A Sunday Story – A Talk With The Globe’s Shelley Murphy

2013 France-3000_1552When I was last in federal court I had a conversation with Shelley Murphy of  the Boston Globe. Shelley told me in as kind a voice as one could manage taking someone to the woodshed that she wasn’t happy with a story in my blog that indicated she and Kevin Cullen had paid Dick Sunday for the letters he had received from Whitey Bulger. She said I may have caused damage to their reputation because I accused them of doing something unethical when I made that suggestion.

I was taken by surprised by this. I apologized to her explaining that it was not my intent when I wrote that blog to infer that she did anything unethical nor did I intend to diminish her or Kevin’s reputation. I told her I didn’t think there was anything unethical about paying for information from sources. She said I should have called her first prior to making the suggestion.

Before I go on, let me be clear that although I have differences with Shelley and Kevin Cullen, and with other reporters on the Globe and elsewhere, I have spelled them out as well as I could by challenging their factual assertions. I may have even questioned the motives of some. I don’t recall doing that with Shelley or Kevin. I have tried my best not to suggest that any of them were doing anything wrong or unethical in the performance of their jobs. It’s just that we see things differently.

I’ve known Shelly for many years dating back to the John Connolly trial. I have always found her to be an outstanding reporter who told the story as it is. I feel bad that she thought I was accusing her of wrongdoing when that was the farthest thing from my mind. I apologize to her that my article made her feel that. I’ve known Kevin from even further back and always felt he did an excellent job as a columnist from the earliest days when he started writing for the Globe. If he feels that I have suggested he has engaged in any wrongdoing I apologize to him also. By the way, I also learned from Shelley that there is a great difference between a reporter and a columnist which I had never focused in on before.

Here’s as best I can gather the column that caused Shelley to be upset. I wrote it on February 12, 2012, about the time Shelley’s and Kevin’s book had just been released. It seemed a good portion of their book was based on letters that Whitey had written to Dick Sunday.

I wrote as part of it the following: Once a convict ever looking for a con. Dick first wrote to Bulger and they became pen pals. The first thing that came to my mind was to wonder how much money Dick stuck-up the Globe for to give them the letters?  We’re not told.”

My intent was to show that Dick had been playing “friend” with Whitey but that he probably had an ulterior motive in doing so. I figured he thought he could make a little money with the letters and offered them for sale at some undetermined price. I assumed someone at the Globe paid the price. I did not know who had done it. I also did not know it would have been unethical for the Globe to have done it.

I do not understand why it is unethical for a newspaper reporter to buy information from a source. To my way of thinking if it is one way to find out the truth of an important matter then it is fine to do especially if it involves documentary evidence.I went to the Internet to find out more about the ethics of paying for information.

I found an article in 2010 by Jack Shafer who says there really aren’t any ethical considerations involved. He said there has been a long ongoing debate over whether journalists should pay for information. Shafer pointed to a history of “respectable” news organizations paying for information. In a 2012 Guardian article the author Roy Greenslade suggests good investigative reporting can be done without paying for the information but he doesn’t suggest paying is wrong. John Cook ends his  2011 essay in the Colombia Journalism Review by saying: “But it’s hard to argue that papers that abstain from payments are morally or professionally superior to those that do, when the latter are catching important stories that might otherwise go untold.”

The bottom line is I did not believe the Globe thought it is unethical to pay for information when I knew others did  it. I did wonder if Dick Sunday had received money from the Globe and how much. Shelley said it did not pay for the letters. I absolutely believe her.

Had I to do it over again I would not have written those lines if I had known Shelley or Kevin would have taken them as a negative comment on their professional ethics or upset them in any way. They are too fine individuals who I might disagree with but who I don’t doubt they believe as strongly as I do in telling things as they see them.

In so far that they were upset then I sincerely apologize.



23 replies on “A Sunday Story – A Talk With The Globe’s Shelley Murphy”

  1. Dear Matt,
    Shelley Murphy was given a copy of my lawsuit. She received a copy of my brother’s lawsuit. The Globe never mentioned the lawsuits. They never mentioned the federal seal being put on my brother’s Boston Police Witness Statement.
    Most important, they never mentioned those two FBI agents finding my brother at his girlfriend’s home minutes after the murders. As I stated before, my brother’s license plate was registered to my mother’s house. She wasn’t contacted by any law enforcement authorities. She didn’t even know where my brother’s girlfriend lived. Either the FBI followed my brother from the murder scene, or one of Whitey’s gang followed my brother and contacted the FBI.
    Shelley Murphy is making money off the Whitey saga. But she won’t tell the public important information concerning Whitey killing Brian Halloran.

    1. Afraid:

      Anyone can go on the Pacer web site and get a copy of the suit you filed. They can probably come to the court and look at it although I’m not sure of that. You raise some good issues. No one seems to want to hear your brother’s story. I wonder why?

  2. Funny thing about these reporters/columnists/journalists— “ja-whorelinists”—- as Jay Severin calls them: Most are knee jerk leftists who toe the party line. Funny that they hurl arrows at people day in and day out, and destroy reputations directly on flimsy evidence, or indirectly by innuendo or omission, but when someone sticks them with a hat pin they howl like pigs on a stick. They can blacken anyone’s reputation and do so without blinking, yet when someone ruffles their dainty feathers, they start crying. Cullen, who pontificated about “what Jesus would do” and whose pilloried honest families trying to improve their neighborhoods, and Shelley, a nicer person, but who labels innocent people as “orchestrating” murders and leading criminal syndicates, have shown little integrity and mercy in their writings, and they deserve no mercy. About them, Matt, I’d say they need harsh tutoring; hold on punches in decrying their contrivances; expose them for the prevaricators and fabricators they are, twisters of words’ meanings. Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child! Whip them into becoming better persons by simply exposing their false reporting, their sins of commission and especially their calculated omissions. The American people rate journalists at the same low level as politicians. We don’t trust them. We’ve previously proven their fraudulent statements about JOhn Connolly “orchestrating” murders, ignoring the fact-finders at trial, and Cullen’s ludicrous column telling us “What Jesus would do” like he had a direct pipeline to the Almighty. Journalistic ethics? It’s an oxymoronic phrase. They’re rabid ideologues, on the whole, who spin facts to suit their preconceived liberal biases. Globe reporting since Forced Busing and before has been yellow journalistic muck: a bad joke. You’ll find few unspun facts in the tall tales their reporters and columnists fabricate daily. The conservative, Jeff Jacoby, is an honest exception, whose facts are reliable and opinions I generally share. The rest of them are not worth reading and their words are not worth the paper they’re written on.

    1. William:
      Jay Severin is not the best source to be quoting for anything. You do point to a good issue that they feel they can do anything they want but dare someone come back at them they are personally hurt. As I’ve explained before I like Shelley so I’m not interested in having a personal dispute between us. As to what she writes, I disagree with some of it. The same for Wyshak. I just have a totally different view of what it takes to be a prosecutor. I want to stick to the issues and support my arguments with facts and not get into destroying reputations by conclusions but to set out what I know, what I conclude from what I set out, and let the reader make her decision.
      I would point out that Jeff Jacoby who you like (because his opinions are like yours) also works for the Globe.

  3. Isn’t she on the witness list?

    If so, then some might say “hats off” to Ms. Murphy for a well played hand. Slick, even.

    ‘Twould seem she pulled a veritable “Ace” out of the deck to have such attempts at having her credibility so subtly restored by an outside “character witness” of sorts before she takes the stand.

    All allowed of course because the Judge found that she, as a witness, did not need to be sequestered like others and could still “properly” cover the trial while she seeks to also cover her…

    That move alone coupled with the corresponding column, demonstrates the very reason why she and Mr. Cullen should have been sequestered in the first place. That move alone and the corresponding column are most revealing.

    1. Alex:
      She’s on the defendant witness list but probably won’t be called. Howie Carr should be excluded since he should surely be called but the defense team didn’t really put up a fight against him which surprised me.
      The defense seemed to have flubbed this issue. I hope Carney’s love of the media attention did not cause him to fail to fight back on this. The precedent used by the reporters suggesting that Judge Tauro did not exclude them from the Connolly is really not in point. There the evidence from the reporters came in through stipulation so there was no need for sequestering.
      It does go to show you the relationship between the court and the press, although keep in mind if the judge sees one side not putting up a fight she is going to go with the side who asks for something to be done. So I don’t blame her.

  4. Matt,

    I recently heard a recording of a federal agent testifying under oath that Shelley Murphy provided information to federal investigators for the purposes of furthering their investigation. I also saw several federal investigative reports indicating the same. The same reports and investigation found that Shelley was provided with secret grand jury information by such special agents in the same case. She published that secret grand jury information.
    In this circumstance, sn’t Shelley being “oaid” something of value, illegal grand jury information in return for giving federal agents tips?
    You should not be apologetic. You did nothing wrong. She has brass balls for suggesting you crossed some line.
    Next time you see her ask her what investigatory work she has done regarding the backseat shooter!
    Ask her what investigatory work she has done into the recent organized crime activity of John Martorano and Pat Née!
    Shelley is so controlled by Wyshak and Kelly it is absurd. She is completely compromised as a journalist. Your blog has uncovered scads of contradictions, inconsistencies, and injustices by federal law enforcement. That’s supposed to be her beat.
    Your encounter with Shelley reminds me of another. During Catherine Greig’s plea submission, Shelley approached Greig’s family in court and said she had just spent a lot of time investigating things in Santa Monica and “couldn’t find anyone who would say a bad word about Cathy.”
    Like her mention of your blog to you in private, Shelly cannot ever print her words about you or Cathy Greig because it would be against her interest, and more importantly against Wyshak’s interest.
    Shelley has picked her side in this case and it has blinded her from even considering that law enforcement might not be as clean as they tell her.
    She’s no more than Wyshak’s B and don’t let her influence you.

    1. Patty:
      If what you say is true then Shelley was being more than just a reporter she was doing something that seems quite unusual for a reporter, voluntarily cooperating with the government. I don’t know how she squares that with her “I only report” mantra. Also if what you say is true then her suggestion to me that it is unethical for her to pay for information would be put her right in the spotlight. If she is getting leaked information from the grand jury, which we know she has received in the past, then the reason this is happening is that she is providing something of value in exchange for it (information instead of money). So if true, she’s putting herself in the position as being unethical according to her own standards.
      I was apologetic not so much because I felt I did something wrong but because she seemed to have been personally hurt by it and it was not my intent to hurt her. I couldn’t feel I did wrong because as I told her I did not know you couldn’t pay for information, and as you’ve shown she herself has given something of value for the information.
      No doubt she is in the pocket of the feds as I have noted all along because of the close relationship wherein she does get grand jury information and no one dares investigate how she gets it. I won’t be influenced by the encounter other than to be more precise in what I say but I maintain my belief that the story they have presented is wrong and that there is an unhealthy relationship between the local media and federal prosecutors. It’s just that I don’t want these personal sidelights to get in the way of the real issues.

  5. Matt, did she show any contempt of your many times reference to the selectivity in her reporting?
    Seems she has no problem with that, only with some code that touched a nerve with her bosses.

    For months readers could infer that Murphy and others have continued to turn a blind eye to many facts that contradict anything in the narrative. They have written books and their fame and fortune is linked to whitey.
    Murphy has no problem with the fact that whether you intend to or not, many of your readers believe her to be an unethical person not withstanding paying for Whitey’s letters.

    Seems Shelley agrees otherwise she would of said something.

    1. Ernie:
      No she made no reference to other than that one incident. She did suggest she doesn’t read the blog. I felt if she was offended by what I said however it was brought to her attention since it was not my intent to offend her nor to accuse her of anything out of course I’d tell her I was sorry that she took it that way.
      She does have in my opinion, as do all the local media, the wrong slant on the case but I understand there is no way they’ll change because they are too vested in it nor will I change my viewpoint. There is “The Whitey Story” and any deviation from it must be condemned or ignored. I don’t know what she knows about my readers opinions of her. She did emphasize she’s a reporter and she just puts out the straight story while Kevin as a columnist give opinions. I’ll leave it there for you to judge.
      PS Ernie: I’ll also link your site to mine if I can find out how to do it along with Jay’s new site.

  6. they are a reporter and a columnist, the latter can express more opinion, the former uses more subtlety and nuance to express their subjectivity.

    She doth protest too much.

    They aren’t saints nor volunteers.

    Newspapers aren’t not for profits.

    Don’t let them knock you off your track.

  7. Dear Matt,

    Regarding the content of today’s post, here is what I found, to supplement your efforts. First, what Ms. Murphy apparently references is what is commonly known as “Checkbook Journalism” and, while increasingly condemned in more recent years, has long since been a part of the historical legacy of the journalistic field. See Alex Keckeisen, Ethical concerns of checkbook journalism, April 13, 2011, http://alexkeckeisen.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/ethical-concerns-of-checkbook-journalism/. An earlier article from the American Journalism Review also provides this dichotomy. See Kelly Heyboer, Paying for it, AJR, April 1999, http://www.ajr.org/Article.asp?id=461. In the Shafer article you’ve cited, he also expressly points out that “Not all payments to sources are evil…”

    In the article at issue here, the sole reference to any payments is when you stated, “The first thing that came to my mind was to wonder how much money Dick stuck-up the Globe for to give them the letters? We’re not told.” At no point do you make any declaration that money actually WAS exchanged, nor could any reasonable person construe this as a statement of fact. The only statement of fact is, “We’re not told.” You also stated the fact that you wondered “how much money Dick stuck-up the Globe for to give them the letters.” The only fact you state is what was on your mind; you could have similarly had on your mind, “Pepperoni is the best pizza topping” or “I wonder how much money Whitey Bulger’s barber was paid for shaving off that beard” but you having that thought does not actually mean that your thought, which is yours and yours alone to control, does not mean that the substance of that thought is a statement of fact. No reasonable person could construe this to be so, if we read the literal meaning of your words.

    Accordingly, while it is critical for individuals to be vigilant in protecting their hard-earned reputations, and I am sure that the person in question here will undoubtedly appreciate today’s mea culpa, at no point did I or would I actually think that your posting was intended to be a statement of fact. I will speculate no further in regard to how this same posting indicated how it was “a strange move” that the Globe allowed Ms. Murphy and Mr. Cullen to review their own book; and while that was a statement of fact, the implications there are self-evident. You raise no questions about the ethical underpinnings of that, but I am compelled to point out that, as the higher purpose in deeming “checkbook journalism” to be unethical is to avoid an appearance of a conflict of interest and to ensure independence and objectivity.

    Indeed, the Society of Professional Journalists has promulgated a formal Code of Ethics which states in relevant part:

    Act Independently
    Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.

    Journalists should:

    —Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
    — Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
    — Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
    — Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
    — Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
    — Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
    — Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.


    I also point out that this provision does not expressly ban “checkbook journalism” but instead advises journalists to “be wary,” thereby allowing for interpretation. Even assuming arguendo that a reasonable person could construe the questioned reference in your earlier post as a factual implication that some payment was exchanged, I do not think that it would not be unethical per se, without more. You also make clear here that you had no malicious intent and completely acted in good faith by expressly your thoughts. And the day our thoughts are criminalized is the day that the First Amendment’s freedoms become hollowly chilled.

    Finally, your blog appears to fall under the purview of a columnist, not a reporter, and under that definition, you offer an expert’s “insight and analysis” into these events. However, from my understanding, a reporter and a columnist are both considered to be “journalists” operating through different media in the field of journalism. The implication there is that you offer your expert opinion here. It is only by Howie Carr’s classification as a columnist by which he and the Boston Herald, under the principle of respondeat superior, has repeatedly escaped defamation liability in the past, with few exceptions.

    The conclusion is that you and Carr do have some common ground after all.



    1. Here’s some statements of fact: The Globe has conducted an unholy jihad against conservatives and traditionalists in Boston for over 40 years. People who get jobs in the Globe as journalists know its history of slanted leftist journalism and hostile animus against conservatives/traditionalists, especially traditionalists from the neighborhoods, and especially against the people of South Boston, whom the Globe has ceaselessly treated unfairly and unmercifully for over forty years running. Murphy and Cullen were adults when they entered into contracts to work for the Boston Globe, whose historical record of yellowish-liberalish-socialistic-atheistic journalism is there for all the world to research and confirm. Four months before the 2008 elections, the Globe suspended for three or four months its only conservative columnist, Jeff Jacoby, over a trifling matter of whether Jacoby properly credited the Internet as an anonymous source of some words in one of his columns. The Boston Herald’s Menargerie Eagan covered Secretary Rice’s speech at a BC graduation and concocted the headline “Rice Booed” when, in fact, Rice received five (5) standing ovations from the crowd of some 15,000 and the only smattering of a few boos came from some leftist-radical professors and few score of their acolytes.

      1. William:

        Jeff Jacoby also entered into the same contract as Murphy and Cullen. Isn’t Cullen from Southie and didn’t Murphy almost graduate from Southie High.

    2. Jay:
      Thanks for the support vis-à-vis Shelley Murphy and the discussions of “checkbook journalism.” I agree with you that I didn’t accuse the Globe of paying money but merely made the suggestion that I thought it may have. The point of my article is that Shelley was offended by it (and Kevin also, at least that is what I inferred) so I wanted to make it clear it was not my intent to have them take offense by accusing them of doing something which they are not supposed to do, although I don’t see anything wrong with paying for sources. The feds do it all the time when they make deals for witnesses to testify.
      Your article does bring the matter into a proper perspective and I appreciate it. You are right to wonder how ethical it is for someone to be reviewing their own book, but since those are such side matters I’d just as soon let them be in the past Thanks again.

  8. Dear Matt,

    While still in its fledgling stages, I have decided to follow your sage suggestion and have started a blog of my own. It is currently available for viewing at http://thefirmestpillar.wordpress.com/. I’m not sure how large of a time commitment this would be, but I do intend to tie in with the various issues of relevance which may arise during this trial as well.

    Yours in trust,

    1. Jay:
      Glad to hear your interest is still way up there. Also happy to hear you have decided to start a blog. I’m going to try to link to it so that those interested in your opinions can go there. I’d recommend it because you provide good background to whatever you say. Good luck. Who know you may become the next Bill O’Reilly, Glen Reynolds, Glenn Greenwald or even Andrew Sullivan.

      1. Dear Matt,

        Thank you for the support and encouragement, although I cannot say that those you’ve mentioned are commentators whom I could ever conceivably aspire to follow. Thus, I can only assume that this particular Rat Pack is stated in tune with your jovial recipe of uniquely subtle humor.

        I’m not quite sure how this linking works, but if possible, feel free to link away! I do solemnly pledge to follow suit, with your blessing.


        1. Jay:

          Just press on. Tell your friends but don’t expect them to be steady readers, people are creatures of habit. Work at it and enjoy the doing and wait an dsee what happens. If you have people who willing to enter into a discussion then you will be well on your way. I’ll like if I can get my technical consultant (my son) to help me do it.

  9. Mr. Sunday has made a commodity of Bulger’s trust. By purchasing the correspondence between Bulger, and, Sunday, reporters assisted in that transformation. Bulger, being no fool, knows that his written thoughts, at present, are very valuable. I wonder what his angle is? How do the letters assist him in manipulating the press? What did Sunday promise to Bulger for the letters? Is Sunday fronting for Bulger?

    1. Khalid:
      I’m told that Sunday released the letters to the Boston Globe because he thought they would be helpful to Whitey. Sunday reached out to Whitey and that’s how the correspondence began. I’m not buying a lot of this because the letters weren’t that helpful and I thought they diminished Whitey. If Whitey wanted them out he could have written them himself to the Globe.

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