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December 18, 2005
The Globe buyouts - Who's leaving?
As many readers know, the Globe has just completed a round of employee buyouts to cut expenses. Many readers - having seen or heard items in other publications or programs - have asked about reporters or columnists who are leaving the newspaper.
I originally posted this entry on Dec. 7, but I moved it to the most recent post to make it easier for readers of my column in today's newspaper, where I referred to this blog entry.
This note arrived today:
The Globe, like almost all news organizations, doesn't usually report details of its own staff changes (although the paper offered quite a detailed report of Boston Herald reporters and editors who signed up for a buyout in June). That's too bad, because many readers have been curious to know what changes have been happening.
This particular round of buyouts has hit especially hard on the Globe's Living/Arts section, but other areas of the newsroom were also affected. Globe Publisher Richard Gilman, in a note to staff in September, said the goal was to reduce the paper's staff by 160 positions. A total of 31 newsroom employees have taken the buyout.
Because many readers develop bonds - positive or negative - with certain writers, I think it's important for them to know who is leaving the newspaper. Some of the connections that readers feel to the Globe is based, in part, on the work they expect from certain reporters, columnists and critics.
So what follows is a list of the reporters, columnists, writers and critics who've taken the buyout. There are others - editors, librarians, administrative assistants - who have worked behind the scenes for many years. I will include their names and titles as I get their permission. Although their contributions may not be as widely recognized by readers, their work has been no less important. A few people have already left; others have been asked to stay on for a while longer or until replacements are hired. Some of those with whom I've spoken have described this as a very personal and difficult decision.
In a future column for the newspaper, I'll explain how the Globe's editors plan to fill some of the vacancies and the reorganization prompted by the staff reductions, including the elimination of the National desk, and the departure of the section's editor, Kenneth Cooper, who agreed to terms this week on a severance package that he describes as a "post-buyout buyout."
Bill Boles, library associate
POSTED BY: rchacon | TIME: 08:28:42 PM | Link
December 16, 2005
On accents, tildes and other language marks
A Globe reader wonders about the accent in my name and the Globe's policy for using foreign language punctuation.
Mike Nappo sent this note to me on Thursday about the Globe's use of foreign language characters such as accents and tildes and wonders if there's a new Globe policy on such punctuation.
The blog is a great idea, expanding one of my favorite parts of the paper, i.e., the omsbudman. However, the one thing I have only recently noticed is the accent mark in your name. Although I applaud the correct use of any foreign spelling, this seems to be the exception rather than the rule in our society. The accent mark seems to be more an affectation than anything else (no offense). Does this mean that the Globe now has a policy to include all foreign words with the actual diacritical marks et al.? Or is this something that one needs to insist on or point out midst reporting? What are the standards?
I explained to Mike that I've used an accent in my name for as long as I can remember (my mother also used it)and I've used it in my byline in my years as a reporter at the Globe and now, as the ombudsman.
Although we are an English-language publication, we recognize the growing diversity of the city. So, our guideline on this is to accent properly any foreign words or names used in stories. The burden for this falls first on the writer to ask for the correct -- accented, if so -- spelling and then to use it in their copy. Editors are expected to query the writer if a word appears to be foreign. In names, we expect reporters to follow the individual's preferences (Ramirez is accented by some, and not by others.) Beyond that, there are many foreign words that have been Anglicized over the years and the stylebook dictates that they need no special treatment in copy.
POSTED BY: rchacon | TIME: 01:02:28 PM | Link
December 14, 2005
Glorifying a drug user or mourning a lost artist?
About two dozen readers complained to me about a Page One story in Sunday's Globe (12/11/05) that looked deeper at the life and death of a 29-year-old Boston man who died of a heart attack last month under strange circumstances. Since I'll be addressing another topic in my column this Sunday, I'm dealing with this issue here.
It's apparent from the lengthy story that Kevin McCormick was a talented engineer-turned-artist. He was also, the story notes, a regular drug user. Investigators say they found a sophisticated drug-making lab in his home.
Here's a link to the story:
Some readers felt the story glorified McCormick's drug use. Others questioned why the editors would put this kind of story at the top of a Sunday front-page, perhaps the most widely read page of the newspaper of the week.
Here are two examples of the notes and phone calls we received:
The story about Kevin McCormick was sad. He died. He was a drug addict. His story is similar to most people suffering from alcohol and drug abuse. He couldn't feel satisfaction or wanted or intimacy or good enough. He turned to substances to self-medicate his feelings and only pushed them further away. Why did the Globe print this piece on the front page and give it headline status that hinted of glamor and excitement? Kevin McCormick's story was about death and the missteps that prevented him from ever seeing his 30th birthday. This tragic tale should never have been on the front page, it should have been in the obituary section.
Another reader, Elizabeth Tarnell, offered this comment:
As a physician and mother of teenage boys, I am appalled and flabbergasted at your Sunday lead frontpage article coverage of the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Kevin McCormick's life and death. This sensationalization and glorification of an extremely socially deviant and illegal lifestyle (not deviant for his sexual orientation), praise for his contribution to art in the electronic engineering field and rationalization of his drug abuse by friends and colleagues does little to inform the public about the devastation brought upon those individuals and families in similar circumstances by similar lifestyle choices, or about the fact that most substance abusers are medicating serious mental illness. It also diminishes the reputation of MIT, to which I personally have no allegiance, as it is yet another story of death by excessive partying by a student or graduate of that institution. This story belongs in the pages of the tabloids, if at all in print. Perhaps most tellingly, Mr. McCormick's parents declined to be interviewed for this story. I am cancelling my subscription to the Globe, which I have been receiving for 15 years since living in this area, and switching to the NY Times.
Mark Morrow, the Globe's deputy managing editor for special projects, supervised the McCormick story and offered this response on Tuesday:
The Kevin McCormick story had a pretty simple starting point: A young man had died suddenly, under strange circumstances and amid police speculation about the large, designer drug lab in his Fort Point loft. Sally Jacobs was assigned to find out as much about him as she could, to round out our sense of the man and what may have led to his death. And what she found was intriguing. Kevin McCormick was a brilliant young man, a recent MIT graduate with a gift for art and technology and friendship. He was also a young man with a predilection for self-destructive behavior, the drug abuse that hastened his end. The piece certainly didn't set out to glorify him, as one reader suggests, or to turn his short life into a cautionary tale, as another suggests we should have done. It sought only to capture McCormick's character and story as clearly, and vividly, and truthfully as we could. I think Sally succeeded wonderfully in doing just that.
Sally Jacobs, the reporter on that story, offered this response in an email on Friday, Dec. 16:
Kevin McCormick was a young man of extraordinary ability whose death was both tragic and unnecessary. My story about him was intended to make some sense of how and why that happened. Far from celebrating his drug use, it was an attempt to understand why a man of such intellectual and artistic powers could be so attracted to drugs in general and to the somewhat dangerous process of manufacturing them for personal use in particular.
Another Globe reader from Mexico, offers this conclusion on Dec. 17:
I agree with Mark Morrow. Joy, conflict, and tragedy is always 'readable' when each story's particulars are unique and told well.
POSTED BY: rchacon | TIME: 09:15:54 AM | Link
December 13, 2005
Solving Sunday's Sudoku
Many Globe readers have applauded the addition of Sudoku, the numbers puzzle that has quickly developed a loyal following, to the Globe's Sunday magazine. But last Sunday's edition appeared to have a mistake that left lots puzzle lovers scratching their heads.
The Globe ran a correction in today's paper:
Being one of the world's most mathematically challenged persons, I don't even attempt to solve Sudoku. But several readers contacted me and managed to solve the puzzle anyway or even with alternate solutions.
Tom Stambaugh of Brookline originally sent this note on Sunday:
This is completely trivial, I'm simply reporting a misprint in the new Sunday Sudoku (I'm sure many others have reported the same thing). I couldn't think of who else to send it to, so the "ombudsman" seems about right. I also wanted to comment on your new blog.
First, regarding today's Sudoku (Sunday, Dec 11, 2005). I'm pretty sure it's missing a digit, in row 8 column 9. According to the published solution, the missing digit should have been a "3". I think it's missing because a)Sudoku's are supposed to be symmetrical and the missing digit breaks the symmetry and b)Sudoku's are supposed to have only one solution and today's has two.
In addition to the published solution (with a "3" in the missing position), here is another solution originating from the same digits given in today's puzzle:
8 6 5 || 3 9 4 || 7 1 2
You'll note that this second solution has a "7" in the missing position. There may be others with an "8" or "9" in the missing position -- I didn't work them out. I know this is a trivial issue in comparison to the news of the day, but for those of us who start our day with Sudoku, it's a little disconcerting.
Meanwhile, regarding the new blog -- in my opinion, not having a submission link makes it barely a blog. I understand that you may want to moderate the blog, but it needs a "submit new entry" button. Perhaps I just missed it, though. I have deep concern about the future of the Globe, and I think a functioning blog will prove vital to its success. My view is that (the Globe is) seriously mistaken about who the actual and potential subscribers of the Globe are, and how to best target them. In my view, the Globe has far too many religious pieces on the front page (please -- NO MORE pictures of athletes in prayer), far too much fluff on the front page and in the front section, and not nearly enough hard-nosed serious pieces about all that's going on. In my view, the Washington Post is a fine example of a standard to emulate and today's Globe suffers by comparison.
Until I get a better feel for this blogging venture, I think it's best - for readers and the Globe - that the ombudsman's office continue to moderate this forum. However, we may provide links on this page to Boston.com message boards, where people can post their feedback in real time. But we're still open to suggestions, and you can send them to us.
POSTED BY: rchacon | TIME: 03:05:19 PM | Link
December 09, 2005
Lots of information on one website
A reader of the Globe and its website, Boston.com, offers this comment about different stories and features that appear on the website.
I'm a bit disturbed by the content on Boston.com and by the fact that no clear distinction is made between content provided by the Boston Globe and content taken from elsewhere.
In your Sunday article you describe Boston.com as "the Globe's website" and comment that, "although the newspaper can be read on boston.com, many non-newspaper features seem to dominate the website, such as video and audio clips from New England Cable News and New England Sports Network, message boards, and photos posted by readers."
In the past this practice of combining content from many sources under the Boston.com banner has led to confusion, such as when a story from the Boston Dirt Dogs website was published across the nation as a Boston Globe story. As far as I can see the confusion still continues as there's very little effort to distinguish an article taken from say, Cars.com as opposed to an article published by the Globe's own writers.
My column last Sunday, which can be seen on the columns link on the left side of this page, explored some of the features that Boston.com now offers - from stories written by Globe staff, to audio and video clips from other media outlets.
Boston.com News Editor Mark Micheli sent this additional response:
Boston.com marks each and every article so that the source of that information is known. We do this in several ways:
-- On the article page, the logo of the company that produced the content can be seen to the right of the headline at the top of the page. If it's a Boston Globe article, the Globe logo appears. If it is an Associated Press article, the AP logo appears etc. Below the headline, the name of the company is again printed either as its own byline or next to a reporter's name, if a reporter's name is given. Also, at the end of each article there is a copyright mark identifying the source again.
--And when articles are slotted on a page with a headline and/or a tease paragraph, there is usually a tagline after each identifying the source.
Eg: Historic mansion destroyed (By Cristina Silva, Globe Staff)
As the website's popularity increases, the number of features will increase, and so will the need for the editors of Boston.com to make sure that distinctions are very clear about the origins of a particular story or feature - whether from Globe staff or elsewhere.
POSTED BY: rchacon | TIME: 04:47:56 PM | Link
December 05, 2005
Said in an interview, by phone or in an email. . .
Reader Tom Jones asked today about why there seems to be more information in Globe stories about where and how a person's quotes were obtained. Here's his question and response from a senior Globe editor.
Congrats on the new blog.
What piqued my interest in these citations is the recent addition of "when contacted by email".
While it is always good journalism to cite your sources, I find that the means of communication detracts from readability of the article and adds little to qualify the validity of the source or enhance the credibility of the story. For example, last Sunday's paper had a citation stating that the correspondence occurred 'last week via email.' While the time factor could prove useful to put a comment into context, does it really matter if the means of communication is by email, phone, or live?
If the intent is to add context to the story, why not include more facts like "..when I contacted Mr. Johnson via email last night from the comfort of my home while wearing my bunny slippers..." :-)
Could you comment on the motivation / justification for this subtle change?
There are more ways today that reporters can interview a subject - in person, by phone or even by email. Some news organizations have - in the spirit of transparency - required stories to be clearer on how a person's quote was obtained.
This comes under guidelines that reporters be clear about the circumstances of their reporting. The principle is to avoid implying that we observed something -- a scene, an interview, an event -- when we did not. The best, briefest way to do so is to include the type of interview, and we have long recommended making clear that it was done by telephone. Saying something was sent in an email is clearer than simply saying "she wrote," and indicates a communication less formal and quicker than a letter. Interviews in person, by phone, by email, or in response to a written set of questions are distinct exchanges allowing a full range of interpretations and responses, and we feel making those circumstances known is good practice.
POSTED BY: rchacon | TIME: 08:34:19 PM | Link
December 04, 2005
The first reader response to the blog
Eric Steinert receives the dubious distinction for being the first reader on Sunday to send a comment about the new blog.
So, here's Eric's feedback:
Hi - I applaud the globe's efforts in launching a
for instance, today's front page piece on prep school
hey, good luck! Eric
...by the way, not a good idea to launch a blog that's
Thanks, Eric. I've invited the story's reporter to offer a response if she wishes.
POSTED BY: rchacon | TIME: 09:35:04 PM | Link
December 02, 2005
Welcome to the Globe Ombudsman's Weblog
Hello and thanks for checking out this new experiment - an effort to faciliate a regular, public conversation between those who read the Boston Globe (or its website) and those who produce the Globe.
I've never been a blogger, so you'll have to bear with me as we begin this new chapter for the ombudsman's office.
Our hope is to provide a forum where Globe readers can talk to the ombudsman, to each other, and to the journalists and business managers who work at the Globe. I will also use this blog to update and report on some Globe-related topics.
Since this particular blog does not yet have the technical capability to allow people to post their comments directly, here's how this can work: comments and questions can be sent to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we - my assistant Mary Rourke and I are the only ones who manage this blog - will post them here, with some introductory comments and an accompanying link to the item being discussed. Comments that are insightful and to the point will be posted quickly.
Some comments may be lightly edited for spelling or to make the person's point clear for everyone. But we will preserve the reader's original points and meaning.
Whenever a reader comment is posted, a Globe journalist or business manager will be invited to respond. I will occasionally offer my opinion on a topic, but my role in this blog is mostly to moderate the discussion rather than dominate it.
So, let the conversation begin. . .
POSTED BY: rchacon | TIME: 01:47:43 PM | Link