Boston Globe Suspends Columnist

Saturday, July 8th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Globe suspended columnist Jeff Jacoby for four months without pay after concluding he should have alerted readers that one of his columns was based on similar writings that appeared previously in other publications.

Jacoby's July 3 column, which discussed the fates of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, amounted to ``serious journalistic misconduct,'' said editorial page editor Renee Loth and publisher Richard Gilman in Saturday's Globe. They stopped short of calling Jacoby's column plagiarism.

Jacoby is the third Globe columnist to face major sanctions in the past two years for alleged ethical violations. Patricia Smith resigned in June 1998 after admitting she fabricated some characters and quotations. Mike Barnicle resigned in August 1998 after being unable to verify facts in a 1995 column.

The column by Jacoby, a conservative voice on the Globe's traditionally liberal op-ed pages, discussed the often severe consequences many of the signers suffered after putting their signature to the Declaration of Independence.

``We cannot look the other way if any of our columnists, reporters, or writers borrow without attribution from the works of others, even in an attempt to improve upon it,'' Gilman said.

Jacoby said in a message posted on Jim Romenesko's MediaNews Web site that the theme of his column is an old one, and it didn't occur to him to cite earlier versions.

``In retrospect, I wish I had noted in the column that I am only the latest in a long list to write about the fate of the signers,'' he wrote.

The Globe reported that a mitigating factor in Jacoby's favor was an e-mail he circulated on July 2 stating the column was an attempt to correct errors in a similar piece on the Internet.

In a brief interview with the Globe, Jacoby said, ``I've got 6 1/2 years of columns behind me, and I invite anybody to judge my integrity and the care that I take in my work from the body of work I've produced.''

Noting that his views are at odds with the paper's more liberal opinion pages, Jacoby added, ``I've been aware from the outset that I have to be extremely aware of my column.''

Asked if the suspension was harsh, Loth said, ``We considered mitigating factors as well as the blow this is to the Globe's credibility, and we came up with a balanced response that's proportionate.''