Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

External forces played unethical role in Minihane’s WEEI departure

Journalists should work as reporters and columnists, not activists
Collegian File Photo

I can still remember my intro to journalism seminar at the University of Massachusetts during my freshman year when professor Karen List distributed social media guidelines for Associated Press reporters. One thing I was surprised to read was that writers who work for the AP should keep opinions on politics to themselves and off of Twitter and Facebook.

How could that be the case when so many sports writers I followed on Twitter were belittling the president or the Democratic nominee? Was I missing something?

Other rules I’ve learned in classes throughout my time here at UMass – and what might seem to be common sense do’s and don’ts for journalists – appear to be left at the door of some journalistic institutions.

A former Boston sports radio personality has been the subject of a Boston Globe editor’s alleged campaign to get advertisers to remove the station’s sponsorships, and the editor has taken a stab at his character as he heads out the door.

Kirk Minihane was the co-host of a popular sports morning show, “Kirk & Callahan,” on Sports Radio WEEI in Boston. The show was consistently on or near the top of the Nielsen ratings for target demographics, but Minihane has since been relegated to to begin his own show starting in early 2019.

After battling chronic depression and suicidal thoughts, Minihane took a mental health leave from WEEI in September 2018. Ultimately, the two decided to part ways for good, Minihane citing a “difference of opinion” for that decision, as WEEI wanted more of a sports talk show for its morning drive program.

It’s not so much that WEEI decided to move on from Minihane that is disappointing. For years I was a loyal listener to the show before interning and occasionally producing when the big guns were on vacation. His voice will surely be missed on the station.

But my problem with the breakup is the external forces that expedited Minihane’s departure, which are concerning from an ethical journalistic standpoint.

Minihane’s opinions on sports were more sarcastic than sincere. He pledged to host in a tone that regular people use, talking conversationally instead of being your typical sports radio talking head. It’s what made him appealing and the show so successful.

But it did not come without controversy. Early in his career, Minihane was suspended for calling Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews a “gutless bitch” for her handling of an interview at the MLB All Star Game in 2014.

That being said, his reputation has taken an even bigger hit in recent weeks.

Shirley Leung is the interim editorial page editor and former business columnist at The Boston Globe. She hasn’t been shy about her feelings about WEEI and Minihane. But after Minihane busted Globe columnist Kevin Cullen this past spring for fabricating details about his involvement in the Boston Marathon bombings, Minihane claims that Leung told him over the phone that she “[was] going to get [him] for that.”

After Minihane’s findings and a Globe investigation, Cullen was suspended for three months without pay. Globe owner John Henry said Cullen “damaged his credibility.”

This past February, Leung wrote a piece in the Globe titled “WEEI hosts peddle cheap and vile shock. It’s time to force a change.” The piece followed an incident when WEEI midday host Christian Fauria was suspended for using an Asian accent to impersonate Asian-American sports agent Don Yee. WEEI suspended programming for a day to host a sensitivity training session and Fauria was suspended for a week. Fauria also attended the annual Asian American Journalists Convention with Yee in August and apologized for mocking him.

But in her article, Leung called on advertisers to take their money elsewhere if station management couldn’t set the right tone.

Minihane claimed that not only did Leung call on advertisers to boycott their sponsorships on the station, but that she participated in it. Host of Greater Boston Jim Braude agreed with Minihane’s claim in an interview the two did on WGBH News last week, even though Leung is a regular contributor to WGBH.

Leung’s piece about Minihane’s departure two weeks ago did not cite his bout with depression that led him to take a mental health leave, nor did she call him for a comment in the story. Leung told Braude and Margery Eagan on “Boston Public Radio” two weeks ago that she thought it was better to deal with Entercom, WEEI’s parent company, than Minihane directly – except she allegedly felt the need to tell him she’d get him for what he did to Cullen to him directly without issue.

Leung’s opinion about WEEI is exactly that – her opinion. There should be no problem with an opinion columnist giving their opinion when it is backed with facts and reason. That’s fair game.

But when she writes that she is “worried” that Minihane will not respect the sensitivity training he went through after Fauria mocked Yee on his new platform, and that “for a Boston sports radio station that has become synonymous with racist and sexist banter, I worry the statement reads like a thinly disguised wink and nod to let Kirk be Kirk,” she is treading in murky waters. That is a hefty accusation to throw one’s way without the burden of proof, and not once has Minihane been punished for racist comments. And if what Minihane and Braude are claiming about Leung cold-calling advertisers and threatening them to remove ads from the station is true, are we past the point of calling ourselves journalists?

In classes I’ve taken here at UMass, I’ve learned to be an unbiased reporter. I was told you shouldn’t participate in rallies as a journalist. But if you’re allowed to do what Minihane is claiming Leung did – threatening advertisers to remove sponsorship on a station that has opinions with which you disagree – doesn’t that fly in the face of the amendment that journalists are all trying to protect?

If that’s the case, I have serious concerns about the field I’m about to enter after graduation.

Disclaimer: Kyle DaLuz is a part-time producer at WEEI.

Kyle DaLuz is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected].

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  • S

    StikeDCOct 20, 2022 at 3:19 pm

    Good piece, & speaking of piece…

  • A

    Arnold Mark ZinanJul 12, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    There is no such thing as an unbiased journalist. Just as there is are no unbiased social sciences professors.

  • G

    GCMay 28, 2019 at 10:01 pm

    Just wondering if Ms. Leung of the Globe has admitted to saying that she is “going to get” Minihane or are you basing the claim on his word alone? This guy makes lots of outrageous claims that have no basis in reality. If you know the guy, which you do) you should realize how irresponsible it is to present his claims as fact. I listened to that morning show occasionally and I did get a few laughs with Kirk at first. The problem is his act became very predictable and tiresome. Its amazing to me how dumbed down this society is getting so that this guy’s “unhinged act” combined with his openly unabashed narcissism is mistaken for talent. I’d tune in to the sports talk when the Pats were on a Super Bowl run, only to hear Kirk day after day make the show about himself. Like I said predictable, also TEDIOUS and BORING.

    I just heard about his parting ways with Entrecom, found my way to Periscope and watched some of Kirk’s work on there. I assume you watch those videos? Well, if you are a true, caring friend to the guy, you should be concerned. I would be. He is legitimately losing his mind. If he’s actually suicidal there’s serious cause for concern because the guy is delusional – thanks in great part to all his wonderful “friends” and fans. There’s no telling what he’ll do when he realizes he’s not getting hired as The King of Media in this particular reality. If I were you I’d forget about the Globe and see about getting your friend some help.

  • M

    Martin sandheinrichFeb 3, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    Was his depression related to his responsibility for his contribution to Aaron Hernandez’s death

  • C

    Common ManNov 30, 2018 at 12:27 pm

    Hey Ann,

    How about citing one example of Kirk being Racist. He’s married to a woman of color, I bet she disagrees with you. You completely missed the point of this article. It has nothing to do with what Kirk said or did. It’s about a major Newpaper’s editor violating the ethics of journalism. The Globes credibility was long gone, but to have an editor actively try to censor someone is a big deal. A person in a position of power(Shirley) is using her power and influence to dictate what the common folk listen to. I don’t know about you, but I’m not ok with that. See China’s social credit system, that’s the end result of the road Shirley is leading you down.

  • K

    Kevin BurkeNov 30, 2018 at 10:22 am

    So this week I see that Kevin Cullen is back at the Globe but Minihane is gone. Sports radio is entertainment. Nothing else. What column did was unacceptable. How warped is that?

  • R

    RichNov 30, 2018 at 5:43 am

    Great article,

    I find it hard to believe that Shirley Leung is still on the payroll at the (not really) Globe. maybe when the ratings plummet, WEEI will realize what a poor decision they made, Kirk was the only reason WEEI’s was number 1 in the country After all isn’t it all about the money

  • H

    HowardNov 30, 2018 at 2:39 am

    Could you possibly pucker up and kiss Kirk’s ass a little more? I’m sure he’ll give you a nice pat on the head next time you run to get him coffee. You’re so naive. Kirk is running the Trump playbook. Cater to angry old white guys by belittling women, the mainstream media and minorities. You’re the fool for buying in.

  • D

    DonnaNov 29, 2018 at 9:38 pm

    I loved listening to Kirk Minihane in the mornings. I listen to the radio for entertainment purposes and he always came through. I have not listened at all since he left. I’m very disappointed in WEEI for wanting to change things up from things that helped them become # 1. Yeung may have helped get rid of him but I’m sure Kirk will land on his feet. And if her reason for attacking Minihane was because of Cullen…Shame on her for supporting a liar. It disgraced the entire journalistic community.

  • P

    Paula SmithNov 29, 2018 at 8:59 pm

    So true about the sad decline in journalist ethics. That a journalist could take out a personal vendetta against a radio host … siteing bogus opinions and fabrications in order to have him removed from the radio is incredible.
    Its a travesty that Shirley Leung herself not be suspended or fired for unethical journalistic behavior.
    Kirk Minihane was the best part of my morning commute. Its disappointing that WEEI cowered to shameful outside influences instead of supporting their own loyal listeners or the great talent they had in Kirk Minihane. I look forward to hearing him in January.

  • A

    AnnNov 29, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    This article is a disgusting excuse for the sexism and racism that @Kirkman spewed at @weei. I’m so glad that his disgusting remarks finally caught up to him and he’s now regulated to oblivion. What an embarrassing fall from grace that even the station didn’t want him back and he generated top ratings!

  • K

    karen royleNov 29, 2018 at 8:26 pm

    I’m not in the demographic of targeted listeners …but I am so disappointed in WEEI. Thank you for your commentary, you presented facts and substance. Our world is going crazy, Kirk and Gerry put out a program that people wanted and now they are silenced. I think WEEI will regret this and they will deserve it. My father always told me if you don’t move forward you will fall behind. Kirk is someone trying to move forward.

  • M

    Marc ShepardNov 29, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    Just remember that “unbiased reporting” is all too often mis-interpreted to mean just reporting and quoting both sides of a story, which is NOT journalism. When investigating a conflict, you will almost always find conflicting statements that can’t both be true. As a journalist, it’s your job to decide what’s not believable and cast doubt on it. If any of your professors tell you that’s “biased”, drop the course immediately, as, they don’t know what they are doing.

  • R

    Richard J SnowNov 29, 2018 at 6:20 pm

    Unfortunately, Kyle, this is nothing new. Today’s “news outlets” no longer require facts or any burden of proof to peddle whatever brand of “news” that, ultimately, promotes the agenda of the station, editor, or “reporter”.

    On top of that, our own personal information filters have done nothing to discourage this behavior from our “news outlets”. The vast majority of sheeple in our society could care less about burden of proof from the news outlets that they choose to follow as long as they continue to promote the perspective that they want to see or hear.

  • J

    JennNov 29, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    Very well said. To think you’re not even a professional journalist yet. I hope you don’t get discouraged by the direction your chosen field is going. Stay focused on the ethics and truth and you can help put this business on the direction of integrity.

    Shame on John Henry and Linda Pizzuti for allowing this. They pat themselves on the back for being supporters of free speech yet don’t actually like it if it’s hurts their feelings or the feelings of their staff. It would be much better if they just admitted that they only support free speech if the words aren’t critical of them, their paper, their team, etc.

    The fact that a “newspaper” can silence someone they don’t like is very disturbing and scary for those of us who truly believe in the First Amendment.

    Shame on WEEI & Entercom for taking something enjoyable away from the listeners who put them in their #1 spot. They’ll see the consequences of that in the next book.

    Looking forward to Kirk Minnihanne’s next gig. I hope the hypersensitive anti-free speech editors and news organization owners learn to change the dial (in this case the web site) when they hear something offensive.

  • K

    Kevin RomaniNov 29, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    Well done, Kyle. I was happy to see that you did not shy away from your relationship with Kirk and WEEI and that you focused on the issue of journalists acting as activists. Leung has been out of line with her actions, and makes outrageous claims about Kirk without providing proper context or evidence. Thank you for sharing this story with the UMass community.

  • S

    Scott McCarthyNov 29, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    Great read.
    It’s sad, but there are a lot of people like the woman you wrote about. It’s amazing that the public. The one’s who listen to the show. Can’t have the host they want on the radio. I’m so happy I’m not your age. It’s only getting worse.