Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review July 18, 2000 /15 Tamuz, 5760

John Leo

John Leo
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Banned in Boston

The Globe censures its lone conservative voice -- Act I, 1994: The Boston Globe, one of the furthest left newspapers in America, hires a token conservative columnist, Jeff Jacoby. He is very talented, but staffers grumble. As a famously orthodox leftist seminary, the Globe worries a lot about the purity of its doctrine. Will Jacoby be accepted by the true believers, just like, say, Charles Krauthammer and George Will are accepted at the Washington Post?

Act II, 1997: No, he won't. The other seminarians are after him. Robert Hardman, one of the two gay copy editors who handle Jacoby's column, is furious about a Jacoby column criticizing gay militants at Harvard for not letting others speak. Hardman tries to get the column killed. This is not part of a copy editor's duties, even at the Globe. Editorial page editor David Greenway refuses to censor the column, which he finds to be "not some wacko neo-Nazi position" but "mainstream." Hardman, among others, urges the Globe ombudsman, Jack Thomas, to go after Jacoby in print. The ombudsman, as orthodox as the next man at the Globe, writes about Jacoby's rather staid and balanced column as if it were stunningly toxic, calling it "a high price to pay for freedom of the press." The ombudsman will always have a job at the Globe. But will Jacoby?

Act III, 2000: Maybe not. After watching his back carefully for six years, Jacoby notices on July 7 that a knife has been inserted into it. He has been suspended for four months, without pay, for "serious journalistic misconduct." This time people outside the seminary walls are watching. David Brudnoy, a radio-talk-show host who carries a lot of weight in Boston, calls Jacoby's suspension "distressing and enraging." Matt Drudge cuts his Web site's link to the Boston Globe as a protest. The Jewish World Review, an online magazine, takes up Jacoby's cause and reports that 3,500 of its readers have sent protests to the Globe. The editor of the weekly New York Press writes that the Globe has "reaffirmed, 10-fold, its status as the laughingstock of New England."

Correcting the folklore. What did Jacoby do to deserve this public humiliation and the loss of so much salary? Prepare to be shocked. He reworked some old and familiar patriotic material in a Fourth of July column and failed to say that the stuff was not all his. The column was about the high price paid in money and suffering by signers of the Declaration of Independence. Much of this material has been floating around the Internet for years. Every Independence Day several people in the opinion industry trot it out. This year it was used by Ann Landers, National Review, and Jacoby, who tried to give it an original twist: He actually checked the material with encyclopedias and biographies to correct errors in the folklore.

The Globe told its readers that Jacoby "should have alerted readers that the concept and structure for his column were not entirely original." Well, sure. Journalists should always indicate use of recycled material. Jacoby did, in fact, make this indication when he E-mailed the column in advance to a group of friends and fans. He said he was working with and analyzing versions put forth by Paul Harvey, Rush Limbaugh, and anonymous Internet writers. But somehow he neglected to include this line in his Globe column.

Did this omission deserve nuclear attack? Not really. The normal newsroom would issue a warning, a correction, or a private reprimand. It would take into account Jacoby's reputation for honesty and careful research, as well as his semipublic E-mail, which shows he had no intent to deceive. But the Globe is still in shock over the loss in 1998 of two high-profile columnists, after allegations of sustained prevarication in print–Mike Barnicle, who resigned, and Patricia Smith, who was fired. Because the Globe looked so weak and late in handling those cases, it might have decided on overkill in the Jacoby case to show toughness.

Boston Phoenix media critic Dan Kennedy thinks that's what happened, "And Jacoby, as a conservative columnist with very few supporters inside the building, is a very easy target for them to go after. . . . Suspending Jacoby for four months without pay is clearly an attempt to ruin him. It's a gross overreaction. . . ." Jacoby's boss, the new editorial page editor, Renee Loth, told me that the issue in Jacoby's suspension was "sloppiness," not ideology. "I believe in diversity on the op-ed page," she said. "I'm going to miss Jeff on this page." But Jacoby says she told him that after the suspension is served, there would have to be a "serious rethink" of the kind of column he writes. Loth is regarded as pretty far to the left, even by Globe standards. For her to suggest "rethinking" the lone conservative column points away from alleged sloppiness and toward ideology. Loth refused to discuss the "rethink" mention with me, saying it was part of a private dialogue between the Globe and Jacoby.

But now that the Globe's fairness and common sense have been called into question, maybe the paper should say frankly what its problem is with Jacoby. One staffer told me, "We were told [by Renee Loth] that there were other factors involved in the decision, things she couldn't tell us about." A shrouded announcement like that to staff has the character of a smear. Jacoby seems to be right when he says the Globe is poisoning his good name. Is this any way to run a newspaper?

Key articles appearing in the Boston Globe:

October 23, 1997: Jacoby column on Harvard gays

November 3, 1997: Globe Ombudsman Jack Thomas' s criticism of October 23 Jacoby column

July 2, 2000: Jacoby column on signers of the Declaration of Independence.

PLEASE do something about Jeff's plight! The Globe's phone number is 617.929.2000. The fax is: 617.929.2098, Letters to the Ombudsman: Click here. Phoning and faxing (It's only about 10 cents per minute) have more of an impact, we've been told.

PLEASE keep your letters CIVIL, despite the temptation not to.

JWR contributor John Leo's latest book is Two Steps Ahead of the Thought Police. Send your comments by clicking here.


07/12/00: What Jacoby had to deal with!
07/11/00: Will boys be boys?
07/05/00: Partial-sense decision
06/27/00: Attitude toward death penalty gets in the way of facts
06/20/00: Double troubles
06/13/00: Fools paradise
06/06/00: Accidental conspirator
05/30/00: Faking the hate
05/23/00: Was it law or poetry?
05/16/00: Here, there and everywhere, people have gone bonkers
05/09/00: Tufts evangelicals are punished for acting on their beliefs
05/02/00: Elian's opera isn't over until nearly everyone sings
04/25/00: All the news that fits: The media serve up many stories from a standard script
04/19/00: Those darned readers: The gap between reporters and the general public is huge
04/05/00: Census sense and nonsense
03/29/00: Hollywood message films leave no room for other views
03/22/00: The Vatican confesses, but is it enough?
03/14/00: Watch what you say: The left can no longer be counted on to defend free speech
03/07/00: McCain's malleable messages
03/01/00: Bush's appearance at Bob Jones U. will dog him all the way
02/23/00: 'Multi-millionaire' show is new evidence we're insane

© 2000, John Leo