Category Archives: Boston

Globe owner John Henry: A man of few words?

By Christopher B. Daly

Former commodities trader and current pro-sports franchise owner John Henry has also owned the Boston Globe newspaper since last summer, when he bought it for a mere $70 million. Since then, he has said little about his plans, his political views, or his philosophy of journalism. That’s his prerogative, of course, but all the readers of the Globe around New England and beyond, may start to tire of his taciturn approach.

Boston-Globe-and-Henry

 

Last October, Henry published a 3,000-word op ed in his own newspaper under the headline “Why I Bought the Globe.” Among other high-minded points he made was this passage:

 

This much is clear: The overriding mission of The Boston Globe will be to ensure that its readers are getting news they can trust. The Globe will place its emphasis on hard-hitting, investigative accountability that readers can rely on. Not only will the Globe seek to hold people and institutions accountable for their actions, we will hold ourselves accountable for fairness, balance, and fact-checking.

Today, reliable information has never been more valuable. A newspaper needs to provide the breadth of perspective and diligent analysis that gets to the heart of what is going on in our world. The Globe will never be the prisoner of any ideology or political agenda.

Our enterprise reporting will shed new light on important issues of the day, with intellectual honesty and discipline. We will provide our readers with the assurance that if they read the Globe, they will know that time, effort, and thought were put into each and every report.

In this way, Henry sounds like many other American publishers who have issued similar declarations upon taking over newspapers: political independence, a commitment to service, a sense of public trust, etc. His statement was similar in spirit and tone to that of Adolph Ochs when he took over the New York Times in 1896. Here’s the heart of Ochs’ declaration:

It will be my earnest aim that The New-York Times give the news, all the news, in concise and attractive form, in language that is parliamentary in good society, and give it as early, if not earlier, than it can be learned through any other reliable medium; to give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved; to make of the columns of The New-York Times a forum for the consideration of all questions of public importance, and to that end to invite intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion.

Since his op-ed last fall, Henry has said little, other than a speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce last month. He has removed the Globe’s publisher, Chris Mayer, and given himself that job. Now comes a bit more insight, in an article from Boston magazine, written by senior editor Jason Schwartz. In the piece, Schwartz reveals that Henry would not grant him an interview, but “instead agreed to exchange emails” — without saying how many. The piece includes interviews from other key players (including Globe editor Brian McGrory) but adds little to our understanding of Henry and his intentions.

One reveal: Henry confirmed that he plans to sell most of the Globe’s property in Dorchester and move the newsroom into a prominent place closer to downtown — a good idea that I have thought the Globe should have done years ago. The sale of all that land should reap at least $70 million, which would mean that Henry got the newspaper as such for free.

Still, questions persist. Here are some I have:

–How can the Globe return to profitability?

–How long will the Globe continue in print?

–When you start to make money from the Globe, what will you do with it?

–Is it important to even try maintaining a separation between the paper’s editorial page and its news pages?

–If you have money to invest in the Globe, what are your top priorities for expanded coverage?

–Is there a comparable news operation anywhere in the world that you admire?

–If you had to choose between watching the Red Sox in the World Series or the Liverpool Football Club in a championship game, which would it be?

BONUS: My estimable colleague Dan Kennedy has written about this same topic today, including a warning about the possible return of Mike Barnicle. Well worth a read.

 

 

 

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Boston Globe owner begins making his moves

By Christopher B. Daly 

It’s no great surprise that John Henry, the wealthy former investor who bought the Boston Globe late last October for less than $70 million, has named a new publisher: himself. This is a step that has many precedents in the history of American journalism. And it makes sense: why spend the money to buy a whole newspaper if you don’t plan to run it?

The more interesting development announced by the Globe is that the paper will have a new CEO: veteran ad man Mike Sheehan. A longtime executive with the Boston advertising powerhouse Hill Holliday, Sheehan now takes on the responsibility for making enough money to rebuild the Globe’s reporting strength to the point where it can fulfill its goal of being a robust regional news organization.

Personally, I wish them all the luck. Get cracking, do good work, and start hiring more journalists.

Here's the Globe's caption on this double portrait: John Henry (left) and Mike Sheehan hope to boost ad revenue at the Globe.

Here’s the Globe’s caption on this double portrait: John Henry (left) and Mike Sheehan hope to boost ad revenue at the Globe.

 

 

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Ted Williams and his feud with baseball writers

By Christopher B. Daly

The Boston Globe is running a series of excerpts from a new book about Ted Williams, written by Ben Bradlee Jr., a former Globe editor and son of the great Washington Post editor. Today’s installment focuses on Ted’s testy relationship with the press corps, particularly the large gang of baseball writers who worked for the Boston dailies in the 1940s and 50s. Fun fact: Boston had nine daily newspapers back then, with separate sports staffs. Here’s the line-up:

Between 1939 and 1960, the years spanning Ted’s career with the Red Sox, Boston had eight major newspapers, or nine if one counted both the morning and evening editions of The Boston Globe, which had separate staffs and circulations. The morning papers were the Post, the Herald, the Record, the Daily Globe and the Christian Science Monitor. The evening journals were the American, the Transcript, the Traveler, and the Evening Globe. The Post and the Record dominated the city in 1940 with circulations of 369,000 and 329,000 respectively.

Here’s an excerpt from the excerpt:

In the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, major league baseball was by far the dominant sport in the country, and would often take up a third of the front page of newspapers in Boston, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. To be a baseball writer assigned to cover one of the big league teams was a highly prized assignment.

The writers wore suits. On long road trips, they’d play poker on the trains with the players and among themselves. Some great yarns came out of those trips, but in the fraternal milieu, it was understood that the stories would stay in-house, never to turn up in print.

On average, the writers were a generation-or-more older than the players they covered. Before World War II, the vast majority had not gone to college, and in the ’40s, their salaries ranged between $5,000 and $7,000 a year. But you couldn’t beat the perks. In what seems a quaint anachronism today, it was common practice at least into the ’60s for the ball clubs to pay all the expenses of the writers when the teams traveled. The reporters would stay at the best hotels, order from room service, and eat at fine restaurants. Moreover, they spent six weeks in Florida for Spring Training on the teams’ tab as well. In return for such largesse, the clubs of course expected, even demanded, favorable coverage, and they received it. On the rare occasions they did not, the teams would not hesitate to assert their economic leverage over the papers.

Does any sportswriter still wear a suit? (or a fedora?)

Ted Williams surrounded by the gentlemen of the press.  (via Boston Globe)

Ted Williams surrounded by the gentlemen of the press.
(via Boston Globe)

 

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JFK Remembered

By Christopher B. Daly 

Among the many journalistic efforts to commemorate the assassination of John F. Kennedy on its 50th anniversary, one of the best is a production by JFK’s hometown newspaper, The Boston Globe. In its print editions of today, the Globe wrapped the day’s regular edition in a special four-page supplement made up on reproductions of the paper’s actual pages in 1963.

In the online edition, the Globe has links to an interactive graphic. The graphic consists of images of historic front pages from Nov. 22 to Nov. 29, 1963. If you scroll over articles, you can click through to the full text of each. Beautiful, powerful, useful.

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Some highlights from that week:

–the old Globe, like most American newspapers, was wider then, running to eight columns wide (instead of today’s standard of 6)

–the Globe ran ads on page 1, which was commonplace until the glory days of the 1970s and 1980s, when a lot of U.S. papers were profitable enough to forego those ads as a point of pride.

–the paper featured a lot of wire-service copy, mostly from AP but including the famous “scoop” by UPI’s Merriman Smith on the assassination. Here’s the lead:

DALLAS (UPI) –President Kennedy was assassinated here today.

A single shot through the right temple took the life of the 46-year-old Chief Executive. He was shot as he rode in an open car in downtown Dallas, waving and smiling to a crowd of 250,000.

Smith beat out the AP by using the car phone in a limousine in the motorcade to dictate his lead, then bending over the phone to physically block it from the AP reporter, who pummeled Smith for access to the phone but could not get his hands on it.

–In the Nov. 23 edition of the Globe, the front page features stories by UPI’s Helen Thomas, who only recently gave up covering the White House, and by Mary McGrory, whose son Brian now edits the Globe.

–On the 28th, the Globe ran a page 1 column by Walter Lippmann, the great mid-century syndicated columnist. True to form, Lippmann held forth in his most olympian mode, saying little but sounding momentous.

 

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Whitey Bulger: Life without parole

By Christopher B. Daly 

 

In the end, the sentencing of James “Whitey” Bulger was oddly unsatisfying. Bulger  – the lord of the underworld, the big man with the killer’s coldness, the guy who struck fear into so many for so long – left the public stage without so much as a whimper. Playing the role of a stand-up guy (or at least, his version of one) all the way to the bitter end, Bulger not only refused to testify, he also refused to even make eye contact with his victims’ families.

 

To make matters worse, Bulger committed one last robbery: he robbed all of us in the Boston area of the satisfaction of a real showdown with the forces of images-1justice. Bulger should have been on the witness stand (and his testimony should have been on television), but he denied us that. It was a petty crime, compared to all his monstrous crimes against individuals, but it was one more shot at a public that grew tired of him long ago.

 

His trial over, Bulger will now spend the rest of his few remaining days in prison, where he belongs. So be it. I don’t believe in the death penalty on other days, and I will stick to my position on this one. I will not give Bulger the satisfaction of getting me to make an exception for him. I will choose not to sink to his level. (No more special treatment for you, pal.)

 

The whole process of putting Bulger on trial took so long that when the final stages unfolded in federal court last week, there was an odd quality of a formality about it. After all, Bulger’s capture took place more than two years ago. Ever since, it was more or less assumed that Bulger would be found guilty and given a life term.

 

Indeed, the thoroughly predictable and highly scripted process of a criminal trial was overshadowed this year by a lot of other local news of spontaneous origin. In April came the horrible crime of the Boston Marathon bombing, in which a couple of miserable losers decided to try to rob us all of something wonderful — the

Dhokhar Tsarnaev surrendering, with his forehead marked by a sniper's infrared.

Dhokhar Tsarnaev surrendering, with his forehead marked by a sniper’s infrared.

spirit that always used to bloom in Boston on Marathon Monday, a mix of having fun and playing hooky and being nice to out-of-towners and trying to hurry spring along.

 

That was followed this year (simply in time, not in a great cosmic reckoning, as some would have it) by the quite unexpected rise of the Red Sox, who gave us something of a civic bouquet this year — not by winning the World Series, which was nice but a bit much. No, I think the Sox’ real gift to us this year came from seeing them having fun playing a child’s game as if it mattered and seeing them outperform expectations. All that, plus beards — what a treat.

 

*       *       *       *

 

Yet, there is still some unfinished business in the Bulger matter. Whitey Bulger owes us all the answers that we didn’t get when he chose not to testify. He may try to tell his story – on his terms, of course, with a book or letters – but he should have had to sit in the dock, under oath, and face questions not of his choosing.

 

For that matter, his brother Billy (the former president of the state Senate) images-2owes us some answers, too. What did he know about his brother, and when did he know it? Billy owes us these answers because he was not a private person all those years. He’s not in the same category as the third Bulger brother or their sister. No, Billy was at or near the center of public power during the very same years and in the very same city that Whitey was at or near the center of criminal power.

 

I will not compare or contrast the two brothers, except to say that as a journalist who covered Billy during that period and who often got the back of his hand, I believe that even rough justice demands that he give answers to the people whose money he spent and whose government he hijacked. No more of his grinning and winking and ducking. What did he know and when?

 

Other unfinished business?

 

There’s the FBI, for one. The agency has yet to offer a convincing explanation of how Whitey Bulger could have drafted the FBI’s Boston office into his protection racket or of how the agency is preventing a repeat by some other hoodlum.

 

Then there is the matter of how anybody could have fallen for the blarney that Whitey was a good guy who was keeping drugs out of South Boston or that Billy was a good guy because he gave away some turkeys at the holidays. Both of the Bulgers got too much power, and we are the ones who let them get away with it.

 

So, in the end, I suppose, the final reckoning is not with them but with ourselves. That’s a sentence with no parole, no appeal. In a way, we’re lifers, too.

 

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To all student journalists: Stay Safe!

By Christopher B. Daly 

Are you a student journalist? Are you being asked to get out of the classroom and “learn by doing” through street reporting?

Are you a journalism professor? Do you send your students out to cover real events?

If so, you should know about a program we are developing in the Journalism Department at Boston University called “Stay Safe.”

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Here’s an introduction, based on a panel discussion we held in September for more than 100 students.

The idea is simple: When the April 2013 Boston Marathon turned in an instant from a feel-good feature story into a violent tragedy, many of us on the Journalism faculty realized that we need to do a better job to train our students in basic safety techniques. Working with veteran correspondents from our own faculty, as well as front-line professional reporters and photographers, we are trying to distill the hard-won experience of covering wars, riots, fires, blizzards, and other forms of mayhem into a set of practical guidelines. Before our students venture out again, we want to make sure they go out there equipped with the “best practices” we can share with them.

Have a look at the video. Still to come: a permanent space on the BU Journalism website with guidelines, training videos, links, and a display of recommended gear for all student journalists.

If you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments here, or email Chris Daly: chrisdaly44@gmail.com.

Thanks. . .  and stay safe!

Boston University journalism student Kiva Liu, working near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, moments before two bombs exploded.

Boston University journalism student Kiva Liu, working near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, moments before two bombs exploded. She survived.

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And fuck you, too!

In case you are the last person on the planet who doesn’t know what was said in U.S. District Court in Boston earlier this week in the murder/racketeering trial of Whitey Bulger, here’s a portion of the transcript, demonstrating the parties’ mastery of forceful, simple Anglo-Saxon vocabulary:

[The "Q" here is defense attorney J.W. Carney. The "A"s are coming from witness Kevin Weeks.]

BOwExDUCQAM-nGe

 

 

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Let cameras into court

By Christopher B. Daly 

As I recently argued, we the people deserve to have cameras in all our courtrooms (except maybe juvenile court) and our legislative bodies.

The latest case in point: the appearance in U.S. District Court in Boston yesterday by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing case. Radiating out from downtown Boston, millions of people have a keen interest in this case, and they all have a right to see this defendant. We have a right to hear him say “Not guilty.” We have a right to observe the performance of the government parties — the prosecutors, the judge, the guards, etc. We have the right to watch our government.

Instead, what we get is a chalk sketch like this one:

Suspected terrorist Margaret Small/AP

Suspected terrorist
Margaret Small/AP

We can do better, and we the people deserve better. 

If anybody knows of a good argument for continuing to ban cameras from federal courts, please leave a comment.

 

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Bulger trial coverage

By Christopher B. Daly

Whitey Bulger, courtesy of Boston PD. One of the greatest mugshots in the history of the genre.

Whitey Bulger, courtesy of Boston PD. One of the greatest mugshots in the history of the genre.

The long-awaited trial of gangster/murderer Whitey Bulger is in full swing in a federal courthouse in Boston (named for the longtime congressman from the district of South Boston, the late Joe Moakley).

Some of the journalists and news institutions covering the trial are doing excellent work. Here’s a guide:

The Boston Globe, the biggest news organization in New England, is all-in. Here’s a link to their special expanded coverage for “Globe Insiders” (which just means non-freeloaders — i.e., those who have a digital subscription, as we all should).

WBUR, the longtime news leader among NPR stations in the region, has a smart-looking special section as well, led by veteran reporter David Boeri.

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Both sites are rich with background, photos, timelines, who’s-who’s, and (my favorite) maps.

Also meritorious: the reporting of the ubiquitous Adam Reilly, who reports for the city’s other major NPR station, WGBH.

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And, if that’s not enough, you can always follow the Twitter feeds (#bulger), which are emerging as a pretty good workaround for the continuing silliness of banning TV cameras from federal trial courts.

Oh, and for deep background, read the Whitey biography written by my friend and BU colleague Dick Lehr.

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Mass. Senate race: another private equity guy gives it a try

By Christopher B. Daly

In Massachusetts, we are having a special Senate race to fill the seat vacated by veteran Democrat John Kerry when he became president Obama’s Secretary of State. The race features two finalists, each of whom has a classic profile for his party:

Ed Markey, a Democrat who is a career politician, versus Gabriel Gomez, a Republican who was a Navy SEAL and was a millionaire executive of a private equity fund until he resigned in February to run for Senate.

Last night, the two candidates faced off in the final debate of the campaign, ably moderated by my B.U. colleague and veteran television news anchor, R.D. Sahl. Voting is next Tuesday.

In the debate, it appeared as though Markey was trying to do to Gomez what Ted Kennedy famously did to Mitt Romney in the 1994 U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts. The career-pol Democrat accused the private-equity guy of buying up companies, firing their workers, and profiting the difference. It worked, and Ted Kennedy returned to Washington.

This time, Gomez has steadfastly declined to talk about his major post-military career. He has spent more than a decade at Advent International, making deals. It’s a bit odd that Gomez, who is also a Harvard Business School grad, does not want to talk about business.  Instead, he spends most of his time talking about his service to country (he was an aircraft carrier pilot as well as a SEAL, which is a major big deal) and about how Washington is broken because of partisanship.

Fair enough, but what about his career?

As a public service, here are some articles about Gomez as a businessman — from CNN Money, from Daily Kos, and the Boston Globe. I think the best coverage of this issue has come from Dan Primack, who (unlike political reporters) actually covers business in his work at CNN Monday/Fortune. Here’s his latest. Everyone in Massachusetts should get up to speed on this issue before next Tuesday. Thanks, Dan Primack.

 

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