The name game

The Boston Globe finally published the name of the political reporter who was forced to resign after inappropriate advances to a colleague and two women outside the company.

But that’s not the point.

The front page “Note to Readers” by editor Brian McGrory confirmed that State House reporter Jim O’Sullivan was the employee who solicited a young co-worker and had inappropriate communications with at least two women who work for organizations he wrote about. It’s unclear if they are government or private agencies.

About the same time McGrory’s note was posted on the Globe’s website, O’Sullivan called CommonWealth with his own apology, which he also sent out on Twitter.

O’Sullivan’s name has been out there for two weeks, first revealed on the Kirk and Callahan Show on WEEI then picked up in the twitterverse and confirmed by other media, including CommonWealth. Naming O’Sullivan was a no-win for McGrory. He’s being derided by those who say there’s nothing courageous in outing someone who everyone already knows. On the other hand, to use McGrory’s own words from his badly received memo to staff, it’s not slaking the thirst of others who say it doesn’t go nearly far enough because there are other unnamed harassers in the Globe story that triggered the outcry.

The bigger take from McGrory’s extraordinary apology – it was not a correction, except maybe a course correction – is the admission that they had evidence O’Sullivan crossed a bright line that endangered the paper’s credibility and until pressure was brought to bear, they were content to keep it quiet.

“We have since gone back and, to the best of our ability, reviewed O’Sullivan’s work to make sure it wasn’t compromised by his actions,” McGrory wrote. “We have found several stories that either involve or at least mention organizations that we believe are connected to one of the subjects of his propositions, but there is nothing to indicate that the stories are unusual or slanted. These things, admittedly, are difficult to determine. We will continue to review as more information becomes available.”

That is the point – these things are difficult to determine because of what may or may not be in those stories. O’Sullivan was widely regarded as an astute and incisive observer of the ins and outs of Beacon Hill. When he wrote a story, people paid attention and combed through the details. It mattered what he did behind the scenes and McGrory’s note confirms that. It also matters, in this day and age of accusations of “fake news,” that O’Sullivan’s actions could taint many other people, something he even acknowledges in his apology.

“I did not live up to the examples set for me, or the lessons I learned during my upbringing, education, and career,” O’Sullivan wrote. “There is no excuse. I also apologize for the pain and embarrassment I have caused to my family and friends, my colleagues at the Globe, and my contacts on Beacon Hill.”

McGrory’s note also highlighted the landmines the Globe is facing as it navigates the new tableau of sexual harassment allegations and what the behavior means. McGrory wrote O’Sullivan made “lewd propositions to one newsroom colleague and to two women that we are aware of on Beacon Hill.” It’s the “that we are aware of” part that is troubling and the reason the paper caught so much flak.

Many argue that, by naming names, the publicity opens the dam for others to come forward. Attorney General Maura Healey is finding that out now as alleged victims of Bryon Hefner, the husband of embattled self-suspended Senate President Stan Rosenberghave come forward as a result of a Globe story about Hefner’s alleged sexual misconduct.

For McGrory and the Globe, it’s going to be hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube now that it’s smeared all over the place.

– JACK SULLIVAN

(Editor’s note: The Download will go dark for the holidays, returning Tuesday, Jan. 2.)


BEACON HILL

Sen. Jamie Eldridge plans to file legislation to create an independent commission that would handle sexual harassment complaints at the State House. (Boston Herald)  

The Cannabis Control Commission has approved 108 pages of draft regulations for public comment to launch the new recreational marijuana industry in Massachusetts. The regulations will be put into place by March 15. (State House News Service)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Some high-end homeowners are rushing to prepay 2018 property taxes in hopes of sidestepping deduction limits imposed in the Republican tax bill in Congress. (Boston Globe)

Hopkinton officials took no action on an Eversource petition to erect a utility pole and selectmen say they will continue to put off requests until the power company and Verizon address the problem of double poles along the town’s streets. (MetroWest Daily News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

There are growing signs of a coming anti-Republican wave that could threaten the party’s hold on Congress in next year’s midterm election. (Boston Globe)

Francisco Rodriguez, the refugee from El Salvador and MIT janitor who became the local face of the immigration policy debate when he was jailed over the summer, was released yesterday pending his asylum appeal after a federal appeals court said he could not be detained for more than six months. (Boston Globe)

The United Nations voted overwhelmingly to adopt a resolution condemning President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel despite Trump’s threat to cut off aid for those who split with the United States. (U.S. News & World Report)

Herald columnist Tom Shattuck says UN ambassador Nikki Haley is emerging as one of the more impressive officials in the Trump administration.

ELECTIONS

Rep. Cory Atkins of Concord and Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington back Sen. Barbara L’Italien for the congressional seat being vacated by Niki Tsongas. (Eagle-Tribune)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Boston Symphony Orchestra cuts ties with guest conductor Charles Dutoit after several women make sexual harassment allegations against him. (Berkshire Eagle)

The state’s unemployment rate dropped last month to 3.6 percent and Massachusetts has added 65,200 jobs this year, say state officials. (Boston Herald)

Internal emails of Miss America CEO Sam Haskell show he slut-shamed and ridiculed former winners. (Huffington Post)

EDUCATION

Framingham State University has increased the reward to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of the “hateful coward” who has scrawled at least five racist messages on dormitory doors directed at specific African-American students and the Black Student Union. (MetroWest Daily News)

The state has at least 18 candidates to replace the late Mitchell Chester as education commissioner, a pool that includes about one-third women and 40 percent of candidates of color or from underserved communities. (State House News Service)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A Gloucester Times editorial backs a credentialing process for recovery coaches.

Lowell General Hospital’s profits slip lower. (Lowell Sun)

Shares of Cambridge-based Biogen fell 3 percent on news of disappointing results in a trial of a drug it has co-developed with a Japanese firm to treat Alzheimer’s disease. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

The Boston Landing commuter rail station is far surpassing expectations about ridership, which is raising questions about whether the proposed West Station less than a mile away would also surpass the fairly low ridership numbers estimated by state transportation officials. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Hundreds of disheartened and disillusioned workers have left the Environmental Protection Agency since the beginning of the year, including many scientists and researchers essential to investigating and analyzing pollution levels. (New York Times and ProPublica)

Advocates are pushing lawmakers to adopt changes to protect the state’s coastal residential areas vulnerable to the effects of climate change and King tides, especially along the Cape and Islands which account for half of Massachusetts’ coast lines. (Cape Cod Times)

MEDIA

Kirk Davis, the CEO of GateHouse Media, which has emerged as the leading candidate to acquire the Boston Herald, says the company sees potential in the paper’s strong sports and politics coverage, a possible hint of what a slimmed down Herald might focus on. (Boston Herald)