Monthly Archives: October 2006

Healey’s river of denial

This is pretty incredible. Kerry Healey tells the Salem News that her gubernatorial candidacy sank like a rock because the public was repulsed not by the negative ads with which she assaulted Deval Patrick, but, rather, by negative ads taken out against her.

Here is the top of Ed Mason’s story:

Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey yesterday dismissed recent public opinion polls showing she trails Democrat Deval Patrick by at least 25 points because of the negative tone of her attack ads. Instead, in a meeting here with Salem News editors, she blamed an onslaught of negative ads launched by Patrick and others for her plummet in the polls.

“If you tallied up all the negative ads run against me and the governor since the primary,” Healey said, “I’ve run maybe three negative ads and they’ve run, I don’t know, 20.”

There is so much that I could say, but I’ll leave it at this: Even Scotto gets it. And denial is a river that runs through Prides Crossing.

And you thought Howie Carr was rough

From CFO.com: “Jack Welch, retired General Electric chief executive, has partnered with Hack Connors, a Boston advertising executive, to consider a bid for the Boston Globe newspaper.”

Jack Welch’s journalistic values (II)

It was Election Night 2000. Fox News had just called Florida for George W. Bush. And, according to allegations that were later investigated by U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, General Electric chairman Jack Welch put his arm around NBC News’ director of elections, Sheldon Gawiser, and asked him why NBC was not doing the same.

Welch, of course, was both a major contributor to the Republican Party as well as Gawiser’s überboss, since GE owned NBC. The behavior described by Waxman is the very definition of inappropriate interference in the news operation by a meddlesome owner.

The Waxman investigation came to a head on Sept. 10, 2001, when the California Democrat released an eight-page letter detailing efforts that Welch had allegedly made to influence NBC’s election coverage. We all know what happened the next day; the investigation was quietly shelved.

But the allegations raise more questions as to whether Welch would respect the traditional dividing line between the newsroom and the publisher’s suite should he be successful in putting together a deal to buy the Boston Globe from the New York Times Co.

I learned about the allegations regarding Welch’s behavior that night from Phil Rosenthal’s column in today’s Chicago Tribune. Digging deeper, I found this Los Angeles Times story on Waxman’s Web site. Here’s the heart of it:

According to Waxman’s sources, Welch spent much of the night at NBC’s decision desk, where election returns were projected.

Among their allegations:

  • Welch and other visitors “distracted” NBC News Director of Elections Sheldon R. Gawiser with repeated questions about how his projection decisions were made.
  • Welch had access to raw election data that weren’t available to news anchors, writers, producers or other on-air reporters.
  • After instruction about reading the data, Welch later concluded that Bush had won Florida, and shared his analysis with Gawiser. Witnesses told Waxman that “at almost the same time, John Ellis — George W. Bush’s cousin and Fox News’ senior decision desk official — called both the Florida and the national election for George W. Bush. Immediately after this announcement, Mr. Welch was observed standing behind Dr. Gawiser with his hand on his shoulder, asking why NBC was not also calling the election for Bush.”

According to Waxman’s sources, “shortly after this,” Gawiser called the election for Bush. A similar call was made by all major television news outlets within minutes.

Unfortunately, Waxman’s investigation was a mess, marred by his insistence that NBC turn over a videotape — by subpoena, if necessary — that might have shed light on Welch’s behavior. Waxman’s attempted assault on the First Amendment was the subject of a contentious interview with Waxman by NPR’s “On the Media” and in a letter by the Radio-Television News Directors Association.

And even Waxman conceded that Welch may have been joking when he reportedly said to Gawiser, “How much would I have to pay you to call the race for Bush?”

Nevertheless, as Waxman wrote in an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times in August 2001, “I don’t know if Jack Welch acted inappropriately on election night, but it’s a question that’s both easily answered and worth answering.”

Now more than ever.

Phoenix editor leaves

Bill Jensen has left as editor of the Boston Phoenix just a few months after being named to the job, and barely a year and a half after coming to the paper. I have zero insight into this, but here is the announcement.

Jensen is apparently going to be chief Web guru for the New Times/Village Voice chain.

Fortunately for the Phoenix, Jensen’s predecessor, Peter Kadzis, is still around.

Not the only potential buyers

As I wrote yesterday, all sorts of possible buyers of the Boston Globe would surface now that Jack Welch, Jack Connors and company had made their interest known. Well, check this out from today’s Wall Street Journal:

Other potential buyers have been sniffing around the Globe this year as its financial troubles have mounted….

Ben Taylor, the former Globe publisher whose family sold the Globe to the New York Times, has long been unhappy with the performance of the business and has talked about wanting to buy it back, according to a person close to the situation. Mr. Taylor didn’t return a call for comment.

Private equity firms such as Providence Equity Partners, Bain Capital and Blackstone Group have been eyeing the paper as a possible target, although it is unclear if they have reached out to the Taylors, according to a private equity executive.

The Globe today publishes a correction — in fact, the New York Times Co. has not denied that it would sell the Globe. Instead, the company has said nothing one way or the other.

Meanwhile, the Times itself reports that Welch has talked with Boston Herald publisher Pat Purcell about being a possible partner in the Globe deal.

This is going to get very interesting.

Jack Welch’s journalistic values

What kind of a co-owner of the Boston Globe would retired General Electric chairman Jack Welch make? Assuming yesterday’s news gets beyond the speculative stage, that will become a key question. And according to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a left-leaning media-watch organization, the answer could prove to be troubling.

Remember, being a media executive is old hat for Welch: GE acquired NBC in 1986, just five years into his chairmanship. FAIR’s research found that GE’s business priorities affected NBC News’ coverage mainly through unspoken intimidation — but that Welch wasn’t above making his journalistic priorities explicit, either.

Here are some choice tidbits from a piece that Jim Naureckas wrote in 1995 in Extra!, FAIR’s magazine:

[Former NBC News president] Larry Grossman … was told in no uncertain terms what GE expected from him. “You work for GE!” Welch once shouted at his subordinate, poking a finger at Grossman’s chest (Ken Auletta, Three Blind Mice).

Welch told Grossman not to use phrases like “Black Monday” to describe the 1987 stock market crash, because it was depressing the price of blue chip stocks like GE. And warned the NBC News chief, “Don’t bend over backwards to go after us just because we own you.” Welch even told Grossman to allow Today show weather forecaster Willard Scott to keep plugging GE light bulbs (Lawrence Grossman, The Electronic Republic; Electronic Media, 11/11/91).

In 1991, Extra! reported that the Today show wouldn’t even touch a story about a boycott of GE products organized by peace activists as a way of drawing attention the company’s role in producing nuclear weapons. Todd Putnam, then the editor of National Boycott News, wrote that a producer told him he’d be “looking for a new job on Tuesday” if he were to greenlight such a segment.

Do you think Welch would take a high-profile ownership stake in the Globe while promising to keep his hands off the news coverage? I don’t. And his stewardship of NBC is powerful evidence.