If you are the parent of one of the students in Walter Robinson’s Journalism seminar on investigative reporting at Northeastern University, you are beaming this week knowing that your tuition investment is paying off. The former head of The Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team, who has more notches on his belt than Wyatt Earp, turned a statewide race for the State Auditor’s job upside down this week when the Globe reported that Democrat Suzanne Bump improperly claimed two different communities in Boston as her primary residence and took tax benefits from those claims (full disclosure: I worked on a primary campaign this season in opposition to Suzanne’s Auditor campaign).
But the story behind this story is that Walter “Robby” Robinson is now Professor Robinson leading a band of student investigators into the septic waters of Massachusetts politics. On Thursday they came back with a page one blockbuster that has the Bump campaign reeling. Today’s Globe wasn’t much better for her campaign as the Editorial page weighed in against her and Globe columnist Scot Lehigh scratched his own head about what she was thinking and chided her judgment for not responding fully when first asked.
Robby is the kind of guy you want on your side of the street when the fight breaks out. He is no-nonsense and steeped in the best tradition of investigative journalism. His departure from the Globe amid the flood of other reporter buyouts was a sad day in enterprising journalism because he was one of the sheriffs in town keeping his eye on the bad guys. He is near the top of the list of former reporters in this town who were the best of the best and are now on the outside doing something else.
So, there is Robinson on page 1 this week with the double byline shared with Stefanie Geisler. It takes a former reporter to recognize the good grace shown here by Robinson as he gave top billing on that byline to Geisler, no small gesture for a reporter who lives for the page one byline and being on top is always preferred.
Geisler was not alone in this enterprise, however, and we should acknowledge the important work of the other seminar-journalists: Gal Tziperman Lotan, Cecilia Akuffo and Callum Borchers.
There are plenty of solid and experienced journalists-turned-professors in Boston these days, but these students won the lottery when they got Professor Robinson. He also turned on its head the expression that ‘those who can do, those who cannot, teach.’