Targeting the Globe

Visit the Web site of the Second Amendment Foundation — a pro-gun lobbying group — and here’s what you’ll find:

  • “SAF Files Ohio Lawsuit …”
  • “SAF Sues Library System …”
  • “SAF Files Texas Lawsuit …”
  • “SAF Files Amici Curiae Brief …”
  • “SAF Sues To Overturn …”

Keep that in mind as you read this Herald story about the foundation’s efforts to have Globe columnist Steve Bailey fired over an allegedly illegal 2005 gun purchase he was involved in while researching a piece on lax gun laws. (Why now? Bailey talked about it on Tom Finneran’s WRKO program recently.)

As former prosecutor Randy Chapman, who heads the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, tells the Herald, “I don’t see a criminal intent there. I just see someone facilitating a news story.” The Herald also notes that the SAF has gone after Sam Donaldson, too.

Here is the SAF press release on Bailey, in which the Globe is helpfully identified as being “owned by the anti-gun New York Times.” And here is Bailey’s 2005 column.

I hope the lawyers don’t tell Bailey he can’t write about this. It’s ridiculous, and the Globe ought to stand up to the Second Amendment Foundation, which makes the National Rifle Association look reasonable by comparison.

Web design gone wild (II)

A day after the Herald transformed Tony Massarotti’s Red Sox report card into a 33-screen Web epic, the Globe comes back with a DIY “Midseason Report Card” that is — get this — 63 clicks long.

Delivering the goods on Romney

I have to agree with the Outraged Liberaltoday’s installment of the Globe’s Romney series, by Brian Mooney, really delivers the goods.

Here are a couple of highlights that the O.L. doesn’t mention. First, this ought to negate any lingering belief that Romney cut taxes in Massachusetts — or even held them steady:

Data compiled by The Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, shows that during Romney’s four years as governor, the state and local tax burden in Massachusetts increased from 10 percent to 10.6 percent of per capita income.

Next, consider what William Monahan tells Mooney. Monahan is described as having had a “long personal and political relationship” with Romney, but the governor pushed him out as chairman of the state’s Civil Service Commission because he had bought property from organized-crime figure Jerry Angiulo 23 years earlier. Mooney writes:

That night, from his lake house in Wolfeboro, N.H., Romney called Monahan, who quoted him as saying: ”Bill, my stomach is turning…. My senior staff is unanimous that I have to ask for your resignation. I don’t want to do this, but I am outvoted.”

I don’t want to do this, but I am outvoted. Absolutely amazing.

According to the Herald, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is now on Romney’s case, too.

Lenore Romney and abortion rights

Part four of the Globe’s series on Mitt Romney flatly asserts that a family tragedy led his mother, Lenore Romney, to favor abortion rights in her 1970 run for the U.S. Senate. Neil Swidey and Stephanie Ebbert write about the stance Mitt Romney took in his own Senate run in 1994:

Although he always said he was personally opposed to abortion, Romney sought to reassure Massachusetts voters of his pro-choice bona fides by citing his mother’s example. Lenore had run for the Senate on an abortion-rights platform, a stance forged by the death of her son-in-law’s teenage sister from an illegal abortion.

”My mother and my family have been committed to the belief that we can believe as we want, but we will not force our beliefs on others on that matter,” Romney declared. ”And you will not see me wavering on that.”

Note how the sentence I’ve boldfaced is constructed — as a straight declaration of fact, with no attribution. Yet that statement has come under question in the past.

In June 2005, Globe columnist Eileen McNamara reported there was little evidence to suggest that Lenore Romney, who died in 1998, had spoken out in favor of abortion rights during her unsuccessful campaign.

In response to McNamara’s column, Romney released a statement that encompassed what his mother had said at the time. Among other things, Lenore Romney said: “I support and recognize the need for more liberal abortion rights while reaffirming the legal and medical measures needed to protect the unborn and pregnant woman [sic].”

The Globe rightly observed, “It was not clear what specific positions Lenore Romney was advocating in the statement.” And, oh yeah, the reporter was Stephanie Ebbert.

Given that the Globe is asking us to wade through some 35,000 words on Romney this week, you’d think that it could remind us there’s some disagreement over how he characterized his mother’s beliefs — especially since that disagreement plays into the criticism that Romney will say anything to advance his ambitions.

All known facts

If your heart sank this morning when you encountered part one of the Globe’s seven-day, all-known-facts package on Mitt Romney, imagine how we felt at Media Nation Central. After all, you don’t have to read it. I do. And though today’s nearly-5,000-word entry, by Neil Swidey and Michael Paulson, is surprisingly sprightly, the purpose of such presidential profiles is strictly defense: by next Saturday, if the Globe has done its job, there won’t be a single Mitt tidbit for the national media to pick up on that the Globe didn’t have first.

Online, what’s notable is how far the Globe has come since its big John Kerry special of a few years ago. I can no longer find the Kerry stuff in order to make a direct comparison, but the Romney package strikes me as far richer, with a Web-only Paulson story on young Romney’s near-fatal car accident in France, where he was a Mormon missionary; an interactive Google map of France; a Michael Kranish piece on Romney’s draft deferral; a slew of photos and documents, even one of Romney’s report cards (PDF); and several videos, including this fairly creepy look at how Romney’s appearance has changed over the years. Given this cynical foolishness, I especially enjoyed a video of Romney speaking French.

Just remember: Packages like this are meant more to be admired than read. I’ll be reading. And if find anything startling, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Gareth Cook has Ideas

A big week for former PhoeniciansGareth Cook has been named editor of the Globe’s Ideas section, replacing Wen Stephenson, who’s moving to WBUR Radio’s “On Point.” The announcement follows news that Yvonne Abraham will be one of the Globe’s two metro columnists.

Under Stephenson, Ideas has become somewhat more accessible and newsy than it had been in its original incarnation, edited by Alexander Star. I’d like to see Gareth push it more in that direction. In any case, Ideas will certainly be in capable hands.

Two smart choices

As you’ve probably already heard, Globe editor Marty Baron announced this morning that Kevin Cullen and Yvonne Abraham will take over the metro columns recently vacated by Brian McGrory, the new metro editor, and Pulitzer Prize winner Eileen McNamara, who’s decamped to Brandeis.

This strikes me as smart on two levels, both macro and micro.

Macro is the mere fact that Baron decided to fill the slots — something he’d already said he was committed to doing, but which he might have been tempted to back away from on the theory that scarce resources could better be devoted to local reporting rather than pontificating. Fortunately, Baron realized those columns are popular with readers, and that jettisoning them might save a few pennies now but cost more than a few dollars down the line.

Micro is that Cullen and Abraham are reporters first and foremost, and can be reliably expected to use their new positions to contribute to local coverage. That’s what McGrory and McNamara did when they were on, but I suspect Cullen and Abraham will push even farther in that direction. Along with the incumbent metro columnist, Adrian Walker, who also brings a reporter’s mindset to the job, we can expect the left-hand side of the City & Region front to consistently tell us stuff we didn’t already know.

It’s easy to picture Cullen as a columnist. In fact, some years ago, he wrote a column-like feature for a while. Abraham — a former Phoenix colleague — is harder to peg. But she writes with a strong, distinctive voice, and has handled news and feature stories with equal aplomb. Give her a little time and she’ll be terrific.

Seth Gitell also approves the picks, though I’ve got to disagree with his assessment that Cullen is the “logical successor” to Mike Barnicle. Cullen’s specialty is original non-fiction.

Update: Adam Reilly of the Phoenix has some interesting things to say about the move, and offers a first-rate bit of Abraham prose from her Phoenix days. The Weekly Dig snarks predictably, but does make one good point: Peter Gelzinis of the Herald would have been an inspired choice — although, in my view, no more inspired than Cullen or Abraham.

Mr. Fussy writes a correction

With apologies to Alex Beam, by way of Roger Hargreaves.

The Globe today publishes a correction that is superfluous bordering on confusing. It reads:

Based on incomplete information on a congressional website, a graphic with a Page One story about a plaque commemorating the origins of gerrymandering wrongly said Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry and state Senator Israel Thorndike attempted to keep their Republican friends in power. They were members of the Democratic-Republican Party, also known as the Jeffersonian Democrats. The Republican Party was not founded until the 1850s.

But as anyone who’s studied American history should know, the Democratic-Republican Party, founded by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, was universally known in its early days as the Republican Party. This Wikipedia entry gets it right despite being from, you know, Wikipedia. And hand it to Wikipedia again, which correctly notes that the Republican Party started to be called the Democratic Party around the time of Andrew Jackson’s presidency.

If the Globe’s editors thought they needed to clarify this at all, instead of calling it a “Correction” they should have trotted out an old standby from years past: “Amplification.” Mr. Fussy really would have liked that.

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.

David Ortiz’s non-roid rage

Did the Herald do David Ortiz wrong? Globe columnist Jackie MacMullan ups the ante today with a lengthy piece on the fallout from the headline on a short Michael Silverman item in Tuesday’s Herald. The headline: “Papi unwitting ‘roid user?”

MacMullan writes: “The headline was a disservice to Ortiz, and to Silverman, who does not write his own headlines. In fact, no writer at a major paper writes his or her headlines.”

OK, the headline was kind of idiotic. But, as these things go, it wasn’t that bad. Here’s how Silverman’s item begins:

On the topic of steroids, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz said he is not 100 percent positive that he’s never used them. If he did, it happened when he was much younger.

“I tell you, I don’t know too much about steroids, but I started listening about steroids when they started to bring that [expletive] up, and I started realizing and getting to know a little bit about it,” Ortiz said Sunday. “You’ve got to be careful…. I used to buy a protein shake in my country. I don’t do that any more because they don’t have the approval for that here, so I know that, so I’m off of buying things at the GNC back in the Dominican [Republic]. But it can happen anytime, it can happen. I don’t know. I don’t know if I drank something in my youth, not knowing it.”

I’d say the headline was an exaggeration of what Ortiz actually said, but not by that much. MacMullan says this about the Herald’s headline:

It was an inflammatory rhetorical question that set off a national chain reaction of speculation. One of the first hints was when Red Sox manager Terry Francona said a Toronto reporter entered his office and declared that Ortiz had exposed himself as a steroid user.

The Toronto reporter needs a reading-comprehension lesson.

This is the second time the Globe has let Ortiz vent about the Herald; here is Gordon Edes’ piece from Thursday’s paper. And yes, I think the Herald could have written a more deft headline to describe Ortiz’s remarks.

But the real story here is that Ortiz let himself get caught thinking out loud at a moment when everyone is baseball is freaked out about steroids. He said nothing wrong, but, sadly, in the current climate, he probably shouldn’t have said anything.