Globe executives address sexual-harassment accusation against Brian McGrory

Two top Boston Globe executives, managing director Linda Pizzuti Henry and president Vinay Mehra, sent this out to the staff earlier this afternoon. A source passed it on a little while ago. As you’ll see, the message concerns a charge by Hilary Sargent, a former top editor at Boston.com, that she was sexually harassed by Globe editor Brian McGrory in a text message, which she posted on Twitter this past Monday.

Emily Rooney, Adam Reilly and I discussed the situation Tuesday evening on “Greater Boston.”

The full text of Henry and Mehra’s message (except for an internal link for reporting employee concerns) follows.

As you may be aware, a former employee has publicly suggested that there was an inappropriate text exchange between Brian McGrory and her. As we discussed last fall and at the last newsroom Town Hall, we are deeply committed to creating a safe, comfortable, welcoming working environment for all employees. We have multiple avenues for employees to use to escalate concerns and will work to expeditiously address any issues raised going forward or looking back.

This issue is no exception. When we first learned about the social media discussion mentioned above, we began investigating to gather as much relevant information as we could. We discussed the issue with Brian in an attempt to understand both the nature of any exchanges between the two parties and also whether or not these exchanges occurred during her employment. We also reached out to Ms. Sargent, the former employee, to ascertain the timing and context of the text in question. At this time it is still unclear when these exchanges took place.

We expect to have resolution on this matter soon but did not want to wait another day to connect with you directly. We want to reiterate how important your work is, how important your contributions are to us and how seriously we take assertions of improper conduct.

If there is anything you would like to discuss related to this matter or any others, please do not hesitate to reach out to us or any member of the management or human resources team….

Thank you.

Linda & Vinay

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Mike Sheehan addresses Globe home-delivery meltdown

My WGBH News colleague Jim Braude interviewed Boston Globe chief executive Michael Sheehan tonight on Greater Boston about the Globe‘s home-delivery meltdown. Among other things, Sheehan says he expects the situation to be largely solved in 30 to 45 days—not four to six months. Watch the whole thing, but below are some highlights provided by WGBH.

• Sheehan responded to speculation that some Globe staffers would be losing their jobs:

BRAUDE: More than one person said to me that when you were hired to do this job, you made clear that you didn’t want to be responsible for things where you didn’t have experience, like distribution. Is that true? Is it true that you had that conversation with John Henry?

SHEEHAN: Yeah, circulation is not part of my—

BRAUDE: So who is responsible for this mess if not you?

SHEEHAN: I am.

BRAUDE: But who is the person who’s in charge who’s responsible for this?

SHEEHAN: We have a team of people in charge of it, but I’m the CEO, and I’m accountable for it.

BRAUDE: Ultimately you’re saying it stops at your desk. But whoever made the decision, is he or she still going to be working at the paper?

SHEEHAN: Yes.

BRAUDE: Nobody’s fired?

SHEEHAN: It was a group decision—

BRAUDE: No discipline for anybody?

SHEEHAN: No.

• Sheehan also commented on the backlash from subscribers:  

BRAUDE: You were a messaging guru in your former life. What’s the message that you’re going to convey to those angry subscribers, now and when you subscribe their service, that reestablishes that bond?

SHEEHAN: We’re sorry. We’re incredibly, deeply sorry that this happened. And we’re going to fix it. We appreciate their business. We appreciate the bond. When you go to someone’s house, and they’re shut in, and they tell you that “this is my lifeline to the world,” and they’re not getting it, we cannot disappoint people like that. And we won’t.

Arrest records and mug shots are not secret under state law

pyleBy Jeffrey J. Pyle

Thanks to The Boston Globe’s Todd Wallack, we learned last week that the supervisor of records, charged with enforcing the Massachusetts public records law, has permitted police departments withhold arrest reports and mug shots from the public in their “discretion.” Unsurprisingly, police departments have exercised that “discretion” to shield the identities of police officers arrested for drunken driving while publicizing the arrests of other Massachusetts residents for the same crime.

Yesterday, Secretary of State William Galvin took to Jim Braude’s “Greater Boston” show on WGBH-TV (Channel 2) to defend the rulings. He pointed out that he had previously ruled that arrest reports to be public, but said he had to back down because another agency, the Department of Criminal Justice Information Systems (DCJIS), told him the records are secret under the “criminal offender record information” (CORI) statute. Former attorney general Martha Coakley shared that view, Galvin said, and the new attorney general, Maura Healey, has tentatively agreed.

But are they correct? Does the law allow the police officers to decide which arrest reports do and do not get released? The answer, thankfully, is no.

First some quick background. The public records law creates a presumption that all government records are public. Only if a specific, listed exemption applies can the government withhold documents, and those exemptions are supposed to be construed narrowly. Galvin relies on the exemption for records “specifically or by necessary implication exempted from disclosure by statute,” here, the CORI law. The CORI law does impose certain limits on the disclosure of “criminal offender record information,” but it limits that term to information “recorded as the result of the initiation of criminal proceedings and any consequent proceedings related thereto.”

The word “initiation” is important. As late as 2010, Galvin’s office held the commonsense view that a “criminal proceeding” is initiated with the filing of a criminal complaint. Arrest reports and mug shots are generated before criminal complaints are filed, so they’re presumptively public. But in 2011, the DCJIS (which administers the state’s CORI database) told Galvin it believed “initiation of criminal proceedings” means “the point when a criminal investigation is sufficiently complete that the investigating officers take actions toward bringing a specific suspect to court.” That necessarily precedes arrest and booking, so all arrest reports and mug shots are covered by CORI. This “interpretation” is now contained in a DCJIS regulation. Another regulation says that police can release CORI information surrounding an investigation if they think it’s appropriate to do so.

In the common parlance, however, “criminal proceedings” occur in court, and they begin with the filing of a criminal charge. We don’t typically think of an arrest without charges as involving a “proceeding.” Galvin seems to agree — his office’s rulings have said only that DCJIS believes “initiation” occurs earlier — but he has thrown up his hands and deferred to this odd “interpretation” of the CORI statute.

The thing is, Galvin isn’t bound by what DCJIS says. The public records law says that the supervisor of records is entitled to determine “whether the record requested is public.” The DCJIS’s regulation adopting this view is irrelevant, too, because as noted above, the public records law only exempts documents “specifically or by necessary implication exempted from disclosure by statute.” The Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 1999 that the “statutory” exemption doesn’t extend to mere regulatory enactments “promulgated under statutory authority,” even “in close cooperation with the Legislature.” Despite this ruling, just Wednesday, Galvin’s office again refused to order state police officer mug shots to Wallack on the ground that “[b]y regulation,” — not statute — they are exempt CORI documents.

Wallack’s reporting has led us to a momentous Sunshine Week in Massachusetts. We’ve seen unusual, coordinated editorials in major Massachusetts newspapers condemning the rulings, a letter published in the Globe, the Boston Herald and GateHouse Media newspapers (including The Patriot Ledger of Quincy and The Herald News of Fall River) signed by members of the Northeastern Journalism School faculty, and extensive coverage on the normally neglected subject of government transparency.

To his credit, Galvin is calling for reforms to the public records law, and Attorney General Healey has vowed to work with his office to strengthen transparency. Reforms are sorely needed, especially to require shifting of attorneys’ fees if a requester successfully sues. But in the meantime, Galvin can and should reconsider his misguided rulings on arrest records.

Jeffrey J. Pyle is a partner at the Boston law firm of Prince Lobel Tye and a trial lawyer specializing in First Amendment and media law.

Jim Braude will succeed Emily Rooney at ‘Greater Boston’

Jim Braude. Photo by Tracy Powell/WGBH.
Jim Braude. Photo by Tracy Powell/WGBH.

Congratulations to Jim Braude, who has been named Emily Rooney’s successor as host of “Greater Boston” on WGBH-TV (Channel 2). Given that Braude already co-hosts “Boston Public Radio” with Margery Eagan on WGBH Radio (89.7 FM), the move makes a great deal of sense.

(Conflict alert: I am a paid panelist on Channel 2’s Friday “Beat the Press” and an unpaid contributor to WGBHNews.org. And yes, Rooney will continue to host “Beat the Press.”)

I covered Braude as far back as the 1980s, when he was head of the liberal Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts and I was a reporter for the Daily Times Chronicle of Woburn. He and Barbara Anderson, who ran Citizens for Limited Taxation, often debated in public, even traveling together despite their different ideological viewpoints.

In 1996 I interviewed Braude when he was launching a liberal magazine called Otherwise and I was covering the media for The Boston Phoenix. The idea, he told me at the time, was motivated in part by complaints on the left that they were too often ignored by the mainstream.

“We’ve done so much bitching about media access for so long that my reaction is to just do it,” Braude said. “The environment is as ripe as it could be.”

Otherwise had a decent run, but as is generally the case with startup magazines, it eventually faded away. Braude hasn’t. His program on New England Cable News, “BroadSide,” which he’s leaving, has been a bastion of intelligence for years. His radio show with Eagan — the only listenable program on the late, unlamented WTKK — was so good that it brought both of them to WGBH.

The big question is how “Greater Boston” will change with Braude at the helm. “I love Emily,” he tells The Boston Globe’s Shirley Leung. “We are different people with different styles. Beyond that, stay tuned.”

Emily Rooney scales back, but will keep beating the press

Emily Rooney
Emily Rooney

It will be a big night in Boston media as Emily Rooney hosts “Greater Boston” for the last time. It’s been quite a run: Emily has been at the helm since 1997.

Fortunately, she will continue as host of the Friday “Beat the Press” show, and will contribute to WGBH Radio (89.7 FM) and WGBHNews.org as well.

I’ve had the privilege of being part of “Beat the Press” since the late ’90s, first as an occasional guest and later as a regular. Congratulations to Emily on a job well done — and thank you for remaining a part of our Friday nights.

Earlier:

It’s time for the Herald to close the circle

Update: I’m not sure when this was added, but Herald editorial-page editor Rachelle Cohen tells Romenesko that she vetted the cartoon: “Herald editorial page editor Rachelle Cohen tells me neither she nor artist Jerry Holbert saw anything wrong with the cartoon. ‘Jerry doesn’t have a racist bone in his body,’ she says. He chose watermelon because he had just seen that flavor of toothpaste in his house, says Cohen.” So now we have the cartoonist and his editor both claiming that they didn’t see any racist intent in the watermelon reference. At best, this speaks to a lack of diversity in the newsroom.

To their credit, the folks at the Boston Herald clearly and quickly understood that they had a problem on their hands Wednesday after publishing an editorial cartoon by Jerry Holbert that was racist in its effect, if not in Holbert’s intent. The cartoon depicted an intruder in a White House bathroom asking President Obama if he had “tried the new watermelon-flavored toothpaste.”

Holbert went on the newspaper’s online radio station to apologize, and said he understood he compounded his error when he failed to notify the Herald that his syndicate had told him to alter the cartoon so as to eliminate the racial inference. And today, the paper publishes a straightforward apology. On the editorial page, Holbert apologizes again.

But now it’s time for the Herald to close the circle. Even if Holbert didn’t understand why African-Americans are offended by stereotypes of black people as placid, happy watermelon-eaters, are we to believe that editorial cartoons somehow leap onto the pages of the Herald with no intervention on the part of editors?

Here is an excerpt from a well-sourced article at Wikipedia:

While the exact origins of this stereotype remain unclear, an association of African Americans and watermelon goes back to the time of slavery in the United States. Defenders of slavery used the fruit to paint African Americans as a simple-minded people who were happy when provided watermelon and a little rest. The stereotype was perpetuated in minstrel shows often depicting African Americans as ignorant and workshy, given to song and dance and inordinately fond of watermelon.

I agree with my WGBH colleague Emily Rooney of “Greater Boston,” who said last night (above) that she believes Holbert when he says he had no racial intent — but that someone at the Herald should have caught it before publication. The Herald should tell us who approved the cartoon and why.

In case you missed it, here is how the story unfolded on Wednesday.

Flashback: Emily Rooney and public broadcasting in 1997

On Feb. 6, 1997, just after the debut of “Greater Boston” on WGBH-TV (Channel 2), I wrote an article for The Boston Phoenix on the state of the city’s two major public broadcasters, WGBH and WBUR. It was the first time I’d met the host, Emily Rooney. The original is online here, but, as you will see, it’s unreadable; thus, I have reproduced it in full below. In re-reading it, I was struck by what an interesting moment in time that was, with many of the same names and issues still with us 17 years later.

Making waves

With commercial stations going lowbrow, Boston’s public broadcasters are fine-tuning their strategies. The question: are WGBH & WBUR doing their duty?

Copyright © 1997 by the Phoenix Media/Communications Group. All rights reserved.

GB_largeplayerEmily Rooney is taping the intro to a segment of WGBH-TV’s new local public-affairs show, Greater Boston. Or trying to, anyway. It’s been a long day. Her feet are killing her. And her first few attempts at hyping an interview with Charles Murray, the controversial academic who’s currently promoting his new book on libertarianism, haven’t gone particularly well.

After several tries, though, she nails it. “That was warmer,” says a voice in the control room. “That was very nice.”

She sighs, visibly relieved at getting a break from the unblinking eye of the lens.

Rooney, the former news director of WCVB-TV (Channel 5), may be a respected newswoman, but the debut of Greater Boston last week showed that her transition to an on-camera role is going to take some time. And if Rooney and Greater Boston are struggling to find their voice, so, too, is WGBH.

This is, after all, the first significant foray into local public-affairs programming for WGBH (Channels 2 and 44, plus a radio station) since 1991, when it canceled The Ten O’Clock News. The new show is a huge improvement over the one it replaces, The Group, an unmoderated roundtable discussion that rose from the ashes of the News. (“A tawdry, pathetic little show,” huffs one industry observer of The Group, widely derided as “The Grope.”) Still, Greater Boston is going to need some work. Week One’s topics, which included the Super Bowl and cute animals, were too light and fluffy to qualify the show as a must-watch. And Rooney, who doubles as Greater Boston‘s executive editor, needs to overcome her on-the-set jitters.

It’s crucial that ’GBH get it right. With commercial broadcasters in full retreat from serious news and public affairs, public-broadcasting stations are the last redoubt. Boston’s two major public stations — WGBH-TV and WBUR Radio (90.9 FM) — are among the most admired in the country. It’s by no means clear, however, that the people who run those stations are willing or able to fill the gap created by the commercial stations’ retreat into sensationalism and frivolity. Continue reading “Flashback: Emily Rooney and public broadcasting in 1997”

Emily Rooney to scale back her duties at WGBH

Emily Rooney
Emily Rooney

Emily Rooney is scaling back her duties at WGBH, although you will be as relieved as I was to learn that she will continue to host our Friday-evening media show on Channel 2, “Beat the Press.”

Rooney, the daughter of the late Andy Rooney and a broadcasting legend in her own right, will be stepping aside from “Greater Boston” on Monday though Thursday evenings next January. She’ll become a special correspondent and will continue to be involved in “Boston Public Radio” on WGBH Radio (89.7 FM).

Rooney’s changing role will be a big loss for the city and the region. Since the late 1990s, she has been the face of WGBH locally, hosting not just her nightly program but also countless political debates and other events.

And here’s a bit of trivia for you. When “Greater Boston” made its debut in 1997, it was strictly a four-day show. Friday evenings were taken up by a left-right political talk show hosted by former secretary of labor Robert Reich and former senator Alan Simpson called “The Long and the Short of It.” When that program ran its course, Emily was ready with an idea she’d been developing to hold the media to account.

This is a huge change, although, thankfully, not for viewers of “Beat the Press” or for those of us who take part in it. I wish my very best to Emily. Below is the complete press release from WGBH.

***

Emily Rooney to Step Back from Daily News Role
Greater Boston host to focus on and continue to moderate Beat the Press
Named Special Correspondent for WGBH News

BOSTON, Mass. (May 29, 2014) — After hosting WGBH’s award-winning Greater Boston for 18 years and working the daily grind in newsrooms at WCVB, ABC and FOX for 25 years before that, Emily Rooney has decided to step back from her daily newsroom and Greater Boston hosting duties to focus on the weekly Beat the Press program. In addition to moderating Beat the Press, Rooney will move into a role in January as a Special Correspondent to WGBH News and will continue to appear regularly on 89.7 WGBH’s Boston Public Radio.

“When I came to WGBH in 1997, I was an on-air rookie tasked with shaping a nightly news and public affairs show that would be accessible to everyone,” said Rooney. “I’m proud of the program we’ve fine-tuned over the years and grateful to WGBH for giving me the chance to reinvent myself. It all happened in large part due to the loyal and dedicated staff who have stayed with the show all these years.”

Over the years, Rooney has cultivated a loyal viewership, producing the last remaining daily broadcast in-depth talk show in the city attracting local and national dignitaries and everyday people to a community roundtable of ideas and hot-button topics.

“We are extremely indebted to Emily for her guidance and commitment to WGBH’s local coverage of issues and newsmakers. For so many years Emily was WGBH News,” said WGBH Radio General Manager Phil Redo, who also oversees WGBH News. “On behalf of everyone connected to the news department, we thank her for the first 18 years with WGBH, and look forward to the many still ahead in her new and only slightly adjusted role.”

Under Rooney’s leadership in the WGBH newsroom, Greater Boston and Beat the Press have won a number of awards, including Regional Edward R. Murrow broadcast awards and New England Emmy Awards. Beat the Press is a five-time winner of the National Press Club’s Arthur Rowse Award for Media Criticism. Last week Beat the Press picked up Penn State’s Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism for coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings among other issues. Rooney herself has been honored with the Dennis Kauff Award for Excellence in Reporting, Reporter of the Year from the Massachusetts Bar Association, and the Yankee Quill Award from the American Newspaper Society. She was recently inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Before joining WGBH, Rooney was director of political coverage and special events at FOX Network in New York. Prior to that, she was executive producer of ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. She worked at WCVB-TV in Boston from 1979-1993, including three years as the local ABC affiliate’s news director.

In recent years, the WGBH News division has expanded from the strong foundation laid by Rooney and the Greater Boston production. The entire newsroom works collaboratively across all electronic platforms — television, radio and digital. In addition to Greater Boston and Beat the Press, WGBH News produces the weekly television program Basic Black for WGBH 2, as well as Boston Public Radio, Innovation Hub and Under the Radar with Callie Crossley for 89.7 WGBH. It is also a co-producer of The Takeaway and The World radio programs.

In the coming months, Redo will consider options for filling Rooney’s role on Greater Boston.

Globe makes move into TV with ‘5 Runners’

This story was previously published at WGBH News.

When Boston Globe arts reporter Geoff Edgers and multimedia producer Darren Durlach proposed making a documentary about five runners who were crossing the Boston Marathon finish line at the moment that the bombings took place, editor Brian McGrory’s reaction was: Why not?

“What do you need? Two weeks?” McGrory recalled asking them.

As it turned out, it took Edgers and Durlach eight months, thousands of miles on the road and, as McGrory put it, “God knows how many dollars” to make “5 Runners,” which premiered before a crowd of several hundred people at the JFK Library Thursday evening.

The 25-minute film, which McGrory called “the first full-fledged documentary that theBoston Globe has ever produced,” will debut on NESN on Monday. It’s an early sign that a strategy to move into television, which Globe owner John Henry announced earlier this year, is beginning to take shape — although Edgers and Durlach began working on the film before Henry bought the paper. (Henry is also the principal owner of the Red Sox, which controls a chunk of NESN.)

The film, which grew out of a story Edgers wrote last April 21, follows the runners’ quest to return to the starting line of the 2014 marathon. I won’t give away how many make it. But “5 Runners” is deeply felt and unusual in its focus on how athletes — ordinary men and women who were well off the pace of the elite runners — were affected by the terrorist attack.

In a panel discussion after the film moderated by Globe deputy managing editor for features Janice Page, Edgers talked about the difficulties he and Durlach faced in staying in touch with their subjects. One of the runners, Volker Fischer, simply stopped responding, so Edgers sent him a card that read: “Volker — call me.”

When Edgers finally was able to connect with Fischer and visit his home in Illinois, he saw the card, unopened, on the refrigerator. “‘I liked the stamp,’” Edgers recalled Fischer telling him, explaining: “It was a Johnny Cash stamp.” (Disclosure: Edgers and I worked together at The Boston Phoenix in the mid-1990s. His wife, journalist Carlene Hempel, and I are colleagues at Northeastern University.)

Durlach said that the runners were “hesitant” about putting themselves forward when so many others had died or were wounded. “People were killed. Why do you want to spend time on my story?” is the way Durlach characterized their reaction.

Also joining the panelists was one of the five runners, Mary Jenkins of Ohio (spoiler alert: she’ll be running this year’s marathon), who said she will “probably be a basket case” during the race.

“It’s going to be hard, I think, Marathon Day, but I think it’s going to be exciting, too,” she said.

Edgers and Durlach plan to be at this year’s marathon as well. Their goal, they said, is to keep covering the story, and to expand “5 Runners” into an hour-long film.

Book talk on “Greater Boston”

Many thanks to Emily Rooney for giving me a chance to talk about “The Wired City” on “Greater Boston” Monday evening. You can watch it above or on the “Greater Boston” website.