Decision to suspend, not fire, columnist sparks criticism of Boston newspaper

August 13, 1998|By BOSTON GLOBE

BOSTON -- Strong protests from inside and outside the Boston Globe newsroom yesterday greeted the decision to suspend rather than terminate veteran columnist Mike Barnicle.

For the second straight day, editor Matthew V. Storin and publisher Benjamin B. Taylor faced a tough grilling about the Barnicle decision at a staff meeting.

Later, the publisher and editor were presented with a petition signed by 53 employees stating, "Barnicle's reprieve gives the appearance of a double standard that allows one individual to ignore journalistic principles other reporters must follow."

Also yesterday, the Boston chapter of the NAACP and the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts criticized the Globe's decision to retain Barnicle after firing African-American columnist Patricia Smith over fictitious characters in her columns.

The NAACP charged that the move reflects "a double standard that has both racial and gender implications."

The episode began when an Aug. 2 Barnicle column was found to contain eight jokes similar to those in comedian George Carlin's 1997 "BrainDroppings" book.

Although Barnicle told editors he had not read the book, he had endorsed it six weeks earlier on a television show. Barnicle has since said he did not recall recommending the book on the air.

Pub Date: 8/13/98

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