The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures

Too much information?

Revisiting the Globe ’s gang-truce scoop. Plus, Deval Patrick scolds the media, and the problem with Blue Mass Group’s success.
By ADAM REILLY  |  December 7, 2006

It’s not often that the Globe makes the Herald look restrained, but it happened earlier this month. On November 5, Boston’s broadsheet ran a front-page, above-the-fold story on a truce between the city’s H-Block and Heath Street gangs. Both Suzanne Smalley, the Globe’s cops reporter, and Michele McPhee, her Herald counterpart, had been aware of the truce for several weeks, but were asked by the Boston Police Department (BPD) not to publicize it. The Herald complied; the Globe didn’t.

The result — 2 GANGS FIND REAL PEACE, IN SECRET: OFFICIALS’ SUMMIT HALTS BLOODSHED — was a 1500-word opus filled with exquisite detail. For example, Smalley’s story identified the place where the truce was finalized (the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum), the organizational methods used to build support for the cease-fire, even the dialogue that immediately preceded the agreement:

“An H-Block leader, who had been shot a few days earlier, said, ‘It’s time to throw up hands,’ street lingo for an offer of peace. . . . His counterpart from Heath responded simply, ‘Then it’s done.’ ”

Afterward, Globe readers learned, members of the two gangs shared Cokes and pepperoni pizza.

It was a feel-good piece — with one notable exception: Elaine Driscoll, the BPD’s spokeswoman, stated that then-acting commissioner Al Goslin wouldn’t comment because of the possible consequences of publicity. “Commissioner Goslin believes that it is premature to engage in public discussion about this ambitious initiative,” Driscoll said at the time. “Disclosing details is potentially detrimental to the mission, which is decreasing gun violence on the streets of Boston.”

Fast forward to November 28, when Jahmol Norfleet, an H-Block leader and one of the architects of the truce, was fatally shot in Roxbury. Norfleet’s murder remains under investigation, and there’s currently no evidence linking Smalley’s story to Norfleet’s death. Still, given the BPD’s initial plea for silence and Driscoll’s prediction that “[d]isclosing details” might be “detrimental to the mission,” it’s fair to ask whether the Globe did the right thing in publishing Smalley’s scoop.

According to Foon Rhee — the Globe’s city editor, and the editor in charge of the November 5 story — the answer is an unequivocal yes. “We don’t make a decision to run stories like this lightly,” Rhee tells the Phoenix. “I was having conversations with more senior editors as late as the Saturday before the story ran” — i.e., November 4. Ultimately, Rhee says, the story was published for two reasons. First, Globe sources who’d been involved in hammering out the truce were comfortable with it being printed. Second, the paper expected the truce to be made public at some point in the relatively near future.

Rhee also notes that Smalley’s story omitted the names of Norfleet and other gang principals, and that the truce — while news to the general public — was already common knowledge on the street. “Everyone who was directly involved with it knew it was going on,” Rhee concludes. “The only people who didn’t know it was going on were our readers.”

1  |  2  |  3  |   next >
  Topics: Media -- Dont Quote Me , Deval Patrick, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Jahmol Norfleet,  More more >
| More

Share this entry with Delicious
  •   BULLY FOR BU!  |  March 12, 2010
    After six years at the Phoenix , I recently got my first pre-emptive libel threat. It came, most unexpectedly, from an investigative reporter. And beyond the fact that this struck me as a blatant attempt at intimidation, it demonstrated how tricky journalism's new, collaboration-driven future could be.
  •   STOP THE QUINN-SANITY!  |  March 03, 2010
    The year is still young, but when the time comes to look back at 2010's media lowlights, the embarrassing demise of Sally Quinn's Washington Post column, "The Party," will almost certainly rank near the top of the list.
  •   RIGHT CLICK  |  February 19, 2010
    Back in February 2007, a few months after a political neophyte named Deval Patrick cruised to victory in the Massachusetts governor's race with help from a political blog named Blue Mass Group (BMG) — which whipped up pro-Patrick sentiment while aggressively rebutting the governor-to-be's critics — I sized up a recent conservative entry in the local blogosphere.
  •   RANSOM NOTES  |  February 12, 2010
    While reporting from Afghanistan two years ago, David Rohde became, for the second time in his career, an unwilling participant rather than an observer. On October 29, 1995, Rohde had been arrested by Bosnian Serbs. And then in November 2008, Rohde and two Afghan colleagues were en route to an interview with a Taliban commander when they were kidnapped.
  •   POOR RECEPTION  |  February 08, 2010
    The right loves to rant against the "liberal-media elite," but there's one key media sector where the conservative id reigns supreme: talk radio.

 See all articles by: ADAM REILLY

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2017 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group