The Globe announces that its sexual-harassment investigation has concluded

Moments ago a source sent me a copy of an email that went out to Boston Globe staff members today about an internal investigation into allegations by former Boston.com editor Hilary Sargent that she had been sexually harassed by Globe editor Brian McGrory. The email is signed by Claudia Henderson, the Globe’s chief human resources officer, and Dan Krockmalnic, the Globe’s general counsel.

As you will see, we don’t learn much. But it sounds like, from the Globe’s point of view, it’s over. The key sentence: “While the investigation revealed a series of exchanges and interactions between Mr. McGrory and Ms. Sargent that were of a personal nature, the investigator found that they were initiated by and reciprocated by both parties, and did not violate our anti-harassment policy.”

The email in full is as follows.

Dear colleagues,

We write to let you know that the investigation conducted by outside counsel into the matter regarding Brian McGrory that was raised by Hilary Sargent has concluded. Over the past several weeks since these allegations first surfaced, the investigator has conducted a thorough review that included multiple interviews of both Mr. McGrory and Ms. Sargent. While the investigation revealed a series of exchanges and interactions between Mr. McGrory and Ms. Sargent that were of a personal nature, the investigator found that they were initiated by and reciprocated by both parties, and did not violate our anti-harassment policy.

We have addressed this personnel matter directly with Mr. McGrory, and will not comment further out of respect for the privacy of the individuals involved.

We very much appreciate that this has been a difficult time for the team.  We are grateful for the complete cooperation of Ms. Sargent and Mr. McGrory, and we look forward to moving ahead

As you all know, earlier in the year, we introduced EthicsPoint, a confidential reporting tool to assist employees in addressing workplace misconduct or violations. We also conducted anti-harassment training for managers and will continue to host these on an annual basis.

Thank you for your patience and, most importantly, for the crucial work you do here every day.

Claudia Henderson and Dan Krockmalnic

Friday updates

Talk about this post on Facebook.

Advertisements

Hilary Sargent responds to the Globe’s demand that she produce records

The lawyer for Hilary Sargent, the former top editor of Boston.com who recently accused Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory of sexual harassment in several tweets two weeks ago, has filed documents in Suffolk Superior Court in response to the Globe’s demand that she turn over records about her claim. A judge has scheduled a hearing on the Globe’s case for this Thursday at 2 p.m.

Here is the case laying out her opposition to the Globe’s motion. And here is her affidavit.

I recently wrote a backgrounder for WGBH News that you may find useful.

Friday update

What we know so far about the Boston Globe sexual-harassment story

Previously published at WGBHNews.org.

Many readers of The Boston Globe may not have heard that editor Brian McGrory had been accused of sexual harassment until they picked up today’s paper and cast their eyes to the bottom of page one. In fact, the story has been building since Sunday, when Hilary Sargent, a former top editor at the Globe’s free website, Boston.com, tweeted a text exchange she said she had with McGrory in which he asked what she wears when she writes. Sargent’s tweet was the most explosive development in a situation that extends back to December.

For those of you who haven’t been following the story closely, or who are only learning about it now, I’ve put together a list of some of the key moments thus far. But, as they say, stay tuned.

1. The Globe botches its coverage of sexual harassment at the paper. A Globe article on the burgeoning #MeToo movement within the local media last December failed to identifypolitical reporter Jim O’Sullivan, who had left the paper for misconduct — including, reportedly, sexually harassing women on Beacon Hill. The story also did not identify several other former Globe employees who had been accused of sexual harassment.

After an uproar, McGrory reversed himself and issued a statement in which he identified O’Sullivan and took responsibility for making a “mistake” and for failing “to grasp the need for transparency by this organization,” though he did not apologize. During and after the O’Sullivan imbroglio, Sargent — who was an intern at the Globe in the late 1990s and then was hired to help run Boston.com in 2014 (she is also a former WGBH News staff member) — began tweeting about her own experiences with sexual harassment at the paper. She offered little in the way of detail, but repeatedly urged the Globe to dig more deeply into its own culture.

2. Sargent tweets that McGrory responded inappropriately to a text message she had sent him. On Sunday, Sargent’s long-simmering complaints got more detailed when she tweeted out the image of a text exchange she said she’d had with McGrory in which she asked for writing advice and he responded: “Got it. What do you generally wear when you write?” Sargent: “Seriously?” The response: “Well, not entirely.” Sargent explained why she had tweeted out the exchange this way: “If you’ve ever been sent a sext-type text from someone who was powerful enough that you felt you couldn’t do anything (other than panic/shake your head/cry), you’re not alone. The more we tweet these, the less they’ll send them. #MeToo.”

3. The media slowly begin to pick up on the story. The website Turtleboy Sports republished Sargent’s tweet and, on WEEI Radio (93.7 FM), longtime Globe antagonists Kirk Minihane and Gerry Callahan alluded to it as well. But the story got its first full airing Tuesday evening on WGBH News’ “Greater Boston,” when Adam Reilly, Emily Rooney, and I tried to make sense of what was going on. We urged the Globe to make a thorough accounting of what had happened and to report what action would be taken.

“Sargent has not made clear the timing of the text message from McGrory,” wrote Rooney in summing up our discussion. “We do not know if it was after she left the Globe in February of 2016 or while she worked there. Nor do we know the context of this one text, what was said before or after, or whether they regularly shared this kind of banter in text message exchanges.”

Neither the Globe nor Sargent would comment on the specifics, although both sides did issue statements. “We are aware of Hilary Sargeant’s [sic] tweets. We have no comment at this time,” said Globe spokeswoman Jane Bowman. Sargent’s statement said in full:

Women deserve to be treated professionally and taken seriously. It is crucial that individuals in leadership positions are held to the same high standard of conduct that the Globe would expect of any individuals in leadership positions at other similarly powerful institutions. Those in leadership positions at media organizations have significant influence over how the issue of sexual harassment is covered, and the coverage they oversee should never be tainted or colored by their own missteps and misdeeds.

4. The Globe reacts with two statements, a story — and a threat to sue Sargent. At 1:47 p.m. on Wednesday, Globe employees received a statement from managing director Linda Pizzuti Henry and president Vinay Mehra. The statement acknowledged the controversy but didn’t go much further. The key passage:

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.

At about 8:15 p.m., amid whispers that a front-page story was on the way, McGrory himself issued a statement in which he said he could not remember sending the “what do you generally wear” text to Sargent and saying that he and Sargent had “dated many years ago. We did not work together at the time, and we’ve remained friendly over the years.” He added that “months after Hilary left boston.com, we would sometimes exchange text messages that included the kind of personal banter of two people very familiar with each other. I regret that very much for reasons that go far beyond the Globe.”

There is much to ponder in McGrory’s statement, and I urge you to read it in full. But the message he clearly wants to get across is this: “I can’t believe I have to write these words, but I have never harassed Hilary Sargent or any other women at the Globe or anywhere else — ever. I don’t believe I have ever acted inappropriately with anyone at this company.”

Finally, after 10 p.m., the Globe posted a story on its website reported by Mark Arsenault that also appears on page one in today’s paper. (McGrory’s statement is republished as well.) The story contains a jarring piece of news: The Globe either plans to sue or is threatening to sue Sargent in Superior Court. “That suit,” Arsenault writes, “would seek to compel Sargent under the terms of her 2016 separation agreement from the organization to provide the newspaper more information about the text in question, such as the date, and ask for unspecified damages.” It was a highly aggressive move, to say the least, and seems questionable from a public-relations point of view.

Arsenault also quoted an email from Sargent in which she strongly pushed back on McGrory’s statement that he had never harassed anyone: “If Brian McGrory truly does not believe he has ever acted inappropriately with anyone at The Boston Globe, then he and I have a remarkably different understanding of what is — and is not — appropriate.”

5. Sargent publicly responds. Shortly after Arsenault’s story was published, Sargent tweeted: “For approximately six months I have reached out to the @BostonGlobe asking to discuss with them the extent to which sexual harassment has been an issue – long ago and not so long ago. My offer still stands. I have not refused to assist in their ‘investigation.’”

This morning she added: “With the @BostonGlobe threatening a lawsuit, I will only say this. This isn’t about one text. This isn’t about just him. And this isn’t about just me. I’m horrified that the newspaper that purports to shine a ‘Spotlight’ is doing everything in their power to do just the opposite.”

And there matters stand — for now.

Friday update:

6. McGrory strikes back. On Thursday evening, we recorded a special webcast of “Beat the Press” to discuss the latest. No sooner had we finished than we learned of another bombshell: a private attorney for McGrory had written a letter threatening to sue Sargent for libel, claiming that she had made “false and defamatory statements” about McGrory.

The lawyer, Martin Murphy of the Boston firm Foley Hoag, writes that Sargent has omitted context from her accusations that “falsely cast Mr. McGrory as a person who used his position to sexually harass Ms. Sargent, and falsely portrayed him as part of that group of men who have, in fact, used their positions to sexually harass and assault women. Ms. Sargent’s false and defamatory statements are and continue to be actionable, and they have already caused harm to Mr. McGrory.”

You can read Murphy’s letter in full by clicking here. The Globe’s Arsenault reported on the letter as well.

Talk about this post on Facebook.

McGrory responds in memo to staff

I’m doing this on my phone, so forgive the formatting. Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory send this to the staff a little while ago, and several sources provided it to me.

To the newsroom,

Hilary Sargent is someone I have known for a long time, been fond of personally, and respected professionally. To say the least, I was not anticipating the situation this week.

Hilary released on Monday what she said was an exchange between us. I have no recollection of it, which, admittedly, is embarrassing to me. I have asked Hilary to provide the date and a more complete version of the exchange. She has not addressed my request. I have told the Globe’s owners that the company should feel free to retrieve our text messages by whatever means possible, and I am trying myself.

Absent that information, I do think some context is needed.

First, Hilary and I dated many years ago. We did not work together at the time, and we’ve remained friendly over the years.

Second, when Hilary came to boston.com in 2014, I had no role, no say whatsoever, in her hire. She did not report to me, even indirectly. The site had a separate editor answering directly to the front office. We were on mutually friendly terms, and I do not believe I ever wrote, spoke, or acted in a disrespectful way to her.

Third, months after Hilary left boston.com, we would sometimes exchange text messages that included the kind of personal banter of two people very familiar with each other. I regret that very much for reasons that go far beyond the Globe.

I can’t believe I have to write these words, but I have never harassed Hilary Sargent or any other women at the Globe or anywhere else – ever. I don’t believe I have ever acted inappropriately with anyone at this company. I have been a manager two different times over my 29 years with this organization – from 2007 to 2009 as the Metro editor, and from 2013 to now as the editor. I cannot think of a time, not one, when I treated any female colleague with anything but respect. I have never faced any sort of complaint, formal or informal, whether as a manager or not. I have consistently put women in leadership positions, such that newsroom management is split equally by gender, with talented women holding many of the most pivotal jobs – managing editor, news editor, innovations editor, Spotlight editor, just to name a few. I devoted myself to the issue of gender pay equity from the first months that I took this position, and I’m proud to say that in key categories in the newsroom, we have achieved it. Tough decisions that have affected women and men have been made during my tenure, inevitable in an industry that is losing revenue each year. But I have always tried to address these challenges with a basic sense of decency.

I have no desire to argue with Hilary Sargent, publicly or privately. In fact, I very much respect her abilities as a journalist. But I do think that it’s important to have the broader context known.

Finally, I fully realize the toll this has taken on the newsroom, the distraction it has caused and the questions it has understandably raised. My one request is that everyone remains focused on the vital work of the Globe each and every day.

Brian

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

Talk about this post on Facebook.

Hilary Sargent leaves Boston.com

Hilary Sargent has left Boston.com, a free website owned by Boston Globe Media Partners. Sargent was instrumental in the relaunch of the venerable site two years ago as a mobile-friendly viral alternative for younger readers who didn’t want to pay for the Globe; she was featured prominently in this New York Times story.

Sargent’s tenure was rocky at times, and in December 2014 she was suspended, as the Globe put it, “for creating a T-shirt design mocking a central figure in stories she had recently written.” But she returned as a feature writer and has done good work. See, for example, this interview with Tom Brady’s chef, or her article on why some records were sealed in the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial.

Before her return to the Globe in 2014, she was best known for producing the visual journalism site ChartGirl, chosen by Time magazine as one of the 50 best websites of 2013.

Best wishes to Hilary on whatever comes next. An email she sent to numerous people somehow wafted in through my window a little while ago, and I present it in full below.

Subject: It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you

I was 18 years old when I first worked at the Globe. It was at the State House bureau, and there were 5 or 6 of us packed into a tiny, messy room. My role wasn’t glamorous. I fixed printer jams, answered phones, and covered the state auditor’s race. It was the best job I ever had.

For a long time after, I went in a different direction career-wise. But the Globe remained—if not a goal—then an aspiration. In 2012, after a decade doing investigative work, I ended up starting a website that caught the attention of Teresa Hanafin and Bennie DiNardo, who generously offered me the chance to do a “community blog” on Boston.com.

I moved back to Boston and, in early 2014, started as a full-time Boston.com writer. It’s amazing how long ago that seems.

A lot has happened in the last two years. I’m proud of much of the work I did during my tenure. I wasn’t perfect, but I was given a second chance, and threw myself into trying to move and on and be a contributor in whatever ways I could—whether it be covering the Tsarnaev trial, the amazing winter of 2015, or Tom Brady’s eating habits.

The last two years have been a learning experience, and not always a pleasant one. But at the end of the day, this is where I always wanted to work. 

My last day at BGMP was Thursday, February 11. 

It has been suggested to me in recent days that I idolized the Globe too much. Maybe that’s true. But I hope not. I’ve worked at a lot of places, but I have never been prouder to work anywhere. The night I spent delivering papers earlier this year reinforced to me why I’ve idolized this place for so long. So did watching Spotlight, which I have now seen three times. 

I will miss the surprisingly affordable cafeteria food, the mice, the lack of natural light, the crumbling parking ramp, watching Chartbeat during a snowstorm, beating the Globe every now and then, Roberto’s encyclopedic knowledge of everything, Jack’s endless good mood, Adam Vaccaro’s fashion advice … I could go on and on … Hell, I will even miss Methode. (Just kidding, I won’t miss Methode.)

Most importantly, I will miss all of you. I feel so honored to have had the opportunity—however brief—to work with all of you. I’m incredibly proud of the work we did together at Boston.com

You were all incredibly generous with me (and with Dash) over the past two years and especially over the past several months, and I will never forget that. Thank you.

And now, onward. 

— Hilary 

P.S. Please visit the Globe library in my honor. Seriously. That place is the best.

Here’s an idea for how to fix Boston.com

Previously published at WGBHNews.org.

I have an idea for how to fix Boston.com, whose executives on Wednesday found themselves apologizing yet again — this time for some juvenile humor about House Speaker John Boehner’s alleged drinking problem following a death threat against him.

The screw-up has gotten widespread coverage from, among others, Politico, the Boston Herald (where the story landed on page one) and The Boston Globe.

First, some context on why John Henry and company find themselves in this situation.

When Boston Globe Media Partners decided to remove all Globe content from its free Boston.com site, a strategy that Justin Ellis explained at the Nieman Journalism Lab last April, they created a difficult challenge. Boston.com was one of the first and most successful newspaper websites, and had spent most of its existence primarily as a place where you could read the Globe for free. The challenge was to create a compelling news site without running anything from the Globe — and, at least based on what I’ve seen, to do it on the cheap.

The route that Boston.com has taken is a lot of aggregation, a lot of attitude and a lot of viral content — such as the phenomenon it had on its hands in December with Harvard Business School professor (and lawyer) Ben Edelman, who was revealed to have sent a series of legalistic, threatening emails to a Chinese restaurant owner because he’d been overcharged by $4 when he placed an online order.

The story went sour after the site published and then pulled a post falsely claiming that Edelman had sent a racist email. It then turned out that deputy editor Hilary Sargent, the lead reporter on all things Edelman, was selling T-shirts online making fun of him, which led to her suspension. (My former Boston Phoenix colleague David Bernstein, a WGBH News contributor, recently wrote a good summing-up of the Edelman affair, with links, for Boston magazine. We also talked about it on “Beat the Press.”)

It hasn’t helped that Boston.com has been without a top editor for most of its reincarnated existence. Globe Media chief executive Mike Sheehan told his own paper Wednesday that he hoped to have an editor in place soon, though he didn’t specify a timetable.

The deeper problem, though, is that Boston.com has a fundamentally different mission — maybe even an impossible mission — compared to the Globe’s other online verticals.

Both Crux, which covers the Catholic Church, and BetaBoston, which follows the local innovation economy, are free to excel and be the best that they can be. Stories that have broad appeal can be picked up and run in the Globe.

Boston.com, by contrast, is hampered by being a general news site that in some respects overlaps with the Globe but can’t really be allowed to compete in any serious way. There are exceptions, of course. For instance, the Globe — and news organizations around the world — picked up on the Edelman story, an entertaining morality tale about a hardworking restaurateur being harassed by an arrogant Harvard professor. And Globe editor Brian McGrory told Justin Ellis he expected to “compete like crazy” with Boston.com.

In the main, though, Boston.com has suffered by what we might think of as an imperfectly applied example of Clay Christensen’s disruption theory — by which I mean that the free Boston.com site can’t be allowed to disrupt the Globe’s business model, which is based on paid print and digital subscriptions as well as advertising. (Henry is known to be an aficionado of Christensen’s work. I wrote in some depth about disruption theory and journalism last summer for Medium.)

I disagree with critics who say Henry ought to shut down Boston.com (it still has great value, built up over nearly 20 years) or sell it (and let the Herald or another competitor grab it?). So what do I think the solution might be?

How about a first-rate arts-and-entertainment site with a truly comprehensive, searchable database of listings? It would fill a real need, and it might attract high-quality local ads. And it would be more like Crux and BetaBoston than the current Boston.com in that it could function as a Globe vertical rather than as a separate-but-not-quite-separate-enough enterprise.

I don’t know whether such an idea would work, and I would observe that the Phoenix didn’t have a lot of success with that model during the last few years of its existence. But the Henry ownership is supposed to be all about experimentation. And the Globe has two advantages the Phoenix lacked: great technology and a huge built-in audience. Some experiments will pan out; some won’t. This one strikes me as worth trying.

Boston.com 2.0 has been troubled from the start. Maybe the right editor can fix it. But maybe it’s not too soon to be thinking about version 3.0.

 

A big year for Remy-related blog posts at Media Nation

265077699_ec8da74abf_o
Photo (cc) by Paul. Some rights reserved.

On Tuesday I posted WordPress’ robo-generated report on my year in blogging. But you knew I wasn’t going to stop there, didn’t you? For the past several years I’ve been writing an end-of-the-year round-up of my top 10 posts. It’s always interesting to me to see what resonates most with my readers.

These lists always come with caveats, and this year’s has a big one. Starting last spring, I began offering what I thought were my better blog posts to my friends at WGBHNews.org, who published them first and promoted them on social media. Though I later reposted them on Media Nation, they had already lost a lot of their juice by that point. So it’s hard to know what my top 10 list really means. Maybe I should call this list “The Best of the Rest.”

And away we go.

1. Is Jerry Remy’s broadcasting career finally over? (March 23). The answer, as it turned out, was “no.” But following a devastating story in The Boston Globe by Eric Moskowitz on Remy’s homicidal son, Jared, and the lengths to which Jerry Remy and his wife, Phoebe, had enabled his violent behavior, it sure looked that way, if only for a brief moment. Within days, though, Jerry Remy was back in the broadcast booth, yukking it up uncomfortably with Don Orsillo during Red Sox games. There was all kinds of internal intrigue to this. Both the Globe and the Red Sox are owned by John Henry, who is also a part-owner of Remy’s employer, New England Sports Network. (Page views: 7,714.)

2. Boston.com retracts claim about racist email from professor (Dec. 11). In early December, Boston.com had a phenomenon on its hands: contentious, legalistic emails from Harvard Business School professor (and lawyer) Ben Edelman complaining to a Chinese restaurant about having been overcharged by $4. But then the Boston Globe Media-owned site overreached. Hilary Sargent, who had written the original story, cowrote a follow-up reporting that Edelman had sent one of the owners, Ran Duan, a racist email. It couldn’t be verified, and the story was pulled back. It got worse: It turned out that Sargent had also designed a T-shirt making fun of Edelman that she was selling online. Sargent, the site’s deputy editor (the top editing job was vacant), was suspended for a week. David Bernstein has a good overview of the whole affair at Boston magazine. (Page views: 2,827.)

3. Boston.com’s anonymous sports blogger to be unmasked (March 24). (Page views: 2,648.)

4. Meet the Obnoxious Boston Fan (March 25). I am startled that these two posts received the attention that they did. After the Globe’s exposé about the Remy family, an anonymous Boston.com blogger who writes as the Obnoxious Boston Fan posted a harsh commentary about Remy. It struck me as inappropriate that a Globe-affiliated site would allow anonymous attacks on anyone. Globe digital adviser David Skok told me that Mr. OBF would soon drop the anonymity — and in my follow-up post, I was able to identify him ahead of the official unveiling as Bill Speros. (Page views: 2,178.)

5. Big moves as Globe prepares to expand its business section (Nov. 13). (Page views: 1,870.)

6. Eagan leaves Herald, will write for Globe’s Catholic site (July 30). (Page views: 1,685.)

7. Globe executive announces digital moves (July 29). Probably the biggest ongoing local media story is Boston Globe owner John Henry’s various investments in growth — a new weekly political section (Capital), a Catholic website (Crux) and an expanded business section. These three posts documented a few of those developments. (Page views: 1,609.)

8. Jared Remy joins his dad in attacking Margery Eagan (April 25). The fourth Remy-related item in the top 10. Eagan, then with the Boston Herald, had the temerity to criticize Jerry Remy in her column. Jerry Remy went after her on the air — and Jared Remy joined in from his prison cell. (Page views: 1,495.)

9. Globe to offer buyouts to some staff members (Aug. 1). Not all the news from Globe headquarters in 2014 was about investment and expansion. Even as the news organization grew, it announced cuts in other areas. (Page views: 1,338.)

10. Boston Herald loses libel suit over false prison sex story (March 19). The plaintiff, Joanna Marinova, was awarded $563,000 over a story that falsely claimed she had engaged in “sexual acts” with an inmate during a 2009 trip to Bridgewater State Prison. Marinova and state Rep. Gloria Fox had visited the prison in order to investigate claims of inmate abuse. (Page views: 1,187.)

Boston.com retracts claim about racist email from professor

The tale of the Harvard Business School professor who flipped out because he’d been overcharged $4 by a Chinese restaurant took an ugly turn Wednesday night. Boston.com, which first reported the story, posted a follow-up claiming that Ben Edelman had sent a racist email to the restaurant owner — and then replaced the follow-up with an “Editor’s Note,” explaining that the authenticity of the email couldn’t be verified. The Boston Herald has a summary of what went wrong. (Boston.com is part of The Boston Globe’s network of websites.)

The original story about Edelman, by Boston.com’s Hilary Sargent, had gone viral. Who, after all, can resist reading about a privileged Harvard professor threatening legal action against a hard-working business owner because the prices on his website hadn’t been updated for a while? So when Boston.com retracted its explosive allegation (carrying Sargent and Roberto Scalese’s bylines) that Edelman was not just a contentious jerk but a racist as well, Twitter exploded.

So what did Boston.com publish? It wasn’t long before screen grabs started to make their way around the intertubes. J. Alain Ferry posted a copy here. What happened was that after Edelman apologized to Ran Duan, whose family owns the Sichuan Garden restaurant in Brookline, someone claiming to be Edelman sent another email to the restaurant owner, writing, “You may have won the battle Duan, but at least we can agree your menu is a little less slanty-eyed.” That’s followed up by an apology for accidentally sending what was meant as a private joke, which has the effect of making the mail seem more authentic.

Edelman’s domain name, benedelman.org, is easily found on the Web, and it’s not difficult to send an email using any address you like. The Sichuan Garden website offers an email form that lets you do exactly that. One clue is that all of the legitimate emails Boston.com has posted from Edelman are marked as coming from “Ben Edelman,” whereas the racist email and subsequent apology were from “ben@benedelman.org.”

Despite the retraction, Boston.com as of this moment is still all-in on the rest of its Edelman package. We’ll see what, if anything, comes next.

Update: Kyle Alspach just posted on this at BostInno. He’s got some really interesting technical stuff.

Update II: Here’s a screen image of a tweet Sargent sent out last night that she subsequently took down:

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 9.23.52 AM

Boston.com hires a top editor

Matt Gross
Matt Gross

Boston.com, the venerable free website started by The Boston Globe in the mid-1990s, relaunched earlier this year with a new design and a difficult task: to find an audience without any Globe content, which was moved lock, stock and barrel behind the BostonGlobe.com paywall (with fairly generous sharing options).

The site also launched without a top editor, although Hilary Sargent of ChartGirl fame (see this Jack Shafer story) has been a visible presence as news and homepage editor. The new Boston.com offers a combination of aggregation, viral content and some original reporting. Traffic initially took a dip, but rose every month from April through July, according to Compete.com.

Now the site has named an editor — Matt Gross, the former editor of BonAppetit.com. Sargent will be his deputy. The press release is below.

Boston (Sept. 10, 2014) — Matt Gross, award-winning editor, writer and author, has been appointed as the new editor of Boston.com, effective Sept. 29.

Since 2012, Gross, 40, was editor of Condé Nast’s BonAppetit.com, where he designed and executed an innovative content strategy that tripled the number of monthly unique visitors in less than two years. Under his direction, BonAppetit.com became a widely known digital hub for entertainment, style, events, recipes, and pop culture.

From 2006-2010, he wrote the popular “Frugal Traveler” column for the New York Times, traveling to dozens of countries in pursuit of money-saving tips for fellow travelers.

He has also written on food and travel for several national publications, including Afar and Saveur magazines, and served as an editor at outlets ranging from FoxNews.com to New York Magazine and Vietnam News. He is also the author of 2013’s “The Turk Who Loved Apples,” a chronicle of his world travels.

“My primary goals as Boston.com editor are to understand what readers are interested in, how they use the site, and how Boston.com can best serve its audience,” said Gross.

“I’ve been to many cities around the world and my favorite ones are those that have a very distinct personality. Boston is unique, and I look forward to leading the team at this vibrant website that is such a critical part of the city’s daily conversations.”

Long before becoming a multilingual globetrotter, Matt called Massachusetts home, having grown up in Concord and Amherst. He is relocating to Boston from Brooklyn with his wife, Jean, and two young children.

“Matt’s experience gives him a unique perspective that will drive compelling content, leveraging multimedia and social channels to tell great stories on Boston.com, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary next October,” said Corey Gottlieb, Executive Director, Digital Strategy & Operations at Boston Globe Media Partners. “His vision will help to further define Boston.com’s identity.”

Boston.com also announced that Hilary Sargent has been named deputy editor of the site. Sargent, formerly the news and homepage editor, has been key in the reinvention of Boston.com content for the past ten months.