The Globe and the Times publish remarkably similar stories about a troubled chef

It’s the end of the semester at Northeastern, so you’ll have to forgive me for weighing in rather late about the remarkably similar stories that The New York Times (free link) and The Boston Globe published about Barbara Lynch, a celebrity chef whose abusive behavior has finally caught up with her.

Although I’m speculating, what happened seems fairly obvious: Tim Dearing, the former lead chef at Menton, almost certainly contacted both papers after he told Lynch he was going to “drag” her when she fired him at a particularly volatile meeting following the overdose deaths of Dearing’s beloved predecessor, Rye Crofter, and a younger chef Crofter had mentored. No doubt both stories were close to being ready when one paper learned that the other was about to publish. Both stories were published Thursday within about a half-hour of each other.

Still, I’ve never seen anything like the structural similarities in two long stories like this. The Globe’s Janelle Nanos and the Times’ Julia Moskin open the same way, repeat many of the same anecdotes, reproduce the same sorry-not-sorry statement from Lynch (OK, that’s not surprising) and reach the same conclusion: that Lynch is out of control, and her chain of restaurants is in serious trouble. Please understand that I’m not suggesting any ethical violations here — it was just striking to see two good reporters approach the story in exactly the same way.

There was, though, one difference. The Times noted that Lynch is the first cousin of U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, a powerful South Boston Democrat, and has connections to the influential lobbyist Tom O’Neill, a former lieutenant governor. As my old colleague Adam Reilly of GBH News tweeted:

Adam’s implication is that the Globe should have included that fact as well, and I agree with him. Perhaps editors at the Globe decided not to pull Lynch’s connections into the story given that they are not responsible for her behavior. Still, readers may reasonably wonder if that had something to with why she got away with her act for as long as she has.

On the other hand, the Globe’s story, unlike the Times’, observes that the food has gone downhill at Lynch’s restaurants as her behavior has spiraled out of control. Nanos — with contributions from the paper’s food critic, Devra First, as well as reporter Dana Gerber — writes:

What’s more, restaurants have changed, in part reshaped in part by both the #MeToo movement and the pandemic. Long overlooked behavior is no longer being tolerated. Workers are demanding fairer treatment. And Lynch’s world of fine dining is shifting beneath her feet amid staffing shortages and rising food costs, particular challenges for the pricey, labor-intensive model of haute cuisine.

And indeed, on a recent evening, Menton seemed to have lost the luster of its early days, when the food was plated like precious jewels, both delicious and beautiful, and customers were cosseted by multiple servers at once. Menton now serves one $180 six-course chef’s tasting menu each night, but the dishes feel less inventive and refined than they did a decade ago when it first opened. Flavors are less precise, portion sizes are small, and the lag time between courses can be overly long. It was fine dining in the most literal sense of the word.

This is not an insignificant part of the story, and it’s telling that it appears in the local paper rather than in the outlet from out of town. The Globe also has some cringey details missing from the Times about crude T-shirts that Lynch wanted her employees to wear.

I have never eaten at any of Lynch’s restaurants as the prices are well out of my range. The food scene in Boston, though, is a vital part of our local culture, and the Globe has devoted a lot of resources to covering it over the years. It will be interesting to see whether Lynch’s problems are isolated, or if they represent the first cracks in that culture.


Landmark case? In fact, Dominion’s libel suit against Fox News is pretty simple

White van labeled Fox News Channel
Photo (cc) 2011 by (vincent desjardins)

We’ve been told many times that the Dominion voting machine libel suit against Fox News could be a “landmark case.” I want to push back against that.

If Fox wins, then yes, it will be a landmark case, but that particular outcome seems unimaginable. That’s because we know from Fox’s own internal communications that top executives and hosts knew they were lying when they repeated the claims advanced by Donald Trump and his minions that Dominion’s machines stole votes from Trump and awarded them to Joe Biden.

In order to show libel, a plaintiff must prove that a media outlet published or broadcast false, defamatory statements about them. The Supreme Court’s 1964 Times v. Sullivan case added a third element for public officials who wish to win a libel suit: “actual malice,” which is defined as a knowing falsehood or reckless disregard for the truth. Several years later, the actual malice standard was extended to public figures, including a corporation such as Fox.

This really shouldn’t be difficult. In the unlikely event that Fox wins, it would mean that actual malice as a legal concept no longer exists. In reality, Dominion v. Fox is a pretty ordinary case in the sense that it presents no new issues at all. Fox defamed Dominion with false claims and, in private conversations, admitted that they were lying. The network’s defense will be that it was merely reporting newsworthy statements — but it didn’t just report them, it promoted them, and its hosts agreed with them on the air.

It is, in a way, the flip side of Sarah Palin’s 2022 libel case against The New York Times, when it was obvious to any observer that the Times had simply made a careless error in claiming that the man who shot then-congresswoman Gabby Giffords and several others had been incited by a map put together by Palin’s policial action committee showing gunsights over several congressional districts, including Giffords’. In fact, there was no evidence that the mentally ill shooter was even aware of such a map. There was no actual malice, and Palin lost.

It’s hard to imagine that any combination of money awarded to Dominion as well as punitive damages will add up to any more than a rounding error for Fox. What I’d really like to see is for the jury to require Fox to apologize in prime time, over and over, for lying to its viewers. How about nothing but apologies for a week? Now, that would be some must-see TV.

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A remarkable set of front pages mark Trump’s day in a New York courtroom

Tuesday was, as we keep being told, historic. We don’t know what will happen to Donald Trump next, and he may be faced with more serious charges in Georgia and Washington. These front pages, though, tell quite a story about the former president’s arraignment on felony charges in New York. (From the Freedom Forum’s indispensable Today’s Front Pages website.)

The New York Times applies extreme life-saving measures to its print edition

1942 photo via the Library of Congress

How bad does The New York Times want you to keep subscribing to the print edition? We have been seven-day digital plus Sunday print subscribers for a number of years, but our wonderful delivery person left us a note today that she was giving up the job. We decided that was a good time to cancel the Sunday paper.

I contacted the Times, and they offered us a lower price for the next 16 weeks to keep what we’ve got than to switch to all-digital. They are literally paying us to keep Sunday print. So we’ll do that until the 16 weeks are up, and then we’ll see if they come back with yet another offer.

It does make sense that they want people to keep looking at the Sunday ads, and the Times isn’t alone. There are some local papers, including The Provincetown Independent, that charge more for digital-only than they do for print-plus-digital.

The CJR’s critique of ‘Russia Russia Russia’ coverage is all trees, no forest

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump in 2017. Photo via

On Jan. 27, Holman Jenkins Jr., a conservative columnist for The Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial page, asserted that revelations by special counsel John Durham show that Donald Trump probably owed his 2016 election to a Russian influence campaign. Jenkins was referring to a “presumably fake email exchange” between Debbie Wasserman Schultz, then the head of the Democratic Party, and Leonard Benardo of the Open Society Foundation. Jenkins wrote:

The fictitious email referred to a presumably equally fictitious conversation between the Clinton campaign’s Amanda Renteria and Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch about making sure the Clinton server investigation didn’t “go too far.” The words found their way into a Russian intelligence document, which found its way to the FBI, becoming the justification for FBI chief James Comey’s chaotic actions in the 2016 election, which likely elected Mr. Trump.

I offer this tidbit by way of a brief comment on Jeff Gerth’s 24,000-word analysis for the Columbia Journalism Review in which he takes the media to task for “Russia Russia Russia,” as Trump would put it. Now, I’m in no position to assess all of Gerth’s claims — he’s mastered the details, and I haven’t. But Jenkins’ column shows that, contrary to Gerth’s assertions, the Russia investigation was grounded firmly in reality and that new revelations continue to emerge.

Much of Gerth’s coverage focuses on his former employer, The New York Times. Gerth writes:

Outside of the Times’ own bubble, the damage to the credibility of the Times and its peers persists, three years on, and is likely to take on new energy as the nation faces yet another election season animated by antagonism toward the press. At its root was an undeclared war between an entrenched media, and a new kind of disruptive presidency, with its own hyperbolic version of the truth. (The Washington Post has tracked thousands of Trump’s false or misleading statements.) At times, Trump seemed almost to be toying with the press, offering spontaneous answers to questions about Russia that seemed to point to darker narratives. When those storylines were authoritatively undercut, the follow-ups were downplayed or ignored.

In fact, Gerth offers pretty convincing evidence that the Times engaged in some sloppy reporting. And yet, what I keep coming back to is this paragraph, in which then-Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron defended the press’ performance (or at least the Post’s performance) in a way that perfectly encapsulates what we all saw being reported in real time:

Baron declined to be interviewed but, in an email to me, defended the Post’s coverage, writing that “the evidence showed that Russia intervened in the election, that the Trump campaign was aware of it, welcomed it and never alerted law enforcement or intelligence agencies to it. And reporting showed that Trump sought to impede the investigation into it.”

What about Baron’s statement is wrong? No, botched facts can’t be condoned, and, as I said, Gerth seems to have found plenty of them. But the overall arc of the narrative as described by Baron is exactly what we all saw.

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David Corn, whose reporting for Mother Jones has been a lodestar for anyone following the Trump-Russia connections, wrote an analysis headlined “Columbia Journalism Review’s Big Fail: It Published 24,000 Words on Russiagate and Missed the Point.” Corn, whose mastery of the details matches Gerth’s, accuses Gerth of “misdirection,” writing:

Gerth finds plenty of ammo for his assault on the media. But here’s where he goes wrong: He misrepresents the scandal that is the subject of the media coverage he is scrutinizing. He defines the Trump-Russia affair by only two elements of the tale: the question of Trump collusion with Moscow and the unconfirmed Steele dossier. This is exactly how Trump and his lieutenants want the scandal to be perceived. From the start, Trump has proclaimed “no collusion,” setting that as the bar for judging him. That is, no evidence of criminal collusion, and he’s scot-free. And he and his defenders have fixated on the Steele dossier—often falsely claiming it triggered the FBI’s investigation—to portray Trump as the victim of untrue allegations and “fake news.” Gerth essentially accepts these terms of the debate.

Corn adds: “Trump may have been the victim of occasionally errant reporting. But he was no victim of a hoax or an off-the-rails media witch hunt. He helped an adversary sabotage an American election.”

Once in office, Trump was impeached twice. The first time was for threatening to withhold weapons from Ukraine unless President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would announce that his government was investigating Hunter Biden. One of Trump’s campaign managers, Paul Manafort, you may recall, was involved in supporting the previous Russian-backed regime, which had been overthrown by pro-democracy activists several years earlier. You have to wonder what U.S. policy in Ukraine’s war of self-defense against Russia would be today if Trump had defeated Joe Biden in 2020.

Gerth has shown that the press, and especially the Times, was not as careful as it should have been in reporting on Russia Russia Russia. And yes, details matter. But the notion that Trump was a victim of bad reporting with regard to Russia is just nonsense. In the end, Gerth has produced a report that’s all trees, no forest.

Special non-delivery

It’s after 9 a.m., and we still don’t have our Sunday New York Times — but I’m guessing it has more to do with The Boston Globe. Friends on Facebook who get the Globe, but not the Times, are telling me that it’s arriving late and/or missing sections.

We don’t get the Globe in print anymore; we’re seven-day digital subscribers. But I’m guessing that our amazing delivery person didn’t drop off the Times at 6 a.m., as she usually does, because it wasn’t worth it to run her route without the Globe. I can’t say I blame her. By the way, this is the second or third week that the Times has been printed at Dow Jones’ facility in Chicopee rather than at the Globe’s Taunton plant.

If you’re going to charge an arm and a leg for the print edition, then you’ve got to perform. The Globe’s problems with its Taunton facility go back to the day it opened in 2017, and they’ve never been fully resolved.

Update: The Times was on our front porch when we got home from church a little before noon. And several people passed along this email from the Globe:

Why it matters that The New York Times got it wrong on Section 230

The U.S. Supreme Court will rule on two cases involving Section 230. Photo (cc) 2006 by OZinOH.

Way back in 1996, when Section 230 was enacted into law, it was designed to protect all web publishers, most definitely including newspapers, from being sued over third-party content posted in their comment sections. It would be another eight years before Facebook was launched, and longer than that before algorithms would be used to boost certain types of content.

But that didn’t stop David McCabe of The New York Times — who, we are told, “has reported for five years on the policy debate over online speech” — from including this howler in a story about two cases regarding Section 230 that are being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court:

While newspapers and magazines can be sued over what they publish, Section 230 shields online platforms from lawsuits over most content posted by their users.

No. I have to assume that McCabe and maybe even his editors know better, and that this was their inept way of summarizing the issue for a general readership. But it perpetuates the harmful and wrong notion that this is only about Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. It’s not. Newspapers and magazines are liable for everything they publish except third-party online comments, which means that they are treated exactly the same as the giant platforms.

Though it is true that an early case testing Section 230 involved comments posted at AOL rather than on a news website, the principle that online publishers can’t be held liable for what third parties post on their platforms is as valuable to, oh, let’s say The New York Times as it is to Facebook.

That’s not to say 230 can’t be reformed and restricted; and, as I wrote recently, it probably should be. But it’s important that the public understand exactly what’s at stake.

The New York Times engages in some fanciful pretending about the debt limit

Why won’t Washington do something? Illustration (cc) 2010 via 2di7 & titanio44.

Oh, my goodness, what has The New York Times done now? You know, I could write pieces like this all the time, but it would quickly get boring — for me and for you. Sometimes, though, the Times gives us such a perfect example of willful ignorance (Jay Rosen calls it “the production of innocence”) that it has to be called out.

The headline on the story leading the Times’ homepage right now is “As Debt Limit Threat Looms, Wall Street and Washington Have Only Rough Plans.” I’m posting an image of it just in case an editor lurches into consciousness and changes it, which has been known to happen.

The lead is just as bad:

With days to go before the United States bumps up against a technical limit on how much debt it can issue, Wall Street analysts and political prognosticators are warning that a perennial source of partisan brinkmanship could finally tip into outright catastrophe in 2023.

The headline treats the debt limit as though it were an asteroid hurtling toward earth, without any human agency. The lead has a somewhat different emphasis, pretending that the crisis is the subject of a legitimate debate between Republicans and Democrats. In fact, as we all know, neither is the case. Rather, this is a phony crisis sparked by radical House Republicans (that is to say, all of them, or most of them, anyway) who refuse to cover the country’s debt for goods and services we’ve already paid for.

It is a deeply phony, cynical maneuver that comes up whenever there’s a Democratic president and at least one branch of Congress is under Republican control. The Republicans don’t do this when there’s a Republican president, even though Donald Trump, George W. Bush and their predecessors engaged in a lot more deficit spending than Democratic presidents. Nor do Democrats do this when there’s a Republican president because, whatever the Democrats’ flaws, they are fundamentally a party that governs in good faith.

The central point of the story, written by Jeanna Smialek and Joe Rennison, is that Wall Street and the Treasury Department could do more to defuse the debt bomb that’s about to be detonated. There’s nary a hint, though, that such a disaster would be inconceivable if we had two functioning political parties rather than one normal party — and one that’s run entirely off the rails.

The Globe’s Taunton printing plant will lay off about 30 employees, the BBJ reports

Presses at The Boston Globe’s Taunton printing plant. Photo (cc) 2018 by Dan Kennedy.

About 30 employees will be laid off at The Boston Globe’s printing plant in Taunton following news that the Globe has lost its contract to print the regional edition of The New York Times. The layoffs were reported early this morning by Don Seiffert of the Boston Business Journal.

The loss of the Times contract was revealed Saturday by Media Nation. But though I had heard there would be layoffs associated with the move, I was unable to pin down the exact number. Seiffert, citing a “source familiar with the ongoing negotiations over those layoffs,” reported there will be about 200 Globe employees left in Taunton.

The Times is now being printed by the Dow Jones plant in Chicopee; Dow Jones is the parent company of The Wall Street Journal.

Seiffert’s story also contains an interesting wrinkle that could, in theory, hasten the demise of the five-year-old, $72 million Taunton plant: a workforce of 200 is only a third of what the Globe promised when it obtained a tax break from that city in order to bring much-needed jobs into that area.

At one point the Taunton facility printed not just the Globe but also the Times, USA Today and the Boston Herald. Seiffert’s source told him that the printing plant has “‘totally abandoned any revenue streams related to other commercial print or direct-mail work’ and is now printing only the Boston Globe.”

The Globe’s paid digital circulation of about 230,000 now outpaces print by a considerable margin. According to the most recent figures from the Alliance for Audited Media, the Globe’s average weekday print circulation is now about 64,000, and about 112,000 on Sundays.

If Taunton is no longer getting any outside work, it raises the prospect that the Globe’s owners, John and Linda Henry, may close the plant at some point and job out the Globe’s print run — perhaps to a combination of Chicopee, CNHI’s Eagle-Tribune plant in North Andover (which has handled some of the Globe’s production work in the past) and/or Gannett’s Providence Journal.

Correction: An earlier version of this post said that The Eagle-Tribune had an arrangement to handle part of the Globe’s print run in the past. That was incorrect.

The Globe loses its contract to print The New York Times

Sign outside the Globe’s printing plant in Taunton. Photo (cc) 2018 by Dan Kennedy.

The Boston Globe has lost its contract to print the regional edition of The New York Times at its Taunton facility. The Times will instead now be printed at the Dow Jones plant in Chicopee. Dow Jones is the parent company of The Wall Street Journal.

When the Globe’s Taunton printing plant opened in 2017, the hope was that it could turn a profit for the paper by taking on outside clients. The facility got off to a rough start, though, with publisher-owner John Henry writing a front-page note to subscribers admitting that the presses “are operating too slowly and breaking too often.” He added: “We are embarrassed. We are sincerely sorry to all those affected.” In my 2018 book, “The Return of the Moguls,” I described the launch of the Taunton plant as a “disaster.”

At one point, the Globe printed the Times, the Boston Herald and USA Today. The Herald decamped for The Providence Journal some time ago. When I asked Globe spokeswoman Heidi Flood whether the Taunton facility currently has any outside work, she answered only that “we are always exploring ways to bring more work into the plant.” She did say that Taunton now handles the entire Globe print run. At one time the Globe was jobbing some of its run out to The Eagle-Tribune in North Andover; I’m not sure when that stopped.

I’ve heard that the Taunton plant has laid some employees off as well, but Flood did not address that when I asked her about it by email. The full text of her statement follows.

I can confirm that the Times decided not to renew their printing contract with the Globe. We worked very hard over many months to keep their business in a way that also worked for ours, but were not able to arrive at a financially sustainable agreement. While the pending NYT departure is disappointing, from a business perspective it’s the right decision and positions us more favorably for the future.

The Times’s decision to print elsewhere will not affect our Globe print operations. Taunton currently handles the entire Globe print run and we are always exploring ways to bring more work into the plant. First and foremost, the Globe remains committed to meeting the needs of our valuable print subscribers.