Friday, April 15, 2005

AND NOW, THE REST OF THE STORY. Today's Globe contains an "Editor's Note" disclosing that, on Wednesday, the paper ran a story by a freelancer who reported on a seal hunt off Newfoundland and Labrador that had taken place the previous day. Except that it didn't. The note says in part:

In fact, the hunt did not begin that day; it was delayed by bad weather, and is scheduled to begin today, weather permitting. The article included details of the day's hunt as if it had taken place and without attribution or other sourcing, as if the writer had witnessed the scene personally. Details included the number of hunters, a description of the scene, and the approximate age of the cubs.

The note concludes that the unnamed writer had committed "clear violations of the Globe's journalistic standards" and has been dropped.

Here is an account from the CBC - posted today - that corroborates the Globe's findings:

ST. JOHN'S - After a couple of delays, the seal fishery off the northeast coast of the island has started.

Sealers have been waiting to go to the Front, the traditional name of the seal hunt area on the northeast coast, since Tuesday.

Heavy ice prompted the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to defer the opening of the hunt, while the coast guard juggled several dozen requests for icebreaking assistance.

The hunt opened early Friday morning.

The freelancer's story has been dropped from the Globe's website, but it's available on LexisNexis, with the "Editor's Note" attached. Here is the most startling paragraph, given that she wasn't actually there. Remember: the following did not really happen.

Hunters on about 300 boats converged on ice floes, shooting harp seal cubs by the hundreds, as the ice and water turned red. Most of the seals were less than 6 weeks old.

Wow. The freelancer's name, by the way, is Barbara Stewart, and it appears that this was the third story she's written for the Globe.

On February 20, the paper published a piece by Stewart on a deal that Newfoundland premier Danny Williams had made with the national government that will bring more oil revenue to the impoverished province.

On January 2, Stewart reported on a lawsuit brought by former residents of Africville, once Canada's oldest black community, razed in an urban-renewal effort in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the late 1960s.

MORE ON THE ATLANTIC. In retrospect, the tragic death of Michael Kelly may have sealed the fate of the Atlantic Monthly, which will move from Boston to Washington by the end of the year. Kelly was a real Washington guy - a native in a town of transplants. But after he became editor of the Atlantic, he found that he loved it up here, buying a big place in Swampscott near the ocean and commuting back and forth between Boston and Washington, where he helped run the National Journal, the Atlantic's sister publication.

Kelly's frequent presence in Washington was probably sufficient to make owner David Bradley feel like he was connected to the Boston office. But then Kelly stepped aside as editor so that he could cover the war in Iraq. And, as we all know, he was killed in an accident after the Humvee in which he was riding came under fire.

Bradley felt a kinship to Kelly, and I don't think he ever got over Kelly's death. But that is no excuse for Bradley now to dismantle a small but essential part of Boston's cultural landscape. This is a bitter reminder that owners can do whatever they like. If Bradley doesn't want to publish the Atlantic here, he ought to find out whether he can find a local buyer. Maybe not; but did he ask? (And is it too late?)

Bradley has gotten a lot of praise - in retrospect, more praise than he deserves - for his stewardship of the Atlantic. The magazine just won a National Magazine Award for fiction - right after dropping fiction except for a special annual edition and the website. (No, I don't read the fiction, but I like to know it's there.) And now this.

Bradley tells the Washington Post: "It's a Boston institution. It's a huge disappointment ... and I'm really sad about it. I've actually written an apology which I'm sending to all of the Boston staff tonight." Oh, please. He's portraying this as an economic move, but is he really going to save all that much money by no longer having to pay rent at 77 North Washington Street?

Managing editor Cullen Murphy won't make the move, so there's another loss. The Atlantic now becomes just another Washington political magazine. And an increasingly neoconservative one at that. Ugh.


Anonymous said...

I wonder why the Detriot Free Press doesn't take the same action with Mitch Albom for his almost identical crystal ball gazing reporting?
Maybe if the Globe freelancer had written some sappy best selling inspirational books she'd still have a job.

Dan Kennedy said...

I'd say there's one other, more important difference between Mitch Albom and Barbara Stewart: Albom's editors knew what he was doing (shame on them), whereas Stewart deceived her editors at the Globe.

Dan Kennedy said...

I just took down a well-intentioned comment wondering whether the Barbara Stewart who bamboozled the Globe was the same as another Barbara Stewart who's a writer. I Googled Barbara Stewart this morning, and of course I'm wondering myself who she is. But please, no speculation - someone could really be damaged by this. Thank you for your understanding.