Saturday, April 09, 2005

YOU WIN ONE, YOU LOSE ONE. The Globe exposed a significant ethical problem at the Herald yesterday - which the Herald corrected - but then had to run a rather abject "Editor's Note" about one of its own stories today.

First, the Herald. On Friday, Globe reporter Raphael Lewis revealed that former Romney-administration official Charles Chieppo, now getting paid to write a weekly column for the Herald, had just landed a $10,000 state contract to promote the governor's environmental policies. Weirdly, the Herald first stuck by Chieppo; does he really have that many readers? But late yesterday, after learning that Chieppo also had a $32,000 contract with the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, the Herald said goodbye.

And by all means, let's keep those conflicts of interest coming. In today's Globe, Lewis quotes Stephen Burgard, director of Northeastern University's School of Journalism:

As a regular op-ed columnist for one of two major papers in Boston, Chieppo couldn't go near two big subject areas without creating a conflict. Both the environment and tourism are significant arenas of public interest for editorial pages. It got to the point where he couldn't write credibly for the paper that hired him or, ironically, be of much use as a hired pen for either client.

My conflict in presenting this: I work as an adjunct professor for Burgard, and next fall will become a full-time visiting professor.

Another conflict! Though Chieppo was a perfectly legitimate story, it was overkill for the Metro to make it the page-one lead yesterday. Of course, it escaped no one's attention that the Globe's corporate parent, the New York Times Company, owns 49 percent of the Metro, and that the free commuter tab is now sharing content with the Globe.

Now, the Globe. Yesterday the paper led with yet another frightening story about the Big Dig. Reporter Mac Daniel's lead:

Numerous fire exit doors in the Big Dig tunnels are either boarded up or missing, and many fire exits are blocked, because of work to find and plug the hundreds of leaks in tunnel walls, a Globe survey found yesterday.

In a project marred by monumental leaks and falling debris, Friday's piece seemed like just one more piece of the puzzle. Who would have doubted it? But as the paper acknowledges in an "Editor's Note" today (appended to Daniel's story), it was wrong. Globe reporter Michael Levenson has a fuller explanation here.

By the way: if the Herald has anything on either of these stories today, it's not on the paper's website, other than some AP stuff.

HYPOCRISY DEFINED. A Romenesko reader posted a link to this wonderful Mitch Albom column from 2003 about Jayson Blair. The white Detroit Free Press columnist used Blair's fall as an object lesson on the hazards of affirmative action. Albom wrote: "It happens because newsrooms are so devoted to diversity, they sometimes overlook what no normal business would overlook: the incompetence of an employee."

Now that Albom has been exposed for writing a semi-fabricated column (does that make it a half-pipe?), perhaps we will be treated to a similar lamentation on the risks of loading up the newsroom with arrogant white guys.

Does this mean that Albom didn't really interview the five people you'll meet in heaven? And if Morrie Schwartz came back, would he claim Albom misquoted him?


Anonymous said...

Unless I'm missing something, the respective INTENTS of Blair and Albom are being ignored here, not to mention the results of the acts. Was Albom arrogant and sloppy? Sure, if that were a capital offense, there would be no Boston Globe. Blair , on the other hand, did real damage.Does that make it right to trivialize talented African-Americans with "social promotion"? I think not. Blair's misdeeds damaged the credibility/futures of real live Af-Am journalists. Albom is the Mike Barnicle of Detroit. The guy got caught being lazy. Comparing the two is a non-sequitur.

Anonymous said...

No comparison. If anything, you make the case for arrogant white guys. Only thing worse then an arrogant white guy is a self hating arrogant white guy.