“Day One did not begin well. En route to the Globe for my first day as a summer intern, I was sideswiped on Storrow Drive by a Bloodmobile.”
One of my favorite moments hanging with Bob Ryan was back in Vancouver in 2011 when the Boston Bruins were battling with the Canucks for the Stanley Cup. Bob and I so happened to pull the short straw — or maybe it was the long one — and were asked to stay in Vancouver during Game 6, which was being played in Boston, to save the Globe money and so we could have staff in place if and when the teams would return to the west coast for Game 7. (It was something we anticipated and were ultimately right about.) Those were long flights, and if you’ve covered any team in pro sports, you know that beating the home team to its next destination is nearly impossible. During the Stanley Cup, the Bruins and Canucks had gotten used to holding press conferences after touching down and making their way to the rink.
Anyways, Bob and I had the awesome task of waiting out Game 6, while also enjoying Vancouver. Now Bob is more of a lone wolf, so I didn’t see him out much. But at night, when the NBA Finals were playing concurrently, I caught him at the hotel bar for some pick-me-ups and some basketball talk. It was during those conversations that I got his impression of the NBA lockout, a topic I had dismissed as easily as I had the NFL lockout. And to be fair to myself, the issues in the NBA were still below the radar nationally. But not for Bob. He knew then, ahead of all the hoopla, that the NBA and its players association were far apart. He told me he wasn’t sure the NBA was going to have a season.
After a lengthy lockout, followed by a 66-game season, I realized that he’s not only pretty good at recapping some of the finest moments in sports history, but he’s also pretty good at predicting outcomes as well. If only he were a betting man. Maybe he can take that up in semi-retirement.
One last story.
One of the first assignments I worked on for Boston.com and the Globe was at a Celtics game with Bob in the building. At the time, I wasn’t well versed with the protocol at TD Garden, the seating arrangements, etc. After the pregame locker room access, I made my way to the press seats, which are tucked away in a corner of the Garden. The section has a sort of hierarchy to them, with the front four seats dedicated to the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe. The Globe typically has three to five seats at games, with the other seats much higher than the two up front. Because I was (and continue to be an early bird), I took one of the first two seats because they weren’t assigned by name.
Little did I know.
First to come by was Frank Dell’Apa, a Globe veteran, who is by most accounts, unnerved by anything. It was our first meeting. We introduced ourselves, he sat down next to me, and we started to get ready for the game. Next to come by was Bob, who looked over, waved, and continued up the section to the next available seat. And lastly, Julian Benbow, our Globe colleague and the Celtics beat writer at the time, came by on his day off to observe and stopped to talk to me.
“What are you doing,” Julian asked.
“What do you mean,” I replied.
Julian went on to educate me how I was sitting in the wrong seat. In particular, I was sitting in Bob Ryan’s seat. The front two seats he told me were meant for the Globe’s beat writer, Dell’Apa for the day, and the columnist on duty. Feeling a little embarrassed, I said nothing. But as the game got going, and I hadn’t yet moved, Julian decided to come down from the higher seats and talk to me again.
“Do you know people are sitting around and talking about why Bob Ryan is sitting up here and you’re down there?” he queried.
This wasn’t going well. So after the first quarter — a meaningless game against the Utah Jazz — I walked up to Bob, who was sitting next to Julian about six rows above, and told him I had no idea what the deal was with the seating (a weak apology, I admit) and asked him if he wanted to switch spots.
Bob wasn’t worried about it. In fact, Bob just brushed it off.
I remember thinking later that night how cool he was about the situation. Seating can be, and has been known to be, quite a contentious discussion in the press box. Just ask anyone sitting in the back row at Fenway Park. But that moment sort of crystalized what kind of person Bob was. Despite his celebrity — which he doesn’t like to admit to — he is as down to Earth as any other eccentric in this business, and one that doesn’t have the least bit of diva to him.
He’s a good guy and and I’ll miss the opportunity to have any more drinks with him on the road. As everyone who has ever known him will tell you, his stories are great and his memory is phenomenal. That combination, unfortunately for the Globe, is irreplaceable.
Lucky for the Globe, he is still going to write 30-40 times a year on Sundays.
It’s not often I comment on the dealings at the Boston Globe. In fact, it’s been a long time since I’ve been sort of an ambassador for newspaper dealings. That all ended when I left The Union.
But today marks a pretty historic day for the Globe and the communities it serves, as the BostonGlobe.com paywall finally goes up and the Globe completes the splitting of the paper’s online news brands.
This is significant for more reasons than opening a new revenue stream. (BostonGlobe.com will cost $3.99 a week — $0.99 for the first four weeks — but will be free to subscribers.) The deployment of a second website is a unique strategy, spearheaded by publisher Chris Mayer, that depends on both Boston.com and BostonGlobe.com to find separate niches, voices even, to serve the same communities. Boston.com, which will still carry breaking news, sports coverage and select Globe stories, is supposed to be the voice of Boston with community bloggers, photo galleries and other features that tap into the heart of New Englanders. BostonGlobe.com will carry the weight of the Globe’s newspaper content, with exclusivity in some areas and also breaking news. The new website, hailed for its design and scalability between smart phones, tablets and computers, is still changing. But its main thrust is dependent on its reading experience and being New England’s No. 1 news source.
So, basically, we’ll see where things go from here.
A couple of things that have gotten lost in the public’s conversation on the new site:
- Stories of importance, or considered of public service, will be made available on Boston.com. So the whole Priest scandal thing, or the probation department fiasco, and stories like them will be made freely available.
- Sports coverage, with the exception of enterprise pieces, will be available on Boston.com.
- Current subscribers don’t have to pay anything for access to BostonGlobe.com. (Weirdly, this is confusing to some.)
I’m excited about this. And not just because I’m an employee of the company, but because this represents another domino in a long line of newspapers that need to start charging for what they’ve been giving away for free. The New York Times took the plunge, the Globe has taken the plunge, and I don’t believe it’ll be long before many other newspapers find a strategy that works for them to charge for the content that they produce.
Now with that said, there are a number of things the Globe needs to do in order for BostonGlobe.com to be a success in its own right and so it will not compete with Boston.com, and vice versa. Mainly, the new site has to give up its current sports centric focus. Given the availability and popularity of sports on Boston.com, it doesn’t make sense.
Instead, BostonGlobe.com should focus on its exclusive content and hesitate at all points to mirror what Boston.com does, particularly for sports. So in the evening, when readers visit BostonGlobe.com and see exclusive previews for content in the next day’s paper from our acclaimed G section or an editorial on a pressing topic, the company is doing what needs to be done in order to be successful. But on Monday, in the morning, the last thing the new site should be doing is featuring New England Patriots content as if it isn’t plastered all over Boston.com already.
It is my belief that for BostonGlobe.com to be successful — whether that is in terms of monetary value, protecting a sliding newspaper circulation, or web traffic — it has to break away from what Boston.com does and provide value to a distinct audience, one that despises Boston.com already. In the two years I’ve worked at the Globe, one of the constant complaints about Boston.com is how much of the newspaper’s content is buried online while readers eyes are diverted to photo galleries and other non-newspaper content. The new site is designed in a manner in which that will no longer be the case, catering to a large number of people already discontent with Boston.com. But I also believe a large number of these readers will never venture to the new site if, in essence, its homepage reflects the content on Boston.com. That’something the masters of the Globe — editor Martin Baron, Boston.com editor Ron Agrella and BostonGlobe.com editor Jason Tuohey — have to hash out. With time, and proper focus, I’m sure two distinct voices will form. That’s the hope I have for the company and this two-brand strategy.
So, basically, we’ll see where things go from here.
Until today, I hadn’t written a non-game oriented feature for a newspaper in almost two years. I had this silly idea to write about a school that gets a heckuva lot of publicity as it is. But they’re too good to ignore. The school, St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Mass., has won seven state championships in the last year. They’re success is so prolific that it’s practically controversial — at least according to the comments on the story.
(BTW, I really am trying to learn this whole thing about not reading the comments on my own stories. It’s tough though. I generally want to take part in the discussion, but folks online are so nasty and generally grumpy that it messes with my positive vibe. So I’m conflicted.)
But more than anything, this school is successful because they care about all of their athletic teams. That’s why the fencing, sailing and rugby teams are defending state champions. And it’s why its Catholic Conference rivals have to worry about them every year in football, hockey, basketball and baseball. That kind of balanced success is a model I think is very difficult to copy, but thanks to the relative wealth of the private school (tuition is $18,695) and its funding prowess, they’ve made it look easy. So it made for an interesting story.
I’m sure there will be detractors to what’s written, or quoted in some instances. But let’s call it like it is: St. John’s Prep has haters. That’s how it is when you’re a powerhouse. When you’re on top, like St. John’s Prep is year after year, you’re bound to attract the worst in people.
Editor’s note: If I ever wrote a column again, it’d be here on Wednesdays. In fact, that’s what I plan on doing. Starting next week, right here, my thoughts. You know the topics: Giants, 49ers, Warriors and journalism. Screw the Raiders. (OK, maybe some Raiders. But definitely screw the A’s.) This is long overdue.
A new group is saying they want to buy The Boston Globe.
This comes at a time when the New York Times Company has not put the Globe up for sale. Instead, the group, The 2100 Trust, is looking to protect the interest of the community, so to speak, buy buying the Globe as some form of community trust. Hence the name.
The 2100 Trust, a Massachusetts-based limited liability company, is putting together a community-focused investor group to submit a letter of intent to purchase The New England Media Company, including The Boston Globe and all its associated properties from the New York Times Company.
The Boston Globe has been a pillar in the city, the Commonwealth and the region for more than a century. We believe that The Boston Globe’s strongest days can be ahead. It is essential that the Globe be positioned for its next 100 years. This will require the significant long-term investment that we intend to make. One of the principal areas of investment will be the newsroom, which is due for a significant increase.
This all comes on the heels of the Globe’s major announcement a couple of weeks ago in which publisher Chris Mayer revealed plans for the Globe to carry two websites going forward, BostonGlobe.com and Boston.com (for which I am employed). BostonGlobe.com will be a sorta paywall website, whereas as Boston.com will remain free. Globe content will be split up among the two.
Mayer responded in a memo to the Globe about the advance, which the NYT co. still has not received.
“While we can’t stop others from having interest in our business, I’m viewing any potential outside interest in the Globe as a reaffirmation that we’re doing all the right things and moving the business forward,” Mayer wrote. “We have a solid strategy. Let’s stay focused on our success.”
The idea of having two websites at the Globe was a hot topic in the hallways last week. Everybody wants to know how it’s going to work out. And, as Mayer has said before, all the answers have not been determined yet. But this renewed interest in purchasing the Globe, something which was broached in 2006 and in 2009 when the Times threatened to shutter the Globe, seems to be an obvious response to the new strategy. I say obvious without actually knowing what’s in the minds and hearts of the individuals encompassing The 2100 Trust. However, this group’s timing could not be any more questionable.
This also comes at a time when the union is negotiating the Globe’s contract before it expires at the end of the year.
What does all of this mean for me?
It means that I’ll be working for both of the websites going forward, producing content for both. There’s a lot of gray right now, but I’ll be one of the many producers and editors for the website that determines what content goes to each website and what goes on both. (Yes, there are some items that will be on both.) My job will not drastically change. I’ll still be producing journalism with my eyes on serving New England fans for both high school sports and wherever else needed.
Eastie-Southie game hitting home
I recently moved from East Boston to South Boston. So went from hanging out in Eastie, to now living Southie. (Explaining this for the non-New Englanders.) Anyways, it means that I now have a rooting interest in watching the Eastie-Southie game on Thanksgiving Day. Or at least I can pretend. Either way, I miss the house in East Boston. But the move was warranted. They were selling it. I’m very happy with the new home and it’s actually pretty cool to be two minutes away from the office. In eight days, I will have been in New England for an entire year. I flew in on a blustery night, Oct. 28. In the past 12 months, I’ve lived in three different places. Hopefully, I’m here in Southie for awhile.
Alex Smith sucks
One game doesn’t change my opinion of a man. Nor does two. In fact, his entire body of work is what I’m thinking of when I say I think he’s a rotten QB and should be tossed out on his hindquarters. But it’s not my team, now is it. The 49ers won their first game on Sunday despite Alex Smith. However, the embattled QB did not throw an interception. He had averaged 1.8 interceptions a game up until the Battle of the Bay. It was another milestone for what has been a terrible season for Mr. Suck. But he is getting better. In fact, the comeback attempt against the Philadelphia Eagles was his first signs of real life to me, throwing two touchdowns in a what eventually was a 27-24 defeat including a — you guessed it — interception to end the game. The whole incident in which he argued with Mike Singletary and fought to go back in the game after getting pulled was the first time Smith actually appeared to be a sympathetic figure to me. He wasn’t just arguing for a few minutes of reserve time. Smith was arguing for his career right then and there. You could see it in the urgency of his body language. You could see it in the urgency of his play after he called David Carr back to the sideline. He was a man on a mission to save his career. That was interesting. But two games doesn’t change my opinion of Alex Smith the QB yet. He still sucks.
How about ‘dem Giants?I can’t help but think about the inevitable argument on sports radio here in Boston when the San Francisco Giants make the World Series. These guys are gonna bring up all the reasons why the Giants shouldn’t be there. How the Red Sox could beat ‘em and yaddy ya ya ya. I hate this line of argument. It’s all about the American League being better than the National League. I get it. AL cities have a superiority complex. Fine. But let’s not let the conversation fall into what the Sox, or any other AL team would do, when they’re not even in the dance. That’s just stupid. If the Red Sox were to be included in the argument, they’d first have to go back and win a couple of regular season games and then win a couple of series against some of the best teams in baseball before even being mentioned. I have no problem with the Yankees, Rangers, or even the Phillies, beating the Giants as the world crams it on the Black and Orange about how they shouldn’t have been there in the first place. But those are playoff teams. And as far as I’m concerned, they’re the only ones that matter.
Jason Campbell sucks
But you know this, right? And to think, I had lobbied for the 49ers to actually trade for Jason Campbell. But after the stinker he put up against the 49ers (8-of-21, 83 yards, 2 interceptions, 10.7 QB rating), I’d be remiss to say that wasn’t one of my better ideas. I mean, he did that against the 49ers. I’m not saying the 49ers defense is bad (10th in yard allowed per game), but they aren’t the Chargers (1st in yard allowed per game, 1st in passing yards allowed per game).
Crackdown on the crackdowns
I used to blow guys up all the time … OK, I’m lying. I used to cheap shot guys as my teammate ran up and down the sidelines for a league-leading 32 touchdowns. But you know what, I never once hit a guy helmet to helmet. Not on purpose. I did so one time on accident. Guess who got hurt? I did. Sorta Dunta Robinson like. It made me woozy for at least two more plays as I stayed in the game trying to stop a team from scoring on us. I don’t think it was a concussion, but it would explain a lot. Either way, this crackdown needed to happen. These guys are physically talented enough at the NFL level to tackle people by aiming for the core of the ball carrier’s body, rather than the head or neck. For guys like James Harrison to consider retiring because he may not know how to play the game is absolutely idiotic. But then again, he’s the same guy who said he wouldn’t go to the White House and meet the president (Obama and Bush) after winning the Super Bowl because “they weren’t for the Steelers.” We’re not talking about the smartest Golden Girl here.
Be sure to follow along on Twitter as I tweet about things related to Massachusetts high school sports and other stuff. I like the other stuff, but Mass High sports are cool too. It’s football season, ya know.
There are a couple of common questions people ask about NABJ every year, usually centered around the need for a black journalists organization. The unfortunate quip I hear too often is that “there isn’t a white journalism organization.” (To which many reply, there is: The Society of Professional Journalists.) Or, “we have a black president, so what’s the point?”
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I’ve sacrificed a lot to get here. Not just a little bit, but a whole lot. I’ve realized that in the last few days.
It took me leaving my beloved California to get an opportunity to run with the big dogs. For that, I will be eternally grateful. Now, I get to do the pro stuff up close and personal on a regular basis. I have a team of people ready to back me up whenever I need them. If I fall, someone will catch me. If they fall, someone will catch them. These are the benefits of moving up a newspaper weight class.
But more and more, it comes to my attention the things I gave up for the benefits I have now: Writing regularly, family dinners, holidays at home, hanging with friends and the institutional knowledge of where exactly to go on a lazy Sunday for fun and lady-like trouble.
There’s no telling how many holidays I’ll miss. Or graduations (only two left in the family). Sometimes, these things sadden me. But I’m hard pressed to think of myself as the sappy type who needs pity or empathy to feel better about my situation. In this socio-economic climate, I’m doing great. And don’t even mention how well I’m doing in the newspaper industry. Let’s just say I’m blessed.
I’m reminded of how good things are often because there are some really cool perks for my job. And if I’m ever down in the dumps, those perks are more cherished than usual. For instance, I’m making my way back to California next week. But not because I’m going to see family and hang out with friends. I’ll be headed to Southern California to help cover the NBA Finals. Not sure if I did anything good lately in the office, but my number was called and I’ll be playing a role in our coverage. All under the bright lights of course.
I may even run into some of my L.A. people. That’s a two-for-one in my book. I’d say that’s pretty good for a guy who was doing little league stuff two years ago at this time.
My, how things have changed. I’d look back more, but I prefer looking forward.
How you do that, is what’s peculiar.
Socrates developed a style of deductive argumentation — called the Socratic method — more than 1,600 years ago. His methods are studied in colleges and across America. But more so, the principles of his argument — using leading questions as premises in order to sneakily convince one’s oppenent of your righteousness and therefore logical consequence — have seeped into the daily Americana experience. You can find his touch on TV, in movies, and even in journalism.
The latter of which, it seems, is where the trendiness has caught my attention. Newspaper columnists and journo-bloggers have employed these methods in an awkard attempt to translate what is a perfected form of person-to-person communication (or fighting depending on how loud you’re talking) in a medium that is not dependent on conversation.
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Newspapers have worked on a set standard of how to operate for a very long time. Depending on the size of a news organization, there is a protocol on how to disseminate information timely and accurately among a certain number of people.
The simple observation is: Every newspaper is run through a copy desk to ensure the integrity of the news gathering process. These people are the second, third and sometimes fourth eyes on everything editorial in the paper. Needless to say, they’re critical to the editorial process and integrity.
So what happens when they’re taken out of the loop? That’s where we’re headed as newspapers continue to whittle down to bare bones resources and push for online content first — and most certainly without the proper vetting. This article for Voices serves well to highlight the issue.
It’s just another reminder that journalists are as much aware of the consequences of a news organization’s editorial integrity as members of the concerned public. I don’t doubt that those same members would be willing to invest more money in a high quality, localized product — wherever the market. So long as there is trust and accuracy along with its output.
In my mind, integrity should come first.
I’ve been looking with interest to see where the Nevada City Advocate, a new paper in my county, will land after its printers closed a couple of weeks ago. They reported the issue on their Web site at the time.
Since then, they’ve been looking for a new printer and are expecting to go to a monthly, from what I’ve been told. I’ve called around to try and gauge who will get the bid for the printing job, knowing that The Union has been crossed off the list because our press doesn’t accommodate the width size for the Advocate (35 inches). I called the Paradise Post printing press, and they said they spoke to the Advocate, quoting them a price but have not heard back from them. That was Thursday. The lady also noted that the Advocate might go to a monthly as well after speaking with Stacey Butler, editor and publisher Pat Butler’s wife and advertising director.
The word is the next issue of the Advocate is expected Labor Day weekend, meaning probably Sept. 4, with no news on where they’ve secured printing. They have a couple of options, but they all will more than likely affect the look and feel of the paper as well as possibly their editorial cycle. Although, moving to a monthly may do that as well.
I was happy to see the Nevada City Advocate’s Web site finally make it up. It took a whole month after the launch of the newspaper.
Pat Butler, former editor of The Union and former news director at KNCO, is the editor and publisher. According to him, the Advocate will be going bi-weekly with their next issue Aug. 7 (?). As you may very well know, this revs up the competition in little old Western Nevada County.
These are all good things. Competition will only breed better journalism in the area, which is my chief concern. But there’s also been hoopla about whether or not The Union should write about the Advocate because it is a new business in the area. I thought about this. And then I thought about it some more. I came to a very simple conclusion: Who really cares?
While I think the media haters of the world get a rise out of the notion that there is some conceived news war taking place in their back yard, the notion that people actually care where they get their news from is false. People just want their unbiased, unfiltered, accurate news. That’s their No. 1. If The Union can’t fill that need, they’ll go somewhere else, possibly the Advocate. And if the Advocate can’t fill that need, I’m sure folks will turn somewhere else again. In the end, it’ll just lead to some healthy journalism. The people will win here. Isn’t that most important?
I think the the critique of this news competition will be best left to the blogosphere, where readers can judge among themselves who is getting the job done. Because writing about it, at least for the paper, would just take up valuable space for something far more important to readers of both the Advocate and The Union: news.
Anyways, Butler is supposedly only going to update the Web site on Tuesdays, going against the Web first culture of the modern newspaper. I don’t know if that will change with the announcement of going bi-weekly. The only newspaper that comes to mind with a comparable non-Web friendly policy is the Mountain Messenger — which coincidentally doesn’t have a Web site. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.