News broke early Saturday morning that John Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox, had struck a deal to purchase the New England Media group for $70 million cash.
The deal includes the Boston Globe, Boston.com, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, the Globe’s direct mail business, and a 49 percent stake in the Metro Boston newspaper, which is expected to close in 30 to 60 days.
Since the whispers of Henry’s desires to own the group, most notably the Globe, there has been incessant speculation on what that could mean for the paper’s coverage of the Red Sox, a local institution more beloved than any other in New England. A number of notable persons, except for Henry, have already commented on the issue. Here’s a sampling.
Joe Sullivan, the Globe’s sports editor, in the New York Times:
“We don’t know what the new situation is going to be in terms of hierarchy, but I would hope to be able to continue to cover the Red Sox the way we always have, “ the sports editor, Joe Sullivan, said.
Acknowledging the potential conflict of interest, Sullivan said, “It will be there, hanging in the air.” He said the newspaper might need to include disclaimers when writing about Henry, as it did when The Times had an ownership stake in the team for 10 years. The Times sold its final stake in the group in 2012.
Dan Shaughnessy, a Globe sports columnist and prominent critic of the Red Sox, also in the Times:
“There’s an inherent conflict of interest which no one can do anything about,” Shaughnessy said. “All we can hope for is that everyone is allowed to do his job professionally and that we are able to keep our independence.”
Brian McGrory, the Globe’s editor, as quoted by his own newspaper:
“We have no plans whatsoever to change our Red Sox coverage specifically, or our sports coverage in general, nor will we be asked,” Globe editor Brian McGrory said Saturday. “The Globe’s sports reporting and commentary is the gold standard in the industry.”
There have also been several articles analyzing the sale and what it will mean for our journalists.
As someone who is in the sports department as an employee of Boston.com, I’m sure there is far more to be concerned with than the our day-to-day Red Sox coverage. Instead, it will be more interesting to see how the Globe’s coverage of Henry’s other financial interests — the street closures around Fenway Park, his stake in other sports franchises — is handled going forward.
I do look forward to Henry becoming owner of the Globe because he is local and he represents a clean slate for the business interests of the New England Media Group. That brings excitement, but also fear of the unknown. The latest news is that he will be at the Globe on Monday. It’s my day off, but I think I will venture in to see what, if anything, he has to say.
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.
“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.
My colleague Greg A. Bedard (@GregABedard) provides a good overview of some of the top rookie free-agents for the Patriots. There’s always one surprise in the bag from coach Bill Belichick. My guess, which is likely one of Greg’s guesses, is that it’s one of these three guys. Read about it.
After today’s Boston Marathon, I’ve now covered all of the major sporting events in Boston. You’d think I would’ve scratched this one off the list pretty early because of the throngs of people the Boston Globe dedicates to marathon coverage. But in the two years prior to today, Marathon Monday, I had been on desk duty — the other half of the equation in our amazing coverage. Today I helped produce our live broadcasts on Boston.com from Hopkinton.
The Boston Marathon is one of those unusual events in the sporting landscape, one I would easily equate with the Super Bowl, NBA Finals and Stanley Cup, which I’ve also covered. Not because of its popularity outside of the running community, but because of its festive atmosphere, prestige and the throngs of coverage thrown its way. It’s a great event, filled with tons of stories on redemption, determination, exuberance and filled with people who flaunt a never-say-quit attitude in front of the world. It’s the runner’s Mecca, better than NYC and more serious than the wacky Bay to Breakers.
Which leads me to this: What’s next? I’ve now covered every major sport in the area. You name it, I’ve done it. Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, Bruins, Revs, high schools. I haven’t touched a college event yet, including the Bean Pot, but I have been to a few press conferences. I can’t imagine I’d want to be near a regatta, but a Head of the Charles might be cool enough to warrant extra coverage in the future.
What else is there?
If I’m truly blessed, and so are the Red Sox, maybe a World Series. Is that too much?
It’s spring. That’s been the official word for more than a week now. But don’t let that stop the weather here in Boston from messing things up.
Did you know it actually snowed in some parts of Massachusetts this past week? True story. In Boston we’ve had to deal with rain while the weather has hovered around 40 degrees. My heat is still on.
But besides my gripes with the weather, my focus currently is shifting from the basketball and hockey seasons to spring sports. I’m turning my attention to high school baseball, softball and lacrosse. And as always, my mind will be on the Patriots. I’ll likely be working the NFL draft again from Gillette Stadium and I know everybody wants to know what kind of move Bill Belichick will make now that the free agency boom is over. (Just a thought: The Pats probably won’t draft a receiver.) And then there’s the opening of the MLB season. The Red Sox begin their quest for another World Series title on April 5. There’s also the Bruins and Celtics getting ready for the playoffs.
All things considered, there’s a lot to think about and mentally prepare for.
I write all this to say that of the things that my focus often fall to, high schools coverage often comes first, even it is of least importance. It remains in my peripherals partially because of both my professional responsibility and personal pride. But of all seasons, spring high school sports can be the most confounding.
Consider this: High school baseball and softball in Massachusetts had 23,209 kids participate last year, according to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. (12,923 for just baseball.) That easily surpasses the singular juggernaut in every local district, which is football, as the second most engaged sport in the state. Football had 20,399 student-athletes last year to be fourth. Lacrosse netted 15,491 for fifth behind basketball at 22,518 which is third.
The most popular sport, again adding boys and girls together, is soccer: 26,809 kids participated last year in the state. From our coverage at the Globe, you wouldn’t know it.
(I should note here that I’m omitting the numbers for Indoor and Outdoor track & field as they occur in separate seasons and often carry the same students, thus making their actual figures hard to pin down. In all likelihood, those numbers would definitely shake up this Top 5.)
Our big thing at the Globe and Boston.com, as it is every year and for every newspaper around this country, is football because of its popularity. Nothing draws clicks in the fall like football. No soccer feature or extra game coverage can change that, despite being in the same season.
Conversely, the same can be said of hockey, which had 9,143 kids participate in the winter of 2010-11 — far behind the participation numbers of basketball. And yet, no basketball feature or game coverage could move the dial as our hockey coverage did.
This has been proven to me time and time again that despite the the size of engagement in a sport, its popularity here in Massachusetts is not as obvious. Parents may encourage their kids to play soccer and run track, but secretly they want to watch them and read about them playing football, hockey and lacrosse. Which brings me to the point of my writing this.
Why is lacrosse the king of spring? Without even a smidgen of understanding, I ventured to Boston three years ago thinking that baseball was the No. 1 sport in this state. What with the Red Sox and all it would seem that a foundation was likely in place for kids and parents to be drawn to to the sport at the high school level. I imagined fist fights in the stands over whose kid was the better pitcher.
Participation-wise, I haven’t been disappointed. But when the needle begins to measure the traffic for baseball/softball coverage, in direct comparison to football coverage, hockey coverage, and lax coverage, all logic flies out the window faster than a Dustin Pedroia laser bomb. It doesn’t even come close and there is no explanation worthy.
I’ve discussed this with some colleagues in the high school coverage bubble here and they too agree it’s a weird conundrum, one which I do not think there is an easy answer. But in the interim, the traffic patterns are encouraging coverage decisions that I would not normally make. While football may be behind soccer in participation, it by no means is behind because of shallow numbers. In fact, hockey and lacrosse are more easily relatable because they defy the engagement/popularity enigma that I’ve been puzzling.
Do I feed the insatiable taste for lacrosse stories and photos as our No. 1 sport of choice? Do I give the lax feature top billing over the baseball feature? Where does my time go? And so on, and so on.
This is a vexation I have that’s only applicable it seems to this state. And with each year living here, it’s easier to pin down which sport gets a certain amount of my attention. However, that doesn’t mean any of this makes any sense. And that doesn’t mean that everyone will be satisfied.
Last one of the year. What ever will we do next? … Think bigger, think better … think amazing!
In this episode, we discuss the all-stars of the Boston Globe — known as All-Scholastics in Massachusetts — and sort of the evaluation process for the selections.
We’re a few days away from Saturday’s Super Bowls which capped the end of the high school football season, but there’s no better time then now to look back at the games, the season and even look forward a bit.
In the latest episode of The Huddle, we take a look at Cathedral’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the Division 4A Super Bowl, go over BC High’s Division 1 win, discuss Everett post-Jonathan DiBiaso and take a look at some of the best Super Saturday performances, including Mashpee’s Jared Taylor’s 306-yard performance.