It’s good to live in a two-paper town

With advertising revenue drying up for newspapers – actually, revenue of all types – the scramble is on to find cash flow from any legitimate source possible. Over the last few years, newspapers have opened up their once-pristine front pages to advertisers, some even cutting out chunks of their op-ed pages to sell space.

But, unlike most corporations, news media are and have to be mindful of that bright line between editorial and business, and the principle that never the twain shall meet. Which is why the Boston Herald’s story that the Globe’s outside p.r. firm has solicited advertising from contractors building the new Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate for a special Globe section marking the institute’s opening raises some flags.

The crux of the problem is the contractors were hired by the University of Massachusetts Building Authority, which is also represented by the politically wired Regan Communications, which also flaks for the Globe. That cross-pollination is what’s rubbing some the wrong way.

According to the Herald, officials at the institute, which will feature a complete replica of the Senate and was built in part with $30 million in public funds, gave Regan officials a list of company contacts to solicit for ads in a special commemorative magazine printed by the Globe. The section will appear in conjunction with the gala opening March 30 which will feature, among others, President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden, a longtime Senate colleague of Kennedy. The ads start at $15,000 for a half-page.

Regan executive Julie Kahn, who was coordinating the sales effort, downplayed the inside handoff from one client to another.

“It went out to everyone they did business with – everyone who profited,” Kahn told Herald reporter Erin Smith. “I don’t see a conflict. I was just given a list by the EMK Institute that they wanted me to contact. When you do a roast or someone retires, you call all your vendors to give back. This is very common in this business.”

A Globe official – from the business and marketing side, not editorial – said she “can’t think of a reason why it would be inappropriate.” UMass Building Authority board chairman and longtime Kennedy insider Phillip Johnston is a bit more circumspect, saying he was unaware and that they’ll “look into it.” The new Kennedy Institute is on the UMass Boston campus, just across from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

On his blog It’s Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town, Boston University journalism professor and longtime WGBH producer John Carroll says Kahn misses the point.

“In the PR business, yes,” it’s very common, Carroll writes. “The question here is about the journalism business.”

It would be easy to dismiss the Herald’s piece as just another in a string of jabs by the tabloid against the city’s 800-pound gorilla of news, but without the Herald, where would you see the story? Carroll has been calling attention to the Globe’s increasingly symbiotic relationship with UMass since last fall.

He points out the school has had strategic advertising placement all over the paper as well as faux front pages, the latest in marketing ploys by advertisers that trouble many traditionalists. Carroll calls the Globe’s business section a “wholly owned subsidiary of UMass” because of the plethora of ads throughout the section, including a bug of the school’s logo on the section’s ear with nothing else to describe its presence.

Carroll says the latest revelation may not be a big deal but it’s still a deal.

“To be sure, the headscratching staff hasn’t settled on whether this mishegoss is the stuff of misdemeanor or felony. We lean toward the former, though,” he writes. “Even so, given how much the Globe and UMass are playing footsie these days, it really doesn’t look – or smell – all that good for the mately local broadsheet.”




Greater Boston looks at a bill that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the state.


A new WBUR poll shows support for a Boston Olympics falling even farther, with only 36 percent of Boston area residents supporting the idea, a big dropoff from 44 percent in February and 51 percent support in January. For the first time, a majority of those polled, 52 percent, oppose bringing the Olympics to Boston, according the survey conducted by MassINC Polling Group. The New York Times reports that this is “among the most anemic levels of support ever registered by a potential host city at this stage in the process and could doom the bid unless it is reversed.”

Hours after Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he didn’t think Deval Patrick should collect any pay for boosting a Boston Olympics (never mind the $7,500 per day he was signed on to receive), the former governor announced he would forego any pay for work he does to promote the Games. Needless to say, Howie Carr did not not miss a chance at this one.

Following inquiries from the Dorchester Reporter, Wash’s chief of staff, Daniel Koh, has filed an ethics disclosure regarding his relationship with Amy Sennett, Koh’s girlfriend, who is a vice president with Boston 2024, the group promoting the city’s Olympic bid.


Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had lots of jihadist and other extremist propaganda stored on multiple computers, an FBI agent testified yesterday.


Developers of the proposed casinos in Somerset and New Bedford were given 45-day extensions to file their applications for the state’s final license, the third deadline extension the state Gambling Commission has issued for the regional bid. The decision came as New Bedford officials and developer KG Urban reached a last minute deal on a host city agreement that looked almost dead a week ago.


A new Gallup poll shows that 3.6 percent of Americans identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexul, or transgendered and lists the metropolitan areas with the highest and lowest percentage of gays. Boston is the only East Coast city in the top 10, ranking eighth.


The state’s unemployment rate was down to 4.9 percent last month, the first time it has reached below 5 percent since 2008.

Shirley Leung says state convention center authority honcho Jim Rooney is in line to become the next head of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, a move that could create problems for the convention center’s big expansion plans.

Boston Redevelopment Authority director Brian Golden says Massport should adopt the same rules as the city agency for disclosing names of equity partners in development deals it is considering approving.

Springfield gun maker Smith & Wesson is taking aim at a potential $500 million military contract for handguns.

The American Red Cross response to charges it misused funds and botched its mission in Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac raises questions about how nonprofits handle complaints.

Did you know Kodak is still in business? Apparently, neither did a lot of people.


Marblehead school officials will keep three Jewish holidays and Good Friday on the school calendar next year after public backlash over a proposal to eliminate them to offset snow days in the case of a winter like this year.


Paul Levy spotlights a survey that shows nearly 75 percent of Americans want doctors and other health care providers to be able to share their patient information for free.

Helen Drinan, the president of Simmons College, has been very publicly chronicling the trials and tribulations of her cancer treatment.


State officials are giving serious consideration to a plan to construct a privately funded and operated toll lane on Route 3 in the South Shore to alleviate congestion during the peak rush hours.

Add this to the mountain of complaints from paying commuter rail riders: Keolis, the operator of the region’s commuter rail system, too often lets people ride for free without checking for tickets.


Attorney Jeffrey Pyle, writing on Dan Kennedy’s Media Nation blog, says Secretary of State William Galvin’s determination that arrest records are not public documents because they fall under CORI regulations is wrong. He says Galvin is not bound by the criminal justice agency’s interpretation.


Danny Schechter, the News Dissector, has died of pancreatic cancer. He was 72.

The MetroWest Daily News finds little sun in Sunshine Week.