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.