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.

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.

Three’s a Cloud Over Boston Herald Auction

Part One: New News

Boston Herald stalwart Brian Dowling is out with a report today that Digital First Media, which last week was kicking the tires at Fargo Street, is ready to make an offer.

Third bid’s in for Herald

Bankruptcy auction is Tuesday

Newspaper chain Digital First Media has put in the third bid for the Boston Herald, which will be sold off next week in a court-organized bankruptcy auction.

Lawyers for the Herald confirmed the bid was made by MediaNews Group, the corporate name for Digital First. A representative from the Herald’s bankruptcy law firm Brown Rudnick said the bid is being reviewed to determine whether it qualifies the company for Tuesday’s bankruptcy auction.

No details of the bid are public, but Dowling says that to qualify for the auction, “a new bid must come in at least $600,000 over either of the two existing offers for the paper.”

As our kissing’ cousins at Two-Daily Town previously noted, however, what’s even more crucial than how much is bid, is how the bid has been configured.

Revolution is offering $3 million cash for the company, agreeing to honor $750,000 of paid time off for employees who join the company, and is pledging to pay out $2 million in severance.

Crosstown at the Boston Globe, Jon Chesto reminds us what the deal is with GateHouse.

“GateHouse proposed paying $4.5 million in cash, as well as at least $500,000 in assumed liabilities, including paid time off owed to employees.”

Unless our math skills fail us, that means Herald owner Pat Purcell gets $1.5 million less from a sale to Revolution, while employees at the shaky local tabloid get $2.25 million more.

Let’s see whose pot is sweetest when – if – the details of Digital First’s offer emerge.

Part Two: No News

Dowling also reports today that this week’s auction will be invitation only – and he’s not getting one.

The Herald is refusing to admit one of its reporters to the newspaper’s bankruptcy auction next week, calling the court-organized sale a “private process,” while the paper’s largest union is worried the presence of a reporter could “chill the bidding.”

That rare instance of union-management accord says a lot about what a highwire act this sale has become. Apparently, Dowling now represents the net both sides are willing to work without.

More Monkey Bidness at the Shaky Local Tabloid

For those of you keeping score at home, there’s now another suitor – and potentially more ominous news – for the beleaguered Boston Herald.

Brian Dowling reported in today’s edition that a possible third bidder is kicking the tires on Fargo Street.

Digital First may put bid on paper

Digital First Media is interviewing editors at the Boston Herald in connection with a potential bid to buy the newspaper.

Mike Burbach, an editor at the Pioneer Press in Minnesota, a Digital First publication, told managers at the Herald yesterday in an email from his newspaper account that he and other representatives of MNG-BH Acquisition LLC will be “coming to your offices” this coming week to conduct interviews.

Dowling also notes that “Digital First owns two daily newspapers in Massachusetts: the Lowell Sun and the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise.”

That would be the same Sentinel & Enterprise the Boston Business Journal just reported is going virtual.

Fitchburg daily newspaper to eliminate brick-and-mortar newsroom

Next month, for the first time in 180 years, the daily Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise may no longer have a physical office in Fitchburg.

The newspaper, which is owned by Denver, Colorado-based Digital First Media, is switching to what it’s calling a “virtual newsroom” model by the end of February or sooner. Jim Campanini, editor of the Sentinel and Enterprise and the Lowell Sun, told the Business Journal in an interview that the plan is intended to save money, but that the paper is in no danger of closing entirely. In fact, he boasted that the paper just hired a new reporter as well as two videographers.

“It’s our time to create this model of innovation,” Campanini told the BBJ’s Don Seiffert. “I look upon this as discovery. We’re explorers, really.”

Swell. But do they have a compass?

Regardless, the redoubtable Dan Kennedy of Media Nation told the BBJ he’s heard worse ideas. “Cutting rent is certainly better than cutting staff,” he said in an email.

The question is, if Digital First buys the Herald, would Fargo Street become a teardown too?

Will Busting Boston Herald Unions Bust the Herald?

For starters, the sadreading staff applauds the Boston Herald editors in general – and reporter Brian Dowling in particular – for birddogging the twists and turns of the shaky local tabloid’s attempt to sell itself to the highest bidder.

The latest drama began last Friday with this piece on the standoff between Herald union members and prospective buyers.

Unions fight Herald’s motion to kill contracts

Lawyers for the Herald’s unions are slamming the company’s bankruptcy plan to dissolve its collective bargaining agreements, claiming the newspaper didn’t negotiate in good faith and issuing a warning the move could spark a strike.

Teamsters Local 25 and the Newspaper Guild of Greater Boston Local 31032 filed objections yesterday to the Herald’s motion to dismiss the union contracts as the newspaper’s bankruptcy case grinds on in Delaware.

The unions want “the fate of the union contracts [to] be decided after the bankruptcy auction and all potential buyers have emerged.”

Nuts to you graf:

“Employees may be left with no choice but to exercise their right to strike,” lawyers for the Newspaper Guild wrote, highlighting the unrest would only worsen the paper’s finances.

Yesterday’s edition of the Herald featured management’s response to the union’s call to action.

Herald says labor pacts must go or paper goes under

The Herald is firing back at union objections to its bankruptcy plan by arguing that if costly labor contracts aren’t axed, buyers will disappear and the newspaper will go under — leaving the paper’s creditors to sell off furniture, computers and other hard assets to recoup little of what they’re owed.

The newspaper, bankrupt since Dec. 8, said it has only attracted suitors for a Feb. 13 auction whose bids are contingent on having the collective bargaining agreements tossed.

“The only other outcome will be a fire-sale liquidation in which all jobs are lost and all creditors receive a fraction of the value currently expected,” the Herald’s lawyers wrote in a filing.

But . . .

Today’s edition of the Herald suggests there’s been a detente.

“The Herald and most of its unions have struck a deal over the company’s contentious plan to dissolve labor contracts that had sparked an exchange of strike threats and dire warnings that the newspaper could be forced to close its doors for good.

“The agreement filed today in U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware cools tensions as the Communication Workers of America’s News Guild of Greater Boston — representing newsroom and commercial employees — agreed to back off its opposition to the newspaper’s plan to reject their collective bargaining agreements.”

It’s kinda complicated, so you should read the whole piece.  But this Jon Chesto item in today’s Boston Globe has the bottom line: “As part of the agreement with the unions, the successful bidder will make job offers to at least 175 Herald employees and recognize their vacation and severance rights.”

Here’s what hasn’t changed: “Newspaper giant GateHouse Media offered $5 million for the paper, and Los Angeles-based Revolution Media Group offered $5.75 million.”

Except it’s not that cut-and-dried, as our kissin’ cousins at Two Daily Town noted recently.

Revolution is offering $3 million cash for the company, agreeing to honor $750,000 of paid time off for employees who join the company, and is pledging to pay out $2 million in severance.

Crosstown at the Boston Globe, Jon Chesto reminds us what the deal is with GateHouse.

“GateHouse proposed paying $4.5 million in cash, as well as at least $500,000 in assumed liabilities, including paid time off owed to employees.”

Unless our math skills fail us, that means Herald owner Pat Purcell gets $1.5 million less from a sale to Revolution, while employees at the shaky local tabloid get $2.25 million more.

Whichever one gets the paper is now required “to bargain with [the] unions as soon as possible after the closing of the sale.”

Yes well, “bargain” don’t mean agree. Let’s just hope it’s only the sale that closes.