I have the greatest respect for both these guys as writers, but I’m not sure the Herald piece is totally without merit. Start with the nondisclosure by Globe reporter Bob Hohler when he applied to drive for Boston Cab. We’re not talking Food Lion here, but this was at best some sleight of hand. Call it misdemeanor misrepresentation and sentence Hohler to time served.
Then again, what is meritless is this contention in the Herald piece:
“Deceptive methods are only acceptable if there was no other way to get the story,” said Stephen Ward, director of the Center of Journalism Ethics at University of Wisconsin-Madison. “This strikes me as a story you could get without having to go with these pretenses.”
Sorry, Mr. Ward, but no way the Globe gets this story without undercover reporting. (One Herald commenter wrote, “HERALD HAD TO GO TO THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN FOR A QUOTE ABOUT ETHICS? WAS THE UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX TOO BUSY TO COMMENT?”)
On the issue of reporting both versions of the crash, though, the Herald might have a point.
The article in question, written by Hohler and editor Thomas Farragher, described Hohler as driving a cab that was totaled in a Nov. 4 accident at approximately 10 p.m. after a “motorist ran a red light at Stuart and Clarendon streets,” sending the reporter and his two passengers to Tufts Medical Center with facial and head injuries.
But a Boston police report doesn’t paint the crash as so clear-cut. “At the scene there were two versions of what had happened,” according a police report.
Hohler’s report certainly leaves the impression that he was the victim of the crash. Of course if you want to get all Talmudic about it, you could actually read it as either version if you assume Hohler to be the “motorist” as well as the cabdriver. But let’s not go down that rabbit hole.
So, to recap: Is the Herald magnifying what most observers would say is a minor matter? Yes. Is the Herald presenting it in an entirely overcaffeinated manner? Yes. Is that what the Herald does? Yes.
Does that mean there’s no legitimate question about the Globe’s version of the accident? Not really. It’s just not front-pageworthy.
Except in the Herald.