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

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Last words on the Globe’s lifted editorial

Just to bring this full circle, I want to point out that we talked about the Boston Globe’s lifted editorial on “Beat the Press” last Friday. You can watch the segment here.

We identified Globe columnist Joan Vennochi as the person responsible, which made us the first news organization to confirm that independently. Others cited an email Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr had sent to his followers, news that never found its way into the Herald itself.

On Monday, old friend Mark Leccese, an Emerson College journalism professor, took “Beat the Press” to task in his blog, writing that we were too easy on what he believes was a clear case of plagiarism. And he says the punishment should have been more severe than the two-week suspension Vennochi (whom he does not name) received.

It’s a good, smart post, though I still believe what Vennochi did amounted to sloppiness rather than out-and-out plagiarism.

Finally, welcome back, Joan. Her excellent political column was back in the Globe on Sunday following a two-week suspension. You can read that here.

Poynter weighs in on the Globe’s lifted editorial

Craig Silverman of Poynter Online weighs in with a smart take on the Boston Globe’s decision not to release the name of the staff member who wrote an unsigned editorial that was lifted almost word for word from

The original piece, which criticized Vice President Joe Biden’s “put y’all back in chains” comment, was written by Republican political consultant and WBUR contributor Todd Domke. The Globe editorial was the subject of a recent “editor’s note” (which you’ll find at the bottom) in which the paper expressed its “regrets.”

As I wrote on Aug. 24, the editor’s note raised as many questions as it answered, since it did not reveal the identity of the person who wrote it or whether he or she had been disciplined.

Last week, as you may have heard, Boston Herald columnist and WRKO Radio (AM 680) talk-show host Howie Carr sent a dispatch to subscribers to his email list claiming he had learned the culprit was Globe columnist Joan Vennochi, and that she had been suspended for two weeks. The email ended up being posted to the Free Republic, a right-wing website.

Oddly, though, that information has not appeared in the Herald, which instead ran a story on the Globe’s decision not to name names. The Herald also criticized Emerson College journalism professor Mark Leccese for not addressing the issue in the unpaid blog that he writes for the Globe’s site.

Also writing about this have been Jim Romenesko and iMediaEthics.

Silverman’s piece is the fullest treatment so far. He quotes editorial-page editor Peter Canellos as saying:

Our policy is not to discuss internal disciplinary actions. But our editor’s note should speak for itself. There were similarities in structure and phrasing that shouldn’t have been used without attribution. We take these matters very seriously.

Silverman also expresses frustration at the Globe’s response, writing that “the paper won’t name the writer, won’t detail any related discipline, won’t say if they’re reviewing previous work, and won’t call it plagiarism.”

It strikes me that this would have been a one-day story if the Globe had simply announced who did it, whether that person had been disciplined and, if so, what the punishment was. The borrowing from Domke’s piece looks to me more like extreme sloppiness than classic plagiarism.

And yes, I understand that such matters are confidential at most companies. But if this had been a signed column rather than an anonymous editorial, naming the person would have been unavoidable. I don’t see why it should be handled differently simply because the piece did not carry a byline.

Howie Carr’s big, fat Christmas coming-out

Media Nation has been on hiatus, so I missed Howie Carr’s encounter with liposuction, which took up nearly all of the Boston Herald’s front page this past Sunday. Ralph Ranalli has all the details. The late Jack Cole would have known exactly what to call this: “alleged news.” Pathetic.

Howie Carr writes checks, too

I’m late with this, but I want to point out that Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub recently reported that Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr donated $100 to Royall Switzler, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for state representative in his hometown of Wellesley.

Back in the day, Switzler was a legislative firebrand. But his political career came to a halt after he was caught exaggerating his military record while he was running for governor in 1986.

Carr, of course, is already hopelessly compromised because of his various speaking appearances on behalf of Republicans. Just click here.

Over at the liberal blog Blue Mass. Group, people are talking about Carr’s latest line-crossing in light of Keith Olbermann’s suspension and subsequent apology.

Not to repeat what I’ve said previously, but Carr’s activism on behalf of the Republican Party is not at all unusual for a radio talk-show host, which is why I stress his Herald connection. It is very unusual for a news columnist — especially one who, like Carr, still calls Democratic politicians for comment and snickers when they decline to call him back.

Two questions about Howie Carr’s latest

Two questions about Howie Carr’s column in today’s Boston Herald:

1. Now that everyone knows he’s an actual Republican operative, and not just a Republican-leaning pundit, why is he even allowed to call Democrats and pretend that he’s entitled to a response?

2. Carr has always had a vicious cruel streak, which undermines his considerable talent. But back in his heyday — oh, 25 years ago — did he go so far as to make reference to someone’s “worthless younger brother” and “worthless son”?

Maybe he did. But it wasn’t as noticeable because the rest of his columns were more readable back then.

Howie Carr steps over the line — again

Click on image for larger view

WRKO Radio talk-show host and Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr is back at it. On Saturday morning he served as the host of the Plymouth County GOP and Cape Cod Republican Club Unity Breakfast at the Radisson Hotel in Plymouth.

I obtained the e-mail (at left) announcing the event from a trusted, non-partisan source.

As I’ve argued before, Carr is not an outside contributor who happens to write for the Herald op-ed page. He is a news columnist. Though the Herald pays him to be opinionated, he is also a longtime working reporter who has no business offering his assistance to the Republican Party or any other partisan political organization. And I don’t care if Carr is a freelancer these days — the same rules apply.

By forfeiting his independence, Carr has made himself less valuable to the Herald and especially to its readers. Here’s Howie trashing Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick. And here he is urging independent gubernatorial candidate Tim Cahill to quit the race and make life easier for Republican Charlie Baker. No doubt those are his actual beliefs. But now he’s writing as a Republican operative, not as a snarky political columnist.

Earlier coverage here and here.

In New Hampshire, criminalizing political speech

Kelly Ayotte

New Hampshire Republicans have hit upon a novel idea to help U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte: lock up a pollster hired by one of her opponents for the crime of engaging in political speech.

According to the New Hampshire Union Leader, the state GOP, chaired by Gov. John Sununu, has asked Attorney General Michael Delaney to investigate an allegation of push-polling by a pollster hired on behalf of Democratic congressional candidate Paul Hodes.

Push-polling is the practice of asking leading, negative questions of a rival candidate’s likely supporters. According to the Union Leader, respondents who identified themselves as leaning toward Ayotte were asked about her alleged inaction regarding a mortgage scandal that unfolded when she was New Hampshire’s attorney general and her deletion of e-mails when she stepped down from that office.

The Union Leader found that the calls were made on Hodes’ behalf by Mountain West Research, an Idaho-based polling firm hired, in turn, by Anzalone Liszt Research, a national outfit whose clients include Hodes. The Hodes campaign hasn’t exactly denied the allegation.

Now, as it happens, negative push-polling is illegal in New Hampshire unless the pollster identifies the candidate on whose behalf the call is being made and provides some other information as well. That means someone — an executive of one of the polling firms, or perhaps even Hodes himself — could be found to have broken the law.

It’s not clear what the maximum punishment could be. The Union Leader reports that the top penalty is a $1,000 civil fine. But an Associated Press story that appears in today’s Boston Globe reports that Associate Attorney General Richard Head says a violation could also carry with it a one-year prison term.

The law itself is an affront to freedom of speech, and so is the Republican Party’s attempt to use it to silence the opposition. Push-polling is a sleazy, underhanded campaign tactic — which means that it’s exactly the sort of political speech the First Amendment was designed to protect.

We await Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr’s take on all this.

Photo (cc) by Travis Warren and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Howie Carr actually finds a new line to cross (III)

Conservative blogger D.R. Tucker writes this response at Red Mass Group. I respond to a response by Republican State Committee member Cynthia Stead. There’s a whole lot of responding going on.

Howie Carr actually finds a new line to cross (II)

Good thing I covered my asterisk when writing about Howie Carr’s gig at a Republican fundraiser in New Hampshire. Because, as I suspected, he has done it many times. The former journalist sleepwalks his way through the details here.

To repeat: this is solely about Carr’s status as a Boston Herald columnist — not his job as a talk-show host for WRKO Radio (AM 680). It’s long since become accepted that radio folks will do such things, even though I don’t think they should.

Howie Carr actually finds a new line to cross*

There are certain ethical rules that journalists — even rabidly opinionated columnists — try to follow. You don’t donate money to candidates. You don’t put signs on your lawn. You don’t put bumper stickers on your car.

Then there’s Howie Carr, who’s speaking at a fundraiser on July 31 for the New Hampshire Republican State Committee. Such activities, unfortunately, have long since become acceptable for radio talk-show hosts, and that is Carr’s main job. But he’s still a columnist for the Boston Herald.

The Boston Globe has a great quote from Tom Fielder, dean of Boston University’s College of Communication:

You cannot call yourself a journalist — even as a columnist — and actively support a political party. It strikes me that the Herald should now report Carr’s salary to the Federal Election Commission as a contribution to the GOP.

Is there anyone at One Herald Square who can tell Howie no?

*No, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s done this before. But if he did, I didn’t know about it.

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