Globe Can’t Keep Cab Story Straight

April 5, 2013

The Boston Globe newsroom might want to call a cab-inet meeting sometime soon, because it’s sending mixed messages about the paper’s three-part takeout on the Boston taxicab industry.

Start with reporter Bob Hohler, who spent eight nights driving for Boston Cab last fall, which he chronicles in the final piece of the series. In this interview posted on the Globe website, Hohler describes how he conducted his investigation.

Q: Did anyone know you were a Boston Globe reporter? How did you handle disclosure?

A: I drove for Boston Cab for eight nights and never got the sense that anybody there knew that I was a reporter. When I applied there I said I worked for the NYT Company  . . .  the New York Times owns the Globe. As for my occupation I said sports because I’m a sportswriter.

Q. But if they had said – I know the way it works – if they had said Are you a Boston Globe reporter you would say Yes I am. But no one asked you.

A. Absolutely. I would have told them that I’m here to try to get the experience, to try to learn.

 

Apparently the burden of disclosure was on Boston Cab.

So Hohler is guilty of a sin of omission, if one at all. Even so, that’s a time-honored journalistic practice in undercover investigations. When he was asked in the interview “what did becoming a taxi driver afford you accesswise that you wouldn’t get as a reporter,” Hohler replied, “Oh – everything.”

Globe editor Brian McGrory, though, sounded a much different note during Wednesday’s Jim and Margery show on WGBH radio.

Bob Hohler, a cab driver back in the 1970s, who brought this idea to us, went out, got his hackney license, drove a cab – unlike the way Margery’s paper [the Boston Herald] portrayed it, he was not masquerading as a cab driver, he was a cab driver, he got his license.

This was not an undercover operation. He went out and he immersed himself in that community and we did exactly what a newspaper is supposed to do. It was a major time investment, major financial investment, and it has gotten swift results.

 

Less  than a minute later, McGrory reiterated his position: “We never went undercover – let’s be clear about that. The word ‘undercover’ carries implications that just aren’t necessary here.”

But, all due respect, that certainly seem to fit.