For anyone who followed the unlikely capture of James “Whitey” Bulger in Santa Monica, Sunday’s front page Boston Globe feature article was a must-read, full of new details about the gangster’s life on the lam. However, many of the newspaper’s readers are questioning the decision by reporters Shelley Murphy and Maria Cramer to fully expose the person who tipped the FBI to the whereabouts of the fugitive and his female companion, Catherine Geiger, triggering the payout of a $2 million reward.
So far, only cross-town rival the Boston Herald has opted not to disclose the informant’s name in its reaction reports. Every other outlet–from national wire services to local outfits like NBC LA–has run with the name, further breaching the FBI’s guarantee of tipster confidentiality. Among the Globe reader comments:
DPierre: Am I the only one who is a little uneasy about the Globe publishing the NAME of the woman from Iceland, the informant?
Boston220: Does stupid, reckless Shelley Murphy not give a crap that this woman is now publicly identified? Does she not realize the risks involved here? Whitey Bulger was a mass murderer. It is so damn irresponsible to publicize her name… I hope Murphy and the editors of the Globe and its parent NYT go to sleep feeling nothing but shame for the rest of their lives.
cbquincy: Shame on the Globe for reporting this woman’s identity. I’m sure it’s under the guise of journalism, but nobody benefits from this information and someone’s safety is most definitely compromised. Congratulations.
As the story continues to get picked up this morning by everyone from the Daily Beast to CBS News, the informant’s name is being indexed anew. The Globe even went so far as to publish a current photo of the informant, which has also been re-published and re-broadcast.
*Update – 10/10/11: FishbowlLA had reached out to the Globe before publication and has now heard back via telephone from Scott Allen, investigative editor for the newspaper’s Metro department.
“It is true that we talked internally a lot at the Globe before we published the [informant's] name,” he explained. “There were numerous formal discussions, many memos went back and forth. This was not a foregone conclusion. If we thought publishing her name would have jeopardized her, we would not have done so.”
Allen confirmed that no one at the FBI leaked the information to the paper. Based on news reports after the arrest that the tipster was from Iceland, the paper did some investigative footwork. “Whitey and his girlfriend knew exactly one person from Iceland,” Allen said. “We were in touch with this person and her husband, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s office, other law enforcement agencies. Nobody ever raised the issue that if we do this and publish her name, then she will be put in jeopardy.”
“This was a very thoughtful decision. We had every indication that this was all about personal privacy and notoriety. Also, so many people have questioned the actual existence of an informant, including the Herald.”
Update – 10/11/11: The Globe has now also posted this official explanation of its actions.