Update: Roughly two weeks after The Boston Globe chose not to disclose the name of a reporter who resigned after being accused of sexual misconduct, the paper reversed course. Brian McGrory, the Globe's top editor, named Jim O'Sullivan in a note to readers that ran both online and in print. “While our discussions on the O’Sullivan matter were mostly focused on proof, fairness, and spectrums of misconduct, there’s now a fairly obvious realization that I didn’t focus enough on another very important factor: the Globe’s institutional credibility,” he wrote.
O'Sullivan issued an apology, saying he was sorry for the "pain and embarrassment I have caused to my family and friends, my colleagues at the Globe, and my contacts on Beacon Hill."
Speaking on Boston Public Radio Wednesday, Boston Globe Editor Brian McGrory defended the newspaper’s decision to withhold the names of employees who left the organization after allegations of sexual harassment.
In an article published last Friday, Boston Globe reporter Mark Arsenault described problems within the Boston media landscape and detailed allegations against Globe employees without naming them. The allegations included vulgar language, verbal abuse and sexual harassment.
After McGrory’s appearance on Boston Public Radio, WGBH News confirmed that one of the accused Globe employees is Jim O’Sullivan, a political reporter who began working for the paper in 2013 and resigned in late November. One source tells WGBH News that O’Sullivan's behavior was “persistent” and “lewd.”
O'Sullivan has not responded to our multiple requests for comment. The Globe provided a statement that they “stand by [their] editorial decision to not disclose the identity of the journalist.”
O’Sullivan has appeared as a guest on WGBH programs, including Greater Boston and Boston Public Radio. As a political reporter, he covered sexual harassment cases including issues of workplace harassment.
McGrory said Wednesday there are “a variety of reasons” why the Globe chose not to identify accused employees in Arsenault’s story.
“There are legal hurdles to get over, there are journalistic values that we are trying to maintain,” McGrory said. “The bottom line is, the transgressions that Mark uncovered in this story are not the kind of transgressions we would generally cover at another private company. They just — it wouldn’t rise to our level of coverage.”
In an email to Boston Globe staff shortly before Arsenault’s story was published, McGrory said these cases “would not meet our standards for a reportable event if they happened at another company,” adding that the transgressions were only included in the article for purposes of transparency.
O’Sullivan’s name first surfaced publicly on WEEI radio’s “Kirk and Callahan” show on Dec. 8. Hosts Kirk Minihane and Gerry Callahan speculated at length that O’Sullivan had been terminated and that the Globe would try to bury the story. Yesterday, they definitively identified O'Sullivan in a tweet.
When asked by Boston Public Radio host Jim Braude if the Globe published the article because of WEEI’s speculation on Dec. 8, McGrory insisted that was not the case.
“I don’t want to say that, by any measure,” McGrory said. “What I would feel comfortable saying is that there was a discussion around town about a story that we had virtually ready to go, so we pushed it out and we did it when we were comfortable publishing it.”
McGrory said he consulted with all levels of staff in the decision, but not everyone in the newsroom agreed that omitting names was the best choice. “You can build consensus [but] you can never built unanimity,” McGrory said. “You’re never going to feel good about something like this. Again, the feelings are raw, you can’t accomplish everything you want to accomplish, but I do think we did what we needed to do here, even if we all don’t feel great about it.”
Emily Rooney contributed reporting to this piece.
To hear the full audio of Brian McGrory's interview with Boston Public Radio, click on the audio player above.
Brian McGrory’s full memo to the Boston Globe staff, obtained by WGBH News, is in full below:
"About three weeks ago, I commissioned a story taking a look at how this and other local media organizations are covering the extraordinary #MeToo movement — at the same time that we’re assessing our own situations and confronting issues from within. It took a while, because all of these stories take a while. Sourcing is painstaking. Accusations are raw. Context is important and can take more time than we’d like.
We’ve done some extraordinary journalism on many fronts of this movement — Yvonne [Abraham], Kay [Lazar], Shirley [Leung], Shelley [Murphy], Devra [First], led by Jen [Peter, senior deputy managing editor]. The list could go on, and there’s more to come. Our standards have been high and meticulously upheld, in terms of what we’ll report and how. Vetting of the stories has been rigorous to the point of painstaking.
Now our story on local media, written by Mark Arsenault, is ready this afternoon, as there’s speculation on talk radio and in the social sphere about a recent situation involving the Globe. Mark addresses this situation in the story, having learned about it because he’s an excellent reporter. But even as Mark is aware of the identity of a journalist who has left the Globe, we’ve made the decision not to publish the name, and here I’ll attempt to explain why.
Quite simply, the transgressions would not meet our standards for a reportable event if they happened at another company. To all our knowledge, nobody was physically touched; no one was persistently harassed; there were no overt threats. We’re covering it because we’re applying an extra measure of transparency to ourselves.
This is not in any way to make light of what happened here. There was conduct highly unbecoming of a Globe journalist, people who justifiably felt victimized, and the potential for conflicts of interest. So the responsible party is no longer at the Globe.
Context, again, is vital in this moment, and it is ever more paramount for the Globe and other reputable news organizations to exercise good judgment in unwavering fashion. There are degrees of misconduct, a spectrum, and we must be careful to recognize it. We’ve been meticulous in bringing this kind of context to all of our reporting on these issues, the things we write and, as often, the things we don’t. This is not the time to lower our standard.
So to answer your inevitable question, yes, we’re well aware that by withholding the identity of the reporter involved, we’ll be accused of a double-standard by people and organizations that are not privy to all the facts. I can live with that far more easily than I can live with the thought of sacrificing our values to slake the thirst of this moment. I’m also well aware that wise people, including people in this room, will disagree. I respect that.
Beyond this, please know that our coverage will continue with all the rigor that we’ve already brought on all fronts. Also know that, even as we believe the culture of this room is in a good place, it can get better and we’re working to improve it.
As always, feel free to drop by or share in any other way your thoughts."