Tag Archives: John Henry

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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No cheering in the pressbox, please.

By Christopher B. Daly 

Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy had a remarkable column on the front page of the paper today. It was remarkable for several reasons.

First, it was on page 1, which suggests to me that it was a newsroom decision to put this on the front page. I wonder why? That means, for one thing, that the Globe’s editors wanted this message to reach readers beyond those who read the sports pages.

Second, it makes a point about the methodology of writing columns, which is more “meta” than Dan usually gets. So, I wonder if this column was prompted by something specific. (Maybe the new Ted Williams biography by Dan’s former colleague, Ben Bradlee Jr., which reminds us of the feud Williams had with Boston sports columnists who were not sufficiently admiring.)

Perhaps it has to do with the Globe’s new owner, John Henry, who also happens to be the major owner of the Boston Red Sox. Was Dan declaring his independence from both the team and the new owner? Was the newsroom supporting him in this? Were they trying to tell Henry (who is new to the role of newspaper-owner) that he should not expect Shaughnessy — and, by extension, the whole Globe staff — to use their words and images to support the boss’s causes and interests? Does that extend to Henry’s business interests? To his politics?

Boston Globe image

Boston Globe image

Dan (full disclosure: he’s a friend, and our boys are friends) is making a case that should be self-evident. Years ago, the principle was established among the guild of sports writers that they attended sporting events not to root for the teams they were covering. This attitude was expressed quite well in the classic formulation: “No cheering in the pressbox.”

That goes for the hometown team, too. I believe the job of a sportswriter is to call them as he/she sees them. If my team stinks, I want to know why. I don’t want to be told that they don’t stink when they do.

Dan’s column got a lot of comments, many of which were the kind of harsh put-down that fills sports radio, the internet, and many a comments section. Turns out, a lot of guys want a columnist like Dan to agree with them. That, too, is not his job. As I understand the calling of columnist, the job is to be interesting, plain and simple. A columnist should write about things that are true in an interesting way and write about things that are interesting in a true way.

It’s not the same job as being a reporter or a beat writer. That is a more factual task, trying to answer the basic question: what happened? The columnist is trying to answer a different question: of the things that just happened, which ones are not obvious but would amuse, inform, challenge, provoke, or beguile my readers?

This has been true since the early days of column writing in the early 20th century and can be seen in the work of

Red Smith

Red Smith

the great Red Smith or in the tremendous columns churned out by the likes of Walter Lippmann, Dorothy Thompson, Langston Hughes, and Ernie Pyle (see Covering America).

Keep ’em coming, Dan. And don’t pull any punches.

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Who owns the Boston Globe? John Henry does.

By Christopher B. Daly 

No surprise: the deal announced last summer has finally closed. The NYT Co. has sold the Boston Globe (and a bundle of other New England news properties) to the wealthy investor John Henry. The price was $70 million, or 6.3% of the $1.1 billion that the New York Times paid for the Globe 20 years ago.

Henry, who made a fortune in commodity trading, already owns several important sports ventures —

imgresnotably the hometown MLB franchise, the Boston Red Sox. (How the Globe sports department will cover the Sox remains a touchy, unresolved issue that will not go away.)

Henry also owns the Liverpool Football Club, which is ranked third in the English Premier League of the sport we commonly call soccer. Here’s a page of links to Henry-related stories from the British newspaperGooglepluscrest The Guardian. Here’s the comparable page from the Liverpool Echo, consisting mainly of sports stories that say little about Henry.

The reason that I am searching British media for information about Henry is that he is rarely written about here. Although he has been one of the principal owners of the Boston Red Sox for years now, he is still pretty much of an enigma. He shows up in photos at the occasional charity or celebrity event, and his courtship and marriage of Linda Pizzutti (who hails from my hometown — Medford, Mass.) in 2009 produced a portfolio of rather icky photos.

Boston magazine has attempted to cover Henry, and I hope they continue to do so.

The question that awaits an answer is: how will the Globe cover its new owner? This is an inherently awkward (and possibly impossible) assignment for any news organization, since readers will always have to wonder whether any punches were pulled. To report fully and write honestly about the person who signs your paycheck is hard enough; to convince people that you are really telling the whole story means somehow overcoming the apparent conflict of interest involved. It will be a test of the Globe’s independence and its credibility as a journalistic enterprise if it even attempts to cover the new owner.

As for Henry, much remains to be seen. Here are some questions I have:

Will he be an engaged owner?

Will he keep the valuable Brian McGrory as top editor?

Will he endorse political candidates?

Will he stand by the paper’s metered pay system for online access?

Will he order up expanded coverage of English soccer?

Will he tolerate critical coverage of the Red Sox?

Will he sell the land and buildings at Morrissey Boulevard?

Will he sell the printing presses and trucks and take the Globe into a post-print future?

In this photo, what time is it? After sundown, or pre-dawn?

In this photo, what time is it? After sundown, or pre-dawn?

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Who will own the Boston Globe?

An update on the bidding for the Boston Globe (and other properties being sold by the New York Times Co.).

The deadline for bidding was yesterday. The Globe itself reports that there were at least six bids submitted — including one that I did not preview in my earlier post: Red Sox co-owner John Henry and his Fenway Sports Group. (Wow — could the Globe pay any more attention to the Sox than they do now?)

According to the Globe, the Kraft group dropped out of the bidding, which means the region’s newspaper will not be owned by the region’s NFL franchise owner. Phew.

Here’s the Reuters version.

Stay tuned.

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