Barbara Howard: Reputations are fragile things. Brian McGrory, the top editor at The Boston Globe, has written to the paper's staff, saying — and this is a direct quote — "I can’t believe I have to write these words, but I have never harassed Hilary Sargent or any other women at the Globe or anywhere else — ever."
This, as an investigation has been launched by the paper's top management triggered by Hilary Sargent, who according to The Globe received a separation agreement after working as an editor for Boston.com .
WGBH News contributor Dan Kennedy is on the journalism faculty at Northeastern University and he's been following the story. Hi Dan.
Kennedy: Hi Barbara.
Howard: So much has been made of a screenshot that was posted by Hilary Sargent of an exchange between two parties. Neither party is identified. But Sargent claims that it was McGrory who texted, and I quote, “What do you generally wear when you write?”
It's not clear when that was written, but Sargent commented on it, writing "If you’ve ever been sent a sext-type text from someone who was powerful enough that you felt you couldn’t do anything (other than panic/shake your head/cry), you’re not alone. The more we tweet these, the less they’ll send them."
So Dan, the Globe is now investigating and it has asked Sargent for the full exchange, for the context and for the time stamp of that quote attributed to McGrory. Has Sergeant complied?
Kennedy: As we are speaking right now, we don't know that she has complied.
The Globe has taken the extraordinary step of either threatening to sue her or preparing to sue her to try to get her to turn over that information.
Howard: Meantime, McGrory, the Globe's top editor who's accused here — he's written to his staff denying any impropriety, saying that once he did date Sargent, but making it clear that they worked in different divisions. He had no role, he says, in hiring her, and that Sargent did not report to him. He also says they did stay in touch after she left Boston.com. Does that cast this whole thing in a new light?
Kennedy: I think the fact that they had had a previous relationship does cast it in a different light, and McGrory and his message to the staff essentially acknowledged that, because of this previous relationship, they exchanged a number of texts that were very familiar — I’ll put it that way. And I think that that was probably colored by that previous relationship. But we haven't seen these other texts. We don't know what was in them. So much of this is just very hard to know. And if you're covering this story as we have been at WGBH News, I think we’re just constantly asking ourselves, given how little we know, are we being fair to everybody? It's a tough one.
Howard: Given what we know now, if that's all that there is, is his name smeared?
Kennedy: If that's all that there is, then I think that those of us who are covering this story — and I would include the Globe itself at this point — it might be said that we have made too much of this, and that would have ended up having done damage to McGrory. But you know, inevitably when charges like this are made, there is an understandable desire on the part of people who are covering the story to find out as much about this as they possibly can.
And we also see this at the top leadership of the Globe. Linda Henry, the managing director of the Globe, and the president of the Globe put out a statement on Wednesday saying that they want to know more. It's a very difficult situation for Hilary Sargent and Brian McGrory. And at this point, it's just very hard to know how this is going to play out.
Howard: If reporting is fact-based, and you don't have all the facts, it's difficult to report.
Kennedy: Oh yeah, oh yeah. Yeah. And this is just miserable.
Kennedy: Because we are dragging people's names through the mud and we don't know what the facts are.
Howard: OK. Thanks for coming in, Dan.
Kennedy: Thank you Barbara.
Howard: That's Dan Kennedy, WGBH News contributor, who's on the journalism faculty at Northeastern University, talking about the accusations leveled by a former Boston Globe employee, Hilary Sargent, against the senior-most editor there, Brian McGrory.
In response to McGrory’s denial of sexual harassment, Sargent had this to say in a 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.”