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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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.

Bad News: GateHouse Media Gives Boston Herald Vote of Confidence

From our Hark! TheHerald! desk

Let’s start with a vocabulary lesson. Define dreaded vote of confidence: “A chairman saying that he has complete confidence in the manager or coach, ‘dreaded’ because it is almost always followed by being fired.”

Substitute “parent company” for “chairman” and “newly acquired daily” for “manager or coach,” and you have the proper context for Jordan Graham’s piece in today’s Boston Herald.

‘We want the Herald to thrive,’ says GateHouse chief executive

GateHouse Media plans to throw its advertising and promotions muscle behind the Boston Herald and leverage its sports and political coverage if it is successful in acquiring the paper, the head of the national company said.

Boston Herald Radio content could also be in play for a wider audience, said Kirk Davis, chief executive of GateHouse Media.

Here’s the part that might worry all those Heraldniks applying to GateHouse for their jobs: Davis told the shaky local tabloid, “I look at the opportunity to, and I’ll say thoughtfully, consider the portfolio we have in Massachusetts, New England, and figure out which of these writers, beats, innovations — radio and so forth — would be welcomed by our readers in our other publications or on our websites.”

Hard to know what that means, since “Davis declined to lay out his complete vision for the future of the Herald.” But it sure sounds like the survivors will be serving more than one master, eh?

There are still three other potential bidders who might get into the bakeoff when the Herald goes up for auction in February, as the bankruptcy process requires. But there are some hurdles they would have to clear.

For a bidder to beat GateHouse’s $4.5 million deal, the higher offer would need to factor in a $200,000 “break-up fee” and up to $100,000 in due diligence expenses to GateHouse. The companies have also proposed requiring the next higher bidder to beat GateHouse’s bid by $100,000.

Considering that it’s something of a miracle publisher Pat Purcell got even one bid,  odds are the gavel will come down for GateHouse.

And then the hammer will drop on the Herald.

From the Hardreading Staff at Two-Daily Town

The sale of the Boston Herald to GateHouse Media has caused a great deal of consternation among the staff at the scaredy local tabloid and a great deal of confusion among the rest of us, as we detailed in a conversation with Meghna Chakrabarti at WBUR’s Radio Boston.

And now there’s competition, as the selfie local tabloid reports.

Three new suitors surface in sale of Boston Herald

Three additional parties have shown interest in buying the Herald in the days following its declaration of Chapter 11 bankruptcy and $4.5 million sale agreement with publishing giant GateHouse Media.

Herald finance chief Jeff Magram confirmed three inquiries have been made into the newspaper since the announcement last Friday.

“One just surfaced today. It was two as of yesterday. I’m happy there’s more interest,” said Magram, who declined to identify or characterize the inquiring parties in any way.

Can you cover this nut graf:

“For a bidder to beat GateHouse’s $4.5 million offer, the higher offer would need to factor in a $200,000 ‘break-up fee’ and up to $100,000 in due diligence expenses to GateHouse. The companies have also proposed requiring the next higher bidder to beat GateHouse’s bid by $100,000.”

That’s definitely good news for Herald staffers, who face losing severance and pension payments in the GateHouse deal.

Bottom line: We hope the fine folks at the feisty local tabloid get the best deal possible.

And we hope we never have to post to this blog again.