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Jeff Jacoby, one of America’s premier opinion writers, has been smeared
and slimed by the Boston Globe.
Such outrageous behavior can only be the result of some internal
political purge. Jacoby has been one of the very few voices of dissent at a
paper in otherwise virtual lockstep with the partisans of political
But, now, he’s gone — the victim of a four-month “suspension” without
pay and a not-so-subtle plea never to come back.
What prompted this action was what the Globe termed “serious journalistic
misconduct” in connection with
his July 3 column on the signers of the
Declaration of Independence.
Jacoby explained: “That theme — the lives of the signers, and what happened to them after July 4, 1776 — has been explored many times. One bibliography lists works on the subject dating back to 1820. When I sat down to write the column, I had before me a version written by Paul Harvey, another published by Rush Limbaugh, and a third sent to me a year ago by a reader. Using those versions — which all told much the same story, in much the same words — as a starting point, I did my best to verify the information. I checked encyclopedias of American history, consulted books I own on the Revolutionary War, and visited websites that provide biographical material on the founders.”
It never occurred to Jacoby, he adds, to include a line pointing out that he was far from the first to write about the fates of the Declaration’s signers. Yet, he says, had he added such a line, Globe officials told him, he would not have faced discipline.
Now that’s just crazy. Are there actually people working in the editorial department of the Globe who are unaware of the fact that every facet of the War for Independence has been explored by historians and other writers for the last 200-plus years? Or is it that Globe editors simply believe their own readers are too stupid to make such assumptions for themselves?
So grievous was this infraction by Jacoby, his editors decided, that he was denied permission to make such a point in his subsequent column — thereby setting the record straight. Instead, an editor’s note pointing out that “the structure and concept for (his) column were not entirely original” appeared on the op-ed page Thursday, July 6. Later he met with editors to explain how the column was written before being given the old heave-ho.
I believe the Globe intentionally and with malice defamed Jacoby with that editor’s note. As the columnist observes, he has served the paper with distinction since 1994, producing some 600 columns. In that time, Jacoby has established his reputation for integrity and journalistic ethics with readers. In one day, the Globe destroyed all that with an ill-advised and mean-spirited editor’s note. Under a cloud of “plagiarism,” one of the most serious charges a writer can face, Jacoby was let go — unfairly and unjustly.
“What is happening now is a nightmare,” Jacoby relates. “In accusing me of ‘serious journalistic misconduct,’ the Globe is poisoning the good name I have spent years building up. This suspension is a brutal overreaction to something that even the Globe will not call plagiarism and doesn’t characterize as a willful violation.”
I have read Jacoby’s column. I have read other works that inspired it. In my professional and expert opinion, this is not plagiarism. Neither is it a close call. It is, simply, the kind of derivative journalism that we read in American newspapers every single day — online and off. Jacoby did nothing wrong.
In fact, the only thing he is guilty of is writing a first-rate Independence Day column that reminded Americans of the great sacrifice our founders made for the freedom we enjoy. And that, I suspect, is what really bugs the politically correct crowd at the Boston Globe.
According to the Globe, Jacoby’s real journalistic sin was in circulating his column to friends and family before it wound up on the Globe’s site. That is truly a stretch. But it’s an indication the Globe editors know they are on extremely shaky ground should they ever be forced to justify their action in a courtroom.
As an accredited courtroom expert witness on journalistic standards and practices, let me publicly offer my own humble services to Jeff Jacoby in a lawsuit against the Boston Globe and its parent company, the New York Times. In my opinion, the Globe editors are not only guilty of faulty thinking, they have defamed a conscientious and professional columnist.
I believe there’s a good chance Globe editors will reconsider this hasty decision — if and only if the public holds the editors accountable for their action.
You might want to consider calling the Globe (617.929.2000) or faxing the paper (617.929.2098). You can also
send a letter to the paper’s
ombudsman, John C. Thomas.