covering, incorporating the cabbie’s wit and wisdom into an otherwise going-nowhere story.

A sharp-eyed Campaign Desk reader tipped us off to several of what he aptly called “lazy-man reporter’s ‘man on the street’ interviews,” in which journalists and bloggers in Boston turn to their “chauffeurs” for story-driving insights and observations.

First up, Newhouse News’ Miles Benson, who yesterday scanned the Democratic Convention for “average Joes and Jills.” Writes Benson: “Democrats call themselves the party of the common man and woman. But many of those parading at the party’s national convention … do not look much like the middle- and working-class Americans they claim to represent.” And the first quote goes to: “cab driver Chuck Benson,” who remarks that “there’s not an average Joe in the crowd,” as he “negotiated the crowded streets around the convention hall. ‘They’re all rich. Their interests and our interests are not the same.’”

Next up, The National Review’s Jonah Goldberg. On Monday, Goldberg reported that when he asked his “shuttle driver, a very nice retired Boston cop” what he thinks of John Kerry, the driver replied: “Not much.” To which Goldberg replied, Goldberg reports, “That’s what I like to hear.”

Lest you conclude that Boston cabbies don’t like Democrats, The Boston Herald’s Eric Convey and Greg Gatlin, in their story about cabbies making big bucks during this convention week, offer this quote from the president of the Independent Taxi Operators Association: “Democrats have always been the best tippers. The Republicans — the reason they’ve got money is they’ve got locks on their pockets.”

Blogging for The Boston Globe, David Weinberger confessed to readers on Tuesday that he “took a taxi back to the Fleet because I’m an old, tired, fat, lazy cad who doesn’t think twice about using his press credentials to cut a line.” Naturally, he and the cabbie “got to talking,” the driver shared his thoughts on Jimmy Carter’s speech (“magnificent”) and then produced “from the cab’s sun visor a scrap of paper on which he had written a favorite phrase from the speech.” Weinberger’s “massive assumptions about the socio-eco-educational status” of cabbies were challenged when he learned that his driver “got a degree in linguistics in Montreal.”

And Slate’s Mickey Kaus gives a play-by-play of “an actual conversation!” he apparently had with his own Boston cabbie — “an immigrant” — en route to the FleetCenter. “You like John Kerry, eh?” the driver inquired. “Well,” replied “the passenger,” “I’m a Democrat but I don’t really like Kerry that much.” Apparently, Kaus reports, this is something the cabbie hears “all day. All day.” And Kaus’s cab driver wanted to know, “Why you pick him if you don’t like him?”

Campaign Desk would try to report the answer out by talking to our own cabbie, but we take the subway.

Liz Cox Barrett

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.