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Old July 10, 2000, 11:10 AM   #1
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Boston Globe Suspends Columnist
The Associated Press
Saturday, July 8, 2000; 9:17 a.m. EDT

BOSTON –– The Boston Globe suspended columnist Jeff Jacoby for four months without pay after concluding he should have alerted readers that one of his columns was based on similar writings that appeared previously in other publications.

Jacoby's July 3 column, which discussed the fates of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, amounted to "serious journalistic misconduct," said editorial page editor Renee Loth and publisher Richard Gilman in Saturday's Globe. They stopped short of calling Jacoby's column plagiarism.

Jacoby is the third Globe columnist to face major sanctions in the past two years for alleged ethical violations. Patricia Smith resigned in June 1998 after admitting she fabricated some characters and quotations. Mike Barnicle resigned in August 1998 after being unable to verify facts in a 1995 column.

The column by Jacoby, a conservative voice on the Globe's traditionally liberal op-ed pages, discussed the often severe consequences many of the signers suffered after putting their signature to the Declaration of Independence.

"We cannot look the other way if any of our columnists, reporters, or writers borrow without attribution from the works of others, even in an attempt to improve upon it," Gilman said.

Jacoby said in a message posted on Jim Romenesko's MediaNews Web site that the theme of his column is an old one, and it didn't occur to him to cite earlier versions.

"In retrospect, I wish I had noted in the column that I am only the latest in a long list to write about the fate of the signers," he wrote.

The Globe reported that a mitigating factor in Jacoby's favor was an e-mail he circulated on July 2 stating the column was an attempt to correct errors in a similar piece on the Internet.

In a brief interview with the Globe, Jacoby said, "I've got 6½ years of columns behind me, and I invite anybody to judge my integrity and the care that I take in my work from the body of work I've produced."

Noting that his views are at odds with the paper's more liberal opinion pages, Jacoby added, "I've been aware from the outset that I have to be extremely aware of my column."

Asked if the suspension was harsh, Loth said, "We considered mitigating factors as well as the blow this is to the Globe's credibility, and we came up with a balanced response that's proportionate."


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Old July 10, 2000, 11:13 AM   #2
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Statement by Jacoby

Statement by Jeff Jacoby
on his recent suspension from The Boston Globe

Jeff Jacoby | July 10, 2000

Dear friends,

As you may know, I am undergoing some difficulty.

At 4:15 last Friday, I was suspended without pay for four months from my job at The Boston Globe, and effectively invited to resign. I was put on notice that if I do choose to return in four months, there would have to be a "serious rethink" of the kind of column I write.

The Globe is accusing me of "serious journalistic misconduct" in connection with my July 3 column on the signers of the Declaration of Independence. That theme -- the lives of the signers, and what happened to them after July 4, 1776 -- has been explored many times. One bibliography lists works on the subject dating back to 1820. When I sat down to write the column, I had before me a version written by Paul Harvey, another published by Rush Limbaugh, and a third sent to me a year ago by a reader. Using those versions -- which all told much the same story, in much the same words -- as a starting point, I did my best to verify the information. I checked encyclopedias of American history, consulted books I own on the Revolutionary War, and visited web sites that provide biographical material on the founders. I made a special point of checking sites that debunk "urban legends" and other Internet myths, since I knew that at least some of what is said about the signers is not historically accurate.

I knew, too, that an anonymous e-mail on the signers of the Declaration had been making the rounds. In fact, when I e-mailed my column to a group of friends, fans, and family members on the evening of July 2, I noted that what I was sending was NOT a rewrite of that e-mail, which I knew to contain errors. Of course, it too told approximately the same story, using approximately the same language, as all the other versions.

Since I was relating lore that has been related over and over, and since all of the sources I relied on had relied in turn on even earlier recitations, I assumed that all the material in my column was in the public domain. It never occurred to me to include a line pointing out that I was far from the first to write about the fates of the Declaration's signers. Had I added such a line, Globe officials tell me, none of this would be happening.

On Monday, July 3, I asked if I could repair the oversight by adding a correction to my next column. Permission to do so was denied. Instead, an Editor's Note pointing out that "the structure and concept for [my] column were not entirely original" appeared on the op-ed page on Thursday, July 6. The next morning, I was given an opportunity to explain how the column had been written. A few hours later, I was suspended.

I joined The Globe as an op-ed columnist in February 1994. (The first line of my first column was: "So what's a nice conservative like me doing in a newspaper like this?") In the six and a half years since, I have produced close to 600 columns. I invite anyone to judge my integrity and my journalistic ethics on the basis of the work that I have done for The Globe. To my knowledge, the paper has never had any reason to question my work, or to doubt that I hold myself to the highest standards when writing for publication. Six years' worth of

superlative evaluations of me are on file in The Globe's personnel records. I think it is fair to say that I have been a credit to The Boston Globe and have improved the paper's reputation.

What is happening now is a nightmare.

In accusing me of "serious journalistic misconduct," The Globe is poisoning the good name I have spent years building up. This suspension is a brutal overreaction to something that even The Globe will not call plagiarism and doesn't characterize as a willful violation.

No one deserves to lose his income for a third of a year because a column lacked a sentence that might have underscored how common the column's theme was. I am deeply concerned about my family's future, of course. And I am deeply concerned about my reputation.

It is a great privilege to write a column for a prominent daily newspaper. Over the past six years I often expressed my gratitude to The Boston Globe -- both publicly and privately -- for giving me such a wonderful pulpit. And I endeavored, twice each week, to make good on that gratitude by writing a column of which The Globe could be proud.

I thought my future at the paper was limitless. It has been shocking and traumatic to discover how wrong I was.


Jeff Jacoby

P.S. For the time being, please send any e-mail to me at the following address: [email protected] .

[This message has been edited by Slowpoke_Rodrigo (edited July 10, 2000).]
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Old July 11, 2000, 04:22 PM   #3
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The real story is the slow death of The Boston Fishwrap. It's readership has halved in recent years as it has joyfully embraced a lunatic liberalism that defies all rational thought.

Firing Jacobey on a pretense is precisely what I expected.

The Fishwrap will be gone in few years, replaced by the net and left unsupported by the death its aging, goo-goo liberal readership.

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Old July 11, 2000, 04:24 PM   #4
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I was looking for the column in question from Jacoby yesterday. They don't have anything written by him on their website anymore. (At least nothing I could find)

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Old July 12, 2000, 06:02 AM   #5
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Fortunately, it was preserved by pack_rat at .
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Old July 12, 2000, 06:05 AM   #6
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There's a groundswell of protest among Jacoby's fellow journalists, and the Freepers started a Globe boycott.

Is it coincidence that the four month duration of the suspension silences Jacoby until after the upcoming election?

[This message has been edited by Slowpoke_Rodrigo (edited July 12, 2000).]
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Old July 12, 2000, 06:11 AM   #7
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Howard Kurtz STORY

At the Boston Globe, a Question of Who's Right

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday , July 11, 2000 ; C01

The story line seems all too familiar: another Boston Globe columnist punished for borrowing someone else's work.
But this time the offender is an unabashed conservative on a famously liberal op-ed page, and the penalty so harsh--for what many Globe staffers see as a minor infraction--that some rushed yesterday to defend a man with whom they rarely agree.

"What is happening now is a nightmare," Jeff Jacoby wrote friends after being suspended for four months without pay, sidelining him until after the election. "In accusing me of 'serious journalistic misconduct,' the Globe is poisoning the good name I have spent many years building up. This suspension is a brutal overreaction to something that even the Globe will not call plagiarism and doesn't characterize as a willful violation."

In his July 3 column, Jacoby wrote about what became of the signers of the Declaration of Independence--an old theme that has been explored by Paul Harvey, Rush Limbaugh and others, as Jacoby readily acknowledged when he e-mailed an advance copy of the column to some friends and fans. Jacoby says he checked books, encyclopedias and Web sites in researching his version, which bore some similarity to the earlier pieces.

But for a newspaper that was traumatized by the banishment of columnists Mike Barnicle and Patricia Smith in 1998, this was over the line. In a statement and subsequent news story on the suspension, the Globe said it found the column was based on accounts that have appeared "in other publications and books and on Web sites for years" and "failed to alert readers to those other sources." Jacoby says his bosses told him there would have to be a "serious rethink" of his column if he returned after four months--in other words, says Jacoby, he was "effectively invited to resign."

Renee Loth, who became editorial page editor two months ago, says that "this had absolutely nothing to do with ideology. I'd have been happy to have Jeff on my page as a courageous conservative voice. The fact that I'm more liberal than my predecessor is really not a factor here, even if that's true."

Loth also says the ouster of Barnicle and Smith had no effect on Jacoby's fate. "To the extent that it was possible, I looked at this in isolation. . . . We came up with a response that's proportionate and fair."

Many staffers strongly disagree. "It strikes me as a terrible overreaction," says Globe business columnist Charles Stein. "The guy made a mistake. He wasn't trying to put anything over on anybody. It's very different from the other incidents the Globe has been involved in, where people were making stuff up. Maybe a reprimand and a week's suspension would have been appropriate."

Steve Bailey, the Globe's "Downtown" columnist, calls the suspension "way over the top. The guy's opinions were never welcomed in this building from day one. One mistake and he's gone. It's hard to imagine there wasn't some connection [with his conservative views]. The guy has created a lot of enemies over the years. I didn't agree with his point of view all the time, but I admired his work."

Friday's suspension of the six-year veteran has quickly become a cause celebre. Conservative columnist Matt Drudge registered a protest by dropping all Globe links from his Web site. National Review Online editor Jonah Goldberg (who had apologized for writing a similar Declaration column) urged people to call or fax the Globe to complain, as did Jewish World Review. Writer David Horowitz accused the Globe of "reckless cruelty" in, and the Wall Street Journal is planning a critical column.

Says John Fund, a Journal editorial board member who first published Jacoby's writing a dozen years ago: "It's an open secret that Jacoby was viewed at best with sneering indifference and at worst with contempt and hostility in the newsroom." He calls Jacoby's mistake a "misdemeanor."

Jacoby has been something of a lightning rod. In 1997, when he criticized Harvard activists who tried to block a discussion by a Christian group that believes homosexuality is sinful, two gay copy editors complained, and the Globe's ombudsman--who had castigated Jacoby for "homophobic" columns--called the piece "offensive."

The Globe was badly shaken by the departures of Smith, a prominent black columnist, and star columnist Barnicle, who is white. Smith acknowledged fabricating characters in several columns. Barnicle, who was initially suspended for recycling jokes without attribution, was fired for shoddy reporting after editors could not confirm the existence of two cancer-stricken boys he wrote about.

But while those episodes sparked a racially tinged debate, Jacoby's case has galvanized those who say the paper lacks political diversity.

"What Jacoby did was stupid, and he's admitted that," says Dan Kennedy, media critic for the Boston Phoenix. "But when you're going to destroy a man's career and reputation, you have to look at intent. Clearly, he didn't intend to deceive anyone. There are people over there who absolutely loathe him. . . . Jacoby is so far out of the mainstream there that it makes this easier to do."

Loth says incredulously there have even been whispers of antisemitism against a Jewish columnist, although she is Jewish herself. She says she weighed Jacoby's "intent" on the column, but that his unusual practice of e-mailing advance copies to 100 friends was also a factor.

"Four months is a long enough time that he may feel he wants to find another job," Loth says. "That's certainly his right. He can still come back."
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