Boston.com’s anonymous sports blogger to be unmasked

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 7.41.18 PMOn Sunday at 5:11 p.m., The Boston Globe’s free Boston.com site published a toughly worded blog post about Jerry Remy’s future with New England Sports Network.

Headlined “Case closed: Red Sox fans not obligated to pay for Jared Remy’s defense,” the writer argued that NESN had a public-relations problem on its hands following a Globe investigation into Jerry Remy’s son Jared, accused of murdering his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel. The writer also found it ironic that NESN would remove Jenny Dell from Red Sox coverage because of her relationship with third baseman Will Middlebrooks while Jerry Remy stays in the broadcast booth.

And, oh yes, there was this: the writer was anonymous, identified only as the Obnoxious Boston Fan.

I’d never seen an anonymous blog on Boston.com before. And though I agreed with some of the sentiments he expressed in his post about Remy, it struck me as journalistically and ethically inappropriate for the Globe to be giving a platform to any anonymous writers — let alone one who was casting aspersions on others.

In response to my inquiry, David Skok, the digital adviser to Globe editor Brian McGrory, told me by email that Mr. OBF will henceforth be writing under his name. Skok said:

We are in the midst of reviewing all of the content being posted on Boston.com and BostonGlobe.com as we continue to move forward with the relaunch and the separation of the two properties.

During this review process, we discovered that one of our community voice bloggers was posting anonymously on the site. We don’t believe that this adequately meets our journalistic principles and practices for all of our Boston Globe Media Partners properties. As a result, the blogger known as the, ‘Obnoxious Boston Sports Fan’ will be identifying himself in all future posts.

We are also excited to announce that we are bringing several of our best ‘community voices’ on as freelance writers who will go through the standard copy editing process required for all of our freelancers. We believe that these voices are valued contributors to Boston.com and we look forward to giving their work the exposure and amplification that it deserves.

As a result of these changes, we have notified all of our contributors that the community voices program will be ending at the end of the month. We want to thank all of our bloggers for their contributions through the years and we hope that they will continue to be a part of our digital community.

And yes, according to Skok, Mr. OBF made the cut.

Here, by the way, is Boston.com’s Community Voices page. Other than Mr. OBF, Skok did not say who will be staying and who will be leaving.

On Twitter earlier today, Mr. OBF claimed he has won “multiple APSE awards” (and perhaps he has) as well as “a staff Pulitzer.” I have asked Mr. OBF for a response to the news that he will now have to identify himself, and I’ll post it if I hear from him. Regardless, it sounds like we’ll know who he is soon enough.

Update: And here is Mr. OBF’s response (drum roll, please): “Looking forward to it.”

Update II: Originally I wrote that Skok had told me Mr. OBF’s anonymous status had simply fallen through the cracks. I’ve removed it because it was my characterization of what he said, and it seems too close to a direct quote.

Update III: In case you’re clicking to this post directly, I want to let you know about this.

12 thoughts on “Boston.com’s anonymous sports blogger to be unmasked

  1. Aaron Read

    “Fell through the cracks” my ass! The OBF is prominently featured on Boston.com at least once a week. They knew exactly who and what he was.

    Why the blatantly obvious lie? It’s not like it’d be the end of the world if they admitted that they thought it was okay before, but on reflection, decided otherwise. Live and learn, mea culpa, let’s move on. But this line of bulls**t is so transparent as to be offensive. It’s a sharp insult to every readers’ intellect.

  2. Laurence Kranich

    I wish the Globe would also eliminate the anonymous comments they’re publishing among the newspaper letters to the editor. They’re labeled as coming from online discussions but I don’t think anonymous comments have any place on the editorial pages of the newspaper. I don’t like them online either, at least the way newspaper online comment sections have devolved.

    1. Rick Peterson

      During the 2008 election, I had a letter published over my name and town in the Globe. About a week later, I started getting letters and parked cars outside my house, both of which I perceived as threats. The police were called. There are some really crazy people out there. The incivility of political discourse won’t be remedied by removing anonymity. These whack jobs aren’t ashamed, they’re proud.

  3. Jeff Goldings

    Dan, I wholeheartedly agree with that The Boston Globe should require all of its bloggers to reveal their identities including the OBF , whose work and opinions about Boston sports I enjoy reading. I don’t think any newspaper, which believes in journalistic integrity and ethics should permit anonymous blogging online and often wondered what precisely was the journalistic justification for bery different journalistic standards for print and online content by the Globe’s writers and boston.com bloggers. Finally, I know this is a little off- topic, but have you heard whether the new upper management at the Boston Globe will revive “The Spotlight Team,” the investigative writers and editors, who broke so many critical stories of local political corruption in the 1990s and into the first decade of the 2000s. I continue to hope that 2014 will be the year we learn how a minor violation of the law by a brillant, troubled young man, Aaron Swartz, became tranformed into an unwarranted and tragic criminal prosecution by a U.S. Attorney consumed by an overarching political ambition and poor legal and ethical judgment. My understanding is that Massachusetts U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton agreed to a request by U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, to seal and redact critical documents related to the federal investigation of Aaron I would like to see the Globe ‘s lawyers go to federal court and challenge the federal judge’s orders in Aaron’s case and the Globe’s investigative journalists spend some months investigating how the Swartz matter became a legal travesty and a family tragedy.

  4. Aaron Read

    Upon some reflection, I’m wondering which is worse: that Skok is desperately trying to spin this with something that so obviously looks like a lie? Or that he’s actually telling the truth and nobody noticed an anonymous blogger on the biggest news website in New England? Either way, it looks pretty bad, y’know? I’m not sure the analogy is accurate, but I liken it to some random dude walking into our radio station and just starting to read newscasts, and nobody on staff notices it. Even if he does a good job, you’d think someone would realize there’s a random guy with no vetting nor editorial review suddenly representing our enterprise to tens of thousands of consumers…

  5. Doug Cornelius

    I think you want to draw a distinction between an anonymous writer and a writer using a pseudonym. The statements and opinions can clearly be attributed to OBF. That is distinctly different from allowing anonymous postings that could be attributed any number of individuals.

    But he can’t claim the awards and other background, because the pseudonym has severed him from the rest of professional background.

    That’s the rub. We don’t know if OBF is some drunken screamer on the sidelines or an award-winning journalist.

    1. James Harvey

      The thing is, we DO know whether OBF is some drunken screamer on the sidelines (and I’m not sure whether it’s relevant that he’s an award-winning journalist). We know because he’s been writing under the “OBF” pseudonym for years. He’s built a reputation with his readers based on the quality of what he produces, not his credentials. He’s not breaking any news that needs to be fact-checked, he’s just providing his opinion, so the quality of what he produces is all that really matters.

      People who write under pseudonyms will sometimes be denied the respect that their credentials would have otherwise entitled them to. The redditor “Rummelator” would routinely weigh in on rowing advice threads, and would often have his advice downvoted or criticized as uninformed or not suitable for serious rowers. It turned out that he was actually an Olympic rowing medalist. In the case of OBF, though, there are no such credentials to be had. Just his position as a boston fan, which was made clear in his writing. I’ve found OBF to be more interesting than more established Boston sports opinioners like Shaughnessy or Simmons, why should I care what his real name is, any more than I care about what Bono’s real name is?

  6. Al Quint

    it’s very easy to use a pseudonym. This is my real name but what would prevent me from creating an alter ego that sounds like a real name? If I went under Al Jackson, for instance, would anyone know the difference?

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