By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The rest of the story

Today’s Boston Globe contains that most frustrating of journalistic subspecies: a long, abject “Editor’s Note” that will prove utterly mystifying to any reader who doesn’t remember the original story. As mea culpas go, this one’s a doozy, beginning with this:

GLOBE: A Page One story Aug. 26 detailing allegations that the International Rescue Committee’s resettlement program for Somali Bantus in Boston has provided inadequate assistance to the refugees failed to meet Globe reporting standards in several areas. The story relied on the accounts of two former IRC employees and four families in the approximately 140-refugee community and did not present enough context about the broader refugee experience for the reader to judge how prevalent the alleged problems were.

And on and on it goes, closing with a statement that even the translator the Globe relied on shouldn’t have been used, because that person’s participation “was arranged by the ex-employees who had brought the complaints to the Globe’s attention.”

None of this, though, adds up to much unless you can look up the original story. I have. Written by Globe staff reporter Raja Mishra beneath the headline “Rift Erupts over Agency’s Care of Refugees – Ex Workers Plan to File Complaints,” it begins with this:

MISHRA: Asha Mohamed’s life began on a Somalian corn farm. It ended, improbably, in Everett.

There, the mother of seven descended into dementia, living months in a urine-soaked apartment without medical care, caretakers and family members said. She died quietly last December in her late 50s or 60s – her family is unsure exactly how old she was – of stroke-related complications in a nursing home bed. Family members said they were barely able to visit her or even understand what ailed their matriarch. [Note: I’ve added dashes that appear to have been stripped out when this was uploaded. Perhaps they were parantheses in the original.]

Former employees of the organization that resettled Mohamed in Everett, the International Rescue Committee, said the nonprofit failed her and dozens of other Somali Bantu refugees in the Boston area, saving them from squalid African refugee camps only to deliver them into an isolating and impoverished existence here.

“She was a hard worker; she was kind,” said Asha Mohamed’s son, Abdi Sabtow, who lives with his family in Everett. “IRC is the worst. They never helped like they promised.”

If you would like to judge for yourself, you’ll find the complete story in the Globe’s archives here. If you’re not a subscriber and don’t want to pay, you should also be able to find it online if you have a library card. The Boston Public Library and all the suburban library groups offer free access to newspaper databases.

Often, free links recent newspaper stories can be tracked down with just the right Google search – but not this one. Too bad. The Globe deserves some credit for setting the record straight. But without ready access to the original article, the goal of transparency is only half met.


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