Tuesday, November 23, 2004

BECHTEL UNLOADS ON THE GLOBE. Under fire from Governor Mitt Romney, Attorney General Tom Reilly, and others, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff has decided to defend its work on the Big Dig by unloading on the Boston Globe. In a full-page ad on page 17 of today's Boston Herald, the firm reproduces an op-ed piece that it says it submitted to the Globe, only to have it rejected. "What the Globe Doesn't Want You to Read: Big Dig Safe & Sound," the ad begins. Isn't that nice?

The op-ed was written by Matt Wiley, who was program manager of the Big Dig and is a senior vice-president at Bechtel. I'm not going to reproduce his entire piece here (it doesn't seem to be online), but among other things he asserts that:

- "All the experts agree: The Big Dig is structurally safe and sound."

- "The tunnels already meet industry norms for water intrusion, even before they are finished."

- "The program to seal leaks will be completed within months, not years, generally at the contractors' expense and without jeopardizing the project's budget."

The ad also asserts:

The Boston Globe's Joan Vennochi began her November 18 column: "The Tunnel is leaking. And the private management team hired to oversee the Big Dig should answer these questions: Is it structurally sound? Who is going to fix it? Who is going to pay for it?"

But when Bechtel Parsons/Brinckerhoff tried to answer those very questions in an opinion column, adding informed perspective on the controversy, The Boston Globe refused to run it.

So why wouldn't the Globe run the column? I asked editorial-page editor Renée Loth, who referred my inquiry to Globe spokesman BMaynard Scarborough. Scarborough, in turn, released a statement. Here it is in full:

It appears that Bechtel/Parsons is trying to blame the messenger in this situation. Contrary to what they have stated in today's ad, The Globe's Op-ed page is not the place for interested parties to rebut news stories or challenge the facts therein. Nor is it a public relations forum. The Op-ed page is a section of the newspaper where we feature differing opinions on issues that affect the community at large. Bechtel had the option of working through the Globe Ombudsman or using "Letters To The Editor" to air their discontent. It should be pointed out, however, that The Globe reported today on page B3 Bechtel's position on issues raised in recent news stories. That, in our opinion, clearly demonstrates that we continue to approach this story with fairness and objectivity in mind.

By the way, here's the Herald's report on Bechtel's response. And here is the Globe's archive of reports on the Big Dig.


Anonymous said...

Betchel is few years late and a handful of billion dollars short. Otherwise I have great confidence in their money-sucking hole-in-the-ground.

Anonymous said...

"Contrary to what they have stated in today's ad, The Globe's Op-ed page is not the place for interested parties to rebut news stories or challenge the facts therein."

Eh, well, where is the place that people or corporations who feel they have been maligned go to complain? I thought that was the opinion page. As well, sometimes the letter isn't enough.
Good score for the Herald to get a paid ad out of the deal though!