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.

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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.

Hexit Watch™: Owen Boss Gets Some New Bosses

And the beat (feet) goes on . . .

While the sad reading staff was chronicling the exodus of former Boston Herald Deputy Editorial Page Editor Julie Mehegan from Fargo Street to the State House corner office, we noticed this in her Twitter feed.

That would be Herald reporter Owen Boss, who’s listed as such on the paper’s website.

Except here’s what we found @OVVenBoss.

So, to recap:

Owen Boss has departed the skimpy local tabloid and landed at WHDH.

Good luck with those new bosses, Owen.

And, hey, Herald webmaster: Keep up, man.

Hexit Watch™: Julie Mehegan Goes Gubernatorial

And the beat (feet) goes on . . .

CommonWealth Magazine’s Michael Jonas recently noted another departure from the shrinky local tabloid.

The Herald’s phantom editorial page

Unclear who’s running paper’s opinion page under new ownership

BY ALL OUTWARD appearances, the Boston Herald continues to chug along under its new ownership, with its hard-working reporters churning out solid stories amidst the demoralizing departure of co-workers from the newsroom’s already depleted ranks.

The paper’s editorial page, too, hasn’t skipped a beat, offering up a daily dose of sharp opinion despite the exit nearly three weeks ago of longtime editorial page editor Rachelle Cohen and Julie Mehegan, the deputy editorial page editor, who worked alongside her for more than a decade.

But an intriguing mystery about the paper’s editorials has arisen. Though newspaper editorials are traditionally unsigned, they reflect the views of the editor of the page, who is often listed on a newspaper’s masthead. In the three weeks since Cohen and Mehegan left, however, the masthead has listed no editorial page editor.

The dish: “According to sources familiar with the situation, Cohen was not offered a position but Mehegan was and accepted it, presumably putting her in line to run the editorial page as a solo operation. At the time of the mid-March ownership change, however, Mehegan was offered a communications position with the Baker administration and opted to take it and leave the Herald along with her longtime boss.”

To much applause in the Twitterverse, we might add.

Best of luck, Julie. The Herald’s loss is Charlie Baker’s gain.

Denver Post Is Boston Herald’s Coal-Mine Canary

As the sadreading staff has noted, hedge fund baby Digital First Media (slogan: “Where Newspapers Go to Die”) is dismantling the Denver Post in slow motion.

Now comes the latest installment, via Oliver Darcy at CNN’s Reliable Sources.

The Denver Post sends an SOS

The Denver Post is begging to be saved — quite literally. On Sunday, the newspaper will print a package (here’s a landing page with the different pieces) centered around its survival. At the center will be a piece by the newspaper’s editorial board lamenting “marching orders to cut a full 30” staffers by the start of July, and laying much of the blame at the feet of its owner, NYC hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

It’s a remarkable piece, one in which The Post’s editorial board goes as far as to say, “If Alden isn’t willing to do good journalism here, it should sell The Post to owners who will.” The board also laces into Alden’s “cynical strategy of constantly reducing the amount and quality of its offerings, while steadily increasing its subscription rates,” and says, “Coloradans feel the insanity of it in their bones.” Read the editorial in its entirety here...

The CNN piece closes with this:  “Alden’s gutting of local papers is coming under increasing scrutiny…

That would refer to this Bloomberg News piece.

Fasten your seat belts, you remaining Heraldniks.

As Bette Davis might say, it’s going to be a bumpy night(mare).

Hexit Watch™: Shelly Cohen Drifts to Boston Globe

After the sadreading staff noted yesterday the exodus from the Boston Herald of sports scribes Jeff Howe (to parts as yet unknown) and Chad Jennings (to The Athletic Boston) , the irrepressible Alex Beam tweeted this at us.

Indeed, we had missed this op-ed column by former Herald editorial page editor Rachelle (actually Shelly-one-e) Cohen in yesterday’s Boston Globe.

Befriending the stranger

As the snow melts and the days grow longer, this is — or should be — the season of welcoming the stranger.

For millennia, Jews around the world have marked the exodus from Egypt at Passover Seders — a celebration of that long journey from slavery to freedom. But even more so, a time to recall that equally ancient admonition: “You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

It’s not as easy these days to “befriend the stranger” — not when executive orders are being thrashed out in federal courts, not when immigrants are afraid to show up for routine status hearings lest they be summarily detained, and not when the promise of freedom from oppression is ever more elusive.

Very nice.

So – for those of you keeping score at home – that makes two defectors from the scanty local tabloid to the stately local broadsheet: The abovementioned Shelly Cohen and the aforementioned Matt Stout.

Not to mention more, no doubt, to come.

Hexit Watch™: Herald Sports Scribes Steal Away

Latest in what’s become an ongoing (outgoing?) series

The exodus from the Boston Herald since its sale to Digital First Media (slogan: “Where Newspapers Go to Die”) hasn’t yet reached Biblical proportions, but it does seem to be picking up.

From New England Patriots beat reporter Jeff Howe’s Twitter feed yesterday:

Crosstown at the Boston Globe, sports media columnist Chad Finn has a piece today about “The Athletic sports website . . . filling out its Boston roster.”

Among those who will be writing for The Athletic Boston are Fluto Shinzawa, who is leaving the Globe to become the site’s Bruins writer; Jen McCaffrey (currently MassLive) and Chad Jennings (Boston Herald), who will cover the Red Sox; and Jay King (MassLive), who will be the Celtics reporter. The site’s Patriots hire will be evident in the coming days.

At the time Digital First won the Herald bakeoff and proceeded to lay off about 30% of the staff, one of the most appealing aspects of the scanty local tabloid was its robust and popular sports pages. But now the paper is printed in Rhode Island so home subscribers get yesterday’s scores tomorrow . Combine that with sports page stalwarts like Howe and Jennings leaving Fargo Street, and the Herald’s appeal is basically reduced to the days Howie Carr’s not writing.

Bad news.

Boston Herald Held Hostage, Day One

Digital First Media (slogan: “Where Newspapers Go to Die”) officially took possession of the Boston Herald yesterday. As the redoubtable Dan Kennedy noted at Media Nation, the takeover was preceded by this memo last week.

Nice, eh?

Now come the reports of the takeover in the local dailies, and the one in the soldy local tabloid sure reads like a press release – and not just because it’s bylined “Herald Staff.”

Digital First Media takes the helm of the Boston Herald

Digital First Media, one of the largest publishers of locally based print and online media in the United States, completed the acquisition of the Boston Herald yesterday.

The Boston Herald’s roots date to 1846, when it was a single two-sided sheet of news published by a group of Boston printers. In more recent times, the media company has been anchored by the 64,500-circulation Herald, known for its eye-catching Page 1 photos and headlines, with a loyal online following at BostonHerald.com.

“DFM is pleased to have the opportunity to be a part of the Boston Herald through the next chapter of its storied history. The Herald is integral to the fabric of the great city of Boston,” said Guy Gilmore, DFM’s chief operating officer.

That last part remains to be seen. The rest of the puff piece is pretty standard boilerplate , except for this ominous note: “[Digital First’s] Adtaxi Digital agency is an in-house, client-centric digital agency that brings scale, precision and sophistication to digital marketing. Adtaxi helps advertisers solve complex marketing challenges with custom, performance-driven solutions.”

Ads in sheep’s clothing, in other words.

Crosstown at the Boston Globe, Jon Chesto has – not surprisingly – a very different take.

Herald in hedge fund firm’s hands

Digital First completes purchase, more cuts feared

 

When Pat Purcell acquired the Boston Herald in 1994, the deal came with the hopes that local ownership would ensure the long-term survival of Boston’s No. 2 daily newspaper.

That survival will now depend on a new owner, a New York hedge fund firm, and not the man who led the Herald for much of his career in the news business.

Digital First Media, which is owned by Alden Global Capital and also does business as MediaNews Group, completed its acquisition of the Herald Monday after beating rival GateHouse Media last month with a nearly $12 million bid in a bankruptcy auction.

Chesto also had a very different number for the Herald’s circulation. “Nearly two-thirds of its roughly 45,000 daily print sales are single-copy purchases as opposed to subscriptions, according to Alliance for Audited Media data.”

That’s a pretty big drop from the 64,500 “in more recent times” the Herald piece claims. Is two or three years ago really “recent”?

Regardless, we wish the Heraldniks all the best, or certainly better than their new brethren at the Denver Post, which Digital First is currently dismantling in slow motion.

If it’s lucky, the shaky local tabloid just might dodge that bullet.

Hexit Watch™: Shelly Cohen’s Long Goodbye

Latest in what we expect will be an endless stream

The redoubtable Rachelle Cohen – longtime Boston Herald journalist, most recently as Editorial Page Editor – sang her swan song in yesterday’s edition, marking yet another milestone for the feisty local tabloid.

The Boston Herald I knew, whose death has been prematurely reported for decades, and on whose masthead my name has appeared for the last several of those decades, will sometime Monday be under new ownership. That is, in its own way, a good thing.

As an institution in this community it will live on; it will continue to vigorously compete in the marketplace of journalism because the people who have labored here — and those who will continue to do so — actually don’t know how to operate any other way.

Owners and editors have come and gone, but the abiding spirit of this place has always been a little different — and more than a little quirky.

(Amen to that – we hope. Then again, there’s that wrecking ball new Herald owner Digital First Media has just taken to the Denver Post, which we noted yesterday.)

As is fitting and proper, Shelly also received an admiring tweetoff on the interwebs.

All best wherever you land next, Shelly. They’ll be lucky to have you.