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Boston Globe editor puts his apology for paper’s sex scandal cover-up behind a paywall

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The editor of the largest newspaper in New England, and the focus of the 2015 Best Picture of the Year Oscar “Spotlight,” put his apology for covering up the name of the reporter he fired because of his sexually-related misconduct behind the paper’s paywall.”

“For the record, the journalist’s name is Jim O’Sullivan, a former State House reporter of four-plus years for the Globe,” wrote Brian McGory in a “Note to Globe readers about our sexual harassment coverage” posted late Thursday, two weeks after McGory refused to release the reporter’s name–only that he had been fired.

“I got too caught up on nuance and failed to grasp the need for transparency by this organization in this unprecedented reckoning,” he wrote from behind a paywall that cost 99 cents to pass through.

Other Boston-area media outlet had released his name, so it was already public before McGory named him.

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“I am confirming what other news organizations have reported already,” he wrote. “He made lewd propositions to one newsroom colleague and to two women that we are aware of on Beacon Hill. Though we know he apologized to his Globe colleague and stopped his advances, we felt his actions were an abuse of his position as a Globe reporter and completely inappropriate.”

https://twitter.com/lilsarg/status/944209096164696065

The paper’s internal review of O’Sullivan’s work also showed that his reporting may have also been compromised by his sexual predations.

“We have since gone back and, to the best of our ability, reviewed O’Sullivan’s work to make sure it wasn’t compromised by his actions,” he wrote.

“We have found several stories that either involve or at least mention organizations that we believe are connected to one of the subjects of his propositions, but there is nothing to indicate that the stories are unusual or slanted,” the editor wrote. “These things, admittedly, are difficult to determine. We will continue to review as more information becomes available.”

McGory also wrote that he made his decision to keep O’Sullivan’s name private after consulting with women in his newsroom, but after blaming them, he took the blame himself.-

“The bottom line is that we believed we were taking a principled position and applying our journalistic standards evenly, including to ourselves,” he wrote.

Then, he kind of suggested people inside the paper still agree he was right the first time, before remembering the purpose of his missive.

“Some here still believe that, while others don’t. Even as we were debating, norms of coverage and even the broader definition of harassment were changing,” he wrote.

“It was my mistake.”

If you have not used up all your free articles from The Boston Globe, you can read the apology here.

Otherwise, here it is:

A note to Globe readers about our sexual harassment coverage
December 22, 2017

We published a story on Dec. 8 about news organizations, including the Globe, facing sexual misconduct issues in their midst as they cover these issues elsewhere. The story noted that a Globe journalist was “pressured into resigning” after misconduct accusations were made against him.

At the time, Globe editors chose not to publicly identify the journalist. We believed that we were adhering to our journalistic principles, standards on sourcing, and sense of basic fairness. We believed that the misconduct was not at the level of what we had been covering and uncovering in other organizations. We didn’t believe we had definitive proof to name him in a news story.

Time and circumstances in this extraordinary national movement have given us, or at least me, a different perspective.

For the record, the journalist’s name is Jim O’Sullivan, a former State House reporter of four-plus years for the Globe. I am confirming what other news organizations have reported already. He made lewd propositions to one newsroom colleague and to two women that we are aware of on Beacon Hill. Though we know he apologized to his Globe colleague and stopped his advances, we felt his actions were an abuse of his position as a Globe reporter and completely inappropriate.

In reaching the decision not to identify him, I consulted with many women and men around the newsroom. The merits were debated extensively by senior editors, women and men. All harassment stories, and we’ve done many, are challenging to report and complicated to write. Victims are understandably raw and often reluctant to speak. We require corroboration to get over legal thresholds. Quite often, we decide we haven’t met our standard and end up with a lesser story than we expected. Sometimes, we choose to do no story at all.

While our discussions on the O’Sullivan matter were mostly focused on proof, fairness, and spectrums of misconduct, there’s now a fairly obvious realization that I didn’t focus enough on another very important factor: the Globe’s institutional credibility.

The bottom line is that we believed we were taking a principled position and applying our journalistic standards evenly, including to ourselves. Some here still believe that, while others don’t. Even as we were debating, norms of coverage, and even the broader definition of harassment, were changing. I got too caught up on nuance and failed to grasp the need for transparency by this organization in this unprecedented reckoning. It was my mistake.

We have since gone back and, to the best of our ability, reviewed O’Sullivan’s work to make sure it wasn’t compromised by his actions. We have found several stories that either involve or at least mention organizations that we believe are connected to one of the subjects of his propositions, but there is nothing to indicate that the stories are unusual or slanted. These things, admittedly, are difficult to determine. We will continue to review as more information becomes available.

This has been an important time in our country, but by no means an easy time for many organizations. I unintentionally made it more difficult for the Globe. Please know that we’ve learned vital lessons about holding ourselves to a higher standard, lessons that I pledge will be vigorously applied to our coverage of these and many other issues going forward.

Brian McGrory

Editor

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