WHDH Unwittingly Feeds Daily Show’s Maw

A badly edited, poorly timed interview with former Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift makes Boston's NBC affiliate seem oblivious to the news.

The tragic first death related to Boston’s Big Dig project and the ensuing fallout have gripped the city ever since concrete ceiling panels fell in an I-90 tunnel last week, crushing 38-year-old mother Milena Del Valle.

Silent to date about the matter has been former Acting Governor Jane Swift, who in 2002 appointed Turnpike Authority Chairman Matthew Amorello, the primary official responsible for seeing to completion the massive 15-year, $14.6 billion project. While the bulk of construction was finished when Amorello assumed his post, he “repeatedly assured drivers that the highway tunnels were safe” for months before the July 10 accident, reported the Associated Press, “amid complaints of delays, cost overruns, shoddy workmanship and inferior materials” — assurances that “tragically proved false.”

But Swift has not entirely shunned the public eye: last week she welcomed Caterina Bandini, an anchor for Boston’s NBC affiliate, WHDH-TV, into her western Massachusetts home.

There, Swift expounded on her experiences as the mother of 5-year-old twins — a pair of girls Swift famously gave birth to during her brief failure of a term in the state’s corner office. (The Boston Herald flagged the softball interview in a story today.)

On Wednesday, as Del Valle was buried in her native Costa Rica, WHDH, with exquisitely bad timing, aired Bandini’s three-minute feature on Swift’s life as a mom. “With twins on the way for me, I wanted to get some advice from someone who knows a thing or two about raising multiples and making some tough choices, public choices in life. Who better than former Governor Jane Swift,” explained Bandini. “So I made my way to the Berkshires to get the 411 on twins and her new life.”

Cut to shots of Swift’s pastoral life with her kids and husband on the family farm, and of the former governor, now an education consultant, intently working at a computer.

“Raising three little girls, would you say it’s the most rewarding thing you’ve ever done?” Bandini asked. “It’s definitely the most rewarding, and it’s a lot of fun,” responded Swift.

“What is the best piece of advice that you can offer someone like myself who is expecting multiples?” asked Bandini. “Keep them on the same schedule. Some time in late October or early November, you will be tempted, when only one is awake and wanting to be fed, to go back to sleep, and my advice to you is don’t do it,” Swift said, chuckling.

“Is it possible for a woman to have it both, to have a baby, multiples, and a thriving career, whether it’s in government or not?” Bandini asked in her final on-camera question. Swift happily replied she was glad “you used the word ‘both’ rather than ‘all’ because I have always said I never am going to answer the question of can women have it all until people start asking men that.”

What Bandini did not ask Swift on-air was anything about the Big Dig, the political story of the year in Massachusetts, even as her appointee Amorello is “engaged in a bitter political battle” with current Governor Mitt Romney. (Emergency legislation passed last week transferring control of the Big Dig from Amorello to Romney.)

To be fair to Bandini, the Swift interview was arranged “long before the whole catastrophe,” as a WHDH spokeswoman told the Herald, and “When Bandini met with the former acting governor, she asked Swift if she’d discuss the Big Dig disaster but Swift declined, so Bandini went ahead with the interview about the twins.”

Even so, Bandini should have let her viewers know she at least attempted to question Swift about the disaster, and her station should have put more thought behind the unfortunately timed broadcast of its entirely forgettable story.

In this case, “The News Station” seemed entirely oblivious to the news. As long as TV reporters and producers keep airing stuff like this, the likes of Jon Stewart and The Daily Show are never going to run out of ammunition for new parodies of an execrable genre.

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Edward B. Colby was a writer at CJR Daily.