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Why Tomase's editors went unmentioned

As Dan Kennedy notes, today's much-aniticipated apology/explanation from John Tomase totally avoids the role Tomase's editors played in getting his bogus-Patriots-videotaping story into print. So I asked Herald editor Kevin Convey, who's usually pretty forthcoming, if he could discuss that subject.

"I'm going to take a rare pass," Convey said. "The reason is, I kind of feel like we've said much more about what was done [pre-publication] than any newspaper has. It doesn't do any good to us to go any further into our deliberations or anything else."

Now, there's no question that the Herald (and Tomase, and Convey) have emphatically accepted responsibility for the story. But--to cite a recent example involving much higher stakes--the New York Times did discuss editorial culpability when it critiqued its pre-Iraq War coverage back in 2004. Here's how the paper addressed the topic:

Some critics of our coverage during that time have focused blame on individual reporters. Our examination, however, indicates that the problem was more complicated. Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper.

 

I read that passage to Convey. Here's his reply: "The issue of the editors' involvement was on the front page and back page of the Boston Herald, and in my editor's note. I think that's the answer I would give to that question. I just don't see it in the best interest of the paper and the staff to go more deeply than that."

Given the billing Tomase's story got on today's Herald front page, this reticence is disappointing. Remember, though, that any discussion of editorial oversight could pose legal risks for the paper, especially if that oversight was sorely lacking.

What's more, the lack of backroom detail may also be smart management. Right now, public ire is focused on Tomase. A broader admission of culpability within the Herald newsroom (which could include sports editor Hank Hryniewicz and Convey himself) might make Tomase's situation a bit more bearable. But it could also demoralize a bare-bones staff that must already be extremely dispirited. 

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