Boston Globe reporter Keith O’Brien today weighs in with a story about the financial problems being faced by the Boston Herald and GateHouse Media, which owns some 100 community papers in Eastern Massachusetts.
GateHouse’s problems are considerable and well-known. The Herald, though, is a bit of a mystery, as publisher Pat Purcell tends to play his cards close to the vest. What we know is that the paper and its reporting staff have gotten tiny, but that Purcell appears to have hit upon a formula for survival.
O’Brien, after chronicling shrinkage in the Herald’s staff and circulation, offers a quote from Sunday editor Tom Mashberg: “How are things now? It’s tough. We once had a newsroom filled with reporters and a commercial department filled with commercial staff. And it has definitely shrunk.”
Mashberg, upset that none of the positive comments he says he made got into O’Brien’s story, has fired back with an e-mail to the Globe, which I offer here in its entirety, with Mashberg’s permission:
To Globe Editors:
Tom Mashberg from the Herald here. I’m pretty disappointed at the way the reporter slanted this story. We spoke at length about how the Herald was performing miracles to survive and turn a profit in a terrible climate. When I asked him what he was going to use from me, he sent me this email:
“Here’s what I will be attributing to you: The total staff figures you sent me yesterday. Is that OK?
“And I will be quoting you regarding how the Herald has dealt with the cuts. And about how the Globe should have seen these changes coming. The quote at the end of our interview yesterday when you said it was puzzling that the Times allowed this to play out like this at the Globe.
“This could change, of course. Still haven’t filed my story. So e-mail or call if you have any questions.”
No one expects a puff piece, especially between competing newspapers. But it looks like the editors got hold of this and turned it into a hatchet job. I guess that explains a lot about where the Globe is headed. Sad.
If O’Brien or anyone else at the Globe would like to respond, I will post it immediately.
Meanwhile, Herald media reporter Jessica Heslam today reports that veteran media-watcher Michael Wolff believes neither Rupert Murdoch (about whom he wrote a book) nor New York Daily News publisher (and former Boston real-estate mogul) Mort Zuckerman has any interest in buying the Globe.
Heslam includes this toxic quote from Wolff: “I don’t think that anybody’s going to buy the Boston Globe. The Boston Globe is now an unbuyable property. It loses too much money and it has too many union obligations. No one will want it now. They might have wanted it. They did want it two years ago. Not now.”
Left unsaid is that (1) Murdoch can’t buy the Globe, since the Federal Communications Commission bans anyone from owning a television station (WFXT-TV, Channel 25) and a daily newspaper in the same market; and (2) Murdoch and Purcell are business partners.
Finally, the second of Herald columnist Howie Carr’s sneering pieces about the Globe’s missteps over the years prompts an observation. Carr actually found a way to poke fun at the 1998 departure of Globe columnist Patricia Smith, who was caught fabricating, without making any mention of the other, far better known Globe columnist who lost his job that summer: Mike Barnicle, caught making things up and plagiarizing by — among others — the Herald.
Anyone who listens to Carr’s talk show on WRKO Radio (AM 680) knows how much he detests Barnicle. But, after all, Purcell hired Barnicle to write a column a few years ago, and though it didn’t work out, Barnicle still pops up occasionally in the Herald. Since Carr can’t write what he’d really like to write, perhaps he should go cover a press conference or something.