There’s been much written about the Boston Globe after news of the company’s plan to “untangle” its two websites, Boston.com and BostonGlobe.com, was announced followed by news that the New England Media Group — which includes the Globe, Worcester Telegram & Gazette and 49 percent of Metro Boston — was to be sold from the New York Times Company just a few days later.
Allow me, if you will, to bookmark some of the articles written about this right now. Maybe in six months or so, when the dust has settled, we can look back and compare and contrast the coverage of these topics with reality. For my own personal sake, I think it will be interesting.
And in an attempt to be transparent, I should add that I know nothing of the Globe’s business dealings outside of what’s been shared publicly. That’s the nature of the game when you’re at the bottom of the food chain.
Now, onto the links:
Feb. 18: “McGrory: Boston Globe will ‘untangle’ its two websites” by Andrew Beaujon, Poynter.org — This piece came out in Poytner a little more than two weeks after the idea to untangle the two sites had been unveiled by new editor Brian McGrory in the newsroom. McGrory speaks for himself here, saying “Boston.com will be in many ways the front page of Boston. BostonGlobe.com will be the front page of the Boston Globe.”
Feb. 18: “Brian McGrory wants to restrict free content” by Dan Kennedy — This is some analysis from a Northeastern journalism professor who often scrutinizes the Globe on his site following the Poynter article the same day. He offers this thought: “The Globe has to pay the bills, of course. I just hope McGrory and company understand how many free alternatives are out there. Even if they’re not as good as the Globe, they may prove to be good enough for those determined not to pay. An overly restrictive paywall could also trigger new competition.”
Feb. 21: “New York Times Co. puts Boston Globe up for sale” by Edmund Lee and Jeffrey McCracken for Bloomberg — Bloomberg broke the story of the Globe’s impending sale. I was already home when the news broke so I didn’t see this until I logged onto our site and the Globe had posted its own story.
Feb. 22: “New York Times exec outlines Boston Globe sale process to employees” by Beth Healy of the Boston Globe — Vice chairman Michael Golden traveled to Boston to discuss the sale with the Globe staff along with publisher Chris Mayer. Healy quotes Golden: “We have no intention to send the New England Media Group to the slaughterhouse.”
Feb 21: “The newsonomics of the Boston Globe sale” by Ken Doctor for Nieman Journalism Lab — Doctor analyzes the potential sale price point for the Globe, but also wonders whether the NYT Co. will put the newspaper and its related properties in good hands. Doctor asks, “How much will the Times Co. — which has been a good steward of impressive Boston journalism — use civic interest as a filter in its consideration of buyers?”
Feb. 22: ” ‘Scared’ Globe staffers press for answers” by Jessica Heslam, Christine McConville, and Matt Stout of the Boston Herald — The Herald’s story has a juicy headline and a sexy lead, but there’s nothing here new: “Blindsided Boston Globe employees — still reeling after The New York Times Co. put the Hub paper up for sale again — are slated to come face-to-face this morning with a top Gray Lady exec for the start of what could be a messy split, including the likely demand for contract talks from the paper’s 10 unions, insiders said.”
Feb. 22: Ernie Boch Jr. exploring bid to buy Boston Globe by Greg Walsh of the Boston Business Journal — Boch Jr., a car magnate, was the first potential buyer to go public with his intentions. In a statement released to Boston Business Journal first, and later picked up around the region, his spokesman said: “Ernie Boch Jr., president and CEO of Boch Enterprises and a lifelong Bostonian, is exploring the opportunity of purchasing the Boston Globe. Ernie is teaming up with Bruce Mittman, president and CEO of Mittcom (the Newton marketing agency), and partner in Community Broadcasters (the radio station group in upstate New York). Together they bring the financial resources and decades of experience in media and marketing necessary to make this purchase viable.”
Feb. 22: “Former Globe executive in talks with the Times Co. about sale” by the Boston Globe — Straight from the story: “Rick Daniels, a former Boston Globe executive who most recently was president of Gatehouse Media, and Boston private equity investor Heb Ryan have been in discussions with the Times Co. and last month submitted a bid of about $100 million to buy The Boston Globe, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.”
Of course, there’s been more speculation and re-writes of the these articles, including a look at 25 potential buyers by one site, but there isn’t much hard news to point to beyond what is already known. Hopefully, I can keep track of what’s written right here. At least through the sales process.
So I’m out on a limb saying the Patriots are going to beat the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC championship and will advance to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. I’m not just saying this flippantly. I’ve went out and purchased my tickets to New Orleans and now I’m trying to prepare myself for the inevitable breaking news/multimedia moment during Super Bowl week.
Last year, I was dependent on my iPhone (which held up for the most part) in Indianapolis for the Super Bowl. But I dreaded lugging around my MacBook, at almost 8 pounds, which is what I used to do the brunt of my work. This year, if the Patriots win, I’m traveling lighter with my iPad. I just bought a new Bluetooth enabled keyboard to go along with it, so I’ll be able to type normally and with the same speed I’m accustomed to doing.
I still have worries though. For one, my iPad is a wifi only tablet, meaning if there isn’t any wifi, it isn’t worth the trouble of lugging around. Similarly, my iPhone 4S has terrible battery life. And it sucks typing on it, too. However, between the two I figure I can be as mobile as possible. I’ve discovered that my phone also can link with the Bluetooth keyboard and in doing so keeps me online at all times — so long as I have battery life.
Thank God I keep a charger close by.
All of this yammering will be worth it if the Patriots win. Then I’ll be able to test everything. For some reason, that makes me excited. And that’s how you know I’m a nerd.
The weird thing about covering the 49ers for my first time in the regular season, when everybody around you professionally and personally knows you’ve followed the team your whole life, is everybody expects it to be a big deal to you no matter if they win or lose.
I’m sorry but that’s just not the case for me. Win, lose, or draw, it’s all just work at the end of the day. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a good game, so long as it is played well, appears fair, and ends at a decent time. Sunday’s 42-34 win for the 49ers over the New England Patriots definitely fits the bill. At least partly. But I certainly didn’t care which way the game went. I’m just glad I didn’t have to watch the Patriots pounce on another team after they demolished the Houston Texans. That was atrocious.
For me, as a football writer and a fan of the game, what’s most important is a high level of competition. Nothing is better than a good game with two worthy opponents going toe to toe. I’m not a fan of blowouts by any means. I’ll leave that to the diehards who paint their faces. The 49ers wouldn’t even be worth my time if they weren’t such an interesting and dynamic team. I’d treat them like the Oakland Raiders if that weren’t the case, out of sight and out of mind.
Instead, I think because I’ve written about the 49ers for more than 10 years now — in training camp, in columns for my previous newspaper, and on this site — my family and friends hold certain assumptions about whether I’m a fan or not. Even some colleagues may view me as a fan, although they would be wrong to do so. In fact, the conversation came up in the press box after Sunday night’s game at Gillette Stadium. My response is a simple one, and it may be hard for some to understand: I like good football. I’d be remiss if I didn’t find certain joy from watching the 49ers play well, or upset if they played poorly. But I feel exactly the same way about the the Patriots, the New York Jets, the Jacksonville Jaguars (who I have the unfortunate pleasure of watching this weekend) and every other NFL team.
For the Patriots, a team I’m paid to watch and write about, it’s tough to see them play bad games when their opponents are clearly not up to the task. I feel like I’m in a perpetual state of rooting for the underdog, just to see a good game. That’s not what I want. That’s not what I want to go home and talk about.
For the 49ers, a team that my family and friends follow closely, it’s all a regional thing. They are all my family and friends know, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I’m trying to do more with my football writing career than just following the 49ers, while at the same time remembering where I came from. So I pay attention while living 3,000 miles away and continue to write about a team that I have very little professional interest in.
It’s hard enough to do what I do, trying to be creative, provide insight, and stay on the ball with all of the storylines for the Patriots, and then be questioned about who I’m rooting for. All I can say is the last thing I want to do is be bored to death. If anything, that’s what being a fan of the game means to me. On Sunday, I got to catch one of the few good games in the NFL. I was happy about that.
I don’t know what other kind of fan I could be.
“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.
On Saturday I was on 98.5 The Sports Hub with hosts Johnston and Flynn talking about the New England Patriots. Producer Tracy Clements was nice enough to provide me with a clip of the audio, which you can listen to by clicking on the player above. You can listen to 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston online here.
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.
That’s why as the football season gets ready to start there are a number of things I’d like to highlight personally so folks understand what my role is at work and at home.
- I’m going to continue doing high school sports. I love it and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That also means I’ll continue producing the high school football show on Boston.com, The Huddle.(My love thang.) And this year I’m going to make the added effort of hosting the show myself. I’m excited about that.
- I’m taking the lead on everything Patriots for Boston.com. What does that mean? It just means that I get first dibs on a lot of assignments. Nothing really more. We still have a massive team on Boston.com and at the Globe and everyone contributes in some way or another to our coverage. But this year my role will increase, contributing more than I have in the past two years. You’ll see my name pop up often on the highly popular Extra Points blog along with the Globe staffers and other Boston.com folks. But I’ll also pump out the more than occasional gallery and I’m always looking for good Buzz posts.
- If I can, and this is a big maybe, I’m going to keep writing about the 49ers and Raiders on this website. It’s tough given the number of assignments and the possible travel schedule I’ll have, but I think it’s worthwhile with the number of folks back home who have grown accustomed to my usual Alex Smith rants and Al Davis pot shots. I think they were funny and I’m pretty sure some of you did too. That’s the goal, but we’ll see how it goes on a week to week basis.
- Lastly, I’m beginning to use Tumblr a lot more. I find it to be a quick way to post a link or photo, like Twitter, but have a home for these items that can be archived better. It’s faster than jumping on here and sharing on WordPress. So if you’re a Tumblr person, you can follow me at zuriberry.tumblr.com. Or you can find the headlines for my Tumblr posts on the right rail here.
In general, my personal goal is to write more this year than I did last year. I’m already on my way with a number of posts on the Extra Points blog. I think I have the formula in place that will help me to continue to do that. It’s called tiger blood … a.k.a. 5-hour energy.
Greg Lee Jr., the senior assistant sports editor for the Boston Globe and a dear friend of mine, was elected as the President of the National Association of Black Journalists.
At 37, Greg is the youngest NABJ member voted to be president. With 294 votes, he bested his nearest competitor by a wide margin (the runner-up tallied 168 votes) in a three-way race.
As I’ve said before here in this space, I support Greg not just because he’s a friend but because of the hard work he puts into this industry and his constant advocacy for journalists of color. With a solid head on his shoulders and a knack for financial prudence, it was clear to see why the organization’s members overwhelmingly supported him as well with their votes.
So, again, good luck Greg. There’s a lot of work to do.
Did you see the World Cup final? Japan, victorious and smitten with their World Cup trophy above, beat out the Americans in an amazing match of wills and endurance. It was very enjoyable game. The US dropped its first three penalty kicks as Japan nailed three out of four to clinch the win.
But if you asked me to break it down for you — the game play, that is — I’d look like a moron.
Here’s the thing: I’ve covered a few hundred soccer games. Tons in high school and college; and now a handful of pro games. I’ve probably watched a ton more. But I’ll never consider myself an expert of the beautiful game. I am a casual fan, not much more. If you were to start a conversation about soccer strategy, soccer rules, or anything of the sort, it’ll likely just hurt my head. I’m that kind of fan.
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I think I need to do more video. That’s not a notion I’m spitting out because I think I’m good but more like the opposite. I’ve done three videos in the past few weeks in which I’m in front of the camera as opposed to behind it. I don’t like most of what I see. But today, I managed — IMHO — to not make a fool of myself. But it’s clear I have a long way to go.
What’s in the video? It’s me at Gillette Stadium talking to fans about the US-Spain friendly soccer match. I also interview Boston Globe soccer reporter Frank Dell’Apa and splice in part of the interview I had with superstar David Beckham. It’s soccer talk. Or, excuse me, fútbol talk. Let me know your thoughts on what I need to do to improve on camera. Constructive criticism is always appreciated.