March 29, 2018

Boston Globe Fails to Tag Scandal-Plagued State Senate Leader As a Dem

The Boston Globe has published at least three reports about Bryon Hefner, the husband of now-former Massachusetts State Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, culminating today in coverage of Hefner’s indictment on “multiple charges of sexual assault, criminal lewdness, and distributing nude photographs without consent.” None of the stories reviewed directly tagged Rosenberg as a Democrat.

On November 30, reporter Yvonne Abraham revealed many of Hefner’s alleged actions, as well as an important but now-broken promise Rosenberg had made, and a reluctance by certain victims to hurt “progressive priorities”:

Four men allege sexual misconduct by Senate president’s husband

This account is based on interviews with 20 people who have dealt with Hefner or know his alleged (sexual assault and harassment) victims.

… They spoke to the Globe only reluctantly, worried about damaging their work in politics and their reputations. A couple of them also worried about hurting Rosenberg, whose progressive priorities they admire.

… Hefner, 30, and Rosenberg, 68, met when Hefner had a summer job in Rosenberg’s office. … They were married in September 2016.

… Rosenberg said he had made it clear to his then-fiance that he was not to be involved in any Senate business. In a letter to Democratic senators, Rosenberg wrote: “I have enforced a firewall between my private life and the business of the Senate, and will continue to do so.”

… But, according to seven of the people interviewed for this story, including several of the alleged victims, any firewall that Rosenberg might have tried to build has not been successful.

The “letter to Democratic senators” is the only reference to any political party in Abraham’s 3,000-word investigative report.

On December 4, Globe reporter Joshua Miller covered Rosenberg’s announcement that he would step aside from the Senate presidency during investigations into Hefner. Miller’s report had two glancing Democratic Party references:

The chamber’s inquiry, to see if Rosenberg violated Senate rules, will be conducted by the Democrat-controlled Ethics Committee, which is poised to hire outside investigators. …

“The past four days have been so turbulent, so tragic, so surprising, and so sad,” (new majority leader Harriette L.) Chandler, a Worcester Democrat, said in a brief speech to her colleagues …

Thursday, after Hefner was indicted, Abraham’s story, prepared with contributions from Miller and a third Globe reporter, failed to mention the Democratic Party at all.

These reporters and Globe management should know that the Associated Press made an important change to its Stylebook guidance some time after its 2015 published edition.

AP’s 2017 guidance on reporting political party affiliation is now crystal clear and exception-free:

(Page 213) A political figure’s party affiliation should be routinely included in stories.

(Page 219) Include the political affiliation of any elected officeholder.

Abraham’s report on Hefner’s indictment obviously violates AP’s Stylebook. The two reports cited earlier, which forced readers to infer Rosenberg’s party affiliation, are substantively unacceptable. Finally — yes, even though it’s Democrat-dominated Massachusetts — the tired excuse that “everybody (supposedly) knows” doesn’t cut it any more.

Cross-posted, with possible revisions, at NewsBusters.org.

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