Herald Hacks at Globe Cab Story (III)

April 4, 2013

Today’s Boston Herald takes another whack at crosstown rival Boston Globe’s Driven to the Edge three-part taxidermy of the city’s cab industry.

The latest piece:

Boston GlobeTimes defends Globe undercover scribe

A Boston Globe reporter masquerading as a cab driver for an undercover report appears to have violated the New York Times ethics policy, yet was defended by the Times yesterday.

Times policy clearly states that “staff members and others on assignment for us should disclose their identity to people they cover, though they need not always announce their occupation when seeking information normally available to the public.”

The policy further notes that “journalists may not pose as anyone they are not — for example, police officers or lawyers.”

But Times spokeswoman Eileen M. Murphy insisted Globe Spotlight Team reporter Bob Hohler “was within the policies” when he failed to identify himself as a reporter when he applied for a job at the Boston Cab Co. for the purposes 
of his undercover report.

 

Our feisty local tabloid, not surprisingly, disagrees.

You tell us.


Herald Hacks at Globe Cab Story (II)

April 3, 2013

In the aftermath of his post on Media Nation this morning about the Boston Herald’s drive-by coverage of the Globe series Driven to the Edge, Dan Kennedy had this Twitter exchange with Seth Mnookin:

 

Picture 1

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.


Herald Hacks at Globe Cab Story

April 3, 2013

Our feisty local tabloid does a Page One drive-by on the Boston Globe’s three-part taxidermy of the city’s cab industry.

 

Picture 1

The story in question? Globe reporter Bob Hohler’s takeout yesterday on renewing his hackney license from the ’70s and driving the streets of Boston for eight nights.

hohler012As a Globe reporter discovered over eight nights as a licensed Boston cabbie and throughout a nine-month Spotlight Team investigation, the city’s newest taxi drivers join thousands already navigating through two Bostons: a luminous city of gleaming towers and vast opportunity whose workers and visitors they shuttle about daily, and the city’s struggling underclass, of which most of them are a part.

Laboring 12 to 24 hours a day as independent contractors, without job protections or benefits, they will endure shifts of public service and private indignities, outsized risk and systemic exploitation.

Many will be cheated by their taxi owners and customers. They will confront hazards more potent than potholes: violent crime, distracted and impaired drivers, and their own debilitating fatigue.

 

Not to mention car crashes, which Hohler actually does:

Boston Cab . . . charges [a] $5 waiver to subsidize its self-insurance program. The Globe reporter purchased that insurance Nov. 4 hours before a motorist ran a red light at Stuart and Clarendon streets, totaling the 2011 Camry hybrid taxi he was driving.

The cabbie and his two passengers are taken by ambulance to Tufts Medical Center. The passengers suffer facial injuries, the reporter a minor head injury.

 

Which maybe affected his memory, because the Herald has a different story:

040213hohlercab001 Globie’s cab crash raises eyebrows

Drove taxi while reporting story

A Boston Globe reporter masquerading as a Hub taxi driver gave a disputed version of a two-car crash that sent him and his two passengers to the hospital in a front-page story yesterday that’s raising questions about liability and whether he misrepresented himself.

The one-sided account of the crash, included in a report about Boston’s cab industry, also came after the reporter appeared to conceal his Globe employment in an application to the cab company that hired him.

 

Here’s the Herald’s two-sided account:

Hohler initially told cops that “while he had a red light,” another car “came out of nowhere” and struck the left side of his cab, causing him to slam into a traffic light, according to the report.

But in a handwritten supplemental police report filed six days later, Hohler said he in fact had a green light and the other driver had run a red light, citing “confusion on the scene” to explain the “misinformation.”

The other motorist, driving a gray Nissan Maxima, told police he believed he had the green light all along and instead was struck by the cab, according to the first police report. As of yesterday, no one had been cited in the crash, according to state Registry of Motor Vehicles officials.

 

The Herald piece proceeds from there to the topics of lawsuits, journalistic ethics, and general skullduggery.

Plenty of material, in other words, for multiple follow-up stories.