Mike Barnicle, Pulitzer winner

MSNBC commentator Michael Barnicle, who left his perch as a Boston Globe columnist in 1998 after he was confronted with evidence that he was a serial fabricator and plagiarist, sat there and said nothing during a Jan. 30 appearance in which he was described as “a Pulitzer Prize winner for his Boston Globe reporting.”

Barnicle was appearing with sports commentator Stephen A. Smith. The fictional accolades from host Ari Melber come at about 1:05 of the above video. I watched the segment to the end, and Barnicle makes no attempt to correct the record. He does, though, mock U.S. Rep. Anthony Devolder or George Santos or whatever his name is for — you guessed it — fabricating his biography.

Update: Some of Barnicle’s work may have been included in the Globe’s 1975 Pulitzer for Public Service, which recognized its coverage of the city’s school-desegregation crisis.

According to our friends at Wikipedia, J. Anthony Lukas, author “Common Ground,” the best book about Boston ever written, told an interviewer that a 1974 Barnicle column headlined “Busing Puts Burden on Working Class, Black and White” was a defining moment in the Globe’s coverage. There is no citation for that interview. There’s also nothing in “Common Ground,” at the Pulitzer Prize website or in the Globe’s own story about winning the Pulitzer that reveals whether any Barnicle columns were submitted or not. But it’s possible there were one or more Barnicle columns in the Globe’s entry.

That does not make Barnicle a Pulitzer-winner, and it would have been easy enough for him to correct Melber. But if Barnicle really was part of the team that won the Pulitzer, his failure to speak up strikes me as less of a big deal.

Special non-delivery

It’s after 9 a.m., and we still don’t have our Sunday New York Times — but I’m guessing it has more to do with The Boston Globe. Friends on Facebook who get the Globe, but not the Times, are telling me that it’s arriving late and/or missing sections.

We don’t get the Globe in print anymore; we’re seven-day digital subscribers. But I’m guessing that our amazing delivery person didn’t drop off the Times at 6 a.m., as she usually does, because it wasn’t worth it to run her route without the Globe. I can’t say I blame her. By the way, this is the second or third week that the Times has been printed at Dow Jones’ facility in Chicopee rather than at the Globe’s Taunton plant.

If you’re going to charge an arm and a leg for the print edition, then you’ve got to perform. The Globe’s problems with its Taunton facility go back to the day it opened in 2017, and they’ve never been fully resolved.

Update: The Times was on our front porch when we got home from church a little before noon. And several people passed along this email from the Globe:

Did you know that the Globe’s top listed price for 7-day print has hit $2,340 a year?

1915 photo by Lewis Wickes Hine via the Library of Congress

Did you know that a non-discounted, seven-day home-delivery subscription to the print edition of The Boston Globe now costs $2,340 a year? I didn’t. I should have — it’s right there in plain sight every day on the second page of the metro section, right below “New England in Brief”: $45 a week. We made the switch to digital some time ago, but I flip through the e-paper most days. It was Globe spokeswoman Heidi Flood who called my attention to it when I asked what the price was these days.

“We have a deep appreciation for the support of our home delivery subscribers that enable us to continue to produce and invest in award winning journalism,” she said by email.

Hiding in plain sight

The reason this came up is that a friend from Boston Phoenix days who lives in the suburbs wanted to know why the cost of her subscription had gone up so much. As recently as December, she’d been paying $1,665.60 a year, which struck me as awfully high; the last I’d known, the top price was somewhere between $1,400 and $1,500. Then she received an email from the Globe informing her that the cost would be going up another $5.70 a week, bringing the price to $1,962 per year. Her next step was to call customer service. She was told that the price should actually be $2,100 — but that he could get it down to $1,955. Such a deal!

I asked around on Facebook and Mastodon and got prices that were all over the place, though no one reported paying $2,340. A woman who lives just outside Boston (another Phoenix alum, as it turns out) told me she was paying $1,449.60 a year, which was more in line with what I thought the top price was. Several people were getting a senior discount which, depending on who I asked, meant that they were paying $884 or $1,046.20.

I also found out that the listed non-discounted price has risen a lot over the past few years. As recently as December, the top price was $1,976. In February 2020, it was $1,560. In January 2015, which is as far back as the e-paper archives go, it was $727.28. That means the cost has gone up by 189% over the past seven years.

Now, we’ve long known that the Globe charges more for print and digital subscriptions than just about any daily paper in the country. I think the top digital-only rate of about $30 a month —$1 a day — is reasonable, and that the Globe provides a lot of value. After all, we’re deep into the post-advertising age, and someone has to pick up the cost. But the price of a print subscription is ludicrously high, and I honestly don’t know how anyone can afford it. It also doesn’t help that the actual prices that people pay are all over the place.

You often hear that the print price is way too high for seniors, and that they’re the very group that doesn’t want to read the paper online. “I think of all the older people who still like print and probably won’t adapt well to digital,” my friend told me. Well, I have a suggestion. I’d argue that those of us who are in the 65-to-74 age bracket are either comfortable with digital, can afford print or both. But what about those who are 75 and older? Those are the folks who probably could use some help. Why not sell seven-day print to them at a loss as a goodwill gesture?

Finally, there’s the question of what the Globe is really up to with its print edition. According to the Alliance for Audited Media, the Globe’s paid print circulation in September 2022 (the most recent figures available) was about 64,000 on weekdays and 112,000 on Sundays. Digital was about 282,000 on weekdays and 298,000 on Sundays. That’s quite a change from March 2020, when print was 93,000 (159,000 on Sundays) and digital was 158,000 on weekdays (155,000 on Sundays.) Obviously readers are switching from print to digital in the tens of thousands. The Globe is also picking up a lot of new digital-only subscribers, which is why they’ve been able to keep growing while other news organizations are cutting their newsrooms.

(Note: I’m using the AAM’s figures for digital replica and nonreplica and adding them together. These are somewhat mysterious numbers that are quite a bit higher than the Globe’s own numbers for digital-only subscribers, but I’m using them because they’re publicly reported and I can make apples-to-apples comparisons.)

As I wrote recently after the Globe lost its contract to print The New York Times, you have to wonder what the eventual goal is. They’re not going to end the print edition anytime soon — not with the prices they’re charging. But are they seeking some magic number that hits their revenue targets while allowing them to outsource the printing so that they can close their 5-year-old Taunton plant? That’s pure speculation on my part. At a certain point, though, you have to wonder if it makes sense for the Globe do it their own printing.

An astonishing story claims an Everett weekly published falsehoods about the mayor

Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria. Photo (cc) 2019 by Joshua Qualls / Governor’s Press Office

I can’t recommend this long, astonishing story highly enough. In the new issue of Boston magazine, Gretchen Voss reports on the Everett Leader Herald’s crusade against Mayor Carlo DeMaria. The paper’s editor, Josh Resnek, has accused DeMaria over and over of blatant corruption and sexual abuse. DeMaria is currently pursuing a libel suit against the paper.

Not to give away the ending, but Voss writes that Resnek has admitted to making up much of what he’s written about DeMaria, who barely won re-election last fall in the face of the Leader Herald’s relentless attacks. In a deposition, Resnek admitted that he’d faked key interviews and concocted evidence. Here’s a key paragraph that comes near the end of Voss’ story. You won’t understand all of it without reading the entire story, but you’ll get the gist:

During his deposition, Resnek sealed his legacy: not that of a fearless journalist but of a fabulist. He admitted that he’d found no evidence of DeMaria receiving a kickback for the Encore casino deal in Everett, even though he’d reported in the paper that he had. Resnek claimed he was merely expressing his “opinion.” Resnek also confessed that he had made up all the quotes attributed to [City Clerk Sergio] Cornelio in his explosive September articles about the Corey Street deal [in which Resnek claimed that DeMaria had extorted $96,000 from Cornelio]. Every single one of them. Resnek failed to conduct even the most basic journalistic efforts to determine whether there was a formal agreement between Cornelio and DeMaria. In fact, a judge had issued a written opinion that Cornelio and DeMaria did act together in the purchase, development, and sale of the property, and DeMaria had obtained an advisory opinion from the state ethics commission concerning his interest in acquiring a financial stake in commercially zoned land in Everett. DeMaria also filed a “Disclosure of Appearance of Conflict of Interest” with the City Clerk’s Office for his ownership interest in a property adjacent to Everett Square. Resnek owned up to the fact that he’d never checked for these documents.

Voss also reports that Resnek tried to enlist Boston Globe reporter Andrea Estes in his attempt to destroy DeMaria. Estes comes across as interested in what Resnek had to tell her, and in fact she’s written several stories about DeMaria, including this one, about excessive campaign contributions that a contractor made to the mayor, and this one, about DeMaria’s being the state’s highest-paid mayor. But Voss’ story makes it clear that Estes did her own reporting and that Resnek exaggerated his contacts with her.

Why has the Leader Herald engaged in a multi-year campaign against DeMaria? According to Voss, it may have been retribution by the politically wired Philbin family, who ran afoul of DeMaria going back to his time as a city councilor. The Philbins bought the Leader Herald in 2017 and hired Resnek, a veteran journalist with multiple career stops in the Boston area. Here is a characteristic line from an opinion piece that Resnek wrote in 2019, quoted by Voss: “Kickback Carlo DeMaria is in his tenth year of organized, obscene, uniquely disguised municipal theft and greed.” Yikes!

The Leader Herald, a free weekly, is nearly 140 years old. Incredibly, it is also one of three independently owned news outlets in Everett, a blue-collar community with about 49,000 residents. One of them, the Everett Advocate, is enjoying DeMaria’s libel suit against the Leader Herald, running a story under the headline “Sinking Fast: the Implosion of Matthew Philbin; Leader Herald Owner Admits to Actual Malice.” (Actual malice is the legal term for publishing a defamatory claim about a public official or public figure despite knowing or strongly suspecting that it was false.) The story also describes Resnek as a “corrupt reporter.”

Resnek is still writing for the Leader Herald. I scrolled down through its website and could find no sign that he’s written anything about DeMaria’s lawsuit (at least not recently) or the Boston magazine story.

The third Everett news outlet, the Everett Independent, which once employed Resnek, appears to be a lively weekly newspaper. The current edition features a front-page photo of DeMaria to accompany a story on the debut of sports betting at the Everett casino.

Needless to say, it will be fascinating to learn the outcome of DeMaria’s lawsuit.

Nancy Barnes’ debut


And there it is. Nancy Barnes, The Boston Globe’s first female editor, makes her masthead debut. Barnes succeeds Brian McGrory, who after a 10-year run is off to Boston University, where he’ll chair the journalism department.

Earlier:

More details on Closing the Gap, the Globe’s new project on racial wealth disparities

Millions March Boston against police brutality and systemic racism. Photo (cc) 2014 by Tim Pierce.

Two weeks ago I broke the news that The Boston Globe is launching a grant-supported project called Closing the Gap, which will “explore the racial wealth gap in Boston and beyond.” Now the Globe itself is making it official, reporting that the paper will begin the project with a $750,000 grant from the Barr Foundation.

Despite The Barr Foundation’s funding, the Globe will have complete editorial control over the initiative,” according to the Globe’s story about the project. “The team will operate similarly to The Great Divide, a team of Globe journalists focused on investigating race, class, and inequality in Boston-area schools, and that is also partially funded by Barr.”

The story also says that the intent is to build on its 2017 Spotlight series “Boston. Racism. Image. Reality,” which was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. A search committee for an editor-in-chief will comprise metro editor Anica Butler, business columnist Shirley Leung and senior assistant managing editor Jeneé Osterheldt.

Although the story doesn’t say so, I would imagine that incoming editor Nancy Barnes will have a say as well. Barnes will succeed longtime editor Brian McGrory on Feb. 1, when McGrory leaves to chair Boston University’s journalism department. McGrory explained the purpose behind Closing the Gap in an email to the staff, a copy of which I received from a trusted source:

Hey all,

We’ve made issues of inequality a focus of our coverage for many, many years, a mandate because Boston is one of the most unequal places on the planet. We’ve done award-winning work, like Spotlight’s 2017 race series and the Valedictorians Project. We’ve dedicated the Great Divide team to looking at the manifestation of inequality in our public schools. We have imbued inequality into so many of our key beats. It has all been utterly vital.

Which is why I’m delighted to share the news that we’ve received a grant for $750,000 a year to build a team to focus on the racial wealth gap in Boston and beyond. The grant comes from the Barr Foundation. We’ll dedicate resources of our own, and use the grant to hire a team leader and several additional journalists who will probe the causes of this seismic gap in wealth, the impact it has on life in Boston, and how it can be addressed.

This won’t only be a news team, or an enterprise team, or a projects team. It will be all that and more. Its metabolism will be high. Its approach will be thoughtful. Its work will be approachable and provocative. The gap has been pondered in plenty of deeply researched white papers that sit on high shelves. We intend to bring it to life, vividly exposing its consequences and rigorously exploring solutions. In short, we’ll look at how we got to a place where the average Black family has a net worth of $8 and white families have $247,000, and how do we get out.

As Barr has recently focused much of its mission on issues of racial equity, we engaged them in conversation about our work. Anica Butler and Shirley Leung put together a brilliant proposal that will serve as a blueprint for what this team will be and should accomplish. The grant was made in swift fashion.

The Barr Foundation has funded a good part of our Great Divide team for the past three-plus years. That experience has shown us just how much Barr appreciates the role of journalism in civic life – and how much it respects the firewall between us. On the wealth gap team, as with the education team, Barr has no say, no role, in what we produce.

The first order of business is finding an editor to oversee the team, which will live in Metro. If you’re interested, or you want to recommend someone, please reach out to Anica, Shirley, or Jeneé. We’re launching an initiative that is breaking new ground in our industry and will have a massive impact on our region. More to come as it unfolds.

Brian

Should Jeff Bezos have sat in on a news meeting at The Washington Post?

Jeff Bezos. Photo (cc) 2010 by Steve Jurvetson.

Should someone from the business side of a major newspaper — up to and including the owner — sit in on a news meeting? Generally speaking, the answer is no, but I’m not sure that there’s any hard and fast rule. An ethical owner will not interfere in the news coverage in any way. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t listen.

In early 2017, when I was reporting for my book “The Return of the Moguls,” I was allowed to sit in on a Boston Globe news meeting presided over by the paper’s editor, Brian McGrory. I was somewhat surprised to see co-owner Linda Henry, now the CEO, sitting off to one side, taking notes. She said nothing, and it didn’t strike me as inappropriate — just a bit unexpected.

Another owner I was tracking, Jeff Bezos, was a different story. According to everyone I spoke with, Bezos was entirely hands-off with the news operations of The Washington Post, although he was deeply involved in various business and technology initiatives. By all accounts, Amazon’s founder was a model newspaper owner, leaving his journalists alone to cover the news — including Bezos’ own interests — as they saw fit.

So I was surprised to learn in The New York Times (free link) that Bezos had recently sat in on a news meeting at the Post and listened as executive editor Sally Buzbee and her lieutenants discussed several story ideas that no doubt piqued Bezos’ interest. According to the Times’ Benjamin Mullin and Katie Robertson:

Other than Mr. Bezos’ appearance, the news meeting proceeded as it might on any other day, with editors discussing news stories and readership trends, according to the people with knowledge of the meeting. At one point, an editor mentioned plans to run an article about the discontinuation of AmazonSmile, a charity program that Mr. Bezos championed. The editors also discussed the pending sale of the Washington Commanders. The Post previously reported that Mr. Bezos was interested in buying the National Football League team.

Now, you might say that Buzbee’s predecessor, the legendary Marty Baron, never would have allowed such a breach of the wall between the news and the business sides. Well, maybe, maybe not. Because Mullin took to Twitter and reported that he’d heard the same thing had happened at least once during the Baron years. “For what it’s worth: Someone told me this happened in an editorial meeting under Marty Baron, who turned to Jeff and asked him for comment on the spot,” Mullin tweeted. “I’m told Jeff gave a big Jeff laugh and no-commented.”

After years of growth and profits under Bezos, the Post is now losing both circulation and money (another free link; hey, it’s almost the end of the month, when the meter resets). I’ve written before that I think the greatest risk to the Post is that Bezos may be losing interest, so at least his recent meeting suggests that it still engages him. But for someone who seems to have been scrupulous about not interfering in the Post’s news coverage, he ought to be self-aware enough not to sit in on news meetings.

By the way, I should note that though ethical owners and publishers keep their hands off news coverage, that’s not the case on the opinion side. The Post, the Globe and most other large dailies have a strict separation between news and opinion, with the top editors of those operations reporting directly to the publisher. It is entirely ethical for publishers to get involved in the opinion section, and both Linda and John Henry have done that over the years. Bezos, by all accounts, has been as uninvolved in the Post’s opinion operation as he is in news coverage — but that’s his choice. It’s not a requirement.

A final note: In Semafor on Sunday, Ben Smith wrote an item headlined “The Billionaire Era in News Is Fizzling,” building on the Times’ report about Bezos and the Post. Smith lists a bunch of them, from Bezos to Laurene Powell Jobs at The Atlantic and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong at the Los Angeles Times.

But John Henry, a billionaire financier, is nowhere to be seen — even though in his own take-it-slow way he’s rebuilt the Globe into a growing and presumably profitable (he hasn’t said for several years, but he keeps hiring) enterprise. Sounds to me like bias against what is still seen in many quarters as a provincial outpost.

The Globe’s Taunton printing plant will lay off about 30 employees, the BBJ reports

Presses at The Boston Globe’s Taunton printing plant. Photo (cc) 2018 by Dan Kennedy.

About 30 employees will be laid off at The Boston Globe’s printing plant in Taunton following news that the Globe has lost its contract to print the regional edition of The New York Times. The layoffs were reported early this morning by Don Seiffert of the Boston Business Journal.

The loss of the Times contract was revealed Saturday by Media Nation. But though I had heard there would be layoffs associated with the move, I was unable to pin down the exact number. Seiffert, citing a “source familiar with the ongoing negotiations over those layoffs,” reported there will be about 200 Globe employees left in Taunton.

The Times is now being printed by the Dow Jones plant in Chicopee; Dow Jones is the parent company of The Wall Street Journal.

Seiffert’s story also contains an interesting wrinkle that could, in theory, hasten the demise of the five-year-old, $72 million Taunton plant: a workforce of 200 is only a third of what the Globe promised when it obtained a tax break from that city in order to bring much-needed jobs into that area.

At one point the Taunton facility printed not just the Globe but also the Times, USA Today and the Boston Herald. Seiffert’s source told him that the printing plant has “‘totally abandoned any revenue streams related to other commercial print or direct-mail work’ and is now printing only the Boston Globe.”

The Globe’s paid digital circulation of about 230,000 now outpaces print by a considerable margin. According to the most recent figures from the Alliance for Audited Media, the Globe’s average weekday print circulation is now about 64,000, and about 112,000 on Sundays.

If Taunton is no longer getting any outside work, it raises the prospect that the Globe’s owners, John and Linda Henry, may close the plant at some point and job out the Globe’s print run — perhaps to a combination of Chicopee, CNHI’s Eagle-Tribune plant in North Andover (which has handled some of the Globe’s production work in the past) and/or Gannett’s Providence Journal.

Correction: An earlier version of this post said that The Eagle-Tribune had an arrangement to handle part of the Globe’s print run in the past. That was incorrect.

The Globe loses its contract to print The New York Times

Sign outside the Globe’s printing plant in Taunton. Photo (cc) 2018 by Dan Kennedy.

The Boston Globe has lost its contract to print the regional edition of The New York Times at its Taunton facility. The Times will instead now be printed at the Dow Jones plant in Chicopee. Dow Jones is the parent company of The Wall Street Journal.

When the Globe’s Taunton printing plant opened in 2017, the hope was that it could turn a profit for the paper by taking on outside clients. The facility got off to a rough start, though, with publisher-owner John Henry writing a front-page note to subscribers admitting that the presses “are operating too slowly and breaking too often.” He added: “We are embarrassed. We are sincerely sorry to all those affected.” In my 2018 book, “The Return of the Moguls,” I described the launch of the Taunton plant as a “disaster.”

At one point, the Globe printed the Times, the Boston Herald and USA Today. The Herald decamped for The Providence Journal some time ago. When I asked Globe spokeswoman Heidi Flood whether the Taunton facility currently has any outside work, she answered only that “we are always exploring ways to bring more work into the plant.” She did say that Taunton now handles the entire Globe print run. At one time the Globe was jobbing some of its run out to The Eagle-Tribune in North Andover; I’m not sure when that stopped.

I’ve heard that the Taunton plant has laid some employees off as well, but Flood did not address that when I asked her about it by email. The full text of her statement follows.

I can confirm that the Times decided not to renew their printing contract with the Globe. We worked very hard over many months to keep their business in a way that also worked for ours, but were not able to arrive at a financially sustainable agreement. While the pending NYT departure is disappointing, from a business perspective it’s the right decision and positions us more favorably for the future.

The Times’s decision to print elsewhere will not affect our Globe print operations. Taunton currently handles the entire Globe print run and we are always exploring ways to bring more work into the plant. First and foremost, the Globe remains committed to meeting the needs of our valuable print subscribers.

The Globe will launch a grant-supported project covering ‘the racial wealth gap’

I don’t believe this has been reported anywhere, though it has been posted on a few job sites. The Boston Globe is hiring an editor-in-chief for a grant-supported project called Closing the Gap, which will “explore the racial wealth gap in Boston and beyond.” That person, in turn, will hire a deputy editor and several reporters. The listing also specifies that that the Globe “will maintain complete editorial control over story selection, reporting, and editing.”