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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

They did the right thing

Well, it took a few days, but the Herald editors (and Needham police) did the right thing.

The Herald runs what appears to be a verbatim transcript of an interview with Hillel Neuer, the Canadian civil rights rights executive who was the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time in a Needham pizza shop Friday night.

The Globe also runs a transcript (and audio) of a 911 call that shows how someone can get caught up in a panic.

Neuer said it best in his conversation with the Herald:

“This whole thing was ridiculous and I feel very happy I was fully vindicated by the court. I hold nothing against the people of Needham. There were people who acted recklessly and they should reflect.”

The disorderly conduct charge against him was dropped for lack of evidence.

Stressful situations bring out the worst in people. Excessive media coverage -- helicopters hovering, breathless live at the scene stand-ups that can't offer any information -- add greatly to that stress.

But decisions made in the supposedly thoughtful, if frenzied confines of a newsroom are supposed to be different. The editors of the Herald, who ran his picture on Page One with enough information from their own reporters to have thought twice, are among the reckless actors.

There's a distinct likelihood the unusual transcript interview is a product of discussions between Herald lawyers and Neuer's attorney. A prominently displayed picture on their web site of a grip-and-grin photo of Neuer with former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is another giveaway of a legal deal.

Whatever the motives (and the Herald surely is aware that Neuer, unlike Judge Ernest Murphy, is clearly not a public figure) the Herald ultimately did wipe a bit of the smear off an innocent man. But it never should have happened in the first place.

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