There’s a context for what happened to Adam Jones. We need to put a stop to it.

There’s a context for the racial taunts directed at Orioles centerfielder Adam Jones at Fenway Park during Monday night’s game. After all, we had just learned that a Trump supporter from Winchester, one of the wealthiest communities in the state, had written a letter to his community weekly complaining about those “Hate Has No Home Here” signs that have popped up here and there (including in front of our house).

“It is offensive to imply that the rest of us — who don’t have a sign and who don’t think the way you think we should — are haters,” wrote John Natale in the Winchester Star. “That’s insulting.” It was a breathtaking display of cluelessness and insensitivity. And we never would have heard about it if a seventh-grader’s righteous response hadn’t gone viral.

There has been an enormous amount of commentary about the Fenway Park incident in the past few days. Here are three you ought to take a look at.

  • In The Boston Globe (owned by Red Sox principal owner John Henry), columnist Adrian Walker wonders why more steps haven’t been taken to curb racist fans. “Bad behavior can be stopped,” writes Walker. Indeed. As we have been reminded, Boston is one of the most inhospitable cities in the country for visiting black players. It’s disgusting. I’m glad that fans gave Jones a standing ovation Tuesday night, but it shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place.
  • In the Boston Herald, sports columnist Steve Buckley gives Red Sox president Sam Kennedy high marks for acting decisively but criticizes him for blaming the problem on “an ignorant few.” Buckley’s response: “Every time the ignorant few do their handiwork, another episode of ‘Boston is a Racist City’ gets played out on the national stage.” It may be an ignorant few who drunkenly spew the N-word in public, but something is making them feel empowered to do it.
  • At WBZ Radio (1030 AM), Jon Keller draws a distinction between “real Bostonians” and “fake Bostonians.” The trouble is, though real Bostonians would never engage in racist taunting, they’re not doing enough to stop it, either. Says Keller: “Time for the real Bostonians to do more to see to it that the fakers are exposed, isolated and shamed.”

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Firing the manager: An idea that never made much sense

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Grounds crew before the Red Sox’ 8-7 soggy win over the Yankees. Photo (cc) by Dan Kennedy.

At the end of the Red Sox’ disastrous 2011 season, Terry Francona—the greatest manager in team history—was fired (and kicked hard on his way out). The excuse: Well, you can’t fire the players. In fact, that’s exactly what they needed to do, and they did it the following year.

So now we come to John Farrell. As Nick Cafardo points out in the Boston Globe, calls that Farrell has to go are being stilled for the moment, but you can be sure they’ll be back as soon as the Sox start losing games again.

I don’t get it. I’ve never gotten it. If you have a manager who has the trust of the front office, why wouldn’t you keep him for as long as he wants to manage—five or 10 years, maybe more? Yes, there are some genuinely bad managers who have to go (Grady Little, Bobby Valentine). Same with general managers (Ben Cherington). For the most part, though, if you’ve got a good manager or GM, keep him.

Some of Farrell’s in-game moves are mystifying, but the team plays hard for him and he handles the pitching staff well—as you would expect, given that he was a very good pitching coach. The Red Sox were wrong to get rid of Francona, who may have needed a season off the field but should have stayed with the team; they’d be wrong to get rid of Farrell.

Globe navigates relationships in Mass. General exposé

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Photo of Massachusetts General Hospital via Wikimedia Commons.

It was interesting to see the various levels of relationships involved in The Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team article on double-booked surgeries at Massachusetts General Hospital. I count three:

  • Globe owner John Henry was a trustee at Mass. General from 2005 to 2014.
  • The Globe and Mass. General were partners (along with Harvard and MIT) in the recently concluded HUBweek, a series of events focusing on innovation, art and culture.
  • One of the Mass. General patients who believes double-booking resulted in permanent injury is former Red Sox pitcher Bobby Jenks. And Henry, of course, is the Red Sox’ principal owner.

The Globe handled these relationships by disclosing Henry’s ownership stake in the newspaper and the baseball team.

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More important, for those who worry that such matters will interfere with the Globe’s ability to product public-interest journalism, the story is tough and comprehensive. They’re not celebrating at Mass. General today.

Globe appends clarification to Shaughnessy’s column

The Boston Globe on Tuesday appended a clarification to Dan Shaughnessy’s online column about fired Red Sox announcer Don Orsillo, explaining the extent to which his Monday piece was changed after it was first posted.

Shaughnessy, as you no doubt recall, had reported that two Red Sox employees whom he did not name told him Fenway Park workers were under orders to confiscate signs supporting Orsillo. The removal of that line set off a tweetstorm Monday evening given that Globe publisher John Henry is the principal owner of the Red Sox, which, in turn, controls most of New England Sports Network (NESN), Orsillo’s employer. The clarification addresses the sign issue as well as how NESN handled the timing of the Orsillo announcement.

The clarification reads:

Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story made reference to signs being confiscated at Fenway Park. The reference has been removed because the Globe could not independently verify that any signs were confiscated at the ballpark. This story has been edited to describe the degree to which NESN intended to keep the news of Don Orsillo’s departure confidential. The network did not intend to keep the information from Orsillo until January.

A shorter version appears in the print edition, leaving out the bit about the signs since that didn’t make it into print in the first place:

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No doubt the conspiracy theories will continue. But the Red Sox specifically denied that their employees had been given any order to confiscate signs, and Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald reported Tuesday that he couldn’t find any evidence of it. If any signs were confiscated, presumably we’ll hear about it. I’m sure the Herald or any number of other news outlets (including Media Nation) would love to report such a story.

I think what matters here is that the Globe explained how and why Shaughnessy’s column was changed as Monday evening wore on. Managing editor for digital David Skok (on Twitter) and Shaughnessy himself (in an email exchange with me) both described it as part of the editing process. The difficulty is that, today, there are strong incentives to post first and edit later. As I noted Tuesday, many newspapers, including the Globe, are not as good as they should be at explaining why stories are changed after they’re first posted.

In this case, the Globe deserves praise for transparency.

Also published at WGBHNews.org.

Shaughnessy defends Globe over deleted sentence

Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote another in a series of tough commentaries Monday about the firing of Don Orsillo, the popular Red Sox announcer who’s been let go by New England Sports Network (NESN). But as the evening wore on, one sentence was dropped from the piece, published on the Globe’s website in advance of Tuesday’s print edition. The sentence read:

Two Sox employees told the Globe that workers at Fenway turnstiles were ordered to confiscate any signs supporting Orsillo as fans entered Fenway.

Jared Carrabis has the before and after:

Given that Globe publisher John Henry is also principal owner of the Red Sox, which in turn owns most of NESN, Carrabis’ tweet set off a storm. That led David Skok, the Globe’s managing editor for digital and general manager of BostonGlobe.com, to respond: “Story was published early, sourcing was weak so the line was removed. Our coverage on this speaks for itself.”

I emailed Shaughnessy. He got back to me immediately, saying, “It’s all part of the editing process that is always ongoing.” When I followed up by asking him how he would respond to Orsillo fans who suspect that Red Sox ownership intervened, he said only: “It is part of the Globe editing process.”

So what to make of this? It is a fact that the Globe has been pretty tough in covering the Orsillo story. Shaughnessy and sports media columnist Chad Finn have each weighed in several times, with Finn citing “NESN’s bewildering mishandling of the situation.” Boston Herald sports columnist Steve Buckley got an exclusive with Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, whose reasoning for replacing Orsillo boiled down to a belief that replacement-to-be Dave O’Brien would be better. But Shaughnessy picked up on Buckley’s column, even linking to his competitor.

In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I think we should take Skok and Shaughnessy at their word. Far from soft-pedaling the firing of Orsillo, the Globe has been fairly relentless in going after NESN for what can only be described as a foolish move. (Yes, I signed the petition to keep Orsillo.)

Monday night’s mini-drama was just another sign that John Henry’s ownership of the Red Sox is always going to be an issue — regardless of the reality.

More: After I posted this late last night, I received several comments on Twitter and Facebook wondering why the Globe didn’t make some note of the change in Shaughnessy’s column. For instance, here’s Nathan Lamb:

Based on my observations, I’d say that newspapers in general — the Globe among them — are haphazard about acknowledging changes made to online stories until after those stories have appeared in print. The mentality seems to be that everything is a work-in-progress until a tree has been sacrificed to immortalize it.

I don’t know that it makes sense to have a policy that would be 100 percent consistent. In this case, though, the deleted sentence drew enough attention that the Globe ought to have inserted something into Shaughnessy’s column, even if it was a brief note that it had been updated.

Still more: Sounds like the Globe may have gotten some serious pushback from the Red Sox on the accuracy of Shaughnessy’s reporting, according to Deadspin.

And even more: From Mike Silverman of the Boston Herald:

A nasty rumor spread that the owners let the stadium’s security forces know any pro-Orsillo signs were to be confiscated, but a survey of six security personnel at an entrance gate and throughout the stadium said no special Orsillo signage edict was in effect.

A team spokesman confirmed that like every night, signs would not be allowed in or confiscated once they were inside only if they blocked somebody’s view or contained profanities.

Also published at WGBHNews.org.

Firing the manager is usually a bad idea

Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles June 15, 2013
John Farrell in happier times — with David Ortiz in 2013.

The Fire John Farrell campaign is far enough along that Boston Globe columnist Christopher Gasper feels compelled to write about why the Red Sox shouldn’t fire him.

Personally, I’ve never understood the urge to fire managers. Sometimes you hire a really bad one and you have no choice. But when you’ve got a good one, you should keep him.

Lest we forget, after the 2011 collapse the Sox fired Terry Francona, the best manager they’d ever had, citing the truism that you can’t fire all the players. Less than a year later, they did fire all the players, more or less, leading to a World Series victory in 2013 under Farrell — a fine manager, but no Francona.

What bothers me about the 2015 Red Sox is that some of the problems were predictable — the lousy starting rotation in particular. But that’s on Ben Cherington and the front office, not Farrell. (No, I wouldn’t fire Cherington, either, but I assume he and the owners are engaged in some serious soul-searching.)

The Sox have plenty of problems, but Farrell isn’t one of them.

Photo (cc) by Keith Allison and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Some reflections on the life of Steve Burgard

Steve Burgard
Steve Burgard

My friend and mentor Stephen Burgard, director of Northeastern’s School of Journalism for the past dozen years, died on Sunday. It was unexpected — he was on sabbatical, happily working on a new version of his book about religion and the media, when a longstanding lung ailment suddenly worsened.

I first met Steve online in the late ’90s, when I was covering the media for the Boston Phoenix and Steve was writing editorials for the Los Angeles Times. He was a Boston native, and he took an interest in what I was reporting about the Globe. We became frequent email correspondents as he wrote to me with ideas, observations and occasional criticism.

In 2002 he took the Northeastern position. After I expressed an interest in joining the faculty of my alma mater, he became my staunchest supporter, clearing the way for my hiring, helping me to learn the ropes as I worked toward tenure, and encouraging me every step of the way.

Steve was a huge baseball fan and had Red Sox season tickets. Last July 1, he took me to Fenway, where we watched the Sox lose to the Cubs, 2-1. Steve was truly in his element — but no more so than when he would drop by my office to talk about school business, gossip about something we’d seen on Romenesko, or just shoot the breeze.

I can’t believe we won’t be doing that again.

Bryan Marquard has written a masterful obit of Steve that appears in today’s Globe. And here is a growing tribute page that appears on our school’s website.

Northeastern University photo by Skylar Shankman.

The Globe’s John Henry disclosures are a work in progress

Previously published at WGBH News.

Q: Does The Boston Globe disclose that John Henry owns the paper whenever it reports on one of his other business interests? Or does it omit that information, leaving less-savvy readers in the dark?

A: Yes.

Tuesday was a case in point. On page one, the Globe’s Brian MacQuarrie reported that the Stop Handgun Violence billboard on Lansdowne Street facing the Massachusetts Turnpike may be coming down by next March. The new owner of the property — Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Red Sox — declined to comment, according to the story. Nowhere did we learn that Henry is Fenway’s lead investor.

On the front of the Metro section, though, Travis Andersen disclosed the connection in an update on an elevator accident at Fenway Park that left a woman seriously injured. Andersen wrote: “A spokeswoman for the Red Sox, whose principal owner, John Henry, also owns The Boston Globe, declined to comment Monday, citing the ongoing review.”

And so it goes — the most prominent recent example being the Globe’s reporting on Jared Remy, who has been charged with murdering his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel. Remy is the son of Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy, and the Globe has weighed in with some extremely tough stories on the entire family (original here; most recent follow-up here). Those articles, though, omitted the Henry connection, even as op-ed columnist Alex Beam included it when he wrote a piece arguing that Jerry Remy should be able to keep his job in the broadcast booth.

I asked Globe editor Brian McGrory whether he thought the Henry connection should have been made clear in the Remy coverage and the billboard story. “Our disclosure policy would apply to the stories that you mention,” McGrory replied by email, saying he would “renew our vigor in terms of letting readers know.”

I also asked Globe spokeswoman Ellen Clegg whether there was any specific policy she could cite. Her response, also by email:

Our policy is to disclose John Henry’s business interests when it’s relevant to the story.

By now, we assume the vast majority of Boston Globe readers are aware of Mr. Henry’s ownership of the Red Sox and therefore do not feel the need to disclose it in every story about the team.

There’s an additional factor in the case of Jerry Remy’s ongoing employment: he works for New England Sports Network, not the Red Sox. Eighty percent of NESN is owned by Fenway Sports Group, so Henry is essentially the top executive. When I asked Clegg if she thought most Globe readers were aware of that, she responded, “No, I don’t assume that most people know about NESN.”

Disclosure may be good for the soul, but when you think about some of the larger conflicts of interest that news organizations have to navigate, the Globe-Red Sox connection can seem trivial. To take just one example: Wouldn’t it have been nice to know that the media companies that own all of our network news divisions and cable news channels were lobbying the FCC for deregulatory goodies at the same time they were providing supine coverage of the run-up to the war in Iraq? So yes, the Globe should disclose, but some perspective is necessary as well.

Few would argue that the Globe should run a disclosure when it covers the Red Sox as a baseball team (although columnist Dan Shaughnessy did this morning, jokingly calling Henry the “greatest person ever”). The paper’s coverage of the boss’ other businesses has been tough and independent. We’re still in the early stages of Henry’s ownership of the Globe, and it’s going to take a while to get the disclosure thing right.

And it could be worse. After all, Amazon.com, founded by Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, does business with the CIA.

Bezos’ bucks may re-ignite Post-Times competition

Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos

When Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post last year for the paltry sum (especially for him) of $250 million, newspaper observers hoped that it presaged a new era for the struggling daily. For now, at least, it looks like those hopes are becoming a reality.

The Post is ramping up. Michael Calderone of The Huffington Post reported recently that the paper has hired 50 full-time staff journalists so far in 2014, and that it is making at least a partial return to its status as a national newspaper — a status it had retreated from during the final years of Graham family ownership. Executive editor Marty Baron told Calderone:

We’ve talked a lot about the need to grow. We’ve said that in order to grow, we have to look outside our own immediate region and the only opportunity for growth is digital. We are looking at growth opportunities around the country.

Richard Byrne Reilly recently wrote in VentureBeat that Bezos isn’t quite the hands-off owner that he appears to be, taking a deep interest in the paper’s digital initiatives. According to Reilly:

With chief information officer and technology vice president Shailesh Prakash at the helm, Bezos is pumping cash into the once staid company’s IT infrastructure. Lots of it. The new leadership has put 25 computer engineers into the newsroom, helping reporters craft multifaceted digital stories for mobile devices.

The Post’s expansion is a heartening development, and it’s one we’re seeing unfold in Boston as well. Red Sox principal owner John Henry, whose $75 million purchase of The Boston Globe was announced just days before Bezos said he was buying the Post, has, like Bezos, shown a willingness to try to grow his news organization out of the doldrums into which it had fallen.

The Globe is making some interesting moves into video; has redesigned its nearly two-decade-old free Boston.com site while moving all Globe content behind a flexible paywall at BostonGlobe.com; has developed new verticals for innovation and technology (BetaBoston) and arts and entertainment (RadioBDC and BDCWire); and will soon unveil a standalone site covering the Catholic Church.

As for the Post, it’s notable that its comeback coincides with a serious misstep at The New York Times — the botched firing of executive editor Jill Abramson. Combined with the loss this week of the Times’ chief digital strategist, Aron Pilhofer, to The Guardian, and the release of an internal report criticizing the Times’ own digital strategy, it may not be an exaggeration to suggest that energy and momentum have swung from the Times to the Post. (To be sure, the Times’ new executive editor, Dean Baquet, enjoys an excellent reputation.)

From the Pentagon Papers and Watergate in the early 1970s until about a decade ago, the Times and the Post were often mentioned in the same breath as our two leading newspapers. Good as the Post was during the final years of the Graham era, budget-cutting allowed the Times to open up a lead and remain in a category of its own.

It would be great for journalism and for all of us if Bezos, Baron and company are able to level the playing field once again.

Photo (cc) by Steve Jurvetson and used under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

More reasons for Jerry Remy to disappear

Having trashed my WGBH colleague Margery Eagan for daring to write about his family, will Jerry Remy now go after Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo? Take the year off, Jerry. The Red Sox are entertainment — fun and games. At this point, you’re pretty much the opposite of that.

And here’s an excellent commentary by Marjorie Arons-Barron on “the ick factor” Remy now brings to Red Sox broadcasts.