The Future of Oral History Projects

Friday, January 31, 2014


Brooke speaks with Jack Dunn, the Director of the Boston College News and Public Affairs office about what Boston College has done to protect the tapes from the Belfast Project and the future of academic oral history projects.  


Jack Dunn

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [6]

Bob Gardner from Randolph, MA

This whole story seems to me to be about the cover up of a murder. Yet all these commenters seem to care about is that someone used the term "shoddy."
Since OTM is about media, they might want to do a story about how the Boston Globe covered this story. At the time this story first broke they recently had apologized for letting a correspondent with a pro-Palestinian blog cover a small protest at a Brandeis graduation.
Yet the initial coverage of the BC Oral History story was done by a reporter who was also writing commentary in the Globe about the same subject.

Feb. 05 2014 05:11 PM
Sandy Boyer from Brooklyn, NY

I was dismayed and disappointed that Brooke Gladstone never challenged Jack Dunne when he labeled Anthony McIntyre a criminal.

It was made clear in the interview that McIntyre was imprisoned for his IRA activity. Federal courts have ruled that the IRA campaign was a political conflict over who should rule Ireland. On the basis of this finding they have refused extradition (Desmond Mackin) and withheld deportation (Sean Mackin.)

I find it very difficult to believe that Brooke Gladstone would have let a similar charge against a Cuban or even Palestinian prisoner go unchallenged.

I believe On the Media needs to correct this misstatement on the air.

Feb. 03 2014 04:45 PM
Ed Moloney from New York

Thank you Brooke for acknowledging some of the errors made in your interview with Jack Dunn.
I trust that you will say this on air so that some of the many thousands of people who tune into ‘On The Media’ can gain a proper perspective on this story and that the slurs directed at myself and my researcher can be corrected.
I do however wish to take issue with some of the points you now make, points which could have been presented correctly had you picked up the phone at the outset. And since I have appeared once before on your program you could have done that with ease.
Firstly, in relation to Dunn’s accusation that Anthony McIntyre chose interview subjects that were hostile to Gerry Adams. This is a canard trotted out by likes of Danny Morrison who spent much of his existence as a propagandist for the IRA and who has a very big dog in this fight, viz the revelation of his true role in the 1981 IRA hunger strikes as revealed by one of our interviewees, Richard O’Rawe. The story can be read here:
Twenty-six people were interviewed by McIntyre. Not all of them were IRA members. I have read all of the interviews and I can tell you that a very small number, perhaps a handful, deal with Gerry Adams and then only as part of a longer story. Only one IRA interview has been made public, that with Brendan Hughes. Since Hughes was one of Gerry Adams’ closest colleagues it was inevitable that he dealt in some detail with his disillusionment with Adams. From a single interview, Jack Dunn draws a huge dishonest conclusion. 
Brooke says that since the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) was not in place when the project began this renders moot the dispute over whether or not Boston College screwed up the donor contracts. Not true. The MLAT was signed in 1994, seven years before the project began. Part of our complaint about Boston College is that they failed to discover this when supposedly vetting the project through their lawyers. As we know now, BC never did run the donor contract past college lawyers!
Brooke says that in relation to the issuing of second subpoena the court may have regarded a call I made on BC to burn the archive as ‘a reason for urgency’. No court was involved in the second subpoena, only the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the British government. When the second subpoena was issued the PSNI had possession of Brendan Hughes’ interviews which BC had handed over months before and I suspect that unpublished information from this interview, and the signs from BC that the college would not fight too hard, were the real reasons for the second subpoena.
Finally, Brooke, I repeat my call on you to acknowledge on air next weekend that mistakes were made in the interview with Dunn. My reputation and that of my researcher were harmed by Jack Dunn’s lies and the least you can do is correct the record.
P.s. - you might also consider hiring a new fact checker.

Feb. 03 2014 03:48 PM
Brooke Gladstone

I must agree, sadly, with several of Mr. Moloney's points.
I regret leaving in Mr. Dunn's disparagement of Mr. McIntyre's work. Although he supplied a list of critics to back him up (which I didn't include) the issue wasn't germane. Mr. Dunn's main criticism was that McIntyre chose his subjects and asked questions so as to implicate Gerry Adams. I believed my observation that everyone was charging the other with attacking Gerry Adams put his remarks in the appropriate he-said-she-said context. It didn't.

With regard to the contracts - perhaps, as Mr. Moloney claims, the project would have been stillborn if BC had properly vetted them, but since the MLA treaty was not passed until after the project began, it's unlikely that even the most iron-clad contract would have prevailed.

As for Mr. Dunn's assertion that Mr. Moloney's call to burn the archive prompted the second subpoena, it matters not that he could not have made good on the threat. The court may still have viewed the remark as a reason for urgency. That's Mr. Dunn's opinion. There's no way to prove it either way.

For me, the worst mistake was using the phrase "Irish Loyalist Army." In my first draft of the intro, I had used the phrase Ulster Volunteer Force, but it was flagged by a fact checker, and in my lamentable ignorance, by "correcting" it, I made that error. This is no one's fault but mine.

in a case filled with accusations of who did what when, I was aware of everyone's arguments. I gave both Mr. McIntyre and Mr. Dunn the chance to make their cases and I did my best to challenge them with the opposing view. But I put my focus on the impact of this case on the preservation of history. On that issue, the one that most matters to a program like ours, I believe Mr. McIntyre made the stronger case. (But that is just my opinion.)

Finally, even if I do not entirely agree with Mr. Moloney, I greatly appreciate his comments and his willingness to help us clarify these issues.

Brooke Gladstone
co-host, managing editor, On the Media

Feb. 03 2014 11:59 AM
Ed Moloney from new york

I am dismayed that Brooke Gladstone allowed Boston College’s spokesman Jack Dunn to make such serious and false allegations about myself and project researcher Anthony McIntyre without any effort to obtain our response or to ask Dunn the obvious follow-up questions.

Brooke said the Boston College oral history archive collected interviews from the IRA and something called the ‘Irish Loyalist Army’. There is no such entity and never has been. A quick Wikipedia search would have shown that! The other group was the Ulster Volunteer Force or UVF. To call it the ‘Irish Loyalist Army’ is like calling the confederate forces in the civil war the All-America Rebel Army!

Brooke allowed Dunn to make the most serious allegations about Dr McIntyre’s work, namely that he produced ‘shoddy interviews’ and that his work was ‘very weak’. The obvious follow up was: ‘Well in that case Mr Dunn, why did BC employ Dr McIntyre for six years, archive his work and approve a book based on it?’

And if she had done her research or even talked to me, the former director of the project, she could then have asked Dunn why, if McIntyre’s work was so ‘shoddy’, Judge William Young, the district court judge in Boston who read the entire archive, had this to say: “This was a bona fide academic exercise of considerable intellectual merit.”

If she had talked to me, she could also have asked Dunn why, as the Chronicle of Higher Education reported, Boston College had misled us into believing that the college’s lawyers had vetted the crucial interviewee consent contract when they had not, and that we were legally safe to proceed when we were not. Had we known this, the project would have been stillborn.

And if she had bothered to pick up the phone, she could have asked me why I called on BC to burn the archive after the first subpoena was served. Had she done so I would have told her it was because I had no trust in BC’s willingness to fight in the courts. Not least this was because the college tried to keep the subpoena a secret from us and I had to leak the story to the New York Times so as to shame the college into hiring a lawyer.

And when Dunn claimed that my call to burn the archive led to the second subpoena, Brooke could have asked him how this was possible since I had no way of making good on the threat and BC had made it clear they would not do this. But she didn’t.

And when Jack Dunn, citing former IRA spokesman Danny Morrison, claimed there was bias in the selection of interviewees, she could have asked him how would either of them know who we interviewed since BC, in an astonishing piece of incompetence, has lost the consent forms of many of the participants, meaning that they can never be identified.

Brooke Gladstone gave Jack Dunn a free run to air the most outrageous slurs against ourselves but failed either to seriously query him and, worst of all, did not give us the opportunity to answer back. This was not ‘On the Media’s’ finest moment.

Feb. 01 2014 03:43 PM
Joan McKiernan from New York

Brook’s interview with Jack Dunn was very disappointing, certainly not up to the usual high standard of journalism found on this program. Starting with the lack of research – “what on earth is the Irish Loyalist Army?” and the reference to “clashes” – in what actually was a war waged for almost thirty years by the IRA against the full weight of the British government, army and police, and ending with her unquestioned acceptance of Dunn’s criticism of the college’s own researcher. Brook actually encouraged the critique by introducing the word “shoddy” in reference to the research. She could have asked Dunn, if you regard Anthony McIntyre as "an individual...with a long criminal record" whose work "was very weak," why did Boston College hire him, pay him, and archive his work? It is bad enough that people like Dunn tell lies and malign political activists as criminals, but it is a sorry day for journalism when NPR interviewers allow comments like that to go unquestioned or unchallenged.

Feb. 01 2014 03:09 PM

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