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

Globe, Herald at center of multimedia sports battle

Aaron Hernandez

Aaron Hernandez

The week before Labor Day is usually a slow one, but the last few days have featured some hot Globe-on-Herald action (by proxy). If you haven’t been following it, here’s your guide to catching up.

On Tuesday, Rolling Stone published an article offering new information about former Patriots star Aaron Hernandez, who faces first-degree murder charges. I haven’t read the article, but you can. According to various summaries, including this one, Hernandez reportedly carried a gun at all times, used angel dust and did not get along with Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

So where’s the Globe-Herald angle? The article was written by Paul Solotaroff and Ron Borges — the latter being a former Boston Globe sportswriter who now toils at the Boston Herald.

Borges’ contribution prompted a tough blog post on Wednesday by Bruce Allen of Boston Sports Media Watch. His headline — “Plagiarist Ruins Perfectly Good Rolling Stone Feature” — sets the tone for what follows. Borges, as those of you without long memories might not know, left the Globe under a cloud in 2007 after he was found to have committed something akin to plagiarism in his Sunday football notes column.

I wrote about Borges’ departure at the time, and, as you will see, I thought he got a bad rap, given that the Sunday notes columns produced by him and other beat reporters included this disclaimer: “material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.” Is it really plagiarism when you announce in advance that you’re lifting other people’s work?

Allen’s diatribe turned out to be just the opening act. On Thursday, the Globe’s Ben Volin went after the Rolling Stone article in a story that carried the deceptively mild headline “What Rolling stone got right, wrong on Aaron Hernandez.” Though Volin allows that Solotaroff and Borges did “a thorough job of recounting Hernandez’s sordid past,” he goes on to say that “the story also is filled with sensationalism, hearsay, convenient fact-bending, and even one blatant falsity.”

Whoa. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything quite like it in the Globe. And though I’m not in a position to judge the accuracy or fairness of the case that Volin lays out, it makes for a pretty entertaining read. I’d love to see Borges respond in the Herald.

(Both the Globe and the Herald today report Patriots president Jonathan Kraft’s refutation of the Rolling Stone article.)

As if this weren’t enough, the Globe on Thursday also ran a front-page story on the ratings collapse of sports radio station WEEI (AM 850) in the face of a challenge by upstart WBZ-FM (98.5 FM), better known as “The Sports Hub.” The article was written by business reporter Callum Borchers, a terrific young journalist who I had the privilege of getting to know when he was part of Northeastern’s graduate journalism program a couple of years ago.

The Herald angle is that Borchers devotes a good chunk of his story to WEEI’s “Dennis & Callahan” show, and Gerry Callahan is a Herald columnist. On its website, the station emphasizes the fact that Borchers is a former WEEI intern, something that was not disclosed in the article. You can hear Callahan and Borchers mixing it up on the air in this clip.

Should the Globe have noted that Borchers was once an unpaid summer intern at the station he was writing about? I don’t think disclosure ever hurts, but in this case I’m not sure what it would have added. There is no current conflict. I’ve written critically about many news organizations where I’ve applied for jobs, starting with the Globe and the Herald. (I even had a three-day tryout at the Herald in 1988.) I’m noting that here not by way of disclosure, but to point out how ridiculous it can get.

In any event, as with Borges, I hope Callahan will use his Herald column to respond. Because the three leading topics in Boston, as always, are sports, politics and revenge — with revenge being the most interesting of all.

More: “Dennis & Callahan” third wheel Kirk Minihane unloads on Borchers and the Globe.

Photo (cc) by Jeffrey Beall and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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  1. Ben Starr

    I believe Bruce Allen’s position is less about Borges as plagiarist and more tied to his 13 years of bias against Bill Belichick.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Ben: I know a lot of people don’t like Borges for various reasons, and no doubt Allen is one of them. But he called Borges a plagiarist, which I think is overstated by quite a bit.

  2. Aaron Read

    And revenge is a dish best served cold. It gets very cold in Boston.

  3. Ben Starr

    Dan – So I’m clear, what do you call what the Globe suspended him without pay for?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Ben: The Globe suspended Borges for plagiarism — unfairly, in my view, and I wrote that at the time.

  4. Reblogged this on Central Connecticut Post and commented:
    Media Nation posted this intriguing article about Aaron Hernandez and the media war that followed.

  5. Bill Dedman

    The papers did not include a refutation of the Rolling Stone article. A refutation would prove it wrong. What they included was a rebuttal.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Bill: Volin claims to have proven at least part of the Rolling Stone article wrong. Same with Kraft.

  6. So your views on fairness aside, Borges can be referred to as a plagiarist. He took no legal action to defend his suspension, so the record says he is a plagiarist. In the UK and Ireland, where I live he would be referred to as “disgraced” which would be great convention to start using in the US in my opinion especially with a someone like him. He wastes a lot of talent on spitefulness.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Tim: In Borges’ case, the facts are not in dispute — only what you make of these facts. I still say the disclaimer negated any possible plagiarism. He should have been told that the disclaimer didn’t give him leave to lift other people’s writing word for word, maybe even punished. But plagiarism “is the ‘wrongful appropriation’ and ‘purloining and publication’ of another author’s ‘language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions,’ and the representation of them as one’s own original work.” Because of the disclaimer there was no such representation.

  7. Bill Dedman

    Thanks, Dan, but you’re appearing to miss an important nuance — at least, it’s an important one for journalists when they are careful not to take sides. (I’m hoping J-schools still teach the distinction between rebut and refute.)

    I realize that Volin and Kraft claim to be proving items wrong. But if you say that they issued a refutation, then you’re taking sides: You’re saying that they proved items wrong. Unless you’re meaning to agree with Volin and Kraft, then it’s a rebuttal.

    From the AP stylebook: “rebut, refute: Rebut means to argue to the contrary: He rebutted his opponent’s statement. Refute connotes success in argument and almost always implies an editorial judgment. Instead,
    use deny, dispute, rebut or respond to.”

    Why does it matter? As AP implies, it has to do with independence. If we say that President refuted critics of his Syrian plan, then we’re saying he proved them wrong, which we can’t way, at least not unless we’re writing opinion. (Even if the president, similar to Volin and Kraft, would contend that he’s proven the critics wrong. Everyone thinks his own rebuttal is a refutation.)

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Bill: Did you check out the headline on the Globe story? “Patriots refute Rolling Stone article on Aaron Hernandez.” Just an observation — you’re clearly right.

  8. Mark Horsfall

    Why and how does Borges get attached to a RS feature instead of doing this research and reporting locally for his primary employer? His bouts with plagirism are but one yarn in a rich tapestry of behavior that’s made him something less than credible over time. Does RS lend him something that he no longer has locally?

  9. Franklin Harper

    Boston Globe article should’ve had full disclosure that the writer was friends with one/both of the people quoted ( Facebook/church buddies), besides his being an intern at WEEI years ago
    It was a hatchet job , which is fine , but as a writer , don’t wear your blatant hatred on your sleeve as a writer so obviously
    Maybe the writer should’ve written that the Globe was sold for a 90% loss by the NY Times , and has bled money for 7 of the last 10 years( per SEC filing when sold ) as well . At least WEEI is profitable .

    ( I listen to WEEI and WBZ … full disclosure )

  10. peter sullivan

    Dan, Interesting stuff… I really think that Globes hatchet job of WEEI deserves it’s own discussion. After listening to the WEEI guys interview the writer and then reading the Kirk Minihane response, it does seem like the Globe did an unfair and poorly reported article that appeared on the front page above the fold… Is this really a front page, Boston Globe story??

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Peter: Front page? The front page should be a combination of what’s important and what’s interesting. This was interesting, no? Hatchet job? Well, WEEI’s ratings collapsed once it got real competition. That’s indisputable.

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