Boston.com and associate editor Victor Paul Alvarez have parted ways, according to fierce crosstown rival Boston Herald, after Alvarez wrote a glib and snarky account of an alleged plan by an Ohio bartender to poison House Speaker John Boehner.
Here's how it was reported in the Herald --
His article, which was posted prominently on the website's homepage 'Top News' section for about 12 hours, was headlined: 'Would Anyone Have Noticed if Bartender Succeeded in Poisoning John Boehner?'
Which begs the question -- how long does it take at Boston.com for its (other) editors to notice such a bizarre headline? Answer -- apparently about 12 hours. The Herald then quoted from Alvarez's original story --
Stories about Boehner's drinking have circulated for years. His drinking inspired a blog called DrunkBoehner, and in 2010 he brought booze back to Washington. Had he been poisoned as planned, perhaps his pickled liver could have filtered out the toxins.
Accompanying the post was an Associated Press photo with this cutline, the Herald reports --
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio has been known to get hammered from time to time.
While Boston.com's (other) editors were asleep at the switch, reaction to the story went viral, getting picked up by Hot Air's Noah Rothman and NewsBuster's Tom Blumer, among others. Boston.com went into damage control, scrubbing the story of its headline and cutline, adding a note up top from the site's general manager, and what passes for a correction.
Boston.com general manager Corey Gottlieb wrote --
Last night, an opinion piece was published on Boston.com that has since been adjusted to what you'll see below. The original column made references to Speaker Boehner that were off-color and completely inappropriate. It reflected the opinions of one of our writers; what it did not reflect, by any standards, were the site's collective values. Rather than remove any reference to it or pretend it didn't happen, we are handling with transparency and self-awareness. We are sorry, and we will do better.
Oddly, the largely cleansed story included the following correction at the end, which cited a vague "reference" to Boehner's "health" --
Editor's note: A previous version of this article made an unsubstantiated reference to the health of Speaker Boehner.
That's one way of putting it. The original story also claimed that "luckily for Boehner and his supporters," the alleged plan never came to pass, as if only they care whether Boehner remains among the living. A more accurate correction would read -- "A previous version of this article claimed Speaker Boehner is a drunk." A brutally honest correction would read, "A previous version of this article wishes Boehner dead."
Contacted by the Herald, Alvarez confirmed that Boston.com is now his former employer -- "Why not comment on the truth? Yes, I have been fired. That's my comment."
The chief executive of Boston Globe Media Partners LLC, Mike Sheehan, told Boston.com that he called Boehner's office and sent a note of apology in response to Alvarez's story.
"It's very difficult to hit the epicenter of tasteless, mean-spirited, and humorless in one fell swoop," Sheehan was quoted as saying. Boston.com describes itself as owned by Boston Globe Media Partners LLC but run "independently" from the Boston Globe, the city's sole daily broadsheet, and BostonGlobe.com.
Alvarez, after posting a tweet of what appears to be the underside of a bus (nice touch), came across as genuinely penitent in subsequent tweets -- "Ordered silent yesterday. Now I can comment. The story I wrote was awful. Tasteless. Mean. Bosses felt it was inexcusable. They fired me."
Under his Twitter profile photo, Alvarez quoted Sheehan's trenchant criticism of him and added, "He's right. I'm to blame. No excuse."
Alvarez also tweeted that "in case it wasn't abundantly clear, I'm looking for a job. I doubt there will be any offers. But I am available."