BY DAN KENNEDY
Itís one thing for a newspaper to report on a neighborhood protest. Itís quite another to create one and then publish a photo of it as though it were real news. Yet the latter is exactly what the Boston Globe did in its City Weekly section on April 14.
The photo accompanied a story on neighborhood opposition to plans by the Sephardic Community of Greater Boston to raze a synagogue at the Brookline-Brighton line and replace it with a much larger building. The photo shows several dozen protesters holding signs and waving banners. The caption: "Neighbors gathering last Sunday to protest a Corey Road synagogueís expansion plans."
Trouble is, the neighbors had turned out at the behest of the Globe. According to a leader of the anti-expansion forces, Brookline resident Kathy Bell, Globe reporter Jonathan Bloom had called her, conducted an interview, and inquired about a photo. "I said, ĎSure, and could we get a bunch of people in both Brighton and Brookline who are concerned about this?í" recalls Bell. After a confirmation call from a Globe staff member whose name Bell does not remember, the photo shoot was set for the morning of April 7.
Bell, who lives across the street from the synagogue, says she was on the phone with the Globe, making sure a photographer was on the way, when she looked out the window and saw Globe photographer Jim Davis setting up his equipment. She hung up, ran outside, and barely made it into the picture. If Davis said anything by way of instruction to his subjects, she didnít hear it. Nor did another protester, Brookline resident Rosine Green, who says, "I didnít hear him say anything. He just went Ďclick.í" Asked whether it would be fair to say that there would have been no protest that morning were it not for the fact that a Globe photographer was coming, Green replied, "Yeah, of course. We wouldnít be going down there for nothing."
Ellen Clegg, the Globeís assistant managing editor for regional news, acknowledges that the caption was "a violation of Globe policy," since it failed to make clear that the photo was of an event manufactured for the Globeís benefit. A correction will be published in this Sundayís City Weekly, she adds.
Clegg says that "the system broke down in two places" ó not enough information was provided in the photo assignment given to Davis, and the caption itself was misleading. As for whether Davis knew he had walked into a set-up and whether he communicated that to his editors, Clegg responds, "I donít know. I canít speak for Jim."
Davis is traveling with the Bruins this week and did not respond to a voice-mail asking for comment. But Clegg says she is sure there was no intent on the part of anyone at the Globe to deceive. "No one suggested that she [Bell] bring friends and neighbors with signs," says Clegg. "No one here suggested that."
Both Bell and Green expressed disappointment that the photo had become an issue, saying the neighbors have a legitimate grievance that is not being taken seriously by local officials. Green says that some 400 people have signed a petition objecting to the expansion, adding that "traffic would be an abomination" if the Sephardic group gets its way.
Legitimate issue or not, the Globeís presentation was deceptive. Brookline Tab editor Jennifer Berkley says she was stunned to see the protest photo in the Globe and immediately started making inquiries as to why she hadnít been told that a demonstration had been in the works. Both the Brookline paper and a sister paper, the Allston-Brighton Tab, have been covering the issue on an ongoing basis.
"It paints an untrue picture, and I donít think thatís really fair," says Berkley of the Globeís coverage. "I was sort of outraged when I first found out about this."
Issue Date: April 25 - May 2, 2002
Back to the News and Features table of contents.