Tag Archives: Red Sox

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.

Is Jerry Remy’s broadcasting career finally over?

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Instant update: I am gobsmacked that Remy is in the booth with Don Orsillo right now, Sunday at 1 p.m. That means the NESN announcement did not pertain to today and had nothing to do with the Globe story. Are NESN and the Red Sox really prepared to brazen this out? I guess we’ll find out a week from tomorrow.

It began on Friday with a seemingly trivial item in The Boston Globe’s sports section: Red Sox announcer Jerry Remy would be missing from New England Sports Network for the team’s last two spring-training games, but would be back for Opening Day on March 31.

On Saturday night, we learned the likely reason for Remy’s disappearance from the NESN broadcast booth — a massive, devastating report on Remy’s son Jared, slated for the front page of the Sunday Globe. Although the younger Remy’s notoriety was already well-established because of charges that he murdered his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel, last August, Globe reporter Eric Moskowitz cast the Jared Remy story in a new, horrifying light.

The Globe’s 8,000-word story is fascinating not only because of what’s in it, but because it’s the first time since John Henry bought the paper last fall that its journalism has intersected with Henry’s ownership stake in the Red Sox and NESN. Needless to say, it also has serious implications for Jerry Remy’s career.

Among other things, we learn from Moskowitz that court documents show Jared Remy “terrorized five different girlfriends starting when he was 17” (he’s now 35); that he’s been credibly accused of instigating and taking part in an assault on a high school classmate that left the victim seriously brain-damaged (he later committed suicide); and that he was a longtime abuser of steroids, alcohol and other drugs. (OK, that last part we already knew.)

Worst of all, we learn that Jared Remy was never held accountable — that he was repeatedly given probation and granted chance after chance to turn his life around. And the reason for that, according to Moskowitz’s reporting, was his high-priced legal help, paid for by his enabling parents, Jerry and Phoebe Remy. Moskowitz writes:

Often he benefited from victims who did not want to testify, whether from fear or forgiveness, leading prosecutors to drop the case. But even when cases seemed airtight, judges often rewarded Remy with a nearly free pass — temporary probation without the stain of a guilty finding. Most offenders are lucky to get two such reprieves. He got six.

And on more than 10 occasions while already serving probation or waiting for an earlier case to be resolved, Remy was arrested again on new charges or otherwise ran afoul of the law — a pattern of incorrigibility that would ordinarily get a person locked up.

Former prosecutor Joshua Friedman is quoted as saying Jared Remy benefited more from good lawyering than from having a celebrity father. “You get a high-priced attorney, you get better justice,” Friedman told Moskowitz. “If he had been Jared Smith from a well-off family, he may have gotten the same result.” But Moskowitz’s story leaves little room for doubt that Jerry and Phoebe Remy always erred on the side of leniency with their troubled son, possibly missing opportunities to break the cycle of violence long before Jennifer Martel was killed.

As Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham writes: “Remy wasn’t worthy of one chance, let alone the countless breaks his victims, parents, and judges gave him.”

So what is the likely fallout of Moskowitz’s reporting? Here are three quick thoughts, subject to revision as we find out more in the days ahead.

1. Jerry Remy’s career as a Red Sox broadcaster may have ended today. Remy disappeared from Red Sox games right after Jennifer Martel’s death last August. It wasn’t clear that he would return until January. At that time, Remy said all the right things. But that was hardly enough to inoculate him from stories like the Globe’s.

Remy is a Red Sox legend, both as a broadcaster and as a player before that. He has always been portrayed as a good guy. He’s also a sympathetic character, having overcome lung cancer, depression and other ills. But even though he is not responsible for his son’s actions, the Globe story makes it pretty obvious that his continued presence during Red Sox broadcasts will be an ongoing distraction. It’s time for Remy to go — and to hope that, with the passage of time, he might be able to find some other role.

2. The Globe has definitively staked out its independence from John Henry. Last August, shortly after Henry announced that he intended to purchase the Globe and its related properties from the New York Times Co. for $70 million, Globe editor Brian McGrory took his regular turn on “Boston Public Radio,” on WGBH Radio (89.7 FM). When the subject of how the Globe would cover the Red Sox came up, McGrory told hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, “John Henry would be out-of-his-mind nuts, and I don’t think he is, if he tried to affect our sports coverage. I get the concern. I understand it fully, [but] I’m not going to be asked to change our coverage.”

The Jared Remy story clearly isn’t a sports story, but I take McGrory’s remarks to be all-inclusive. And, yes, Moskowitz’s article did contain some embarrassing details for the Red Sox, which at one point employed him as a security guard — and let him drive the 2004 World Series trophy to an event in the Berkshires. Naturally, Remy got bagged for driving 92 mph on the Mass Pike.

3. But wait. Maybe the Globe is serving John Henry’s interests after all. See Point No. 1. You’d have to be a conspiracy theorist to think the Globe timed this in order to solve one of Henry’s problems just before the baseball season starts. Still, if NESN made a mistake in letting Remy come back, this gives station officials a chance for a do-over.

More: Several people, including John Carroll in the comments, have told me they think the Globe should disclose the John Henry connection every time it reports on the Red Sox or NESN (excluding baseball games) — and there was no such disclosure today. I’ll admit I’ve reached the point where I assume that only the most clueless don’t already know that. But still — it’s a good policy, and it only takes a line.

Photo (cc) by Eric F. Savage and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Conflicts of interest and the new media moguls

5790408612_8952178d3f_mWashington Post executive editor Martin Baron has rejected a demand by a group of left-leaning activists that the Post more fully disclose Amazon.com’s business dealings with the CIA.

Nearly 33,000 people have signed an online petition put together by RootsAction, headed by longtime media critic Norman Solomon, to call attention to Amazon’s $600 million contract to provide cloud services to the CIA. The Post’s owner is Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon. Here is the text of the petition:

A basic principle of journalism is to acknowledge when the owner of a media outlet has a major financial relationship with the subject of coverage. We strongly urge the Washington Post to be fully candid with its readers about the fact that the newspaper’s new owner, Jeff Bezos, is the founder and CEO of Amazon which recently landed a $600 million contract with the CIA. The Washington Post’s coverage of the CIA should include full disclosure that the sole owner of the Post is also the main owner of Amazon — and Amazon is now gaining huge profits directly from the CIA.

Baron, in his response, argues that the Post “has among the strictest ethics policies in the field of journalism, and we vigorously enforce it. We have routinely disclosed corporate conflicts when they were directly relevant to our coverage. We reported on Amazon’s pursuit of CIA contracts in our coverage of plans by Jeff Bezos to purchase The Washington Post.” Baron goes on to point out that the Post has been a leader in reporting on the National Security Agency and on the CIA’s involvement in the Colombian government’s fight against an insurgency, writing:

You can be sure neither the NSA nor the CIA has been pleased with publication of their secrets.

Neither Amazon nor Jeff Bezos was involved, nor ever will be involved, in our coverage of the intelligence community.

(Note: I first learned about the petition from Greg Mitchell’s blog, Pressing Issues.)

The exchange between RootsAction and Baron highlights the conflicts of interest that can arise when wealthy individuals such as Bezos buy in to the newspaper business. It’s a situation that affects The Boston Globe as well, as its editors juggle the lower-stakes conflict between John Henry’s ownership of the Globe and his majority interest in the Red Sox.

Baron himself is not unfamiliar with the Red Sox conflict, as the New York Times Co., from whom Henry bought the Globe, owned a minority stake in the team and in New England Sports Network, which carries Red Sox games, during most of Baron’s years as Globe editor.

The way the Globe handled it during those years was just about right: don’t disclose in sports stories, but disclose whenever the paper covers the Red Sox as a business. Current Globe editor Brian McGrory has insisted that Henry will not interfere. Henry, in a speech before the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce last week, said he would not breech the wall of separation between the Globe’s news operations and its business interests.

Of course, it’s not as though the era in which news organizations were typically owned by publicly traded corporations was free of such conflicts. (The Times Co., after all, is a publicly traded corporation, though the Sulzberger family calls the shots.) Media critic Danny Schechter noted in his book “Embedded: Weapons of Mass Deception” that MSNBC — then in its pre-liberal phase — was a cheerleader for the war in Iraq even as its then-corporate parent, General Electric Co., was a leading military contractor.

But the rise of a new breed of media moguls such as Bezos, Henry and Aaron Kushner of the Orange County Register, who buy their way into the news business with their own personal wealth, seems likely to bring the issue of conflicts to the fore. The same is true of a media entrepreneur of a different sort — eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who is launching an online venture called First Look Media with (among others) the journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

It is the very fact that these individuals have been successful that makes them such intriguing players in the quest to reinvent the news business. But disclosure and non-interference need to be at the forefront of their ethical codes.

Swartz case leads Media Nation’s top 10 of 2013

Aaron Swartz speaking in 2012

Aaron Swartz speaking in 2012

Last January, not long after the young Internet genius Aaron Swartz committed suicide, civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate wrote powerfully about the abusive prosecutorial tactics that may have led to his death.

Swartz faced a lengthy federal prison sentence for downloading academic articles at MIT without authorization. Even though the publisher, JSTOR, declined to press charges, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz brought a case agains Swartz under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. As Silverglate put it, the law is “a notoriously broad statute enacted by Congress seemingly to criminalize any use of a computer to do something that could be deemed bad.”

Silverglate’s article was republished in Media Nation with the permission of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, where it originally appeared. And it was far and away the most viewed article in Media Nation in 2013.

Today we present Media Nation’s top 10 posts for 2013, based on statistics compiled by WordPress.com. They represent a range of topics — from the vicissitudes of talk radio to a media conflict of interest, from Rolling Stone’s controversial cover image of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to the sad, sudden death of The Boston Phoenix.

The top 10 is by no means representative of the year in media. Certainly the biggest story about journalism in 2013 involved the National Security Agency secrets revealed by Edward Snowden to The Guardian and The Washington Post — a story that did not make the cut at Media Nation.

Here, then, is our unrepresentative sample for the past 12 months.

1. Harvey Silverglate on the Aaron Swartz case (Jan. 24). Few people were more qualified to weigh in on U.S. Attorney Ortiz’s abusive tactics than Silverglate, my friend and occasional collaborator, who several years ago wrote “Three Felonies a Day,” a book on how the federal justice system has spun out of control. But Silverglate’s take wasn’t the only article about Swartz to generate interest in Media Nation. The aftermath of Swartz’s suicide also came in at No. 11 (“The Globe turns up the heat on Carmen Ortiz,” Jan. 11) and No. 13 (“Aaron Swartz, Carmen Ortiz and the meaning of justice,” Jan. 14). In a bit of poetic justice, a project Swartz was working on at the time of his death — software that allows whistleblowers to submit documents without being identified — was unveiled by The New Yorker just several months after his suicide.

2. The New Republic’s new owner crosses a line (Jan. 28). A little more than a year ago, the venerable New Republic was saved by Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook who is using some of his fortune to restore the magazine to relevance and fiscal health. But he crossed an ethical line last January when he took part in an interview with President Obama, whose campaign he had worked on, and tossed a series of softball questions his way. At the time I wrote that Hughes was guilty of “no more than a minor misstep.” So how did it rise to No. 2? It turns out that a number of right-leaning websites picked up on it, bringing a considerable amount of traffic to Media Nation that I normally don’t receive.

3. Dailies go wild over sports controversies (Aug. 30). Four months after publishing this item, I find it hard to make heads or tails of what was going on. But essentially Globe-turned-Herald sportswriter Ron Borges contributed to a Rolling Stone article on the Aaron Hernandez murder case, which generated some tough criticism from both the Globe and the well-known blog Boston Sports Media Watch. That was followed almost immediately by a Globe article on the ratings collapse of sports radio station WEEI (AM 850), which brought yet more tough talk from, among others, ’EEI morning co-host Gerry Callahan, who also happens to write a column for the Herald. Yes, Boston is a small town.

4. Rolling Stone’s controversial cover (July 17). I thought it was brilliant. I still do. The accusion that Rolling Stone was trying to turn Dzhokhar Tsarnaev into some sort of pop-culture hero is absurd and offensive — and not borne out by the well-reported article that the cover was designed to illustrate.

5. Glenn Ordway walks the ratings plank (Feb. 14). Ordway built sports talker WEEI into a ratings monster only to see its numbers crater in the face of competition from the Sports Hub (WBZ-FM, 98.5). Ordway was by no means the problem with WEEI. But station management decided it could no longer afford his $500,000 contract, and so that was it for the Big O.

6. A big moment for The Boston Globe (Dec. 17). It was actually a big year for the Globe, from its riveting coverage of the marathon bombing and the standoff that led to the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to the paper’s acquisition by Red Sox principal owner John Henry. But two days in mid-December were emblematic of the paper’s continuing excellence and relevance — a long, detailed exposé of the Tsarnaev family that revealed Dzhokhar, rather than his older brother, Tamerlan, may have been the driving force behind the bombing; an investigation into a case of alleged “medical child abuse” that pitted a Connecticut family against Children’s Hospital; and a nationally celebrated series of tweets by staff reporter Billy Baker about a Boston teenager from a poor family who had been admitted to Yale.

7. The Boston Phoenix reaches the end of the road (March 14). A stalwart of the alternative-weekly scene and my professional home from 1991 to 2005, the Phoenix was a voice of incalculable importance. But with even the legendary Village Voice struggling to survive, the alt-weekly moment may have passed. At the time of its death, the Phoenix had more than 100,000 readers — but little revenue, as advertising had dried up and both the print edition and the website were free. I scribbled a few preliminary thoughts in this post, and later wrote something more coherent for PBS MediaShift.

8. The return of Jim Braude and Margery Eagan (Feb. 6). Eagan and Braude’s morning show was the one bright spot on WTKK Radio, an otherwise run-of-the-mill right-wing talk station that had been taken off the air a month earlier. So it was good news indeed when the pair was hired to host “Boston Public Radio” from noon to 2 p.m. on public station WGBH (89.7 FM). (Note: (I am a paid contributor to WGBH-TV’s “Beat the Press,” where Eagan is a frequent panelist.)

9. Joe Scarborough grapples with history — and loses (Feb. 17). Asking cable blowhard Scarborough to write a review for The New York Times Book Review about the relationship between Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon could have been a smart, counterintuitive move. But it only works if the writer in question is, you know, smart.

10. The bell tolls for WTKK Radio (Jan. 3). As I already mentioned, Jim Braude and Margery Eagan were able to walk away from the rubble of WTKK, which was shut down by corporate owner Greater Media and turned into an urban music station. Just a few years earlier the station had been a ratings success with trash-talking hosts like Jay Severin and Michael Graham. But tastes change — sometimes for the better.

Photo (cc) by Maria Jesus V and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Cy Young approved this message

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Statue of Cy Young at Northeastern University. The Red Sox used to play on land that is now part of the Northeastern campus, and hosted several World Series here. Looks like Cy was ready to go if Koji faltered.

We are alive

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It was 5-0. I was giving serious consideration to throwing in the towel. I started dozing on the couch. If the cat hadn’t been sitting next to me, I’m sure I would have gone horizontal and achieved complete unconsciousness — and thus I would have missed one of the great comebacks in Red Sox history.

There were many heroes (none bigger than David Ortiz, of course) and goats in this one. But how amazing is it that the Sox might not have won if Jose Iglesias hadn’t made that error in the ninth? Yes, Prince Fielder should have snagged it, but Iglesias shouldn’t have thrown it in the first place.

Before the series I had picked Detroit in six, mainly on the strength of their overwhelming starting pitching. By the seventh inning I was starting to wonder about a sweep. Now? Go Sox!