I had a chance to talk about the future of local news on KCRW’s “Left, Right & Center” podcast — as well as offer some analysis of the media’s failures in reporting on that hospital explosion in Gaza. We recorded in front of a live audience last Thursday at WBUR Radio’s CitySpace. Please give us a listen. The host is David Greene, joined by Mo Elleithee, Sarah Isgur and (this week) me.
Tag: WBUR Page 1 of 7
GBH is sticking with Twitter, at least for now. I just received this statement from spokeswoman Erin Callanan:
At this time, GBH is continuing to use Twitter as a platform for sharing trusted content with its audience. We strongly object to Twitter’s labeling of NPR and PBS as “government-funded” media. However, GBH continues to be the most trusted media in this market, and we have a responsibility to share our news and other programming with the broadest possible audience using the tools available to us.
This remains an evolving situation, and we will continue to monitor the changes as it moves forward.
Like all public media organizations, GBH is locally owned, operated, and governed. We receive the vast majority of our support from individual donors and members, as well as from foundations. We provide independent fact-based news, as well as other quality educational entertainment. We strongly believe that editorial independence and a free press are critical to our democracy.
In my earlier item, I mentioned GBH News specifically, as that is the local news division that competes most directly with WBUR Radio. GBH, of course, is a massive operation, comprising local and national programming on television and radio.
I was affiliated with GBH News for many years and still consider myself a friend of the station. But I think this is a mistake. As I noted earlier, GBH News is already on Mastodon, the leading Twitter alternative, though GBH as a whole is not. But neither is WBUR, and they took the hit rather than continuing to play in Elon Musk’s toxic garden.
Then again, there’s no particular reason why public media outlets are under any special obligation to leave Twitter just because they’re NPR affiliates. All news organizations should be packing up and moving, and that includes The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and all the rest. It’s the right thing to do, and it would make it that much easier for small players (like Media Nation, for example) to do likewise.
Update: GBH is staying on Twitter, at least for now.
Following NPR’s lead, WBUR Radio, one of Boston’s two major public media news outlets, is leaving Twitter to protest Chief Twit Elon Musk’s recent targeting of NPR as “state-controlled media.”
“NPR and WBUR believe recent actions by Musk seek to undermine the integrity of our news organizations,” WBUR chief executive Margaret Low said in a statement. “WBUR will stop tweeting from official WBUR accounts, effective April 12.”
No word yet from WBUR’s rival, GBH News, which was tweeting as recently as 5:40 a.m. today But GBH News already has a lively presence on Mastodon, and whoever runs the account reported on Wednesday that they had met with GBH executives to talk about Mastodon and the Fediverse, the underlying architecture upon which Mastodon is built.
“I’ll keep all of you filled in with what happens next,” they said.
On this week’s “What Works” podcast, Ellen Clegg and I talk with Margaret Low, the CEO of WBUR, one of Boston’s two major news-oriented public radio stations. Margaret started as CEO in January 2020. She has had a 40-plus-year career with NPR, and started as an overnight production assistant at “Morning Edition.”
At NPR, Low rose through the ranks and ended up in the top editorial job, where she oversaw 400 journalists worldwide, covering events like the Arab Spring, the re-election of Barack Obama, and the Boston Marathon bombing. She also led a digital transformation of her newsroom. She turned “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!,” the Saturday morning quiz show, into a live production. She came to WBUR from The Atlantic, where she was president of AtlanticLIVE and produced more than 100 live events a year.
Ellen has a Quick Take on the launch of Signal Cleveland. It’s well-funded, with $7.5 million to start with, and Rick Edmonds of Poynter Online writes that the news outlet has big goals: It wants to expand throughout Ohio within a few years.
My Quick Take is on a case in New Hampshire that is of interest to those of us who ascribe to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. We’d like to think that if the First Amendment means anything, it means that you may not be punished criminally for criticizing the government. But that’s not what the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit decided recently. InDepthNH has a story here. The case, which has been ongoing for a number of years, garnered a New England Muzzle Award in 2019.
You can listen to our latest podcast here and subscribe through your favorite podcast app.
The Boston Globe’s free daily newsletter for college students and young professionals, The B-Side, made its debut this morning. Like similar offerings, it’s light and breezy, with an emphasis on stories aimed at appealing to the demo (“Does your employer pay for your MBTA pass?”) as well as on things to do.
The B-Side is joining a crowded field of similar newsletters from Axios Boston, WBUR, GBH News, the Boston Herald and 6AM City — and that’s not even getting into the political newsletters from Politico, State House News Service and CommonWealth Magazine. (Have I missed any? I hope not.)
What I’m talking about here is a certain type of newsletter. The Globe has multiple newsletters already, and so do the other news organizations I mentioned. It’s a matter of tone and emphasis, heavy on emoticons and bullet points, aimed at engaging an audience that might have never considered buying a digital newspaper subscription or tuning in to a public radio station. My students and I got an early peek last month; my reaction then and now is that it’s interesting, like its competitors, but that I’m not in the target audience.
Here’s a memo passed along by a trusted source from Andrew Grillo, the Globe’s director of new product and general manager of The B-Side:
We are excited to announce the launch of The B-Side, a new email and social-only product geared towards informing and entertaining new audiences. The B-Side’s focus is hyperlocal and will provide curated, authentic and relatable content that reimagines how local news is conveyed to the next generation of Bostonians.
As Boston’s population of university students and young professionals continues to grow, it is essential to evolve our coverage to meet this demographic where they are most engaged. The publication will focus on mobile-first formats, and will accompany its weekday newsletter with vertical video explainers, swipeable stories, and creator content.
The B-Side joins a growing portfolio of products that have launched out of BGMP’s innovation portal — the idea was crowned Innovation Week Champion in the Q4 2021. [BGMP stands for Boston Globe Media Partners.] Since inception, The B-Side has been refined and developed across all departments including marketing, revenue, editorial, and finance. Through this iterative approach, we have created a unique editorial product designed to engage the company’s future readership, and provide new revenue streams for the organization. This project showcases Boston Globe Media’s commitment to evolution and investment in new initiatives, and we are grateful of the internal support this project has received to achieve launch within one year.
Editorially, the team consists of three talented journalists. The content team is led by Emily Schario, a GBH alum and creative storyteller with expertise unpacking quintessential Boston stories across text and vertical video. Emily is joined by Multimedia Producer Katie Cole, a former BGM Audience Development team member, who runs the project’s social media and audience development strategy. The B-Side is edited and guided by Kaitlyn Johnston, one of the region’s most talented and forward-thinking editors.
We’d like to thank the organization’s support of this initiative, particularly the Senior Leadership Team who has guided this endeavor from inception to launch.
Here’s something I hadn’t seen before. The Boston Globe’s lead story today, on the backlog of cases at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, is from WBUR, one of the city’s two major public media outlets. It strikes me as semi-smart.
On the one hand, I’m all in favor of collaboration. On the other, I assume that the overlap between the Globe’s and WBUR’s audiences is extensive. Some Globe readers might not appreciate paying for something they already heard on the radio or read at WBUR.org.
Next time I might think twice about leading the paper with it. Maybe run it below the fold, as we used to say back when print mattered. Overall, though, it’s a good, important story that deserves the wider distribution the Globe can give it.
It looks like Chicago’s number-two newspaper is about to get a huge boost. Given that the dominant daily, the Chicago Tribune, is being gutted by its new hedge-fund owner, the move can’t come soon enough.
According to media writer Rob Feder, the Chicago Sun-Times and public radio station WBEZ are seeking to merge their operations. The Sun-Times, a tabloid that bills itself as “The Hardest-Working Paper in America,” has long labored in the shadow of the Tribune. But with the Tribune now controlled by Alden Global Capital, the Sun-Times/WBEZ combination could quickly emerge as the news source of record in our third-largest city.
Sun-Times reporter Jon Seidel writes that the newspaper would become a subsidiary of Chicago Public Media. What’s unclear — and maybe those taking part in the talks haven’t figured it out themselves yet — is whether the Sun-Times would become a nonprofit or if it would remain a for-profit entity owned by a nonprofit. It matters for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that nonprofits are not allowed to endorse political candidates.
I couldn’t immediately find any numbers on how big the two entities’ reporting staffs are. But it’s significant that there would reportedly be no job reductions if the two operations are combined. WBEZ is one of public radio’s powerhouses, and the Sun-Times has maintained decent paid circulation — nearly 107,000 on Sundays and almost 100,000 on weekdays, most of it print, according to numbers it filed with the Alliance for Audited Media a year and a half ago. (The Tribune clocked in at 527,000 on Sundays and 256,000 on weekdays.)
According to a news release quoted by the Sun-Times, the combined outlet “would invest in journalism through expanded capacity to better serve Chicago; expand and engage with diverse audiences throughout the region, and expand digital capabilities to deliver a compelling digital experience across platforms and reach audiences where they are.”
Public radio can play a vitally important role in keeping regional news coverage alive in markets where legacy newspapers are shrinking. In Denver, for instance, Colorado Public Radio, combined with Denverite, which it acquired several years ago, now has what is likely the largest newsroom in the state — about 65 staff members, according to executive editor Kevin Dale. The Denver Post, cut drastically under Alden ownership, employs about 60 journalists, and The Colorado Sun, a well-regarded digital start-up, has 22, according to editor Larry Ryckman.
In Boston, public radio stations WBUR and GBH have probably the most robust news operations in the region after The Boston Globe. Unlike the Tribune, the Globe is independently owned and growing. But if that were to change, the public radio stations would be well-positioned to fill in the gap.
The WBEZ/Sun-Times announcement is the best journalism news to come out of Chicago since Alden acquired the Tribune earlier this year. Let’s hope it becomes a model for what might take place elsewhere.
Twenty-four years ago, Emily Rooney — whose long-running media-criticism program, “Beat the Press,” on which I was a panelist, was canceled last week by GBH News — was just beginning a new phase of her career, as host and executive editor of the news and public-affairs program “Greater Boston.” I wrote a piece for The Boston Phoenix about her debut as well as the state of the rivalry between WGBH and WBUR — a rivalry that, if anything, is more intense today than it was then. This story was published on Feb. 7, 1997. I’m republishing it here courtesy of the Northeastern University Archives.
With commercial stations going lowbrow, Boston’s public broadcasters are fine-tuning their strategies. The question: are WGBH & WBUR doing their duty?
The Boston Phoenix • Feb. 7, 1997
Emily 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 heartbreaking. WBUR Radio (90.9 FM) is laying off 29 people “because of the economic fallout of the past several months,” according to a memo sent to the staff by the station’s chief executive officer, Margaret Low. A salary freeze has been imposed. In addition, senior executives Tom Melville, John Davidow and Peter Lydotes are leaving, and Sam Fleming will retire later this year.
Overall, Low says, the current budget of $46 million will be reduced to $40 million in the next fiscal year.
The memo also contains some ideas and observations about increasing the diversity of the staff and about the station’s ongoing commitment to local news.
This is bad news for the Boston area. Along with WGBH News, where I’m a contributor, WBUR is an incredibly important part of the regional news ecosystem system. It’s also terrible news for the folks who’ll be losing their jobs. Best wishes to everyone during this challenging time.
I got the memo from a trusted source. The full text follows:
I have important news to share this morning about a significant reorganization and some of the difficult choices I’ve had to make because of the economic fallout of the past several months.
To begin, we are laying off 29 people. Many of them are part time staff. This means valued colleagues are losing their jobs at a very challenging time and will be leaving WBUR over the next days, weeks and months. We’ve already reached out to everyone who is immediately affected by the changes.
While I’m confident that WBUR has a bright future, this is a hard moment — because longtime coworkers and friends will be departing.
There will also be some shared sacrifice. There will be no wage increases for FY21, except for negotiated union salary adjustments, and there will be no contributions to retirement funds. And we’ve developed a much reduced budget for the next fiscal year. The WBUR Board approved a FY20 budget of just under $46 million. For FY21, the Board will be presented with a budget of just over $40 million.
Beyond the layoffs, we will reduce expenses across the board. Most notably — we are eliminating seven unfilled positions, cutting travel and marketing costs and canceling various contracted services. I’m taking a 10% salary cut.
A number of senior leaders, who collectively have dedicated the better part of a century to WBUR, will be leaving us. They include: Tom Melville, John Davidow and Peter Lydotes. Sam Fleming plans to retire this year. He will be with us three days a week for the next few months.
In addition, we will stop production of Only A Game at the end of September. The New York Times will take over the wildly successful Modern Love podcast at the end of the month, and Kind World, which blossomed from a digital experiment back in 2012 into an award winning Morning Edition feature and podcast, will end its run in July.
At the same time as we are losing cherished colleagues, this restructuring means that we will be hiring for a number of new positions that will make WBUR stronger.
There is a lot more to share, and I apologize in advance for the length of this note. I want to reflect the decisions we’ve made with precision, care and respect for all our colleagues. I will be meeting with some individual teams today and tomorrow and I will hold an AMA later this afternoon, so I can answer any questions you have.
The changes I’m making are necessary to streamline the organization and to reflect the budget realities of the moment. But beyond this restructuring, there is much more work to be done to forge our long term strategic future. Over the summer, we will begin to fully articulate what will define our journalism and our programming going forward and what it will take to become even more essential in people’s lives.
My decisions rest on four pillars — three that I’m addressing immediately with this reorganization and a fourth that I will enlist all of you in tackling in the days and months ahead:
- Editorial Excellence — we must strive to be the most trusted and beloved source of local news in Boston and beyond, distinguished in a competitive media landscape by the quality and ambition of our journalism and our programming.
- Organizational Efficiency and Effectiveness — we must ensure that WBUR is a disciplined and well-run operation that supports and empowers people, holds them accountable and reflects our values at every turn.
- Economic Sustainability — we must rightsize the organization so we aren’t spending more money than we are bringing in. At the same time we must double down on generating revenue and finding new ways to fuel WBUR.
- The Road Ahead — there are two issues of great consequence to our future that require our concerted attention.
The first is racial equity. In the weeks following the police killing of George Floyd, we have witnessed a global outpouring of people calling for racial justice — and an end to the profound inequities that have defined the American experience. These days are filled with anguish, but endowed with the possibility of achieving lasting change.
This reckoning demands that we confront elements of systemic racism that have persisted in our country and our institutions, even as we’ve expressed a commitment to diversity. WBUR is not exempt from this examination — we have a lot of work to do. And it can’t be addressed by simply restating our values of inclusion. This effort must be different in kind and substance than anything we’ve done before. It requires change in every aspect of our culture, our coverage, our hiring and our leadership development. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m committed to leading the way and not letting up. Our future depends on it.
Second, our future also depends on identifying how we continue to grow our audience and cultivate the loyalty and financial support that is essential to sustaining our journalism. This is a time of profound technological change and the clock is ticking. WBUR has been a credible digital innovator. But as listening habits and media consumption patterns continue to shift, we have to confront how we reach new audiences and become even more relevant in people’s lives. So that they can’t imagine a day without WBUR. And they believe we’re worthy of their support.
Both of these efforts will require the investment of every single person at WBUR.
Given all this, it was clear that a restructuring of WBUR was imperative, but everything was accelerated by an unexpected financial crisis that compelled deeper cuts. In laying out the details, I can’t possibly give proper due to all the people who have devoted themselves to WBUR for so many years. Finding ways to celebrate our departing colleagues is made more difficult in the age of social distancing. But we will make sure that happens.
In the meantime, I’ve tried to capture the most important aspects of the restructuring below.
Local journalism has always been core to our mission. Increasingly it is paramount. We have the biggest local newsroom in public radio and in order to produce agenda-setting coverage, we are reorganizing the team, strengthening our leadership ranks and deepening our bench of editors.
To begin, Dan Mauzy will become Executive Editor for News. In my five months at WBUR, I’ve seen Dan demonstrate editorial depth, impressive leadership, and an unmatched command of every aspect of the newsroom operation. Dan will work closely with Tom Melville to ensure a smooth transition.
For nearly nine years, Tom has led the newsroom with grace, generosity and a deep love and knowledge of the region. This has never been more evident than in these last few months, as first COVID and then the death of George Floyd transformed the nation and the globe. That WBUR’s local journalism has soared, amid the disruption to our operations and the pain we feel in our personal and professional lives, is a testament to Tom. I’m enormously grateful for his intelligence, integrity and extraordinary kindness.
I am also moving the team responsible for the editorial dimension of our digital efforts into the news division, so that our journalism on all platforms is more closely aligned.
Tiffany Campbell, our Executive Editor for Digital, will continue to oversee her editorial staff and newsroom digital strategy, and will now report to Dan. In addition, Cognoscenti, led by Frannie Carr Toth, will move into the newsroom under Tiffany. More on the rest of the digital team in a moment.
John Davidow will be leaving us after a remarkable 17 year run at WBUR. He joined the station after a distinguished career as a producer in commercial television (when it was in its prime). John was hired to lead the local news team, and radio became his new medium. More than 10 years ago, John made another leap, when he took over our fledgling digital operation. His work propelled WBUR to become one of the most prominent local digital operations in the system. At the same time, John gained national recognition in public media for his expertise on emerging technologies. He spotted great talent like Tiffany along the way and built a first class digital team that will remain a vital part of WBUR’s future.
Managing Editor Elisabeth Harrison, who has so skillfully overseen our coverage of COVID-19, will take on additional newsroom responsibilities and also report to Dan. Beyond health and business, she will oversee our general assignment reporters and those covering politics, immigration and other beats.
Dan Guzman and Jon Cain will become Executive Producers of Morning Edition and All Things Considered, respectively. They will now supervise show hosts, writers and producers. This will add organizational structure and cohesion to our flagship local NPR shows.
Weekend Managing Editor Paul Connearney, will also take on new responsibilities and supervise the newscast anchors.
In addition to what I’ve laid out above, we will be posting three new newsroom positions. They are:
- A second managing editor to work side by side with Elisabeth and Tiffany and a new managing producer (see below). This new managing editor will report to Dan and oversee our investigations team as well as our coverage of arts and culture, education and the environment.
- A deputy managing editor, reporting to Elisabeth, who will deepen the editing bench for health, business, politics, and other beats.
- We are also posting a managing producer This person will oversee all local news programs: Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Radio Boston and local newscasts.
A New Product Team
As I said in my 100 day note, WBUR has a powerful history. We have been broadcasters for 70 years and, over those years, we have fostered deep and lasting relationships with our radio audience. Our next job is to develop that connection, to build those relationships, for digital audiences in ways that ensure we’re here for another 70 years. We must be laser-focused on that, because with time — and likely sooner than we think — digital revenue will need to replace much of the traditional broadcast revenue that supports our journalism. And it won’t happen unless we build the kind of loyalty and devotion that we’ve historically had with our radio audience.
To that end, I’m creating a product team, led by Joan DiMicco. Her job will be to make sure that every experience with WBUR, on any platform, is exceptional. She will be responsible for the strategy, design, and implementation of all our products and will help ensure their demonstrable success. This includes our owned platforms such as wbur.org, our newsletters, and our mobile app; and third-party platforms including NPR One and smart speakers. She will also stay abreast of tech developments across the media landscape as we craft what comes next.
The programmers, developers and digital audio editors, who were part of the larger digital team, will now report to Joan. This new team will work hand in hand with all our editorial teams, marketing and membership.
As I mentioned above, Peter Lydotes, who has overseen WBUR operations for 16 years, will be departing in the fall. Peter joined WBUR in 1992 as a board operator and over the years has gained an impressive understanding of how just about every system at WBUR works. Peter has absorbed many production responsibilities, keeping our people and our increasingly complicated operation and production efforts humming.
With Peter’s planned departure, Glenn Alexander, who oversees all the BRTs, will now report to Karl Voelker and Glenn’s whole team will be part of engineering and operations. This will help align our technical staff and ensure greater consistency across the organization. And, as I mentioned earlier in this note, the newscasters, who were part of Peter’s team, will join the news division.
In addition to this shift, the station will be automated overnight, as it has been throughout most of the COVID crisis. That means, aside from special circumstances, the last local newscast will be at 10 p.m. weekdays and 7 p.m. on weekends.
Only a Game
After 27 years, Only a Game will end its run this fall. Executive Producer Karen Given along with founding members Gary Waleik and former host Bill Littlefield — had an amazing journey producing public radio’s only sports program, featuring highly-produced narrative storytelling and reaching more than 360,000 listeners each week on 260 stations. This is the end of an era for WBUR and I look forward to recognizing those who made this show such a meaningful part of public radio weekends for so many years.
More Staffing News
After nearly 30 years at WBUR, Sam Fleming is ready to pass the baton. He wants to spend more time with his wife who lives on Martha’s Vineyard. Sam let me know his plans long before I stepped into my role in January. Thankfully, he promised to stick around as long as he is needed and I’ve asked him to help me with this transition and importantly to work on WBUR’s ethical guidelines. Sam will begin working part time next month and, whether virtually or in person, we will give him a fitting farewell.
Right now I have more than a dozen people reporting to me. In the long run that’s not tenable. But given budget constraints, I will hold off on additional senior hires. It is more important to shore up other parts of the organization. This will be a good opportunity to see the newly structured team in action. If there are significant gaps, we will add positions when we have the resources to do so. But I’m going to be conservative on that front for now.
Some Final Thoughts
Organizational changes of this magnitude are hard. But they are also necessary to ensure that we are financially sound and in fighting shape to deliver on big ambitions. This is a two step process. First, we had to deal with the current financial reality and make the necessary organizational changes. Next, we will begin to lay out our strategy and chart our path forward.
To those who are leaving, I’m sorry that you are departing at this difficult moment in the country and the world. I’m enormously grateful for the years that you have devoted to making WBUR such an exceptional place. You will exit with my profound gratitude and a promise to build on the legacy you leave behind.
To those who are staying — thank you for all you’re doing to keep WBUR strong. Your work has never been more consequential. That is what gives us the stamina and resolve to press on — even during the hardest hours. We play a vital role in Boston and beyond. Serving the public. Reporting the truth. Enriching lives. It is a galvanizing cause — one that is impossible to equal.
Chief Executive Officer, WBUR
Saturday update: The Boston Business Journal’s Catherine Carlock posted a very good overview Friday night of the Globe’s decision not to identify the reporter who had been forced to resign over sexual-harassment accusations. She also quotes some of the online commentary, including very tough tweets from my former Boston Phoenix colleague Carly Carioli and former Globe journalist Hilary Sargent. She quotes me, too.
If you watch Friday’s “Beat the Press,” you’ll see that I believed the forthcoming Globe story would identify the former employee. I was basing that not just on thinking it was the right thing to do but on some information I’d received as well. So I was pretty surprised to see that the name had been excluded.
This was a tough call. I think Brian McGrory and other Globe executives had two choices, both of them bad. Six months ago, no one would have expected the paper to name a mid-level employee, not especially well known, who had been pushed out over sexual harassment that was apparently serious but involved no touching. But it’s not six months ago. We are all living in the post-Harvey Weinstein era now.
The very same story that omits the name identifies Tom Ashbrook of WBUR Radio (90.9 FM) as having been suspended for unspecified allegations. Especially given the Globe’s strong reporting on sexual harassment and assault in restaurants and at the Statehouse, it seems to me that the paper needs to be as transparent as possible about what’s going on in its own house. And if you want to argue that that’s somehow unfair to the former employee in question, I would respond: Yes, in some ways it is unfair. But it’s necessary.
Original Friday item: I just took a quick scan through Boston Globe reporter Mark Arsenault’s story on sexual harassment at the Globe and at other local media organizations, including unspecified charges involving Tom Ashbrook at WBUR Radio (90.9 FM). For the most part it appears to be a fine, thorough piece. But what stands out and will spark hundreds of conversations is the Globe’s decision not to identify a journalist who has been the subject of rumors this week, including on today’s “Kirk and Callahan” show on WEEI Radio (93.7 FM). Arsenault writes:
The Globe chose not to identify the employee in this story because his alleged conduct did not involve physical contact, threats, or persistent harassment, and editors determined it is highly unlikely the newspaper would have identified the accused, or written about his conduct, if this situation had arisen at another private company.
““Yes, we’re well aware that by withholding the identity of the reporter involved, we’ll be accused of a double-standard by people and organizations that are not privy to all the facts,” editor Brian McGrory said in a message to the newsroom from which Arsenault quotes. “I can live with that far more easily than I can live with the thought of sacrificing our values to slake the thirst of this moment.”
Although I can understand McGrory’s judgment given Arsenault’s description of the misconduct (especially the lack of physical contact), I wonder if it is tenable in the current environment. I suspect the name is going to come out anyway given how many people know it. Then again, if Globe executives are convinced that not naming him is the right thing to do, I suppose they’re prepared to live with someone else reporting it. But it leaves me feeling uncomfortable.
A source sent me the full text of McGrory’s memo a little while ago. Here it is.
About three weeks ago, I commissioned a story taking a look at how this and other local media organizations are covering the extraordinary #MeToo movement — at the same time that we’re assessing our own situations and confronting issues from within. It took a while, because all of these stories take a while. Sourcing is painstaking. Accusations are raw. Context is important and can take more time than we’d like.
We’ve done some extraordinary journalism on many fronts of this movement — Yvonne [Abraham], Kay [Lazar], Shirley [Leung], Shelley [Murphy], Devra [First], led by Jen [Peter, senior deputy managing editor]. The list could go on, and there’s more to come. Our standards have been high and meticulously upheld, in terms of what we’ll report and how. Vetting of the stories has been rigorous to the point of painstaking.
Now our story on local media, written by Mark Arsenault, is ready this afternoon, as there’s speculation on talk radio and in the social sphere about a recent situation involving the Globe. Mark addresses this situation in the story, having learned about it because he’s an excellent reporter. But even as Mark is aware of the identity of a journalist who has left the Globe, we’ve made the decision not to publish the name, and here I’ll attempt to explain why.
Quite simply, the transgressions would not meet our standards for a reportable event if they happened at another company. To all our knowledge, nobody was physically touched; no one was persistently harassed; there were no overt threats. We’re covering it because we’re applying an extra measure of transparency to ourselves.
This is not in any way to make light of what happened here. There was conduct highly unbecoming of a Globe journalist, people who justifiably felt victimized, and the potential for conflicts of interest. So the responsible party is no longer at the Globe.
Context, again, is vital in this moment, and it is ever more paramount for the Globe and other reputable news organizations to exercise good judgment in unwavering fashion. There are degrees of misconduct, a spectrum, and we must be careful to recognize it. We’ve been meticulous in bringing this kind of context to all of our reporting on these issues, the things we write and, as often, the things we don’t. This is not the time to lower our standard.
So to answer your inevitable question, yes, we’re well aware that by withholding the identity of the reporter involved, we’ll be accused of a double-standard by people and organizations that are not privy to all the facts. I can live with that far more easily than I can live with the thought of sacrificing our values to slake the thirst of this moment. I’m also well aware that wise people, including people in this room, will disagree. I respect that.
Beyond this, please know that our coverage will continue with all the rigor that we’ve already brought on all fronts. Also know that, even as we believe the culture of this room is in a good place, it can get better and we’re working to improve it.
As always, feel free to drop by or share in any other way your thoughts.