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Young journalists still determined after threats made to Boston Globe

A California man was arrested after he made 22 threatening calls to the office of The Boston Globe following their editorial campaign defending the free press last month. PHOTO BY HALEY ABRAM/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

A man was charged with making calls threatening to shoot and kill reporters at The Boston Globe, the Globe reported. The man, Robert Darrell Chain, reportedly called Globe reporters “the enemy of the people,” following the newspaper’s nationwide editorial campaign protesting President Donald Trump’s rhetoric against the press.

The 68-year-old California man made 14 calls to the Globe between Aug. 10–22 and 22 after the published editorial campaign, before being arrested in his home by an FBI SWAT team. Authorities found 20 firearms in his home, including a semiautomatic rifle, according to the Aug. 30 Globe article.

Chain now faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the charge of “making a threatening communication in interstate commerce.” He will appear in federal court in Boston on Sept. 24, the Globe reported.

Dan Kennedy, a journalism professor at Northeastern University, said he believes this event — and the June shooting at The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland — are part of a larger narrative against the press taking place today.

“The attack at The Capital Gazette and the threat against The Boston Globe [seem] to be tied into the general atmosphere of fear and violence that is being encouraged from the top from the White House,” he said.

Kennedy said that although interest in the press has increased recently, Trump’s diction about the press has contributed to the divisions we see today.

“The cries of fake news have made it so that even the best news organizations and the most important stories are not having an impact past their current audience,” Kennedy said.

Nicole Wright, 60, of East Boston, described the threat of violence toward the media as “horrific.”

“[Trump] is positioning the press as ‘the enemy of the people’ when they are critical to our democracy and our freedom,” Wright said. “It’s scary — the path he is going down — and it’s scary when you see him at those rallies, pointing at the press and saying they are the enemy. There are crazy people out there who will follow up on that.”

Alex Hare, 27, of Allston, said he thinks Trump’s narrative about the press comes from the negative attention he so often receives.

“I feel like Trump has tunnel vision when it comes to the views around him,” Hare said. “I do support [the press], but you always have to hear both sides and have to take it with a grain of salt and do research to form your own opinion.”

The Globe had more than 20 students completing internships and co-ops at the time the threats were made. Emily Williams, a recent Miami University graduate, interned at the metropolitan desk this summer. She said the negativity surrounding journalism has not affected her desire to work in the field.

For the most part, the people I have spoken with about this haven’t changed [their minds],” Williams said. “It hasn’t changed my plans in any way, but it definitely adds stress, and it adds that extra thought in the back of your mind any time you work, which is unfortunate. It has caused extra concern on the part of my parents as well.”

Jordan Frias, president of the Society of Professional Journalists’ New England chapter, said these attacks prove that journalists are needed now more than ever. This is the only attack on local media that he has been made aware of, he said.

“… I would encourage people to still strive for the truth, still hold institutions accountable through reporting and to know that you are supported through organizations like SPJ and professors,” Frias said.

Frias said public support was mostly positive the day the Globe released its editorial defending the free press.

“Not all journalists agree with that method, but we stand in solidarity with one another,” Frias said. “Without a doubt, journalists don’t condone threats made on other journalists, no matter what side of the aisle you are on or what part of the country you are in.”

William Katt, 39, of Somerville, said he supports the editorial released by the Globe, but that he was not surprised to hear of the threatening calls they received following it.

“The editorial was an important step that brought attention to a really important issue for which little action is being taken,” Katt said. “I think it’s fantastic that the FBI was quick on the case to investigate. It would be nice to have more public comments from leaders, rather than just law enforcement taking action.”

Despite attacks on the press, Frias said SPJ New England has seen an increase in the number of students interested in pursuing journalism, especially in Boston.

One Comment

  1. Interesting subject, and again, well written. No bias. I read a lengthy article about Chain a few days ago in a national news article.
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