Peter Gammons to Boston Globe: Burn Your Sources!

Peter Gammons wrote for the Boston Globe for over 30 years, from 1969 to 2000. In that time, he became the most prominent beat writer on the Boston Red Sox and one of the lead baseball analysts on ESPN, and that body of work elevated him to the Baseball Hall of Fame, when he received the 2004 J.G. Taylor Spink Award for sportswriters. But the Globe may be more disappointed than proud of Gammons at the moment.

On a sports talk radio show, Gammons criticized Globe reporter Bob Hohler, who last October famously broke the “chicken and beer” story of vast dissension within the Red Sox clubhouse down their disastrous stretch run in 2011. The images from that story, gleaned from anonymous sources, dominated the coverage of the team as manager Terry Francona was fired and general manager Theo Epstein decamped to Chicago: Francona’s alleged painkiller addictions and troubled marriage; Josh Beckett, John Lackey, and Jon Lester’s lax approach to conditioning and training; and Jacoby Ellsbury’s isolation from the rest of the clubhouse.

A week ago, Gammons said that Hohler should reveal his anonymous sources. This week, he amended that to say that he wished Hohler would reveal his sources, even though he understands that Hohler is unable to do so. Gammons clarified that he was concerned about the damage the allegations had done to Francona’s further managerial chances:

The 2012 season has begun… It caused [Francona] so much harm – including essentially eliminating him from any chance at the Cardinals job – I wonder why those who spoke anonymously cannot step forward and say they were among the sources.

In a column today, Globe sportswriter Chad Finn struck back fiercely. (The Gammons quote above came from an email response to Finn’s query.) Finn wrote:

The perception that Peter Gammons’s journalistic compass can go on the fritz when it comes to matters of the Red Sox is not a new one.
What happened to cause a team that roared to an 83-52 record to go 7-20 in September is a question that demanded an answer. Of course the story was necessary.

As a journalist, I have a knee-jerk horror to Gammons’s suggestion that the Globe should burn its anonymous sources. Journalists go to jail to protect their sources. In many countries with authoritarian regimes, the protection of source anonymity is literally a matter of life and death. Finn’s column demonstrates that the Boston Globe feels a sense of betrayal that one of their own, one of their greatest, has called on them to violate journalism’s most sacred vow.

Of course, Gammons made his point on talk radio, a medium famously devoid of nuance, so his meaning needs to be more carefully parsed. Even if Gammons was speaking more as a fan (and as an employee of MLB and of the Red Sox) than as a journalist, he has forgotten more about baseball writing than I will ever know, so I will try to make the best possible defense of his comments.

First of all, the Hohler article is troubling in its execution, though it is certainly true that anonymous sourcing is an essential tool of reporting, particularly sportswriting. Unlike Capitol Hill reporters, baseball beat writers have no recourse to the Freedom of Information Act. Major League Baseball is a monopoly corporation with an antitrust exemption, with both the means and the incentive to clamp down on the flow of information. Without anonymous leaks, very often there would be no stories. However, those leaks are often self-serving and even semi-official, as various stakeholders simply use the media as a conduit for negotiations by other means.

Anonymity also creates a serious moral hazard problem. Most people who speak anonymously are doing so because they fear retribution, but that is partly because many anonymous quotes are vicious attacks. Sometimes the attacks are true. But they are almost always slanted to suit the speaker’s motives. As a result, news stylebooks typically have strict guidelines delineating when anonymous sources may be used, though these guidelines are not always followed. (Ironically, these standards often are not publicly available, except when quoted or leaked by media columnists.) For example, as of 2011, the Associated Press had the following standard:

Under AP’s rules, material from anonymous sources may be used only if:
1. The material is information and not opinion or speculation, and is vital to the news report.
2. The information is not available except under the conditions of anonymity imposed by the source.
3. The source is reliable, and in a position to have accurate information.
We must explain in the story why the source requested anonymity. And, when it’s relevant, we must describe the source’s motive for disclosing the information.

Hohler’s story fails on this basis. Nowhere in the story does Hohler explain what information came from where, beyond a blanket statement near the top: “This article is based on a series of interviews the Globe conducted with individuals familiar with the Sox operation at all levels. Most requested anonymity out of concern for their jobs or potential damage to their relationships in the organization.” The story pointedly does not describe the sources’ motives for disclosing the information. As a result, of course, the offseason was also colored by speculation as to who the sources may have been and why they made those statements.

Moreover, it is unclear what additional reporting the Globe conducted to verify the specific statements about Francona, particularly those about his painkiller usage. It is very possible that the article harmed Francona’s job prospects. If the allegations in the article were true, then that harm may well have been justified for journalistic reasons. But the article presents them as a he-said he-said: numerous anonymous sources said that Francona was affected by painkillers, Francona denied it, and then the article moved to something else. Hohler notes that Francona’s doctor could not be reached for comment: no other independent corroboration is mentioned in the story.

This is extremely troubling, and Gammons is right to be troubled. But Gammons’s proposed suggestion is utterly, entirely wrong. The onus is on Hohler, the reporter, to do the reporting to verify the claim. It is not on the anonymous sources to out themselves, or on Hohler to burn his sources.

I pretty much grew up watching Peter Gammons on Baseball Tonight. I bet a lot of us did. As Finn writes, “Part of Gammons’s charm is his genuine love for the game, which shines through in his writing, still, to generations of admirers.” I’ll always remember something Gammons wrote came when Ted Williams died in 2002: “In snapshots, he could be one of the warmest men on the planet, as he was the first time I met him doing a sidebar at a Senators-Red Sox game in 1970 as a young reporter. After an hour in his office, he said, ‘Kid, you’re OK. You like this game.'”

That’s Peter Gammons in a nutshell: for him, baseball was about sports heroes behaving like heroes, and sportswriting as about connecting to players through shared love of the game. And it has produced some great writing. But that approach is not, in itself, journalism. The 2011 Red Sox suffered perhaps the worst October collapse in baseball history, and the story of that collapse had to be told. Bob Hohler wrote a story that had to be written. And because it hurt a man he liked, Peter Gammons forgot what journalism is.

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Alex is a writer for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times, and is a product manager for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @alexremington.

100 Responses to “Peter Gammons to Boston Globe: Burn Your Sources!”

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  1. Baty says:

    Nowadays, I wonder how often journalists would wager their life on the information they report.

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    • John Roberts says:


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    • Thus far in 2012, 17 journalists have been killed for their reporting. 10 more have been killed with uncertain motive. This does not count the journalists such as Anthony Shadid who die in the course of their reporting.

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      • maguro says:

        And how many have been killed on the MLB beat?

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      • Baty says:

        Absolutely… I have absolute and sincere respect for what journalists do, but we can’t lump stories of entertainment and survival together.

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      • funketown says:

        I think John Kruk choked on a hot dog once, if that counts for something.

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      • Brian says:

        Sports reporters can’t be compared to normal reporters. Sports are fluff for the masses. Nobody is dying for 2011 Red Sox.

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      • chuckb says:

        Thank you.

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      • Mike says:

        It’s actually somewhat appalling that you’d even compare the two.

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      • B N says:

        How many of those were killed because their reporting was inaccurate? Because that’s what the original post was referring to: If a reporter would bet their life on the validity of information from their sources.

        To be frank, some reporters might be better off using a coin-flip than vouching for the validity of all the information they put into certain articles. Heck, some of the work at the Huffington Post don’t even have a byline. What does THAT say about how much they stand behind it?

        If a reporter’s info is shaky, they should disclose their concerns or sit on it until they can verify it. They shouldn’t be killed for it, but they aren’t killed for it. If I drew a Venn Diagram of writers who use anonymous, inaccurate sources and those who are getting killed I would imagine it would have an awfully small intersection. Who is going to risk their lives to report unverified junk?

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      • kick me in the GO NATS says:

        Brian I know several boston Fans that might die if the 2012 Sox are a bad team.

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  2. CaptWBligh says:

    If the allegations were that damaging to Francona, would a libel suit have been in order? Francona could assert that the charges weren’t true, and Hohler would have had to bring out his sources to defend the case.

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    • Almost certainly not. Francona’s a public person, which means that proving libel would require that Francona demonstrate that the writer, Bob Hohler, published information that he knew to be false, with the intent to damage Francona.

      In practice, libel suits by public personalities are almost impossible to win, for two reasons. First, that legal standard is incredibly high. Second, the case drags all of the allegations back into the press, so even if the person were to win the case their reputation would have been dragged through the mud for months.

      As it happens, I am almost certain that Hohler did not publish information he knew to be false and did not intend to harm Francona. But he may not have been absolutely certain of the truth of the allegations and he may have had a suspicion that Francona could be harmed by the allegations. Hohler’s worst sin — if he committed one at all — may be journalism as stenography, where a reporter simply reports what someone says about someone else without verifying it.

      It is possible that what Hohler wrote is one hundred percent correct and that he completely verified it but neglected to describe just how he verified it. He could have done that if he wanted to hide his method of verification. But either way, it clearly casts doubt on the story.

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      • Dr.Rockzo says:

        Doesn’t libel also include “reckless” disregard for the truth as well as intended malicious intent.

        If he takes a quote as an opinion and reports it as fact with absolutely no corroboration or adequate attempt to do so, it would still be libel.

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      • I don’t know the exact text of the relevant law in the state of Massachusetts.

        But again, as I say, in practice, it will be awfully hard for you to find a case precedent where a celebrity who is attacked by an anonymous source manages to win a lawsuit against the reporter who reported it.

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      • Mark says:

        I do not mean to be contrary but on what basis are you almost certain Hohler did not publish false information, I do not doubt the credibility of the original source but to say you are almost certain begs to be questioned as to how you are? Is it personal knowledge of the story or a friendly hunch etc?

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      • I didn’t say that Hohler didn’t publish false information. I said that I seriously doubt that Hohler knowingly published false information.

        If Hohler — or any journalist — were to publish information that they were aware was untrue, then that is a firing offense.

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      • gonfalon says:

        “[The] worst sin … may be journalism as stenography, where a reporter simply reports what someone says about someone else without verifying it.”

        Amen to that, brother. Unfortunately, journalism as stenography is all too prevalent these days, especially in political “reporting”.

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      • rotofan says:

        Alex –

        It appears you need to learn more about libel law as it has nothing to do with state law in Massachusetts. It is instead based on long-standing precedent in Federal courts. Dr. Rockzo is correct: A person deemed a public figure must prove “actual malice” which is a legal term that means either publishing knowing that it is false or in reckless disregard of the truth. What the latter means functionally is that a reporter can be negligent and take less care than a reasonable reporter but still not be guilty of libel so long as he or she wasn’t reckless. Not checking at all may qualify but so too might be making some attempt that falls so short of the mark it’s deemed reckless.

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    • RC says:

      Francona’s kids have been reported having concerns about his painkiller use.

      It clearly was a problem.

      Also, as a point of accuracy, he wasn’t fired. His contract expired and wasn’t renewed.

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      • You’re right. Still, the word “fired” often encompasses that meaning. The team had an option on the contract which they declined. They let him go.

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      • Mark says:

        Did you verify this? never heard that at all.

        From what I’ve heard (player quotes only), the fried chicken was a once a month tradition brought in by Mike Cameron and the fried chicken was for the entire team. The beer drinking was exclusive to 4 of the starting pitchers and was only a few during games they weren’t pitching. The video games, Beckett/Lackey ripped that claim saying they didn’t even know if there was a video game system in the clubhouse. The painkiller addiction, Francona denied. They pretty much made 4 main claims and 3 of the 4 were denied and the other was claimed to be an exagguration. This is why the players/Francona are angry. It seems like the anonymous source made a lot of guesses on what he thought happened. He probably saw playstation on the ground near the TV and said “they play video games during games.” He probably saw fried chicken once and assumed it was an every day thing. He probably saw Francona use painkillers once, but didn’t realize he just had surgery. Clearly, the source was mostly wrong and didn’t really know what was going on, but took some guesses.

        The only other possibility is that its all true…but if its all true, I dont think the players would be extremely pissed off.

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  3. Randy says:

    This is baseball. This is sports. Lets keep that in perspective when talking about journalism in the context of covering the subject.

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    • Every profession has ethical standards. Everyone who practices that profession should be held to those ethical standards.

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      • Anon21 says:

        True, but in explaining and justifying, we should take care not to confuse professional ethics with actual ethics. Source protection has instrumental value to journalists, and, by extension, to the public. But the true moral or ethical value of disclosing a dissident’s identity in an authoritarian country is just not in any way comparable to disclosing the identity of some scumbag who decided to splash private details of a baseball manager’s life all over the papers.

        If Hohler were to reveal his sources’ identity (which he probably shouldn’t), he’d be acting unethically in the minor sense that he’d be breaking his promise to them. In a net sense, he might even be doing something ethically positive, because these people probably do not deserve their anonymity. But he’d definitely be acting unprofessionally, and for a professional, that’s often the decisive consideration.

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      • I understand what you’re saying, and I agree that professional ethics is just one component of actual ethics. Occasionally ethical considerations would demand someone to violate their professional ethics, as is the case with whistleblowers.

        But this ain’t that. Hohler promised his sources anonymity, and he is pretty much honor bound to abide by that promise. The ethical bar that would have to be cleared for him to need to violate that promise is pretty high.

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  4. antonio bananas says:

    If Francona needs Peter Gammons asking guys to help make Francona more marketable, then maybe he’s not really that marketable? He’s supposed to lead and he can’t even clear his own name? What if a player gets accused of getting a teen waitress preggo and he has to protect his player? If he doesn’t have the balls to protect himself, he’s not going to protect his players.

    Don’t understand Gammons’ logic. He’s a nice guy, but come on. Francona is a grown man, he can take care of his own problems.

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    • Sam Samson says:

      You should know that it’s hard to prove a negative. How exactly is Francona to prove this stuff didn’t happened, when he doesn’t even know who the sources were? If you were accused of of having done something similar last year in your working life, but not told by whom, how exactly would you begin challenging their claims?

      And why are you assuming Gammons is bringing this up at Francona’s behest, or to improve Francona’s career prospects? He might be, but it might be he’s raising it without an agenda, or with a different one of his own.

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  5. SchoolboyQ says:

    Only people in Boston can properly understand how terrible the baseball media is here. Due to their complete lack of understanding of modern metrics, they mask their ignorance with terrible narrative driven crap, and think unfair criticism = objective analysis. It’s awful stuff. What make it worse is the media refers to themselves as the toughest media in sports, it’s full of dinosaur self important dbags. The radio show referenced in this story is beyond embarrassing, they spend every show railing against John Henry’s business saavy and want the Red Sox to ignore sabermetrics, while focusing on the fundamentals, often waxing poetic about bunting. The Red Sox fan base is just as terrible these days, people take pride in talking about how much they don’t care about the Red Sox. It’s sad.

    +34 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • JKG says:

      This, a million times this. The Globe and the rest of the Boston sports media are disgusting and terrible.

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    • JB Knox says:

      If it were possible to be more than 100% correct you would be. I had an argument with Felger and Mazz after Aviles was named the starter over Iglesias. The question they asked me was whether I believed that Bill James values offense over defense. I gave them a quick breakdown of Runs Created over Runs Saved between the two players, broke down Aviles numbers at SS with KC in 208 and basically stated that Iglesias is the equivalent of an NL pitcher hitting in the line-up.
      He resonded by telling me I knew nothing about baseball and asked if I had ever played. What the buffoon failed to realize is that I am an independent scout who played in the D3 Super Regionals, had two tryouts and all of this as a SS. I also study SABR as all of you which I advised them and he called me an idiot and hung up. What a dick.
      I have recently been asked to do a few shows on ESPN radio in NH, Hawaii (idk why Hawaii, but they asked) and a quick spot on the Artie Clear show in Philly. I may just take some shots back at those idiots very soon

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      • Jonathan says:

        In fairness, of all the completely awful sports media personalities in the Boston sports market, Felger and Mazz are quite possibly the worst. Shank is up there, but at least he sold a bestseller and has his own schtick. I don’t even know what Felger and Mazz did to get famous. Hell, Mazz whines about the Sox not getting Teixeira to this very day, despite the fact the dude’s declined in each of the last three seasons and we have a better 1B now anyway.

        Shank may be awful, but you can tell the guy’s an editorial genius. He knows his market and he plays to the “sky is falling” mentality of the area. Mazz, on the other hand, is just a goon who never makes a lick of sense.

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    • Sam Samson says:

      Agreed about the Boston media — as a sports journalist who lived there for a while I can vouch for their awfulness. Don’t think you’re being entirely fair on Red Sox fans, though. And living there yourself you know they care, whatever some of them say. There are some bandwagon, pink-hat types who are getting disillusioned, and some out-and-out dbags, but the vast majority are just hurting and trying (badly) to hide it.

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    • DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy says:

      What happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse. This source needs a good beatdown regardless.

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  6. JCA says:

    Alex – the hatchet job performed by those who used Hohler as a tool was merciless to Francona. Moreover, any legitimate reporting on the Francona aspect of the collapse story would also note that the Red Sox have had a practice of sticking in knives to numerous people when leaving the organization, continuing through the disassembly of the Duquette-built team after 2004 and on until today. A properly skeptical reporter would at least mention that when discussing the anonymous sources. I believe the NY Times, the owner of Hohler’s newspaper, still had an equity interest in the Red Sox at the time the article was published (I am sure one of the commenters can verify whether they have sold their entire stake). The Globe gets these stories while the Herald somehow is not given this inside access.

    Gammons was correct to call out his old paper. While Hohler and the Globe cannot just list “these are our sources because Gammons said we should,” Gammons is correct to say that the sourcing of this article was as much a news story as the collapse of the team itself. The sources are an indication of organizational malfunction and division. Not to at least offer some insight into the potential motivation of the sources and past practices of the sources was poor judgment.

    As for the sources themselves, anyone with a position of authority in the organization should come forward. It is unreasonable to say that a Lucchino, Epstein, Cherington or other manager has to fear for their position because of what was said.

    (BTW – I’m a fan of Hohler; his piece on the born-again religiosity of large segments of the 2004 era club was fair to the subjects and insightful into the psyche of the team).

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    • Regarding the NYT’s stake in the Sox, I saw this in a Poynter article posted yesterday: “It does retain a share of Fenway Sports, including the Boston Red Sox, valued at $60 million, which will likely be sold over the next year or two.”

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    • SAS says:

      JCA gets it right. Gammons may not be the person to offer such a critique, but a critique of the Globe’s role in the hatchet job on Francona is certainly warranted. It’s not so much Hohler’s use of anonymous sources as Hohler’s failure to provide sufficient context for what those sources were saying.

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    • CJ says:

      As a former journalist, my reaction is that the focus should be on whether the reporter should have offered anonymity to get this story. Sure, once he has offered the source protection, he is bound to maintain his promise. It has been more than 30 years since I was a practicing reporter (both sports and regular news), but I would have had a lot of difficulty getting my editors to approve anonymous sourcing. An anonymous source would have been a lead to try and prove something with regular sources–but as for broad use of anonymous quotes, that would have been reserved for very the most unusual circumstances. And Watergate this is not.

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  7. Joebrady says:

    I would hold the editors equally liable. When you’re commenting about someone’s use of prescription drugs, you’re in a whole new ballpark.

    If people are drinking in the clubhouse on their offday, the reaction for a lot of people, even prospective employers, would be ‘just don’t do it’.

    Using drugs that cloud your judgment kind of implies an addiction issue. I thik, for that, you need you ironclad verification.

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    • Paul says:

      Exactly right. It becomes a legal issue in some states for employers, and more widely an insurability issue for an employer. As corporations become more and more “risk off” in every aspect of their business, a lot of the group policies on their employees will simply not allow for hiring someone who carries with them the slightest on paper risk. It’s a disgrace and it’s un-American, but it’s normal now.

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  8. Rotorooter says:


    To answer your question: dozens, sometimes hundreds per year. Here’s a link to Committee to Protect Journalists. They have the figures:

    Alex – your anonymous sources info is pretty spot on and thanks but I will add that the AP stylebook version for 2011 has different standards from, say, 10 years ago – mostly because of all the Jayson Blair type scandals in the interim. The crucial difference is that reporters were only recently required to give a reason for why the source would be requesting anonymity for specific info. For example The NY Times now frequently says: “XX did not want to give his name because he’s not specifically authorized to speak publicly about YYY.” You didn’t see that 10 years ago. Hohler – who’s of an older generation (as am I) – was using the very standard blanket anonymity disclaimer in the front of the article. Otherwise good read.

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    • Thanks, rotorooter. I wasn’t aware of the way that stylebooks have changed. I came to The Washington Post in 2006, so I didn’t have a firsthand sense of how the Blair scandal had caused standards to change. (And decades after Janet Cooke.) But the late Deborah Howell, who was ombudsman for most of my time there, wrote frequent columns calling on reporters to clean up their usage of anonymous sources, to use them less and to give readers more information about precisely why they were using each source to whom they granted anonymity.

      It was an uphill battle for her, as well as for her replacement, Andy Alexander. They’re an easy crutch for many reporters. They are essential, but easy to abuse.

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      • Chris says:

        The changes in anonymous sources generally came in ’05, after Newsweek inaccurately, and based on an anonymous source, reported that Qurans were flushed down the toilet at Gitmo. This led to riots in Afghanistan, and dozens of dead and injured.

        Basically, Michael Isikoff reported an anonymous Source’s report of a half-remembered glance at a draft report that may have said soldiers did bad stuff at Gitmo. After that stupidity led to people actually dying, Newsweek and other outlets got serious about justifying the use of anonymous sources… For about 15 minutes, because who cares, right? Isikoff now works for NBC News with other journalists like Ann Curry and Tim Russert’s kid.

        The Glass and Blair situations had very little to do with anonymous sources – those guys made up on-the-record sources.

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    • baty says:

      @ rotorooter


      But in the context of responding to an article about beer and US baseball reporters?

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      • I mean, sure — reporting about the Boston Red Sox is not generally a life and death matter. But reporting often can be. And the ethics of the profession are pretty much the same for the sports reporters as for the war reporters.

        For instance, Steve Fainaru, who won a Pulitzer Prize with The Washington Post in 2008 for his stories about military contractors in the Iraq War, had previously covered the Boston Red Sox for the Boston Globe. (His brother, Mark Fainaru-Wada, co-wrote “Game of Shadows” and got ESPN’s scoop on the Ryan Braun story. Fainaru went to ESPN a month ago.)

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  9. grant says:

    Very thoughtful and well written article. Your general sentiments about journalistic integrity are commendable.

    You allude to this, but I think most people, including Gammons, have little trouble with the story in so far as it portrayed the actions of the players in the clubhouse. It’s the implied addiction issue that’s troubling.

    Hohler could respond to some extent without burning his sources – he could outline at least some description of what types of positions they were in; their motives, and what types of corroborations he went through. That he failed to months ago doesn’t mean he can’t shore that up now.

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    • Richie says:

      I very much doubt that Holder could reveal info about the “position” of his sources without burning them.

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  10. Joey says:

    “Journalists” nowadays cannot constantly hide behind the lie of anonymous sources. We are long removed from Woodward and Bernstein where the fourth estate is a paragon of virtue. Now we are surrounded with Blair, Glass, Cooke, Kelley, and Templeton style reporters. It’s almost impossible to take seriously “according to anonymous” if you are truly familiar with what goes on in most newsrooms.

    Both Gammons and Hohler are irresponsible and low class reporters. Gammons for years had no clue what was going on during the height of the steroid era. How can Gammons, who was either blind or willfully ignorant throughout the steroids era, possibly become the arbiter of professionalism in the baseball reporting arena. And Hohler is essentially a tabloid journalist who is interested in getting as many copies sold of his paper and not objectively looking at a situation.

    I loved the scenes in The Wire where the reporter, Scott Templeton, just continually fabricates quotes and stories and always attributes them to anonymous people. And the editors and even the veteran reporters don’t realize what’s going on. The Boston Globe saw Hohler submit a story with shocking and hard hitting quotes and didn’t bother to press Hohler about them and just rushed to print it. And now Gammons is inserting himself into the narrative, to fuel his ego, and we are seeing how reporters nowadays want to be in the story as much as they want to report a story.

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    • I love The Wire too, and David Simon correctly points out a lot of the breakdowns in newsrooms that allow for scandals like that to happen. I don’t know any editors at The Baltimore Sun, but I do know the former editor of The New Republic who got burned by Stephen Glass. It is very hard, in practice, to catch a sociopath in a lie, because a sociopath has no moral compass. Fortunately, there are not many sociopaths, neither in journalism nor in the rest of society.

      Instead, there are a lot of flawed individuals struggling to meet competing ethical standards. Gammons wanted to protect a friend and so he said something unethical within the standards of his industry.

      Since you said, “if you are truly familiar with what goes on in most newsrooms,” may I ask: are you familiar with what goes on in most newsrooms? How did you come by that knowledge?

      Do you have any proof of this assertion? “The Boston Globe saw Hohler submit a story with shocking and hard hitting quotes and didn’t bother to press Hohler about them and just rushed to print it.”

      Because that is not how newspapers work, particularly not for a story this controversial — and make no mistake, they had to know that this story would be controversial.

      Every newspaper of which I am aware has a standard editing process during which a story is touched by a certain number of editors before print. As newsrooms have shed staff, that number of editors has decreased, but it has not gone away. Generally there is at least an assignment editor, a copy editor, and a section editor. All requests of anonymity need to be cleared by editors. Hohler’s editors would have to know who the sources were and would have to have approved those requests. I don’t know how the Globe sports section works. But that’s how the newspapers that I know about work.

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      • Joey says:

        I used to work for NBC (covering the Olympics) and ABC Sports (before they killed that brand). Now I run my own television and movie studio that cuts trailers and episodes and so on. The biggest offenders by far when interfering with journalistic integrity, that I saw, were usually the sponsors (at least in sports media). This was especially true for the Olympic Games where the corporate dollar was like an unstoppable supernatural force. But I’d still say that 90% of reporters that I worked with were more interested in being part of the story than objectively reporting a story. They wanted to talk about their own opinions rather than report only facts and let the readers or viewers make up their own minds.

        I was told once that Harold Reynolds was fired from ESPN because he attacked the sponsors after a taping of Baseball Tonight. And that the whole event of him trying to molest an intern or whatever was ESPN smearing him, because he used to hammer the corporate brass for talking down to him and giving him orders. He was told to stick to the script and not go off the prompter. The way that ESPN would do BBTN is that they’d do a segment like “Who deserves the Cy Young? Sponsored by Fast Food Joint”, and each broadcaster was assigned a player to talk about by a segment producer. So HR was assigned to someone (I think it was Mariano Rivera) who didn’t deserve the award looking at the stats, and he went off the prompter and didn’t follow the script and chose a different player.

        Most reporters right now want to be on Around The Horn or whatever “scream at the top of your lungs to win an argument” program is hot this week. It is never about attacking stories objectively. Now it is always about finding the angle that will get the most attention. The line between reporter and talking head is getting smaller and smaller every year and it’s extremely difficult to find reporters that don’t crowbar their opinions into articles for the sole sake of getting their own views out into the world. Even worse is that those shows often consist of zero factual evidence or deep analysis and they often reduce immense subjects into bumper sticker arguments and catch phrases. PTI essentially prides itself on never covering a topic for more than a few minutes.

        Look at the Bernie Fine case. ESPN did everything in its power to compare that case to the Sandusky incident. Often drawing direct parallels that implied or outright stated that the same acts that Sandusky was accused of were the same things that Fine was doing behind the scenes. And it looks as if ESPN deliberately manufactured false evidence in one case by putting two accusers who had never met in touch with each other so that they could cook up a story. ESPN’s comment boards on its site are filled with fans ripping on ESPN’s for flooding the news with lies and irresponsible reporting.

        I’m not saying that Bob Hohler is deliberately making things up with no basis in reality. But he is clearly manufacturing a story to fit the most compelling narrative. It is highly telling that the overwhelming majority of on the record comments regarding Francona’s behavior as manager are either neutral or positive. And that the off of the record and anonymous comments try to shred him to pieces. And those anonymous sources are so vaguely described that they are probably not more than two or three people, but the article is so deliberately ambiguous that it seems like Francona has an army of detractors. When you hide behind a screen, anonymity, there is no accountability. You can exaggerate and the reporters will print it because it sells like crazy and raises the reporter’s profile.

        Bob Hohler basically was the one journalist who would print the allegations against Francona to fit the narrative that the anonymous accusers wanted. Was it irresponsible journalism? I would say yes. Simply because everyone on record supports Francona, and he vehemently denied all of the negatives that were attributed to him. It seems like someone had a personal or professional vendetta against Francona and Bob Hohler gave them an outlet to blast him in the media. And what’s worse is that those anonymous accusers can have their arguments augmented by the associated with a major newspaper.

        Honestly I’ve never been impressed by the mainstream MLB media. During the steroids era I watched as every single writer turned a blind eye to the giant enormous bodies that players had. When Bonds was breaking the record and putting up OPS and IBB/BB numbers that made my head explode like Scanners I couldn’t fathom how the beat reporters didn’t realize that he was juicing like crazy. That’s why I stick to places like Fangraphs or Rob Neyer’s home at SBN. I’d much rather read the objective statistical approach to baseball than the screaming ranting lunatic talking head reporters who blindly stumbled through the steroids era. Please someone bring back FireJoeMorgan.

        +16 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Fortunately for their careers but unfortunately for us, I think that as long as Parks and Recreation is on the air, FireJoeMorgan will be dormant. I loved them and they were hilarious and they played an important role in my development as a writer and a sabermetrically-minded baseball fan. Still, what they did was criticism; it wasn’t journalism.

        I agree: a lot of baseball beat writing sucks. And you have much more experience in the broadcast world than I do; all of my experience is in print and online journalism.

        When you say that Hohler was “manufacturing a story to fit the most compelling narrative”… you may be right. But figuring out the narrative that best fits the facts is the definition of good journalism.

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      • Richie says:

        The press reported on steroids during the steroid era. You heard rumor after rumor after rumor, which was all that was available absent testing. People who say the press turned a blind eye don’t understand libel laws. And/or were jealous that those people got to write about sports for a living, and we didn’t.

        What happens now when someone says/writes, “ya know, maybe Bagwell
        DID do steroids”, or “I suspect Pujols IS lying about his age”? Any such sayers/writers get screamed down.

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      • RC says:

        “It is highly telling that the overwhelming majority of on the record comments regarding Francona’s behavior as manager are either neutral or positive”

        Where are you getting this? I haven’t seen a single positive comment about Francona regarding last season. Yeah, he was a great manager at one point, but almost everything from last year is either “he wasn’t doing his job” or “No Comment”

        Except from Pedroia. Who I love, but isn’t credible at all in this instance.

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    • Richie says:

      Sounds like you’re pretending “The Wire” is how newsrooms really work. I’m open to taking your rant seriously, but sure the heck not on any basis you give me in it.

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  11. Brendo says:

    There are a lot of things to like about Gammo, but true “journalism” is not one of his strong suits. The best example is the pathetic job he did interviewing ARod when ARod admitted his steroid use.

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  12. geoff says:

    Based just on my reading of this article, Gammons is asking the sources to reveal themselves, which is a very different thing from the reporters outing sources.

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    • As I wrote, “A week ago, Gammons said that Hohler should reveal his anonymous sources.”

      A week ago, on a radio show, Peter Gammons called on the author of the article to out his sources.

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  13. DC Nat says:

    This article would have been better if it mentioned the struggling newspaper industry and the tribulations of the Globe in this regard. The Globe needs to sell papers, which might have been some of the reason for their tabloid-like approach to their stories regarding the Sox. They’re almost bankrupt. Some of that info had nothing to do with their meltdown, especially Francona, and was included to sell more papers. It was a shame it would have been protected had they continued winning – it’s not like the coach’s marriage went on the fritz or he started taking prescription drugs in Spetmeber. The losing streak was simply an opportunity for the Globe to publish salacious material that would sell papers or drive more traffic to the site. It was low.

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    • Every newspaper is struggling; that goes without saying. But there is very little daylight between the Globe’s desire to cover the Red Sox thoroughly and its incentive to please its readership by covering the Red Sox thoroughly. The financial incentive to “sell more papers” really doesn’t affect that one-to-one association.

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      • DC Nat says:

        The Globe is particularly struggling. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they continually go in the gutter to get “news.”

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      • Jonathan says:

        They’ve been going in the gutter for a while now. Honestly, I used to be able to enjoy some of their Extra Bases Blog, but even that’s become lowest common denominator of late. Cafardo’s a complete hack and while I used to enjoy Abraham, the environment has visibly been getting to him for a while now and he’s been getting a lot more sensationalistic the last few months.

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    • RC says:

      “They’re almost bankrupt. Some of that info had nothing to do with their meltdown, especially Francona, and was included to sell more papers.”

      Why do you think Francona not being able to do his job didn’t affect the meltdown? Pretty much everyone who has spoken on it has said the same thing: he had pulled away from the team, and wasn’t doing his job.

      We have Hohler’s anonymous sources, AND FRANCONAS OWN CHILDREN stating the drugs may have been a problem. We have players stating that Francona was withdrawn, and spending most of his time alone in his office. We have the fact that almost none of the players have defended Francona, which is strange, considering he was such a “Player’s manager”.

      There’s a real simple explanation here: Francona wasn’t doing his job, and the drugs/pain were part of the reason why.

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  14. Aaron says:

    The notion that this story HAD to be told is ludicrous. I agree wholeheartedly that journalists should not reveal anonymous sources, however, I disagree that the story was so important as to warrant anonymity.

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    • Richie says:

      So when do you think a sports story warrants anonymity? If never, say so. (don’t mean that in an ‘in your face’ manner)

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      • Aaron says:

        When sports veers into another aspect of life, such as the case with the Sandusky scandal. I would not expect his victims to reveal their identities because it would further impact their lives in very negative ways. That wasn’t exactly a sports story so much as a crime that intersected with sports, but the story was certainly elevated by its relationship with sports.

        I don’t think a story that is completely contained to sports warrants anonymity because it has no meaningful impact on anyone’s life outside the story. If I am a Red Sox fan, I’m horribly, horribly disappointed and furious about last season’s collapse. I’m inconsolable. But life goes on.

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      • Aaron says:

        So in short, it is never warranted. Anonymous sources should be used very sparingly to avoid the credibility deficit that many other commenters have already mentioned.

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  15. Billion Memes says:

    Few comments. First, Gammons comes off as a cranky old man biased by his connection to the Red Sox and Francona. I’m not sure how anyone can see his comments in any different light than that. Its especially hippo-critical because of his 40+ year career in journalism.

    Second, one of my biggest pet peeve’s in life is the staggering number of people who are unwilling to take personal responsibility for their own actions or frame it in that light. If Francona abused narcotics and this is damaging his chances at future jobs, then that’s on him, not the journalist who reported it. Its always possible that it was knowingly false and published, but that’s not what I believe. Same goes for the “wings and beer” crew. If their own actions make them look bad, this is their own fault!

    Finally a tangent on the 2nd point, Francona chose to go into a career that put him in the public eye and increased the chances of his personal life becoming public. Nobody made him do it. Even if he never gets another job again because of the stories that came out about him, he still came out WAY ahead in my mind. He was able to make millions of dollars that very few private citizens with private jobs have the opportunity to make. Just one of many perks he has enjoyed in his life due to his career choice.

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  16. Jon says:

    All this hoopla is in response to something Peter Gammons said. He always had his flaws – loyalty to the Red Sox specifically, and to the institution of Major League Baseball in general – that compromised his objectivity, but I thought he was very knowledgeable, and it was interesting to hear him talk and write about baseball.

    But that was then. Peter Gammons is not the same anymore. Since his health issues, he just doesn’t have the same sharpness and insight he used to. I’m not saying we should therefore ignore what he says, but let’s just keep a little perspective when he says things that are off base. He’s a Spink Award winner, and deservedly so, but he didn’t get it for what he did in 2012.

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  17. Enkidu says:

    Oh boy… I can’t wait for the juicy inside article on the Braves collaspe which allowed the WS champs to sneak in on the last day. Oh wait, it’s Atlanta…nobody cares

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    • As an Atlanta supporter, I am glad that ‘nobody cares’ about the Braves. you say it like its a bad thing, yet I would venture to bet the intelligent Bostonian would gladly trade out the over the top nonsense that you call ‘caring’ for ‘not caring’

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      • Jonathan says:

        I absolutely would. I spent half of the offseason repeating “so how about them Braves?” over and over whenever talks about the Red Sox collapsed came up. I envy the simplicity of it. Nearly identical collapse, but in Atlanta it’s a simple “they stank out loud for a month, time to move on” whereas up here, it’s the end of the world and people will continue to talk about it until the Red Sox make the playoffs again.

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  18. pft says:

    Disclosing the fact that Tito was taking pain medication, never mind abusing it, may be a violation of HIPAA.

    The DOJ should investigate and haul Hohler before a Grand Jury to find out who leaked it.

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    • Shaun Catron says:

      Sounds like a great idea.

      Let’s waste tax payer money trying to figure out who the Red Sox clubhouse mole was.

      Why don’t we chase after the boogyman too while we’re at it?

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    • Terry Francona admitted taking pain medication. “Disclosing” the fact that he did so is not a violation of anything at all.

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    • baycommuter says:

      That’s a misunderstanding of HIPAA. The First Amendment trumps any law passed by Congress. The Globe has a perfect right to use confidential information, however, the person who leaked confidential medical information (if there was such a person with actual knowledge) would be liable.

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  19. Nelson says:

    “As a journalist…”


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  20. Yolo1 says:

    I think this story requires an incredible degree of context for people to appreciate what Gammons is saying. The Boston sports media is so beyond out of control this point that’s it’s starting to border on sociopathic. Half of the narrative-driven BS that was splattered through the region last year had *nothing* to do with the team and essentially a full-blown hissy fit from the hacks that make up the Sox beat over the fact that they wouldn’t get the opportunity to mug for camera in October as subject matter experts.

    It fit all the tropes they’d need to have a great story – Evil boss Lucchino twirling his moustache, lazy players who don’t love the game, a depressed quasi-sympathetic pill drunk, divorced manager, front office geniuses who’ve fallen from grace, all the usual stuff dumb people gravitate to. Slap on top of it sky-high ticket prices, people having to pay more and not get playoff baseball, the ridiculous expectations set around the team and a poor economy where lobbing rocks at rich people has turned into a new mini-past time and… yeah.

    At the end of the day – having the back end of the rotation vaporize, be replaced by barely below replacement level talent, that dragged down an increasingly fatigued bullpen down into an unescapable morass all because the front office didn’t address the problem as seriously as they should have is just not a sexy enough story. Gotta have He-Man and Skelator. Stupid people gots to stupid.

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  21. james wilson says:

    The real shame is that nothing was reported by beat reporters the entire year, forget the collapse. It was obvious Ellersby hated the team, and that much was going on which was left unspoken. Most of it is probably still unspoken. The wheels came off this express in ’08, and the women in the front office just wouldn’t get the message.

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  22. Sam Samson says:

    “Red Sox suffered perhaps the worst October collapse in baseball history”

    Did you mean September?

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  23. pas299 says:

    Anonymous sources are more and more abused by powerful people who don’t actually need anonymity, and the media enables it because they’re afraid of losing a cordial working relationship with the powerful. The original purpose of anonymity was to give protection to a source who would otherwise be vulnerable–he could be jailed, killed, fired, etc.–and had valuable information, often challenging the official or accepted narrative. Today, anonymity too often means that a powerful but cowardly insider wants to smear someone or make an unsubstantiated claim without being accountable for it. The Bush Administration did it, the Obama Administration does it, and apparently someone in the Red Sox organization did it too. As someone mentioned above, it is the official policy of many news organizations to say why they’ve granted anonymity, and to not grant it automatically. But in practice, that policy is routinely ignored in the most reputable newspapers (New York Times, Washington Post, etc.) when the government or a corporation or an interest group wants it to be. You can see this especially in foreign policy and national security (suspect X is a terrorist because anonymous official says so; you should be super scared of country Y because you’ll just have to trust me, but you can’t know my name) and insider business stories (pay no attention to the ex-VP’s lawsuit against us, because he’s a terrible person, we fired him because he cost the company millions of dollars, beats women and loves Hitler). It’s bad enough that newspapers print this stuff, but it’s worse that they don’t even follow their policy of explaining why. These sort of sources do not require protection, because they either come directly from the highest ranking officials or are prompted or tacitly encouraged by them. In these cases, the only potential consequence for the source is that the public would have a name to go with the claim–which is precisely the point of good journalism, and precisely what the sources do not want. The effect is to remove the teeth from truly adversarial journalism that confronts the powerful and uncovers the truth, because potentially any lie, half-truth, or unverifiable claim can be injected into the discourse without accountability and stories can devolve into “he said, she said” stenography.

    Having said all that, Gammons’ comments are stupid. The solution is not to reveal anonymous sources after you’ve promised anonymity–that’s obviously unethical both by professional and everyday standards. The solution is stop mindlessly granting anonymity to everyone who wants it. If they don’t like it, they don’t get their opinion printed in the article.

    +12 Vote -1 Vote +1

  24. hmk says:

    everyone knows about the chicken and beer, but can someone please tell me about Jacoby being isolated from the rest of the clubhouse? i had never heard that im wondering if anyone knows more about it.

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    • Jonathan says:

      Allegedly, Jed Lowrie was the only friend he had in the clubhouse and everyone was against him because of his AZ rehab in 2010.

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  25. noseeum says:

    While I agree that protecting anonymous sources is vital to journalism, because this protection is so sacred, anonymity should be a gift very seldomly granted.

    Reporters grant anonymity far too easily. It’s become more a badge of honor, especially in political reporting, to talk about all of your inside anonymous sources. Reporters are used to uncritically propagate whatever spin someone may have without having the source’s agenda or conflict of interest exposed.

    Gammons should have criticized Hohler for granting anonymity, not for protecting it once granted. Hohler didn’t provide a service to his readers in this article. He provided a service to his source. And that’s the problem. If someone’s going to defame Tito, he should be willing to go on record. If not, Hohler was obligated to get some verifiable proof behind the source’s claims before posting, or to tell the source to find some other lackey to do his bidding.

    A famous example of this in politics was when Dick Cheney had anonymous sources tell Judy Miller of NYT that Iraq had imported aluminum tubes specifically for production of WMD, and then he went on Meet The Press the next day and cited the article as proof that Iraq had WMD.

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  26. Brien@IIATMS says:

    If I may, it seems that what’s missing here altogether is the Red Sox organizational history of trashing popular figures on their way out the door. That’s a big part of what made the attacks on Francona so appalling in context.

    +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

  27. Shoonutz says:

    Ironically, it was Bob Hohler who was the Sox beat report during the 2004 World Series Championship season. Wasn’t that the Cowboy Up season? Wasn’t that the season where players were supposedly doing shots in the clubhouse before games? Funny how when it worked in the team’s favor we embraced it, but when it occurred during a collapse, we point fingers. Thanks Bob!

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  28. Patrick says:

    I am a strong proponent of shield laws and journalists being allowed to protect their sources, but there are two aspects of this case that make it unique. The first, which has been amply discussed, is that the shield laws are designed to protect whistle-blowers, not to facilitate propagation of obnoxious gossip as happened here. The second, which has not been discussed, is that an individual has already been widely condemned as the originator of those leaks, and that person has suffered significant damage and demonization as a result of that association. Larry Lucchino may not be the most likable or sympathetic figure, but if he is actually not behind these leaks, he deserves to have his name cleared.

    Ultimately I think that is what this is about. This won’t please the Red Sox haters, but there is a simple logic:

    (Peter Gammons is a shill for Red Sox management) + (Peter Gammons thinks Bob Hohler should reveal his sources) = (Red Sox management wants Bob Hohler to reveal his sources) = They weren’t the source of the story. Indeed, the Terry Francona stuff is all nonsense; he’s admitted the charges and wouldn’t be helped one iota by determining who was behind it. The only person with anything to gain by Mr. Hohler revealing his sources is, of course, Larry Lucchino.

    Personally, I believe the source of the story was actually Theo Epstein. He was the only person in the Red Sox organization not targeted in the Hohler piece and he was the primary beneficiary. And the story was released the exact same date that rumors first surfaced that he had agreed to terms with the Cubs — as if he knew in advance when the story would be released and timed his announcement to coincide (which enabled him to avoid troubling questions about running out on hundreds of millions of dollars of long-term financial commitments he ran up or how he ended up with the Red Sox top prospect a year after trading him to two of his best buddies, both of whom coincidentally ended up with nice promotions).

    If Theo Epstein is the source, I think Bob Hohler has an obligation to say so.

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    • I think that there were probably multiple sources. That’s certainly the implication of the story, but considering that the clubhouse appears to have been fairly fractured, it also seems pretty likely.

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      • Patrick says:

        True, but that doesn’t really address the key point of my previous post. It is still possible (likely?) that in protecting his sources, Mr. Hohler is causing equal or greater harm to individuals falsely accused of being behing the leaks. Given that at least one of those sources was acting out of malice, I don’t think it is obvious that Mr. Hohler should continue to protect those sources (although for the sake of his own career, I do not doubt he will).

        Larry Lucchino has been demonized rather badly as a result of Mr. Hohler’s story. If he is not a source (or not the source of the more malign portions of the piece), Mr. Hohler has a duty to set that part of the record straight.

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  29. John R. Mayne says:

    I’m a former journalist. I worked sports briefly, but I mostly worked crime and courts, though I worked other beats. General points:

    1. The standard at the Boston Globe for sports reporting isn’t the same as news reporting, or at least it wasn’t. Columnists Ron Borges and Mike Barnicle did a lot of untidy things before departing. (Admittedly, the Globe had the Patricia Smith making-stuff-up issue, which they handled very badly, so there’s the argument that they just sucked all around. But I don’t think the crap Barnicle did would have flown if he were in the news division. I could, depressingly, be wrong.)

    2. The discussion of danger in reporting is quite overblown. Most reporters face no danger. Those who end up in bad places face substantial danger. Those who start in bad places sometimes get executed. But US reporters in the US don’t face those kinds of worries.

    3. Most sports reporters aren’t much as to journalism; the craft doesn’t demand it. Watch any of the sports reporter shows on ESPN, and your brain will hurt. (There are exceptions; Jeff Passan at Yahoo is unusually good.)

    4. Gammons was wrong in his initial statement. Just flat wrong. You can’t burn anonymous sources.

    That’s all I have. I appreciate the article, Alex.

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  30. Rob says:

    The story of the Red Sox collapse needed to be reported, and if the painkiller story was true then that also was fair game. Yet there have been plenty of sources who deny that Francona had a problem, and it does appear that Hohler reported a “he said, she said” accusation. Gammons is very well connected and he probably knows who Hohler’s sources are and that may be why he’s disturbed. He believes Hohler trashed Francona without cause and he’s calling Hohler out.

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  31. Sean says:

    Anonymous sources have confirmed to me that Larry Luchino was indeed the anonymous source. Other sources confirmed he beats his wife, may in fact molest children, and secretly works for the Yankees hired in 2008 in an attempt to destory the Red Sox from within. John Henry was in the room when he signed the contract with Hank Steinbrenner, but as usual he failed to see anything.

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    • Doug Lampert says:

      You forgot to tell us that the sources of all this anonymous information are impecably honest and need anonyminity because otherwise they and their children will be taken out and shot by the Syrian dictatorship.

      But don’t feel bad about neglecting to mention all that, the Globe appears to have neglected to mention any reason that any of their sources needed anonyminity.

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  32. Nathan says:

    How about this. Hohler had a right, and in a way, obligation to report what he did. As mentioned in the OP, why the Sox melted down after appearing to run away with the AL was a critical question to ask, and thus to look to answer.

    Hohler absolutely should NOT reveal his sources. But let’s get to the core of what I think Gammons is saying — that it is unfortunate that this situation dragged Francona through the mud, during what clearly must be a tough time in his life, and has made it a lot more difficult for him to get back on track and reset both his personal and professional life.

    So, I’m not saying Hohler did anything wrong — he did NOT. But sometimes you do the “right” thing and there are still unfortunate side-effects, and I think it’s fair to say that there were some unfortunate side-effects that have hurt Francona’s career, and probably just his own mental well-being.

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    • Jonathan says:

      “Hohler had a right, and in a way, obligation to report what he did. As mentioned in the OP, why the Sox melted down after appearing to run away with the AL was a critical question to ask, and thus to look to answer.”

      We got an answer: The team stunk. They basically became lackadaisical and effectively quit early. That much was evident from the outside. Overblowing things like chicken and beer (Which by all sourced accounts are vastly exaggerated) and citing unconfirmed and assumed drug problems WAS unnecessary. The point here is that as a journalist, Hohler did a pretty piss poor job when he put forth such a damning story without a single concrete source. If this were a few decades ago, the story never would’ve seen print because there was nothing to corroborate it. It’s sloppy, irresponsible journalism at best and a complete hatchet job at worst.

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  33. Will says:

    I couldn’t disagree more with your assertion that unnamed sources are essential in sports writing. After all, we aren’t talking about life and death issues. Quite frankly, I don’t think the reason why the Red Sox collapsed demands trashing a man’s reputation, so the fact that cowardly people were willing to make accusations behind the cloak of anonymity should of at least been subject to vetting. Did Hohler do that? I don’t know, but the implication that any story merits being built on anonymous sources is not only absurd, but does an injustice to investigative journalism that provides real value.

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  34. rotofan says:

    I suspect I may be the only poster who is both a lawyer with special interest in First Amendment law, a practicing investigative journalist who has worked both in the United States and Canada, and someone who has been in the field long enough to sort out the real dangers from the mostly-imagined ones.

    The fundamental threat to journalism is the ever-decreasing resources for traditional print journalists as the industry has lost ground with subscribers and advertisers. I work in a newsroom that 15 years ago, when I started, had three reporters covering education full-time and four more covering in part time. Now there is a single education reporter who might spend a bit more than half of his time on that beat, filling holes elsewhere, and what little time there is available is quickly consumed by having to go beyond writing next day stories to also tweeting, riding multiple online stories and taking video used both on our Internet site and the all-news cable station of our parent company. Simply put, the teeth of the watch dog have been ripped from its mouth one-by-one.

    As for anonymous sources, I do use them on occasion, but of course I consider motivation and demand a level of certainty before using such sources. The fact is there are plant of names sources who are unreliable with poisonous motives. A good journalist is vigilant about all his sources, named or not. And some of the most embarrassing scandals involving journalists occurred when they made up named sources or fabricated elements of names sources.

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