In his August 4 editor’s note, Baron defended the Globe’s decision to publish the July 26 story, which ran even though Modern Continental hadn’t had an opportunity to rebut Keaveney’s claim — something the paper’s own ethics code requires. But Baron also vowed that the paper would aggressively cover the Keaveney story in the future. “The Globe will continue to report fully and forthrightly on this matter,” he wrote, “bringing to our readers everything we learn.”
Today, however, this promise seems not to have been kept. For starters, it needs to be said that the Herald, which loves gloating over Globe gaffes, covered the story more effectively in the days that followed. (The Herald broke the news that Keaveney had once been accused of assault, and was the first to note that his résumé included false claims about his education and military experience.) What’s more, the Globe never actually issued a final verdict on the authenticity of Keaveney’s memo. At this point, it’s hard to find anyone in Boston who doesn’t think it was a fake. But the Globe still hasn’t said it was hoodwinked.
When it comes to sizing up the Globe’s performance, though, the most important story may be one that was never actually published. According to sources inside the paper, a hefty Keaveney profile by ace reporter Donovan Slack — which could have put the entire affair to rest — sat on the news budget for several weeks in August. It didn’t run, however, and was eventually dropped off the budget.
To the general public, the Globe’s reticence might not seem like a big deal. At best, the paper was victimized by a mentally unstable opportunist; at worst, this is just another case of the media showing itself to be less than trustworthy (see Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, Dan Rather, Judith Miller, etc.). But in Boston’s political and media circles — inside Morrissey Boulevard and Herald Square, in the State House, among lobbyists and PR flacks — it remains a subject of great interest. Granted, this episode doesn’t involve repeated fraud or malignant intent, at least on the part of the paper. But it does involve the city’s dominant media institution and the biggest public-works project in US history.
It also offers a telling glimpse into the methods of Marty Baron, the Globe’s editor. Baron is, by all accounts, an extremely talented newsman. In 2001, when he was editor of the Miami Herald, the paper won a Pulitzer for breaking news reporting; that same year, Editor and Publisher named Baron its editor of the year. In Baron’s five years at the Globe, meanwhile, the paper has won two Pulitzers, one for public-service reporting on the sex-abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese, and one (awarded to Phoenix alum Gareth Cook) for explanatory reporting.
His interpersonal skills are another matter. Baron won the respect of many Globe veterans when, soon after arriving at the paper, he secured the release of 10,000 pages of church documents that had been protected by court order. Since then, though, he’s gained a reputation as an extremely tough boss, quick to criticize and slow to praise. One Globe veteran coined the phrase “The joyless pursuit of excellence” to describe Baron’s tenure.