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

How Tip’s kid might save the Globe

Some years ago I wrote a review/essay for the Boston Phoenix about Jack Farrell’s massive Tip O’Neill biography. The headline: “How Tip saved the Globe.” (Pay no attention to the today’s date stamp; it’s an old piece.)

Farrell wrote about services rendered by the future House speaker in the Globe’s years-long quest to persuade the FCC to strip the Boston Herald Traveler of its broadcasting licenses. That finally happened in the early 1970s, ensuring the Globe’s dominance and dooming the Herald to second-banana status.

Today the Herald reports that Intercontinental Real Estate Corp. is interested in buying the Globe from the New York Times Co. And look who’s on the Intercontinental advisory board: Thomas P. O’Neill III. (Thanks to Northeastern School of Journalism director Steve Burgard for passing along that not-so-little tidbit.)

According to the Herald’s Christine McConville, talks have been going on for weeks. So here’s something to ponder: O’Neill’s public-relations firm, O’Neill and Associates, has been handling communications for the Boston Newspaper Guild. Another fun fact: most of those communications have come from former Boston Herald business editor Cosmo Macero Jr., now with O’Neill.

Make of that what you will. And yes, Boston is a very small town.

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  1. O-FISH-L

    So not only did the Globe have a "tacit understanding" with the Kennedy's to bury Ted's Harvard cheating scandal, but they conspired with Tip O'Neill in an attempt to bury the old Herald? Nice.Keep blaming craigslist for the Globe's demise.

  2. NewsHound

    Cheating isn't so bad compared to so much more that's contributed to making judgments since.Politics does make for strange bedfellows.Maybe when this goes through the rinse cycle the Times arrogance will not be as much of a mystery.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: If you'll read my old Phoenix piece, you'll see that Farrell told the story of how the Globe — with Tip's help — uncovered corruption that had led to the Herald Traveler's improperly receiving those broadcast licenses in the first place. There was no legal reason for the Herald to have been granted an exception to the FCC's ban on cross-ownership.

  4. LFNeilson

    Tip's Kid. I love it. What's he, 60? Former lieutenant governor (whatever it is they do) and he's still Tip's Kid. Just call him TK.On a similar note, here in Maine, Gov. John Baldacci's brother is part of a group of investors closing a deal this week to buy the Portland Press-Herald from Blethen Newspapers of Seattle. The union approved the deal last week.

  5. O-FISH-L

    Why would Tip's kid want to buy the Globe when clearly his family has owned it for years?Dan, believe me, I read your piece and was struck by this quote, “O’Neill’s intercession on behalf of the Globe, and its subsequent rise to become the state’s leading newspaper, altered the course of Massachusetts politics and journalism — and gave O’Neill a powerful ally, and protective friends, in the news business back home,” Farrell writes.I suppose the comeback is that O'Neill would have helped any business in or near his district, but powerful pols with "protective friends in the news business" smacks of the worst type of conflict of interest. Far worse than John Kerry and Nick Mavroules' sweetheart car deals at Bob Brest Buick.

  6. Rick in Duxbury

    "Small town", Cosmo; so many punch lines, so little time…

  7. NewsHound

    LF – close – the boy is 64.Dan – I have read your great and most intriguing article several times, and I enjoyed reading it again today. It is a great story and well written.

  8. Amused

    I have never bought into the Globe/Kennedy conspiracy theory with respect to the Channel 5 license The history of the WHDH-TV proceedings is not as simple as license granted, corruption uncovered, license revoked. There were multiple overturned decisions of hearing examiners, at least three court remands, five years of operation with a temporary license, and comparative hearings on both the grant of a four-month "permanent" license and on renewal of that permanent license, which is where what is now WCVB ultimately prevailed in a narrow preference over Ted Jones of WCRB radio.A lot of entities looked into applying for Ch. 5 after it was allocated to Boston instead of Worcester. There were six applicants that made the cut in 1954 for comparative hearings as to which should get the license — CBS, DuMont, Boston Post Publishing, Mass Bay Telecasters and Greater Boston Television Inc., as well as WHDH Inc., a subsidiary of Herald-Traveler Corp. That's two national broadcasting networks and two local newspapers among the six applicants. Consider also who owned Herald-Traveler Corp, an obscure but important bit of local history. Many of the people who had a significant interest in H-T Corp. were heavily invested in United Shoe Machinery Corp, which wielded not insignificant political muscle of its own; don't forget that U.S. House Speaker Joseph Martin had plenty of shoe workers in his southeastern Mass. district.Media concentration was an issue, but not the only issue, in the final decision on Ch. 5, and accounts indicate that Commr. Nicholas Johnson urged that point of view. But if Johnson was doing the Globe's bidding, then why did he strike the same position in other cases, including opposing the grant of ch. 27 in Worcester to State Mutual Life Assurance, on the ground that WSMW directors owned pieces of the Telegram and Gazette, WAAB and WTAG radio and other media interests._ was a lot more involved than the wants and desires of the Boston Globe in the Ch. 5 decision. The Globe, at the time, was not nationally influential. At one point, the Commission denied the Globe's petition to intervene in the Ch. 5 case and reopen the record to consider Choate's threats to use the TV station to drive the Globe out of business. There were too many players and too many issues involved for the Ch. 5 decision to be ascribed to a Kennedy/Globe nexus. President Kennedy's influence is not seen in the final commission decision; the majority consisted of appointees of Johnson and Truman; Kennedy had but two appointees to the FCC during his presidency, only one was serving in Oct. 1963 when Herald-Traveler's four month "permanent" license was designated for comparative renewal hearings and no Kennedy appointee was serving at the time of the fateful award of Ch. 5 to a competitor. The Globe's influence over commissioners from Texas, Iowa and New York, who made up the bare majority that took Ch. 5 away from the Herald, is suspect at best; its influence over the three judge panel of Nixon and LBJ appointees which upheld the decision is equally difficult to discern.

  9. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: You're attempting to turn history on its head.The Herald Traveler used its political influence to win an improper waiver from the FCC, allowing it to hold broadcast licenses in contravention of the cross-ownership rules.The Globe used its political influence to expose corruption.

  10. NewsHound

    Those colorful characters of the 50s – Joseph Kennedy, Henry Cabot Lodge, Basil Brewer, John Fox, Beanie Choate, the Taylors, Joseph Martin, Sherman Adams, Bernard Goldfine . . .We can count our blessings for all the corruption exposed by so many newspapers, especially The Globe.

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