By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

A half-century of bad blood

Earlier today the Boston Globe posted a 1982 article about the day that Rupert Murdoch saved the Boston Herald. Interestingly, the story, by David Wessel, now economics editor for Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, gets into precisely why some old-timers at the Herald, like Joe Fitzgerald, remain angry at the Globe more than 26 years later.

As you will see, in the midst of Murdoch’s efforts to buy what was then the Herald American from Hearst, Globe publisher William Taylor sent a telegram to unions at the Herald informing them that any concessions they granted to Murdoch would have to be granted to the Globe as well. The move was seen at the time as an attempt by the Globe to nix the deal and hasten the Herald American to its grave, though Taylor denied that was his intent.

Murdoch threatened to file a lawsuit against the Globe charging the paper with violating antitrust laws, but was also quoted as saying: “I might have done the same thing in their circumstance.”

For those interested in tracing the feud back even farther, let’s not forget that the Herald American was formed as a result of the Globe’s journalistic and extra-journalistic efforts to persuade the Federal Communications Commission to strip the Boston Herald Traveler of its television and radio licenses, which the Herald held despite the FCC’s ban on cross-ownership.

The FCC ruled against the Herald Traveler in 1972, and the paper was acquired by Hearst’s Record American.

And while we’re at it, let’s go back to the 1950s, following the death of the once-dominant Boston Post. As recounted in the late J. Anthony Lukas’ masterpiece, “Common Ground,” then-Herald publisher Robert “Beanie” Choate suggested a merger with the Globe. When Globe publisher Davis Taylor turned him down, Choate reportedly told him: “You fellows are stubborn. Worse than that, you’re arrogant. You better listen to us or we’ll teach you a lesson. I’m going to get Channel 5, and with my television revenues I’ll put you out of business.”

Choate got his license — apparently with the help of Joseph Kennedy, whose son Ted, ironically, tried to put the Herald out of business in 1988 by forcing Murdoch to give up either the Herald or Channel 25. Murdoch chose to keep the Herald and sell Channel 25, although several years later he sold the Herald to longtime protégé Pat Purcell and repurchased Channel 25.

So there you have it: a half-century of bad blood between the Globe and the Herald.

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10 Comments

  1. Rich

    Thanks for the history lesson. Quite interesting! Grudges die hard in Boston 🙂

  2. Amused

    History lesson? More a recitation of pop cultural conclusions, devoid of substantiation or reference to actual events.”the Herald American was formed as a result of the Globe’s journalistic and extra-journalistic efforts to persuade the Federal Communications Commission to strip the Boston Herald Traveler of its television and radio licenses, which the Herald held despite the FCC’s ban on cross-ownership.”Such as? And before explaining, perhaps some research on the “ban on cross-ownership” would be in order.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Amused: Well, aren’t we in a pissy mood? It’s all in the links.

  4. LFNeilson

    The name might be familiar, but it’s not the same paper, owner or people. Yes, there is continuity in the history you recite — sort of. But the differences eclipse any similarities.The Herald-American was Hearst’s attempt to merge two nameplates from opposite sides of the tracks. The paper in the 70’s had no identity, no particular market. Record-American readers didn’t like a broadsheet, and the old Herald crowd wasn’t about to touch a Hearst paper.Forst turned that around when he took it back to a tab, went with the Herald name, and then set up the deal with Murdoch. From there, you can pick up on Fitzgerald’s narrative. And his resentment makes sense there. But there’s nobody at today’s Herald who would have any concept of what the Herald or the Traveler were.zzzzzzzzzz

  5. Dan Kennedy

    LF: You and I would probably agree that today’s Herald is essentially a start-up that traces its roots to 1982, period. The Hearst-owned Herald American of the 1970s was a mess that tried on a different identity every few years. And what came before is completely irrelevant. Still, there are people at the Herald today who claim the entire legacy.

  6. Ron Newman

    Didn’t Stanley Forman come from the old pre-Hearst Herald, and Elliot Norton from the Record-American? I don’t think they were the only survivors of the Murdoch takeover, though they may be the best-known.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Ron: Not sure how far back Forman goes, but he did his Pulitzer-winning work for Hearst in the ’70s.

  8. Mr Punch

    I interpret the Ted Kennedy-Rupert Murdoch thing very differently. The 1988 Herald was by no means the “real” Herald, which was a Republican but pro-Kennedy paper. That Herald, as you say, had been put out of business by the cross-ownership ban. It’s natural that Kennedy would not want to see a political enemy given a break that had been denied a supporter.

  9. Peter Porcupine

    Mr. Newman – you are correct about Eliot Norton as well.

  10. Dan

    I don’t know who said it originally, but the city of Boston has three passions: sports, politics, and revenge.

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