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.

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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 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.

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™: Matt Stout Jumps to Boston Globe

Second in what we expect will be a long-running series

Well that was quick.

When we last saw Boston Herald State House reporter Matt Stout, which was less than a week ago, he was chronicling the very entertaining Massachusetts Senate president throwdown.

That piece ran on the Herald website the same day this Stout piece ran in the shaky local tabloid’s print edition under the banner headline “Patrick May Now Have 2020 Vision.”

So imagine our surprise when this piece appeared on the Boston Globe’s website two days later (tip o’ the pixel to Jay Fitzgerald at MASSterList).

For the byline impaired: Matt Stout, Globe Staff.

(Oddly enough, the Patrick story in the Globe’s print edition that day was written by Michael Levenson. But whatever.)

Regardless of those twists and turns, Matt Stout is now firmly ensconced at the Boston Globe, yet another Herald journalist who’s put new owner Digital First Media in his rear-view mirror.

Maybe they should call it Digital Frost Media, yeah?

American Prospect: Boston Herald Prospects Dim

Since last month’s announcement that Digital First Media had won the Boston Herald auction bakeoff, there’s been a steady drumbeat of prebituaries for the shaky local tabloid.

The Boston Globe’s Jon Chesto and Andy Rosen predicted a rolling thunder of staff reductions, while Nieman Journalism Lab director Joshua Benton said flat-out “to be owned by Digital First is to be gutted.”

Now comes this piece (tip o’ the pixel to MASSterList) in The American Prospect by Hildy Zenger, which is the pen name (Hildy for Hildy Johnson, Zenger for John Peter Zenger) of “a writer who works for a newspaper owned by a private equity firm”).

Hello Digital First, Goodbye Boston Herald

Just before Robert Kuttner and I filed our American Prospect article on the rape of the newspaper industry by private equity predators in December (“Saving the Free Press from Private Equity”), the prime nemesis of our story, GateHouse Media, bid $4.5 million to buy the 171-year-old Boston Herald, which declared bankruptcy the same day. The deal was conditioned on voiding union contracts and deep-sixing legacy pension, health, and other obligations. “Major layoffs in the newspaper’s 120-person newsroom are a certainty,” we wrote, in the context of GateHouse’s dismal record of gutting editorial staffs at its 770 daily and weekly newspapers.

But GateHouse was then elbowed aside by Digital First Media, whose $11.9 million bid won the February 13 bankruptcy auction in Boston, indicating that the DFM bean-counters have calculated a more profitable but probably even bloodier endgame for the venerable Herald, whose days are now surely numbered, according to industry observers.

The estimable newspaper analyst Ken Doctor “predicted that DFM would get its money out of the deal within three years at most, then declare bankruptcy and sell off the emaciated remains of the business for whatever they can get for it.”

So now the Herald’s plight has gone national. Not a good sign, people. Not a good sign at all.

Also . . .

From our newly minted Hexit Watch™

The inevitable exodus from Fargo Street has mostly proceeded under the radar, but here’s a significant departure: Former Deputy Managing Editor for News and Multimedia Zuri Berry has hied himself to Charlotte, NC. From his Twitter feed:

Best of luck in the Tar Heel State, Zuri.

Digital First’s Boston Herald Rx: Apply Internally

When last we met, the sadreading staff noted two ominous takes on the future of the Boston Herald under the new ownership of Digital First Media.

First, the Boston Globe’s Jon Chesto and Andy Rosen made this prediction: “[I]ndustry experts and former employees said that if [Digital First] sticks to the playbook it uses at many of its other newspapers around the country, the Herald should brace for more cost-cutting beyond the 60 or so positions that are expected to be eliminated when the sale closes later this spring.”

On the Globe’s op-ed page, Nieman Journalism Lab director Joshua Benton was even more bleak, citing the dismal track record of Digital First’s parent company, Alden Global Capital.

Alden’s methods fall under the rubric of what some call vulture capitalism: Buy up papers, sell off whatever assets you can (like their offices downtown), and cut costs to the bone. The end game is to be sold off, or just shut down. To be owned by Digital First is to be gutted.

Ouch.

Especially considering this full-page ad in today’s edition of the shaky local tabloid.

Despite its best efforts, that ad looks an awful lot like ave atque vale. Because who knows how many of those “wonderful people” will be around a month from now.

From Greg Ryan at the Boston Business Journal:

Herald’s new owner to begin making job offers next week

The soon-to-be owner of the Boston Herald will start making job offers to current Herald employees next week, according to a letter sent to workers on Thursday, with the newspaper’s staff expected to be cut by more than 25 percent from its levels at the end of 2017.

Denver-based Digital First Media won a bankruptcy auction on Feb. 13 to acquire the Herald’s parent company from Pat Purcell for just under $12 million, beating out GateHouse Media and Florida private equity firm Revolution Capital Group.

Digital First has committed to offering jobs to 175 current Herald staffers . . .  Employees have been interviewing to keep their jobs since last week.

But here’s the kicker: “At this point, it is not known whether those employees who are hired will receive their current salary.” Never mind sick time, vacation time, and healthcare plans, all of which are still undetermined.

And pensions? From all the evidence, that’s another ave atque vale.

Double ouch.

Globe: New Herald Owner Is a Double Whammy

Today’s Boston Globe has a two-fisted reaction to the result of this week’s Boston Herald bake sale (which, by the way, was rubber-stamped by a Delaware bankruptcy court this morning).

Begin with the piece by Jon Chesto and Andy Rosen in the Globe’s Business section.

Digital First’s playbook suggests more cuts at Herald

Solid profit targets and shareholder returns called key

Digital First Media hasn’t yet made its vision for the Boston Herald public, as it goes before a bankruptcy judge Friday for approval of its $12 million purchase of the struggling tabloid.

But industry experts and former employees said that if the company sticks to the playbook it uses at many of its other newspapers around the country, the Herald should brace for more cost-cutting beyond the 60 or so positions that are expected to be eliminated when the sale closes later this spring.

If that was a jab, Joshua Benton’s op-ed is the haymaker. The Nieman Journalism Lab director went smashmouth on Digital First Media, “the nom de pillage of what used to be known as the Journal Register Co. and MediaNews Group.” Digital First is owned by the hedge fund Alden Capitol Group, which gets a good beatdown by Benton.

Alden’s methods fall under the rubric of what some call vulture capitalism: Buy up papers, sell off whatever assets you can (like their offices downtown), and cut costs to the bone. The end game is to be sold off, or just shut down. To be owned by Digital First is to be gutted.

Read the piece all the way to this end: “[S]hort of setting the place on fire, being bought by Digital First is about the worst outcome possible. It’s less the Herald being saved than the Herald being stripped for parts.”

The death watch begins . . . now.