Are the vultures circling the Herald?
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.
According to McGovern, the already short-staffed Herald has lost a lot of its reporters and editors since Digital First’s purchase. At its headquarters, the Herald now occupies one floor rather than two.The business section is down to one reporter. The sports section is crammed into a corner with no TVs. Deadlines were moved up to 7 p.m. as the paper shifted its printing contract from the Boston Globe to the Providence Journal.
“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.”
A bill by state Rep. Patricia Haddad would allow Massachusetts residents to declare “X” as a third gender designation on a driver’s license and state-issued ID card. (Herald News)
Rep. Frank Moran urged state Education Commissioner Jeff Riley to call a halt to the search for a new superintendent in Lawrence, alleging the process is tainted and there is only one real candidate. Riley, the previous Lawrence superintendenf, defended the process and showed no inclination to back off. (Eagle-Tribune)
Quincy city councilors gave initial approval to two ordinances that would put a roadblock up to Boston’s plan to rebuild the Long Island Bridge by banning commercial traffic in the Squantum neighborhood where roads lead to the bridge and requiring Boston to apply for a second permit from another board. (Patriot Ledger)
The Springfield City Council approved spending nearly $146,000 to cover the deficit of Union Station. (MassLive)
Women account for just 1 percent of Boston firefighters. (Boston Globe)
The US Supreme Court struck down a 1992 law that banned commercial sports betting in most states. (New York Times) What’s the impact in Massachusetts? (Boston Globe) Connecticut, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia stand to benefit because they approved sports betting in anticipation of the court decision. (Governing)
The Secretary of State’s office said Framingham Democrats will have to caucus to pick a candidate to run for the seat left vacant by the death of state representative Chris Walsh because no one but Walsh had filed for the primary before the deadline. (MetroWest Daily News)
A Herald editorial wonders if the fist-pounding by Massachusetts pols over the planned closure of a Philips Lighting factory in Fall River and shifting of that work to Mexico can translate into action that helps the affected workers.
The Berkshire Museum collected $1.4 million from the auction of two of its artworks. (Berkshire Eagle)
A former airplane cleaner at a JetBlue subsidiary in Boston became the fourth person in the last year to file sexual harassment charges against ReadyJet Inc., according to a union trying to organize airport workers. (Boston Globe)
The faculty council at the University of Massachusetts Boston took a vote of “no confidence” in the university’s board of trustees and president, Martin Meehan, in the wake of the move by the University of Massachusetts to acquire the campus of Mount Ida College in Newton. (Boston Globe) A Lowell Sun editorial, however, says Mount Ida College deserves blame for keeping its deterioating financial situation a secret from students and faculty while Meehan should be applauded. A Globe editorial rips Mount Ida president Barry Brown for planning to skip tomorrow’s Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight hearing on the acquisition of the school by UMass Amherst.
Former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey announced she is stepping down as president of Babson College after one more year, her sixth at the school. (State House News)
Brockton officials are considering closing one of the city’s middle schools in an effort to save $9 million. (The Enterprise)
The Chronicle of Philanthropy puts a national spotlight on Boston Uncornered, a nonprofit that provides stipends to ex-gang members to finish their education and pursue college degrees.
A new study indicates children from high-income families benefit more from educational videos than low-income kids. (U.S. News & World Report)
North Shore Medical Center shut down the operating rooms at Union Hospital earlier than planned as part of a consolidation in Salem. (Lynn Item)
Ted Pyne of TransitMatters explains why the MBTA’s approach on the Green Line train of the future makes so much sense. (CommonWealth)
T notes: When it comes to the MBTA, Gov. Charlie Baker loves coming attractions. Also, the T adopts a policy on paying workers with capital funds. (CommonWealth)
Bikers don’t get everything they want on Longfellow Bridge traffic configuration. Plus: RMV wait times look like they’re going to remain long for a long time and trash piles up along state roads. (CommonWealth)
State officials say wait times for driver’s licenses continue to be slower than they hoped seven weeks after a new system was launched to comply with federal “Real ID” standards. (Boston Globe)
Joan Vennochi pounds away at the Wynn Resorts board, saying its hard to consider the company suitable to hold a Massachusetts casino license under its current set of directors and major shareholders, including Steve Wynn’s ex-wife Elaine Wynn. (Boston Globe)
Voters at Chatham Town Meeting became the latest on the Cape to approve a ban on recreational marijuana. (Cape Cod Times)
Kevin Perry Jr. was sentenced to 14 years in prison for using the money from sales of fentanyl to finance the purchase of restaurants in Worcester. (Telegram & Gazette)
In an excerpt from his book, media critic Dan Kennedy details how John Henry overcame his doubts and decided to buy the Boston Globe. (WGBH)
Media columnist Margaret Sullivan says the problems at NBC News are symptoms of a larger malaise at the network. (Washington Post)PASSINGS
Margot Kidder, who soared to stardom as Lois Lane in the Superman movies and was a liberal activist who was credited with influencing some of the policies of then-Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau (whom she dated), died at her home in Montana at the age of 69. (New York Times)