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

Ron Borges’ departure

As you probably already know, Globe sportswriter Ron Borges has quietly left the paper. That means his two-month suspension for lifting chunks of a column from the Tacoma News Tribune will stand as the last word on his long career at 135 Morrissey Boulevard.

David Scott, who’s been blogging prodigiously on this (see this and this), invites me “to comment on the significance of the botched Borges bye-bye.” Well, I don’t know. At the time of Borges’ suspension, I wondered if he’d ever come back. I guessed he would, since the Globe has been his platform for various broadcasting and outside writing assignments. I guessed wrong — hardly the first time.

Readers of Media Nation know that I’m an exceedingly narrow sports fan. Since Borges didn’t cover the Red Sox, I’ve read very little of his stuff over the years. I do recommend this John Gonzalez profile of Borges in Boston Magazine, which includes the following hilarious passage:

Boston sports junkies might be surprised to hear this. Dan Shaughnessy has always been the guy they’d most like to dump into the harbor. But over the past few years, Borges seems to have supplanted his fellow Globe scribe as the most vilified writer in town. “We should have one of those Globe polls — ‘Who do you hate more?'” Shaughnessy says. “I’ve challenged Borges to see who could get out the vote. It would be close. And it would be a lot more interesting than who’s going to win the MVP.”

Actually, it would be a lot less interesting than to see who’s going to win the MVP, but that’s Shaughnessy: a sportswriter who doesn’t seem to like sports all that much.

One aspect of Borges’ meltdown continues to trouble me. You cannot judge whether or not he committed plagiarism without taking a close look at the disclosure that ran with his football notes column, as well as with the notes columns of several other Globe sportswriters: “[M]aterial from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.”

How do you hang someone out to dry for lifting material when there was a huge, blinking sign telling readers that the material they were about to read was at least partially — yes, lifted from other sources? Of course Borges should have rewritten the stuff he was taking, but it’s not as though he’d claimed that it was the fruit of his own labors. To this day, I doubt that he thinks he did anything wrong. (Just to be clear: He did.)

The most fully reported piece on Borges’ departure is by Jessica Heslam, in the Herald’s Messenger Blog. Reading between the lines, it sounds like Borges — who actually returned to the Globe two weeks ago — realized that his outside work was not going to disappear if he left, and that he’d rather pursue that than stay with an employer who had publicly accused him of being a plagiarist.

Update: Cold, Hard Football Facts, the Web site that first reported on Borges’ light fingers, weighs in on his departure — right down to some Snoop Dogg-style boasting about the size of its virtual testicles. Really.

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  1. Peter Porcupine

    Mr. Borges was an expensive reporter whose expertise was mired in a sport that was waning whan I was a child – boxing. With the exception of a brief resurgance in the Clay/Ali era, the sport was increasingly of less interest to readers.I rarely watch the Red Sox and do not follow them, but I can say his coverage of the Patriots was atrocious.So – if you are a Sox fan and I am a Pats fan, and we both feel his coverage was not the best – really, what did he have to come back for? A weekly show with Mike Felger, who has a worse record on picking winners than he does?The costly irrelevance of his expertise was probably more important to the Glob than his lightfingered propensities.

  2. Anonymous

    Let’s be clear about the unpopularity of both Shaughnessy and Borges. They both dare to challenge local teams and players, even when they are doing well. For all the self-promotion in this area about its sophisticated sports fans, I know of no area that DEMANDS such lock-step loyalty to successful teams than Boston.Now, to be frank, I think that Shaughnessy hung them up about 13 years ago. I date it to the Nancy Kerrigan fiasco. He is unoriginal; his prose is stale, tired, and repetitious; he clearly doesn’t care. At least, Borges displays energy and commitment, however over-the-top his criticisms of Belichick may be.

  3. Don (no longer) Fluffy

    Whatever happened to quotation marks?

  4. jvwalt

    There’s a wide range of possible reasons for the Borges departure. We don’t even know whether it was the Globe’s idea or Borges’. He may well have come to believe in his value on the open market. He may have, as a veteran Globie, become disillusioned with changing times and the ever-shrinking newsroom. The Globe may be using this as a pretext to rid itself of a high-priced staffer who may have become more trouble than he’s worth. Perhaps Borges created fresh trouble with his freelance writing on behalf of Oscar de la Hoya during his suspension. Journalism is one of the most secretive professions around. News organizations try to reveal as little as possible about internal decisions like this. Which is more than a bit ironic for a profession that tries every day to uncover the secrets of others.

  5. mike_b1

    anon 11:20: “Challenge” isn’t the correct description. “Deride” would be a better one, as would “begrudge,” and “grind an axe.”Al Sharpton “challenges” people. Doesn’t mean he’s (ever) right.

  6. Nate from Newton

    I know of no area that DEMANDS such lock-step loyalty to successful teams than Boston.Please. It’s just the opposite – Boston is the only area in the country where sportswriters feel compelled to be contrarians just for the sake of being contrary. The Indianapolis media does not regularly accuse Dungy of being a liar and a bad human being, the way the Globe tries to undermine Belichick. The Philly media can be tough and hypercritical, but as far as I know they don’t make it personal the way Borges did, and their sportswriters tend to genuinely revel in their teams’ success, unlike the sour attitude so many Boston journalists have.

  7. j g

    I’ve written it here before- I think Borges’ love of boxing and contempt for the NFL (especially the Patriots and/or the Krafts) came through loud and clear in his writing- I think he still practiced the old Will McDonough “fluff your friends, f— your enemies” style After reading the idea he may go into boxing promotion, I thought of the story that Larry Merchant may be getting let go from HBO’s telecasts- I wonder if he may be a candidate to take Merchant’s contrarian role

  8. Anonymous

    After your own paper knocks your credibility…is there anything esle to do besides leave?

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