Boston Globe editor blasts ‘juvenile’ opinion piece on business columnist Shirley Leung

In a Friday CommonWealth opinion piece, executive editor Michael Jonas wrote that Boston Globe business columnist Shirley Leung “has emerged as the undisputed cheerleader-in-chief for the Boston 2024 effort” and that “more than any opinion writer in town, Leung has been carrying the torch (water, her critics would say) for the Olympics effort.”

Here is Globe editor Brian McGrory’s response to CommonWealth publisher Greg Torres and editor Bruce Mohl.

Dear Greg and Bruce,

I’m stunned that you saw fit to publish Michael Jonas’s juvenile opinion piece about Globe columnist Shirley Leung on Friday. It’s certainly not the vapidity of the post that’s so concerning, though let’s take a look at that as well.

On that front, Mr. Jonas seems shocked that Shirley would deviate from the deeply grooved mindset of virtually all local opinion writers that the Olympic bid is an awful idea that will lead to billions of dollars in unplanned public spending. Mr. Jonas, from the safety of the press pack, implies that Shirley is in some bizarre way a shill because she chooses to have an open mind. He spends the most words regretting that Shirley, unlike past Globe business columnist Steve Bailey, doesn’t give cutting little nicknames to, say, the governor of the Commonwealth – as if that would somehow prove her worth. I know Steve Bailey well and admire him very much, but those nicknames never actually caught on with anyone (Mr. Jonas aside) and were hardly his high-water mark as a columnist./CONTINUES

In pushing an absurd case, Mr. Jonas conveniently overlooks the fact that Shirley has referred to John Fish as “out of control” and the Olympic poll numbers as “embarrassing.” He ignores Shirley’s description of incoming Boston 2024 CEO Steve Pagliuca as “no (Larry) Lucchino,” while she posed the question, “Replacing one rich guy with another fixes things how?” He doesn’t include the fact that Shirley alone called out the committee’s powerful public relations adviser, Doug Rubin, as ineffective.

Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas

You would think, given Mr. Jonas’s strange affection for nicknames, that he might have liked Shirley’s designation of Boston 2024 as “Mount Olympus,” as in, “The trouble is that Mount Olympus looks an awful like the Patrick administration in exile.”

Finally, Shirley has also done something that I’m not sure Mr. Jonas has ever achieved: She’s broken stories, big ones, on the Olympics – from the ascension of Pagliuca to the fact that Fish had blindsided the mayor and governor with the short-lived hiring of Deval Patrick.

But Mr. Jonas’s work goes from vapid to disturbing when he uses deeply sexist terms in describing Shirley, a Princeton graduate, Wall Street Journal alumnus, former Globe business editor, one of the most influential and widely read columnists in Boston, and currently a finalist for the prestigious Gerald Loeb award. To Mr. Jonas, though, Shirley is a “cheerleader” who earns his ever-so-clever nickname “Pom-Pom Leung,” which was then highlighted in your headline and splashed at the top of your site for five days and counting.

I began wondering what the female members of your organization must think of this – an accomplished journalist summarily dismissed as a pom-pom waving cheerleader by a writer who pines for the days when male columnists assigned nicknames. Ends up, I was mistaken to use the plural. Your website lists just one of five staff members at CommonWealth as female. Not one of the three opinion writers listed on your site is a woman. Ditto for your four contributing authors. In fact, of the 14 bylines on your homepage when I wrote this letter, only one was that of a female writer.

It’s incredible to have to explain that Shirley Leung is anything but a cheerleader. She’s actually an integral part of the game, to extend Mr. Jonas’s inept analogy, a vibrant columnist who routinely breaks major stories, holds powerful people accountable, and has the rare courage to question the conventional view. I don’t expect Mr. Jonas to grasp any of this, but I’d like to think that both of you are more than capable.

Sincerely,

Brian McGrory

Cc: Ann-Ellen Hornidge

Chairwoman, MassINC

* “Pom-Pom” Leung to the rescue (commonwealthmagazine.org)
* “Leung hasn’t always been a publicist for plutocrats” (digboston.com)


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