Hexit Watch™: Mark Garfinkel Shuttered at Herald

Photojournalist extraordinaire Mark Garfinkel posted this melancholy tweet on his Twitter feed this morning. (Tip o’ the pixel to the redoubtable Dan Kennedy via Facebook.)

Jack Sullivan at CommonWealth Magazine has the gory details about Garfinkel – and others.

More cuts at the Herald

Tabloid lays off two photographers, half the sports desk

THE STRUGGLING BOSTON HERALD laid off about 20 more staffers Thursday, including at least two award-winning veteran photographers for a tabloid that thrives on pictures . . .

Calls to several Herald officials, including editor Joe Sciacca, were not returned. Beyond the photo department, it’s unclear who else was laid off. Sources said five people on the nine-person sports copy desk were let go.

Sullivan goes on to tote up the damage since Digital Fist – sorry, First – Media bought the  shaky local tabloid: “Since February, when Digital First took over, the paper has lost more than half of the 225 people who worked there, with about 110 employees, including an estimated 12 news reporters, remaining before Thursday’s cuts.”

The outsourcing caused by those cuts has become increasingly apparent. Two months ago, the Boston Business Journal reported [subscription required] that “Digital First Media, the parent company of the Boston Herald, is laying off nine advertising representatives at the paper in what’s being called a ‘consolidation’ of the department with others at the company.”

On Tuesday, this ad appeared in the shrinky local tabloid.

Adtaxi is Digital First’s clearinghouse for ad placement, which describes itself with gobbledygook like this:

Taking an omnichannel approach, Adtaxi offers a true full-funnel solution powered by our intelligent optimization technology, Quantum, that drives performance to the conversion metrics that matter most to your business.

A Herald sales rep wouldn’t be caught dead talking like that.

But a dead paper walking? Sure.

Hexit Watch™: Steve Buckley Intentionally Walks

Chalk up another significant departure from the shrinky local tabloid.

Yesterday morning the sadreading staff noticed an item tucked away in the Boston Globe Sports Log column.

That was soon followed by this Chad Finn piece on the Globe’s website.

Herald columnist Steve Buckley leaving for The Athletic

Longtime Boston Herald sports columnist Steve Buckley is leaving the newspaper to join The Athletic Boston website, industry sources confirmed Thursday night.

Buckley, 62, has been with the Herald since 1995. Before joining the Herald, he wrote for The National sports daily among other outlets.

A University of Massachusetts graduate, he has made frequent appearances on Boston sports television and radio throughout his career, and has authored several books, including Wicked Good Year on the 2007 seasons of Boston’s major sports franchises. He is also the founder of the annual Oldtime Baseball Game in Cambridge.

As WEEI’s Alex Reimer noted yesterday, “[w]ith Buckley now presumably out the door, the Boston Herald is left without any general sports columnists.”

The “presumably” is there because, Reimer wrote, “Buck, annoyingly, wouldn’t confirm the news to me in a text message. Perhaps that’s his revenge for spending so many hours with me inside of a radio studio.”

No comment.

Coincidentally, the scraggly local tabloid did announce an addition to its sports desk earlier this week.

Good luck to Marisa Ingemi boarding the Good Slip – sorry, Ship – Herald, and bon voyage to Steve Buckley, a true pro and a real loss for the shaky local tabloid.

Hexit Watch™: The Herald Itself Leaves the Herald!

Tip o’ the pixel for this one to the Unsinkable Samantha J. Gross.

The memo, via intrepid Boston Herald reporter Brian Dowling.

Got that? Free parking! Convenient shopping! On-site Leanbox (whatever the hell that is)! Amenities! Miles from Boston!

From the predictable Herald Staff report in the bouncing local tabloid today.

“This move will provide a great space for our employees in a facility with many amenities including free parking and easy access to public transportation,” said Herald Publisher Kevin Corrado. “While we are making a physical move that will help sustain our organization in the years to come, our commitment to providing the best news and sports coverage in the Boston market is stronger than ever. We’re excited about the future.”

Translation: This is one more way to save money while we suck the Boston Herald dry, which we’re excited about.

Crosstown, the Boston Globe’s Jeremy C. Fox noted this.

Michael Jonas, the executive editor of CommonWealth magazine, expressed skepticism about the move in a Twitter post.

“Is Braintree where once mighty Boston institutions go to die? First the Archdiocese, now the Herald,” Jonas wrote. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston moved from Brighton to Braintree in 2008 in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

At the Boston Herald, though, it’s a whole nother kind of abuse.

Boston Herald Being Nibbled to Death by Cuts

The hatchet men at Digital First Mishegas are at it again.

As far as we can tell, Boston Herald sports desker Jon Couture broke the news on his Twitter feed Tuesday afternoon.

(Couture later amended the number of editor/designer positions to 29. He also said the outsourcing will roughly coincide with a new Herald website.)

Jack Sullivan provides more details in this piece at CommonWealth Magazine. He also adds this note on Twitter to all those spiking the ball on the shrinky local tabloid.

Amen to that.

Boston Herald Circulation Down by 1/3rd in 3 Years

The shrinky local tabloid has experienced knee-buckling drops in circulation over the past three years, according to Don Seifert’s piece in today’s Boston Business Journal (tip o’ the pixel to the redoubtable Dan Kennedy).

Boston Herald print circulation sees biggest drop in three years

The Boston Herald’s weekday print circulation saw a bigger drop in the first three months of 2018, as measured from the previous quarter, than it’s seen in at least the past three years.

The newspaper’s weekday average print circulation fell to 40,914 during the first quarter of 2018, according to a report the Herald filed this week with the Alliance for Audited Media.

That’s a drop in circulation of nearly 3,200 subscribers — about 7.2 percent — from the fourth quarter of 2017. It marks the largest three-month decline in the paper’s weekday print circulation since at least 2015.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the big picture is even bleaker. “Over three years, the paper’s weekday print circulation has decreased by 19,145, or 32 percent. That’s nearly twice as much as the 17 percent decline the Boston Globe has seen from the beginning of 2015 to the fourth quarter of 2017, the most recent quarter for which AAM has data.”

So, to recap: The Globe is in decline, the Herald’s in free fall. That can’t be good news for Digital First Media. But it’s even worse news for the remaining staffers at the shaky local tabloid.

Digital First Takes Knife to Boston Herald Again

The clearcutters at Digital Worst – sorry, First – Media are at it again, engineering a Memorial Day Massacre at Fargo Street, according to Greg Ryan’s report in the Boston Business Journal (tip o’ the pixel to @EBMason).

Digital First lays off Boston Herald managers, workers

Digital First Media, the new owner of the Boston Herald, laid off at least six employees on the commercial side of the newspaper on Friday, according to a union representative.

A marketing manager and automotive sales manager were among those who lost their jobs, as were a receptionist and three employees in the paper’s financial services department, which handles billing and other tasks, said Donna Marks, a Herald employee who took over as president of the Newspaper Guild of Greater Boston earlier this week.

The cuts come in the midst of a steady exodus of Herald staffers who had survived Digital First’s original bloodbath right after it purchased the shaky local tabloid. (See our Hexit Watch™ for a partial list.)

Sad as it may be, what’s happening at the Herald is very much newspaper business as usual according to this piece by Bloomberg’s Gerry Smith.

Several hedge funds have become newspaper barons in recent years. Alden Global now owns about 60 daily newspapers through a subsidiary, Digital First Media. New Media Investment Group, which is managed and controlled by private-equity firm Fortress, owns almost 150 newspapers in smaller towns like Columbus, Ohio, and Providence, Rhode Island, through a unit, GateHouse Media. And hedge fund Chatham Asset Management LLC is one of the largest shareholders and bondholders in McClatchy Co., publisher of the Charlotte Observer and Miami Herald.

Helpful chart:

Smith adds, “’They’re not reinvesting in the business,’ Ken Doctor, a longtime newspaper analyst and president of the website Newsonomics, said about Alden Global. ‘It’s dying and they are going to make every dollar they can on the way down.’”

Two certainties at the Boston Herald: 1) They’ve got company at over 200 other U.S. newspapers, and 2) They all face the same future of death by a thousand paper cuts.

Legal Journo Bob McGovern Vacates Boston Herald

Well the sadreading staff was leafing through this morning’s Boston Herald when we came upon the paper’s double-barreled coverage of the Supreme Court’s sports betting payout.

Strange, we thought – no Bob McGovern, the feisty local tabloid’s legal-eagle columnist. So we hied us to his Twitter feed and found this profile.

We also came upon this tweet from three days ago.

So, gone like a cool breeze.

McGovern also tweeted  a link to this piece he posted on Medium, which tells the tale of more than just his own departure from the shrinky local tabloid.

“If you’re looking for something sugar coated, buy a donut”

Nate Dow edited copy at the sports desk as the Boston Herald newsroom filled with people nervously waiting for a surprise all-staff meeting called by publisher Pat Purcell.

Nate doesn’t work there anymore.

The two sports editors he worked under are gone, too.

Our entire editorial page staff vanished, and so did our cartoonist. Jeff Howe, a fan-favorite Patriots writer, took his talents elsewhere, and our entire business section now consists of the very talented Jordan Graham.

We lost four news editors, our veteran police reporter and a kickass photographer. At one point the Herald encompassed two floors — now advertising and editorial are separated by a little more than 77 inches of carpet.

The piece got even more depressing from there, detailing a thoroughly dehumanizing process of culling the herd. What’s left is a joyless shell of the Herald’s former self.

It should be required reading for every working journalist in the region, especially for McGovern’s depiction of how the paper’s dismantling was totally ignored by virtually every other local media outlet.

As the bankruptcy proceedings moved along, the Herald was the only media organization in the city to cover it properly. Brian Dowling did great work on the story — often hounding Pat and his lawyers — and yet no one asked him to come and talk about the process.

The media critics never even asked for his number. If the Globe was facing the same situation, and one of its fine journalists was doing the same brave reporting, I think you would be able to hear about it on WBUR or WGBH.

Maybe there wasn’t any interest, or perhaps other outlets don’t have the resources to spare. It may have something to do with the fact that Boston media beef has no sell-by date.

It’s still the case. And it’s still a shanda.

Is the Boston Herald Print Edition Now in Jeopardy?

As the sadreading staff has previously noted, the Denver Post is the Ghost of Printmas Future for the Boston Herald, given that both papers are owned by Digital First Media (slogan: “Where Newspapers Go to Die”).

From media guru Ken Doctor at Nieman Lab (tip o’ the pixel to Brian Stelter’s CNN Reliable Sources).

It might only seem that the walls are tumbling in at The Denver Post. Or it might be reality.

In a stunningly quick series of events, the Post has continued to shed staff — not by firing or layoff, but by what might best be described as resigned resignation. At the same time, I’ve learned, a fresh round of budget cuts in the range of 10 to 15 percent is being planned for the paper, along with other Digital First Media properties.

Doctor says that Digital First’s parent company, the New York-based hedge fund Alden  Global Capital, is itself facing financial pressures, which “have led Alden to plan still another coming round of budget cuts at its properties.”

Bottom line: “As Alden demands to continue its level of profit-taking amid a 10-percent-plus drop in advertising revenue, its executives have mandated new cuts for the company’s new fiscal year, which starts July 1.”

Heads up to the shaky local tabloid:

Those cuts look to be in the 10 to 15 percent range, sources tell me, though it’s unclear the degree that newsrooms would be subject to the new cuts, given that they have already absorbed major cutbacks since the start of 2018. In fact, the Post and other DFM dailies may soon have issues simply getting a print paper out seven days a week.

Given that the Herald has roughly 17 home subscribers (in Brookline that would be us and Mike Dukakis) and lives off its newsstand sales, that’s very bad news indeed.

No print edition of the Boston Herald?

No Boston Herald.

(Sad fact to know and tell: Once you shut down your print edition, you have to lay off 80% of your newsroom. That would reduce the skinny local tabloid’s reporting staff to one very overworked journalist. Send condolences and Red Bull to Fargo Street.)

Boston Herald Editorial Page To Be Silenced?

When we last left Digital First Mishegas – sorry, Media – last month, the Denver Post editorial board was begging the newspaper group’s owner, New York hedge fund Alden Global Capital, to sell the Post.

Denver deserves a newspaper owner who supports its newsroom. If Alden isn’t willing to do good journalism here, it should sell The Post to owners who will.

The proximate cause of that plea was a looming 30% cut in the Post’s newsroom – a mystery, the editorial said, “as many [Digital First] newspapers still enjoy double-digit profits and our management reported solid profits as recently as last year.”

How solid?

Rock solid, as media guru Ken Doctor just detailed for Nieman Lab: “DFM reported a 17 percent operating margin — well above those of its peers — in its 2017 fiscal year, along with profits of almost $160 million. That’s the fruit of the repeated cutbacks that have left its own shrinking newsrooms in a state of rebellion.”

This week Denver Post editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett wrote another piece blowtorching Alden, but that one was rejected, which triggered Plunkett’s resignation.

“I was being boxed in so that I couldn’t speak,” Plunkett told CNN’s Brian Stelter. “How can I be silent at this point?”

Ironically, Plunkett may have silenced every editorial voice at Digital First’s newspapers.

[Plunkett] also said “there is active consideration of doing away with the editorial pages throughout the company.” He means “at all the papers” owned by Digital First Media . . .

That would include the Boston Herald, which coincidentally has just gotten its editorial page sorted out.

As CommonWealth Magazine’s Michael Jonas recently chronicled, after Digital First’s purchase of the Herald, it had no editorial page editor. But then it did.

Tom Shattuck, a former talk radio producer who has run the paper’s online radio station and written op-ed columns, will replace Rachelle Cohen, the paper’s longtime editorial page editor who left last month when Digital First Media took ownership of the Herald.

Except soon, according to Plunkett, he might not.

Put aside any opinions about Shattuck himself, whom Jonas calls “an unwavering cheerleader for President Trump, a sharp departure from the editorial page under Cohen.”

Representative sample: The editorial in today’s smoochy local tabloid under the headline Media distortion hits new lows. Clunky-as-hell lede: “Another week has gone by in which the media covering the president of the United States has committed reckless malpractice more disgraceful than usual.”

People might say no great loss if that voice goes away. Beyond that, there’s exactly zero chance that the shaky local tabloid will ever go scorched-earth on Digital First.

Even so, no editorial voice at the Herald?

That would be just wrong.