… And you can listen to the results on SoundCloud. Thank you to Jeff Semon and Ed Lyons for inviting me onto “The Lincoln Review.” We talked for more than an hour about media and politics. But it was OK, because we were all drinking. You can subscribe to their podcast on iTunes. I understand that video will be up in a few days as well. God help us.
Wednesday’s sad news that Sen. John McCain has been diagnosed with brain cancer called to mind this story I wrote for The Boston Phoenix in February 2000 during the crucial Republican primary showdown between McCain and George W. Bush. Bush had just lost the New Hampshire primary to McCain and was hanging on for dear life. As we know, Bush defeated McCain in South Carolina and went on to win the presidency.
I think I had more fun reporting this story than just about any other I can remember. McCain wasn’t quite as accessible to the media (at least not to all the media) as advertised; but as you’ll see, I managed to wedge myself between him and his bus and ask him a question he didn’t want to answer. I have rarely agreed with McCain politically, but his service and courage transcend political differences. He is a great American hero, and my thoughts go out to him at this difficult time.
Update II: The Globe’s own story cites problems at the Taunton printing plant, so it looks like my speculation may have been on target: “But his [Franklin’s] tenure also saw continued press problems at the newspaper’s new Taunton printing facility, which has been a vexing and expensive headache for a media organization fighting to become financially self-sufficient in an era of declining print advertising. The printing problems pre-date Franklin, who started on Jan. 1.” Pre-date? It was only recently that the Globe began using the Taunton facility exclusively.
Updating: Vinay Mehra, the chief financial officer of Politico and a former executive at WGBH, will become the president and chief financial officer of Boston Globe Media, according to a memo to the staff from publisher and owner John Henry. Henry also says that he and his wife, managing partner Linda Pizzuti Henry, plan to take a more active role. No word on whether a new CEO will be named. The full text:
You’ve seen Doug’s note that he plans to leave the Globe. First, I’m very grateful for Doug’s hard work on behalf of this organization at an especially complex and sensitive time — as we moved from our decades-long home in Dorchester to Exchange Place and Taunton. These are not easy jobs in this industry, and Doug did his with passion, impact, and commitment. We wish Doug well in what will undoubtedly be successful endeavors in the future.
Second, effective immediately, Vinay Mehra will become the president and chief financial officer of the Globe. Vinay has distinguished himself at every stop along his career, most recently at Politico, where he was an active CFO with a strong grasp of the entire business and a commitment to a journalism enterprise supported by novel revenue streams. His prior work at WGBH gave him important insights into the Boston region, where he has always lived while commuting to Washington, and an understanding of the Globe’s vital role in New England.
Third, I will be a more active publisher and Linda will take on more responsibility as we push for financial sustainability in an environment that is extraordinarily challenging for news organizations dedicated to communities where facts and context matter.
This is a great and important news organization, one that is positioned for many more decades of success.
Doug we hardly knew ye. Last December, Boston Globe Media named veteran newspaper executive Doug Franklin as chief executive officer to replace Mike Sheehan, who was leaving after three years in charge. Now Franklin is leaving, citing “differences” with owner John Henry over “how to strategically achieve our financial sustainability.”
At this early stage I have no idea what went wrong. I will point out that the Globe has been sending out frequent emails apologizing for late delivery of the print edition since shifting from its old Morrissey Boulevard headquarters to a new plant in Taunton — but I can’t say I know whether that has anything to do with Franklin’s departure.
Here is Franklin’s memo to the staff, two copies of which arrived in my inbox from my sources within the past few minutes.
You are part of a very special institution in New England, and everyone here should be honored to serve our readers, advertisers, and broader community through our journalism and business offerings. While John Henry and I share similar passion and vision for the Globe, we have our differences how to strategically achieve our financial sustainability. With disappointment, I am resigning from the Globe, effective immediately, and will not be part of your work shaping the Globe’s future.
There are many great things about the Globe and equally many challenges in the industry. Our business will continue to reshape itself, with some areas getting smaller and more efficient while we invest in new technology and products for our future.
I hope that over the past six months I have provided some clarity, honesty and realistic optimism of what you are capable of accomplishing in the coming years. I have truly appreciated the support and our partnership during the brief period in which I was privileged in getting to know you and your work.
I took on this role because I love the newspaper industry, cherish our First Amendment obligations, and value the role of the Globe in the Boston region. It was a big challenge, but I also believed it was a good fit, given my record of successfully turning around newspapers. The Globe is one of the best brands, best newsrooms and most loyal reader subscription businesses in the country. Hard work is ahead for all of you and I know you will successfully navigate the challenges. I wish you the best and thank you.
Correction: This post has been updated to clarify Vinay Mehra’s new position at the Globe.
When I began my research for “The Wired City” in 2009, I was optimistic that a new generation of online-only community news sites would rise to fill in at least some of the gaps left behind by shrinking legacy newspapers. Eight years later, the more prominent of the sites I reported on are still alive and well. The New Haven Independent, The Batavian, Voice of San Diego, and statehouse news services like CT News Junkie and The Connecticut Mirror are as vital today — if not more so — than they were back then.
But though there has been some growth, especially at the grassroots level, the hope for reasonably well-funded new forms of local journalism with the heft to hold government to account is largely unfulfilled. Efforts such as the Worcester Sun (disclosure: I’m an unpaid adviser) and WHAV Radio in Haverhill hold promise, but they’re still looking for a viable way forward. News deserts are spreading.
Paul Farhi of The Washington Post takes a look at an especially difficult case — East Palo Alto, California, a poor, mostly minority community in the shadow of wealthy Palto Alto. And he finds that in an area crying out for strong local journalism, the best that they have is East Palo Alto Today, a nonprofit with a print publication that only comes out once every other month.
Farhi also cites a study by the University of North Carolina on the role of hedge funds and other financial instruments in destroying local journalism. I intend to spend some time with that study in the days ahead.
In case you missed it, The Boston Globe published two tremendous pieces of accountability journalism on Sunday:
- Jenna Russell and Jessica Rinaldi reported on the Hingham Police Department’s massive — and questionable — response to the home of a suicidal young man whose distraught parents had said was suicidal. Despite the parents’ pleas to back off, the police went all-in. And Austin Reeves, 26, ended up dead, most likely by his own hand.
- The Spotlight Team found that the Veterans Administration hospital in Manchester, New Hampshire, was providing terrible care, with flies in an operating room, blood or rust on surgical instruments, and such poor treatment of veterans with spinal injuries that they ended up permanently disabled even though their conditions could have been corrected by surgery. Two officials have already been removed because of the Globe’s reporting.
I point these out because this is important work that simply wouldn’t otherwise be done at the regional level. The national media — especially The Washington Post and The New York Times — are doing an outstanding job of holding President Trump to account and digging into the Republicans’ various proposal to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. In such an environment, it’s vital that we not overlook what’s happening in our backyard.
Advertising will never pay the bills for journalism to the same extent that it did before rise of the internet. If we’re not willing to pay, we’re going to lose the watchdog function that journalism plays in a democracy. We pay for a number of local and national news sources, including the Globe and the Boston Herald, and I hope that you do, too.
It’s no secret that the press does a lousy job of reporting on presidential campaigns. Not all media outlets, of course, and not all the time. For the most part, though, political coverage is dominated by horse-race analysis, polls, negative gotcha stories, and a paucity of attention to issues that voters might actually care about.
Kevin Bowe wants to do something about it.
A documentary filmmaker who followed the presidential candidates and the press as they trudged back and forth across New Hampshire in 2015 and 2016, he has boiled down his findings in a splendid documentary titled “Democracy Through the Looking Glass: Politics and Media in the Post-Truth Era.”