Globe Finally Identifies Dismissed State House Reporter, But What About The Others?

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/12/22/globe-finally-identifies-dismissed-state-house-reporter-but-what-about-the-others/

BOSTON — Weeks after he vowed to not cave to pressure and sacrifice “our values to slake the thirst” of the sexual harassment disclosure movement by identifying the Boston Globe State House reporter dismissed over a series of sexual misconduct claims, editor-in-chief Brian McGrory has changed his mind.

In a note appearing in Friday’s edition of the Globe, McGrory admitted that he erred in his decision not to identify former reporter James O’Sullivan.

“Even as we were debating, norms of coverage, and even the broader definition of harassment, were changing,” McGrory wrote. “I got too caught up on nuance and failed to grasp the need for transparency by this organization in this unprecedented reckoning.

“It was my mistake.”

Yet what is still unknown is whether O’Sullivan’s accusers had previously remained silent due to his position as a powerful reporter covering politics for New England’s largest newspaper, and whether he used his position for leverage.

“We have since gone back and, to the best of our ability, reviewed O’Sullivan’s work to make sure it wasn’t compromised by his actions,” McGrory wrote. “We have found several stories that either involve or at least mention organizations that we believe are connected to one of the subjects of his propositions, but there is nothing to indicate that the stories are unusual or slanted.

“These things, admittedly, are difficult to determine. We will continue to review as more information becomes available.”

CommonWealth Magazine’s Jack Sullivan, however, reported on Monday that O’Sullivan was dismissed after McGrory and others “learned he allegedly initiated inappropriate communications with women who work on Beacon Hill, who were fearful of rebuffing his advances outright because of his position,” according to sources who spoke to Sullivan.

“It’s unclear whether the women worked in state government or some other capacity on Beacon Hill,” Sullivan noted.

Per McGrory:

“He [O’Sullivan] made lewd propositions to one newsroom colleague and to two women that we are aware of on Beacon Hill. Though we know he apologized to his Globe colleague and stopped his advances, we felt his actions were an abuse of his position as a Globe reporter and completely inappropriate.”

The Globe’s December 8 story stopped short of connecting O’Sullivan’s apparent transgressions to women with professional ties to Beacon Hill, only revealing that “the male employee was pressured into resigning after additional accusations emerged from outside the company.”

“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,” reporter Mark Arsenault wrote in the story.

The Globe’s reasoning conflicts with the standard the newspaper has adhered to in the past regarding decisions to identify alleged sexual harassers. In a story published days after the Globe attempted to report on its own in-house problems, the newspaper identified several popular ESPN personalities, including SportsCenter anchor John Buccigross, after an accuser of his shared flirtatious text messages with a Globe reporter.

The allegations lodged against Buccigross likewise did not involve physical contact, threats, or persistent harassment, according to the Globe report, but that did not prevent the newspaper from identifying him — even though recent reports suggest O’Sullivan’s misconduct was indeed persistent, and allegedly “lewd.”

Meanwhile, McGrory’s mea culpa first dropped Thursday night, appearing on the newspaper’s website, coincidentally at roughly the same time that O’Sullivan posted an apology to his Twitter account, which had remained dormant for more than a month.

McGrory in his note recalled that while Globe management’s discussions regarding O’Sullivan “were mostly focused on proof, fairness, and spectrums of misconduct, there’s now a fairly obvious realization that I didn’t focus enough on another very important factor:  the Globe’s institutional credibility.”

McGrory’s post did not, however, identify other former members of the Globe’s newsroom who have been dismissed for similar reasons. The newspaper’s much-scrutinized December 8 story about in-house sexual misconduct describes instances involving a since-deceased overseas newsdesk boss and a former editor dismissed after sharing by email a swimsuit photo of a Globe intern who had once been Miss Idaho, accompanied by words “something along the lines of ‘how ‘bout them taters’.”

The December 8 report didn’t name the man and apparently failed to clarify that the same swimsuit photo-sharing editor returned to the newspaper in a contract worker capacity, only to be dismissed again.

One of the most outspoken critics of the Globe’s approach to self-reporting has been Hilary Sargent, who worked as an intern for the newspaper from 1998 until 2000, and later worked for the company’s digital property, Boston.com, from 2014 until 2016. Sargent has publicly claimed that female interns, known as co-ops, were told which male editors and reporters to avoid, and that she has heard from “dozens of current and former Boston Globe employees” who shared with her “their own sexual harassment stories.”

Sargent has declined to speak to New Boston Post, but quickly took to social media to comment on McGrory’s apparent apology:

O’Sullivan was first identified by name on December 14 by morning talk radio host Kirk Minihane of WEEI-FM 93.7.

Minihane has said he plans to publicly identify additional Globe journalists.

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