Striking back

The Boston Globe has taken note. So has the Harvard Crimson college newspaper, as well as the media Web site sponsored by Florida’s Poynter Institute.

But, so far at least, our very own Detroit News has been completely silent on efforts to derail the possible appointment of a former News publisher in the running to head a prestigious journalism foundation.

The former publisher in question is none other than Robert Giles, who became a senior vice president at the Gannett-run Freedom Forum after doing more than his fair share to make sure Detroit’s newspaper strike would turn out to be as bitter as possible. The job dangling in front of him is curator of Harvard University’s highly regarded Nieman Foundation.

Former employees of Giles have been letting Harvard know exactly what kind of person is being considered for the job. According to the university’s student newspaper, the Crimson, Allan Lengel (now with the Washington Post) e-mailed to say Giles had an "active hand" in creating "journalistically criminal coverage of the strike."

A recent issue of the Alliance, a newsletter published by the Metropolitan Council of Newspaper Unions, declared that the "Nieman Foundation needs Giles like a hole in the head."

The newsletter criticized what it described as a lack of commitment to hard news and an increase in fluff at the News during the Giles regime. It also noted, "When the strike began, Giles was an enthusiastic union basher, firing people active in the union and those he thought had betrayed him by standing with the unions. ... While he quickly fired the Newspaper Guild’s entire News bargaining committee, his first dismissals were perhaps the most egregious: three young African-American men – all reporters – and a deaf man."

The question now is, will Harvard take heed of the complaints or simply put hands over ears and hear no evil?

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]