National News

Boston Globe Finds Itself Uncomfortably in the News

Posted May 24, 2018 9:56 p.m. EDT

BOSTON — The Boston Globe, New England’s largest newspaper, has struggled with a string of controversies in recent months that have roiled the staff, the latest of which concerns a claim against its top editor.

The newspaper said it was carrying out an investigation into a suggestion made on Twitter by a former employee that the editor, Brian McGrory, had sent an inappropriate text message. McGrory issued a statement to the staff Wednesday night denying harassing the former employee or anyone else at the newspaper.

Late last year, McGrory had published a front-page mea culpa after a different incident. In initially reporting that the newspaper had fired one of its political reporters over allegations of sexual harassment, The Globe did not identify the reporter. After expressions of outrage on social media and within the Globe newsroom, the paper publicly named the reporter, Jim O’Sullivan, and made the public apology.

And the newspaper, one of the nation’s leading regional newspapers, has battled problems at a new printing plant, creating havoc for the paper’s subscriptions and distribution.

In his statement to the staff Wednesday about the current controversy, McGrory said, “I fully realize the toll this has taken on the newsroom, the distraction it has caused and the questions it has understandably raised.” He went on to ask employees to remain focused on their work.

Earlier this week, a former employee, Hilary Sargent, posted messages on Twitter suggesting that McGrory had sexually harassed her. Sargent posted a screenshot of part of a text exchange about writing. One of the texts, which she said came from McGrory, read: “What do you generally wear when you write?”

Sargent, 39, declined in a phone interview to comment on the record because of possible legal action. But she said in an earlier statement to The Globe: “If Brian McGrory truly does not believe he has ever acted inappropriately with anyone at The Boston Globe, then he and I have a remarkably different understanding of what is — and is not — appropriate.”

In his statement, McGrory, 56, said that he and Sargent had dated years ago but that they were not working together at the time. McGrory said he had no recollection of the text exchange Sargent had posted.

McGrory’s lawyer, Martin F. Murphy, said in a letter to Sargent’s lawyer, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, that her message on Twitter falsely cast McGrory “as part of that group of men who have, in fact, used their positions, to sexually harass or assault women.” He said these “false and defamatory statements” could lead to legal action.

Murphy asked Sargent to provide the date of the exchange, in order to determine whether she was working for The Globe at the time. He also asked for the full exchange of text messages but said that Sargent had not provided either.

Late last year, when The Globe was contending with critiques of its handling of firing O’Sullivan, the political reporter, McGrory acknowledged the episode’s effect on the newspaper’s standing. “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,” McGrory wrote in his front-page apology.

“Please know that we’ve learned vital lessons about holding ourselves to a higher standard, lessons that I pledge will be vigorously applied to our coverage of these and many other issues going forward,” he added.

At the same time, Linda Henry, The Globe’s managing director, acknowledged that the paper’s advertising department had a “culture problem,” in that the department “had become a boys’ club.”

The Globe, owned by her husband, John Henry, has since made numerous management changes across the business side of the organization.