Reporter at Center of Globe In-House Sexual Harassment Story Identified

Printed from: http://newbostonpost.com/2017/12/14/reporter-at-center-of-globe-in-house-sexual-harassment-story-identified/

BOSTON — The Boston Globe, in an explosive story published last Friday that detailed anecdotes of in-house sexual misconduct, refused to name the reporter the newspaper dismissed “months ago” over a series of allegations, including one claim where he allegedly asked a younger reporter if she wanted to have sex with his wife.

On Thursday morning, drive-time radio host Kirk Minihane of WEEI-FM 93.7 confirmed the identity of the dismissed reporter — James O’Sullivan — a prominent political journalist.  

The Globe’s self-reported story landed last Friday afternoon, hours after Minihane and co-host Gerry Callahan cited inside information regarding the seemingly-contained reckoning that occurred within the Globe’s newsroom. The hosts did not name names, but provided enough lurid details to get listeners — and the city as a whole — talking.

With social media abuzz and various Hub media personalities questioning Globe Editor-in-Chief Brian McGrory’s decision not to name the alleged harasser over the “thought of sacrificing our values to slake the thirst of this moment,” a cross-check of the most recent online Globe staff list with a cached copy backed up Minihane’s claim.  

November 27:

December 9:

Earlier this week the Globe, still withholding O’Sullivan’s identity, began soliciting applications for O’Sullivan’s old job:

A message sent to O’Sullivan’s Globe email address was returned as undeliverable. 

O’Sullivan’s Globe voice mail, however, is still active — a message left has not yet been returned. 

A scan of the Globe archives shows that O’Sullivan’s most recent article was published November 13. Prior to that entry, O’Sullivan had written several reports concerning sexual harassment on Beacon Hill and elsewhere, stories that were prompted by Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham’s investigative pieces documenting alleged bad behavior inside the Massachusetts State House and within the Hub’s restaurant and entertainment industries.

Coincidentally, one of O’Sullivan’s last stories focused on the results of a Globe poll, conducted jointly with Suffolk University, which found that nine out of 10 female Boston-based professionals view sexual harassment as a problem at their place of work

According to the Globe’s own reporting, the complaint involving O’Sullivan was filed last March by a female employee in her 20s:

She said he propositioned her to have sex with his wife, using vulgar sexual language, according to the employee who filed the complaint.

She provided a reporter for this story a letter from the Globe’s human resources lawyer confirming her complaint was filed and investigated. Her encounters with the male employee began with friendly banter over company e-mail, but he later asked for her personal e-mail address and cell number and then propositioned her by phone in November, 2016, she said.

Later, the male employee was pressured into resigning after additional accusations emerged from outside the company, according to two people familiar with the situation. Globe managers declined to discuss his departure, saying it is a confidential personnel matter.

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.

Email messages sent Saturday to McGrory and Linda Pizzuti Henry, the newspaper’s managing director, have likewise yet to generate replies. 

As O’Sullivan and other Globe journalists worked to expose incidents of sexual harassment, the newspaper openly solicited readers to share their stories. 

A recent investigative piece produced by reporter Kay Lazar revealed that Boston’s Berklee College of Music “let teachers quietly leave after alleged sex abuse, and pushed students for silence.”

“Administrators at the renowned music school tolerated lecherous behavior, former Berklee students and employees said, and often silenced the accusers through financial settlements with gag orders attached,” Lazar wrote. 

An internal email message sent Friday to Globe staff by McGrory addressing recent in-house problems likewise defended the decision to allow the accused reporter to quietly leave his post:

Quite simply, the transgressions would not meet our standards for a reportable offense 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 amount 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 by 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.

Added Arsenault:

“Globe managers declined to discuss his departure, saying it is a confidential personnel matter.”

His summary of the Globe’s decision echoed McGrory’s email:

“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.”

Hilary Sargent, a journalist who spent stints beginning in the late-1990s interning, working in the newspaper’s co-op program, and serving as an editor within the Globe’s digital property, Boston.com, took to social media to express her frustration with the newspaper’s self-reporting. Sargent claimed she spoke to Arsenault for his piece: 

Part of Sargent’s complaint with Arsenault’s report apparently deals with an anecdote he included regarding a male editor’s treatment of another co-op:

In a famous much-discussed incident from around the year 2000, an editor downloaded a swimsuit photo of a newsroom co-op who had been Miss Idaho. He sent it around the office with a message, something along the lines of: “How ‘bout them taters?”

Sargent claims the newspaper’s report omitted not only the editor’s name, but also may have misled readers into believing that he was permanently dismissed. 

 

Sargent made several additional damning accusations:

 

Beginning in October, after Abraham’s reporting, Sargent became particularly outspoken on social media regarding the Globe’s handling of sexual harassment investigations. 

Sargent has declined, however, to speak to New Boston Post. 

“There will be more names, get ready, Boston Globe,” Minihane said during the second hour of Thursday morning’s show.

Comments

comments