Are the vultures circling the Herald?
McGovern offers glimpse of Digital First’s approach
BOB MCGOVERN OFFERS the first inside glimpse of what’s left of the Boston Herald after the newspaper’s purchase by Digital First Media — and it isn’t pretty.
McGovern, who covered legal matters for the tabloid, left the Herald on Friday and on Monday published a somewhat rambling account of the newspaper’s plunge into bankruptcy and its purchase for nearly $12 million by Digital First, a hedge-fund-backed operation with a reputation for cutting spending and delivering high profit margins. In Massachusetts, Digital First also owns the Lowell Sun, the Sentinel & Enterprise of Fitchburg, and the weekly Valley Dispatch in Lowell.
The concerns raised by McGovern echo those raised by other Digital First publications. The company faced an open rebellion in April at the Denver Post from editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett, who put together a package of stories condemning the “vulture capitalists” running the firm and urging them to sell the newspaper to someone interested in doing “good journalism.”
The rebellion spread to the Boulder Daily Camera, where Dave Krieger was fired after he published an editorial critical of Digital First on a blog after Digital First refused to run it. One of Krieger’s concerns was the recent decision to eliminate the position of business editor. “Imagine a daily paper without a business editor trying to cover a town that considers itself the high-tech and startup capital of Colorado,” he wrote.
“Perhaps things will change, but I have a lingering fear they won’t,” McGovern wrote. “I worry that buying newspapers out of bankruptcy will prove to be financially prudent for investors. On its face, the purchase will seem virtuous and good. It will keep a news outlet alive, and it will keep people employed. But I wonder what the cost will be when already depleted newsrooms are boiled down to skeleton crews. At some point, a newspaper becomes a once-proud masthead riding on an empty vessel. I don’t think that’s good for the community, and I don’t think it’s good for journalism.”