Boston Globe Reported Gang Truce Over Cops’ Objections


On November 5, the Boston Globe ran a front-page, above-the-fold story on a truce between two gangs. Both the Globe and competing Boston Herald had been aware of the truce for several weeks, but were asked by the Boston Police Department not to publicize it. The Herald complied; the Globe didn't, says the Boston Phoenix. The Phoenix calls the Globe story “a 1500-word opus filled with exquisite detail.” A police spkeswoman said at the time that then-Acting Police Commissioner Al Goslin “believes that it is premature to engage in public discussion about this ambitious initiative.”

Last week, a gang leader who was an architect of the truce. There is no evidence linking the Globe story to the death, but the Phoenix asks whether the Globe did the right thing in publishing the scoop on the truce. A Globe editor says sources involved in hammering out the truce were comfortable with it being printed. The paper expected the truce to be made public at some point in the near future. Steve Burgard, director of Northeastern University's journalism school and a specialist in media ethics, thinks the Globe made the right call, albeit for different reasons. “It's not unusual at all for law-enforcement or military officials to ask editors to withhold publication of information they're concerned about,” Burgard observes. “But in this case, it seems to me [the police department] would have had to demonstrate that publication would, in fact, cause real harm to individuals – because the newsworthiness of this truce and the almost historic setting in which these groups got together is so obviously an important city-news story.”


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