Executives at the Boston Globe are investigating misconduct allegations against the publication’s top editor, Brian McGrory. The move comes after former Boston.com staffer Hilary Sargent sent a series of tweets on Sunday and Monday that included a screenshot of a text exchange that appeared to show McGrory flirting with her in response to a question seeking writing advice.
Sargent initially wrote the tweets in response to a recent 60 Minutes exposé on sexual harassment, discussing how dehumanizing it can feel when young women realize they’re not being seen as professionals. Later that day, she shared the screenshot of the text exchange, and then followed up the next day, saying, “It never occurs to men like
@GlobeMcGrory (see text) that maybe we actually *are* looking for advice about WRITING, that maybe we don’t want to be asked what we are wearing while we write, that maybe we want to work, to be journalists.”
The allegations come as the Globe strives to find ways to cover the #MeToo movement, publishing impactful stories about harassment on Beacon Hill. Sargent included the hashtag in one of her tweets about McGrory. It’s only the latest in a series of Twitter broadsides she’s sent in recent months suggesting the Globe was failing to contend with its own harassment issues.
When asked for comment, Jane Bowman, the Globe’s vice president of marketing and strategic partnerships, responded over email. “A former employee has publicly suggested that there was an inappropriate text exchange between our editor, Brian McGrory, and her,” Bowman acknowledged. “When we first learned about this social media discussion, we began investigating to gather as much relevant information as we could. We discussed the issue with Mr. McGrory in an attempt to understand both the nature of any exchanges between the two parties and also whether or not these exchanges occurred during her employment. We also reached out to Ms. Sargent, the former employee, to ascertain the timing and context of the text in question. At this time, it is still unclear when these exchanges took place. We expect to have resolution on this matter soon. The Globe is deeply committed to creating a safe, comfortable, welcoming working environment for all employees.”
Similar information was contained in a memo to Boston Globe staff from managing director Linda Henry and president Vinay Mehra that was leaked to media commentator Dan Kennedy.
At this point there are far more questions than answers. Sargent shared the screenshot without much context, and though she has implied that she experienced harassment as an intern 20 years ago, the screenshot itself is clearly identifiable as an iPhone conversation, meaning the remarks were somewhat more recent. She has not shared the rest of the conversation or provided additional details.
Sargent did confirm on Twitter that the screenshot was from a text conversation with McGrory. In it, one person says, in three separate messages, “I imagine there are people who can sit down and with enough time just write something. But I need a draft and then a day and then I’ll add something and then a day and so on. I need time but only if I start a draft.” The other person responds, “Got it. What do you generally wear when you write?”
If you’ve ever been sent a sext-type text from someone who was powerful enough that you felt you couldn’t do anything (other than panic/shake your head/cry), you’re not alone. The more we tweet these, the less they’ll send them. #MeToo pic.twitter.com/hoe8lrSjOH
— (@lilsarg) May 21, 2018
The allegations were quickly shared across Twitter, with the Globe’s gender issues reporter, Stephanie Ebbert, questioning the timeline of the exchange. The story was also discussed on the WGBH show Greater Boston by Adam Reilly, Dan Kennedy, and Emily Rooney, none of whom thought there was any reason to doubt the authenticity of the screenshot.
McGrory has not said anything publicly and didn’t respond to our request for comment.
When contacted for comment about the tweets, Sargent, a Boston contributor, directed us to a statement she also shared with WGBH, which didn’t address McGrory directly, but said, in part, “It is crucial that individuals in leadership positions are held to the same high standard of conduct that the Globe would expect of any individuals in leadership positions at other similarly powerful institutions.” She declined to comment further.
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