Boston Globe columnist Shirley Leung doesn’t let her Olympic-class credulity stop her from masquerading as a journalist. Perhaps that’s why she’s so hard on others who are more cognizant of human frailty and limitations. In her rambling elegy for the recidivist liars at Boston 2024, Leung offered a parting swipe at opponents, writing that “There’ll be regret from everyday residents who, unlike some Olympic opponents, didn’t have the time or drive to take to Twitter hundreds of times a week to say they believe that Boston is big enough to attract the Games.”
Ignore, for the moment, the suggestion that we can obtain any special insight into the needs of “everyday residents” of Boston from a suburbanite absentee landlord who sometimes seems to forget that she lives in Massachusetts. Let’s focus on her claim—echoing Boston Mayor Marty Walsh—that opponents simply tweeted into the void while Boston 2024 mysteriously ran aground of its own accord.
As an official member of the "ten people on Twitter" (per the Associated Press), who Mayor Walsh said made up most of the opposition to Boston 2024, let me set the record straight.
First, “everyday residents” overwhelmingly did not want the Olympics, as opinion polls have consistently shown. In fact, United States Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun cited the lack of public support as the reason for pulling the Boston 2024 Olympic bid.
Second—and you’d think a “journalist” would know this—not everything happens in public. In other words, it’s possible to tweet and chew gum at the same time. While we were tweeting, some of us were also submitting public records requests, appealing denials of those requests, pointing journalists in the right direction, and, you know, actually reading Boston 2024's Olympic bid long before Mayor Walsh did. Others were attending public meetings, hosting public meetings, presenting to legislators, and engaging in non-violent protest. And, unlike our lavishly compensated counterparts, not a single opponent drew a dollar in salary for the countless hours of work they put in (and are still putting in).
Third, Twitter played a crucial role but not simply as a place to state our opinions. Among other things, we used Twitter to find like-minded people, communicate with journalists, fact-check US Olympic Committee flacks, suggest questions to be asked at public hearings, and remind public officials about their subpoena powers.
Boston 2024’s social media failures were a key factor in its demise. And one day soon, media outlets, including the Globe, should recognize that social media illiteracy is equally disqualifying for journalists.