The re-emergence of Rick Daniels

Rick Daniels
Rick Daniels

Rick Daniels, a longtime news executive who served as president of The Boston Globe and CEO of GateHouse Media News England, has been named COO of GoLocal24, which publishes a network of sites that includes GoLocalProv and GoLocalWorcester. In 2013 Daniels led an unsuccessful effort to buy the Globe from the New York Times Co.

From the announcement:

“Rick is a tremendous addition to the leadership of our team. At the helm of the Globe, Rick launched and BostonWorks – two of the best and most highly monetized news Web products,” said Josh Fenton, Co-Founder and CEO of GoLocal24.

GoLocal24 announced in January it would be launching its third market, Portland, Oregon this summer. will focus on providing the highest quality investigative journalism, top-flight lifestyle content, and best in breed comprehensive news coverage.


What to watch for as the Globe sale heats up

CA_SDUTBeth Healy today offers an update on who might buy The Boston Globe and its related properties, which include the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester and She reports that eight potential buyers are circling, and that the deadline for submitting bids is June 27.

Three story lines worth following:

1. The Taylors are still in the mix. It would be a comeback of epic proportions if Steve and Ben Taylor were to repurchase the Globe 20 years after their family sold it to the New York Times Co. for $1.1 billion. And for those of us who want to see the Globe wind up in responsible local hands, it would probably represent the best outcome.

The question since 2009, when the Taylors made their first failed attempt to reacquire the Globe, is whether they can raise enough money to buy the paper and run it properly. Maybe the Taylors can combine forces with the Kraft family, who own the New England Patriots and are said to be interested.

Former Globe president Rick Daniels is in the mix as well. But he’s partnering with a private-equity executive, which raises all kinds of red flags.

2. The “face of hell” emerges. “Papa Doug” Manchester, as he likes to be known, bought the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2011 and renamed it U-T San Diego, which ought to be reason enough to disqualify him. But it gets worse. Manchester, a hotel magnate, is a conservative opponent of same-sex marriage who has shaped his paper’s coverage to serve his business interests. Here is a charming excerpt from a profile of Manchester by Voice of San Diego’s Rob Davis:

Few San Diegans could have evoked the visceral cancel-my-subscription-today reaction that Manchester did when he bought the Union-Tribune. He has a reputation: egomaniacal, short-tempered, litigious, unrelenting. Some fear him. Two politically connected people warned me not to write a negative word about him. “If there is a hell, Doug Manchester is the face of it,” one said.

And now he’s said to be interested in the Globe.

3. The Globe’s headquarters may be sold. Healy reports that several prospective buyers would sell the Globe’s Dorchester plant if they succeed in buying the media properties. This strikes me as odd, since the Globe has had some success in taking on outside printing jobs such as the Boston Herald, The Patriot Ledger of Quincy and The Enterprise of Brockton.

I don’t understand how the Globe can keep the presses rolling unless it stays put. On the other hand, space isn’t exactly at a premium at 135 Morrissey Blvd. these days. Maybe the idea is to sell the building, lease back part of it and rent out the rest.

No doubt we’ll learn more in the weeks to come.

Image via Today’s Front Pages at the Newseum.

More pointless speculation on who will buy the Globe

There’s a name I left out in my earlier post on the possible sale of The Boston Globe: Rick Daniels, a former top Globe executive who, in December, left GateHouse Media New England, where he was president.

Not long after Daniels’ departure, I started picking up some buzz that he would emerge as part of a group interested in buying the Globe. And I see both the Globe and the Boston Herald mention him today.

No one has any idea what’s going to happen. But it strikes me that one possible scenario is an alliance joining Orange County Register owner Aaron Kushner; former Globe executive Stephen Taylor, part of the family that used to own the Globe; and Daniels. Kushner wanted the Globe at one time, still may, and has joined forces with Taylor in the past. Daniels worked for the Taylors. Why not?

Update: Your first must-read on the whole topic is Ken Doctor’s latest for the Nieman Journalism Lab, “The newsonomics of The Boston Globe’s sale.” Among other things, he guesses a sale price of $100 million to $150 million for the Globe and its related properties — 10 percent of what the New York Times Co. paid 20 years ago, not adjusted for inflation.

Rick Daniels to step down as head of GateHouse Media NE

Rick Daniels
Rick Daniels

Rick Daniels will step down as president of GateHouse Media New England at the end of the year. GateHouse publishes about 100 community newspapers in Eastern Massachusetts — mostly weeklies, but also a few medium-size dailies, including the MetroWest Daily News of Framingham, the Patriot Ledger of Quincy and the Enterprise of Brockton. The company also runs about 150 Wicked Local websites.

In my rather minimal dealings with him, Daniels, a former Boston Globe executive, struck me as amiable and wanting to do right by local journalism. The same is true of Kirk Davis, president and CEO COO of all GateHouse properties, who will take over Daniels’ responsibilities on an interim basis.

But for years now, GateHouse — which runs more than 400 publications and websites from its national headquarters in suburban Rochester, N.Y. — has been staggering under the burden of $1.2 billion in debt. In August 2011, the Rochester Business Journal reported that GateHouse was “the most highly leveraged of any publicly traded newspaper company,” with debt nearly 14 times cash flow.

And just a few months ago, Jack Sullivan of CommonWealth Magazine wrote that GateHouse itself had raised the possibility of bankruptcy in its annual report.

Thus in recent years we’ve seen a number of high-profile executives lopped off the payroll, including digital-publishing chief Howard Owens, now the publisher and editor of The Batavian, a widely admired local news site that he actually started for GateHouse, and Greg Reibman, former publisher of GateHouse’s Greater Boston papers, now president of the Newton Needham Chamber of Commerce. Also leaving was Kat Powers, managing editor of GateHouse Media New England, now director of communications for the American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts.*

Daniels is supposedly leaving GateHouse to pursue unspecified “investment and advisory roles for media companies.” At least no one is claiming that he wants to spend more time with his family.

“There’s a lot of pretty interesting deals that are out there and I’ve been approached by some folks who would like to do some of those deals,” Daniels told the Patriot Ledger. “They seem to have some interest in having operators with some experience.”

My guess is that if Daniels is quickly replaced, then his leave-taking was voluntary. And if Davis is still interim president six months from now, then Daniels’ departure should be seen as a cost-cutting move.

Five years ago I wrote about GateHouse’s debt woes for CommonWealth and talked pretty extensively with Davis. It’s been a long time, but the issues haven’t changed all that much.

Here is Davis’ email to the troops, a copy of which was forwarded to Media Nation by a trusted source earlier this afternoon:

I’m writing to explain some important news that is “public” today.

Rick Daniels, who has presided over our Massachusetts operations for the past 5 1/2 years, will be leaving his post at the end of the year. Rick plans to pursue investment and advisory roles to a variety of media companies.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Rick throughout his career at GateHouse Media. He’s proven himself to be a very capable and accomplished executive, one who has led an accelerated transformation of our newspapers and web sites through very difficult economic times. Rick departs with our deepest gratitude and admiration and has graciously agreed to continue to provide any assistance I may need in order to ensure a seamless transition.

I will assume responsibility for our Massachusetts group on an interim basis. I’ve been affiliated with our operations in Massachusetts for many years and have always appreciated the support I’ve received from employees. I’ll enjoy reconnecting with staff.

In light of Rick’s departure, I will appoint a few key executives to assist me and our strong management team in Massachusetts through this transitional period. Look for that announcement before January 1.

Again, it has been a pleasure working with Rick. We are extremely grateful for his leadership the past 5 1/2 years and wish him much continued success.


*Correction: Kat Powers did not lose her job at GateHouse, as I originally wrote. Rather, she left the company to take a position with the Red Cross.

GateHouse Media parts company with Greg Reibman

Greg Reibman

Some truly shocking news out of GateHouse Media: Greg Reibman, publisher of the company’s Metro papers, is out in what Rick Daniels, president and CEO of GateHouse Media New England describes as part of an attempt to “streamline our operations.”

Daniels, in a memo to the Metro Unit staff, says that Reibman’s is one of two publisher’s positions to be eliminated. A trusted source tells me that the other position is held by Mark Skala, who runs GateHouse’s Cape Cod papers.

Reibman, as Daniels notes, has been a stalwart at GateHouse for a long time — a leader in the company’s social-media efforts as well as a key player in the company’s linking lawsuit against the Boston Globe a few years ago.

GateHouse, based in the suburbs of Rochester, N.Y., owns about 100 community papers in Eastern Massachusetts. The Metro Unit that Reibman headed includes papers such as the Cambridge Chronicle, the Newton Tab and the Somerville Journal.

This strikes me as an incredibly shortsighted move. But GateHouse has been staggering under a mountain of debt for years. Combined with recent layoffs I’ve heard about at CNHI’s papers, which in Massachusetts include the Eagle-Tribune of Lawrence, the Daily News of Newburyport, the Salem News and the Gloucester Daily Times, and it’s clear that the community-newspaper crisis is far from over, even if it’s not as acute as it was in, say, 2009.

The full text of Daniels’ memo follows.

TO: All Metro Unit Employees

FROM: Rick Daniels

DATE: November 9, 2011

I want to update all members of the Metro unit on a reorganization we are announcing today, November 9th. After reviewing alternatives to streamline our operations here in New England, we have decided to reduce the number of group publisher positions. Regrettably, this will result in the elimination of two publisher roles, one of which is currently held by Greg Reibman.

Simply put, the continued changes in the business model – for virtually all media companies — have forced us to re-assess every role and position, both in senior management and throughout the company. Greg has been a valued colleague to us all; like many of you, I will miss his expertise and passion. He plans to transition his responsibilities and complete his time with the company by the first week of December.

We are fortunate to have two experienced and capable leaders who will assume Greg’s responsibilities: Chuck Goodrich will add the duties of publisher of the Metro titles to his existing titles in three other regions. Additionally, West editor-in-chief Richard Lodge will take on the responsibility for overseeing the news operations with the existing editors. Cris Warren will continue to lead the sales effort, coordinating her work closely with Sean McDonnell, Chief Revenue Officer, and Chuck.

Saying good-bye to a colleague is never easy or pleasant. Greg has worked hard with the Metro staff to produce excellent print and digital publications while his advertising team has exceeded or met revenue expectations for 24 consecutive months, a significant achievement in any economy.

As you know, Greg also wore a second hat here, as Vice President of Content Development and Partnerships for GHMNE. He led the way in our successful legal challenge against the Boston Globe in 2009 and has also been a trailblazer in dealing with social media and establishing both new and old partners in community journalism, including with WCVB-TV and, more recently, WGBH and ArtsBoston. Perhaps most important, he has assembled a team of very skilled and inspired Metro staffers. I’m sure everyone in the unit will extend their own best wishes to Greg, and will honor him by working with Chuck and Richard to build on his accomplishments in the future.

Waltham daily will be cut to twice weekly

The Daily News Tribune of Waltham will cut back from five days a week to two just before Labor Day and publish under a more locally focused name: the Waltham News Tribune. The move was announced earlier today on the paper’s website.

Starting Aug. 31, the paper will come out on Tuesdays and Fridays, although publisher Greg Reibman was quoted as saying the goal is to prove daily coverage online and through a new mobile app.

“We will be all Waltham, all the time,” Reibman said, explaining that the paper will no longer cover Newton.

The News Tribune is published by Fairport, N.Y.-based GateHouse Media, which owns about 100 papers in Eastern Massachusetts, most of them weeklies. In an internal e-mail obtained by Media Nation, Rick Daniels, president and CEO of GateHouse’s New England group, compared the move to a similar one made last October, when the Daily Transcript of Dedham was cut back from five days a week to one and renamed the Dedham Transcript.

“We’re confident this approach, coupled with our website, will make the Waltham News Tribune more valuable and useful to Waltham residents and our advertisers,” Daniels said.

GateHouse, a national chain, is under considerable financial strain, as are virtually all newspaper companies (although things may be looking up a bit). The twice-weekly move probably isn’t one that company officials wanted to make. But from a business point of view, it makes sense to cut production costs and shift advertising into just two editions rather than five if it can be done without alienating readers.

If the company follows through on its online and mobile promises, then this will look smart.

The full text of Daniels’ e-mail follows:

As you all know, we are continuously evaluating our publishing strategies in each of our communities to make sure we are the most efficient and effective local news source in the market.

Last October, for example, we changed The Daily News Transcript from a five-day daily newspaper to a weekly newspaper, Dedham Transcript, while putting a new focus on a redesigned Norwood Transcript as well. That decision turned out to be a big win, especially in Dedham where, with special thanks to the efforts of editor Andrea Salisbury and our circulation eam, we’ve steadily grown our subscription base as well as single copy sales since the launch.

Later this summer, we will be making a similar move in Waltham, only with one significant variation. On Friday, Aug. 27 we will deliver the last issue of The Daily News Tribune and, instead, focus on producing a high-quality twice-weekly paper, to be called the Waltham News Tribune.

The newly designed Waltham News Tribune will arrive at doorsteps and on newsstands every Tuesday and Friday. In contrast to the Daily News Tribune, which currently includes coverage of Newton and Watertown, along with non-local content such as Associated Press stories, comics and other syndicated features, the new twice-weekly paper will focus exclusively on Waltham.

We’re confident this approach, coupled with our website, will make the Waltham News Tribune more valuable and useful to Waltham residents and our advertisers. We chose Tuesday and Friday as our two publishing days based on the news and advertising needs of our readers and customers. We anticipate the Tuesday edition will include city council coverage, weekend sports and breaking news, while the Friday edition is likely to include additional areas of coverage such as upcoming weekend entertainment and features. In addition, the Tuesday edition will carry our “WickedLocalJobs” section and the Friday edition will carry our “WickedLocalWheels” section.

By working closely with the production and circulation groups, we’ve been able to develop a plan that will allow us to handle pre-printed inserts in both the Tuesday and Friday editions while getting the newspaper to newsstands by lunch time each day. This will help in driving single copy sales. Please know that we are not trimming our editorial or sports staff as part of this change. Andy Merritt, the Tribune’s current night editor, will be the new paper’s editor. Scott Souza will remain the sports editor and will also continue in his role as GateHouse’s beat reporter covering the Boston Celtics. Editorial oversight for Waltham will be transferred to the Metro Unit, with Greg Reibman as publisher, and Kat Powers as managing editor.

In the next few weeks we will contact all Daily News Tribune newsdealers of this change and will inform subscribers that their account balance will be transferred in full to a new twice-weekly subscription. Our call center will be fully prepared to help resolve all concerns to our customer’s satisfaction. If you receive any home delivery questions before that, please refer them our customer service department at 1-888-MYPAPER. Local news continues to be the mission of GateHouse Media New England, and we’ll continue to evaluate and improve all facets of our business to strengthen our position as the premier provider of local news and information, both in print and online in Eastern Massachusetts.

At one point in time, some might have wondered whether our local mission might have been too limited to enable us to be highly relevant to our readers, advertisers and the communities we serve as well as be consequential and successful as a business enterprise. In the last several months, several competitors have emerged that are entirely focused on the hyper-local news, information and advertising markets – not because these markets are somehow “small” or “insignificant”, but because they are hugely consequential in being able to support a viable publishing company – whether print, the digital media or (as we do) both. These competitors actually affirm that we ARE in the best part of the media world. They also have to realize that this company has been at this business for a long time, and enjoys a market position that will be extraordinarily difficult to crack.

Here are four compelling numbers that help to tell the GateHouse New England story, circa 2010: 1.7 million, 3 million, well over $100 million and 400. These numbers represent, respectively: The size of our Massachusetts print audience, the number of unique visitors per month to our websites, the size of our revenue base and the number of full-time professional journalists we employ. The levels of attainment these numbers signify places us at or near the top of the rankings of Massachusetts media companies. The economy has been a huge challenge for all businesses, and most especially media businesses, but we not only “survived” the Great Recession, but have seen our advertising revenues actually start to GROW again (albeit slowly with the continued economic cloudiness) in five out of the first six months of 2010. Thank you all very much for what you have done and continue to do to allow us to do what all companies MUST do in order to be successful: serve an identifiable and attractive niche with quality products and services, grow our revenues and customer base, become ever more efficient and generate sufficient cash flow. We know that staying on top of a fast-evolving industry is incredibly challenging and requires business model changes that can be a bit jarring. We have not averred from these changes, and this latest one with the Waltham News Tribune is one more example that will allow us to be both more focused on providing hyper-local news to the Waltham community AND be more efficient as well.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.