As the Globe turns

The timing did not suggest the best news sense in the world, but high-stakes deal-making evidently doesn’t take its cues from lowly ink-stained newsies. In the wee hours Saturday morning, the deal was struck between the New York Times Co. and John Henry that will make the commodity trading billionaire who already owns Boston’s most storied sports franchise also the owner of its newspaper of record.

The $70 million cash deal for The Boston Globe did make it into Saturday’s late edition of the Globe, where it got full banner headline treatment. (It would be fun to know if there was a “hold the presses” order on Morrissey Boulevard as the paper scrambled to get final confirmation of the sale, first word of which came Friday night via a single-sentence post on the blog of former Globe sportswriter Peter Gammons.)

Conversation immediately turned to what the sale will mean for sports coverage in the Globe. As if to underscore the point, coverage of that issue varied wildly, depending on the source. The Globe story acknowledged all the potential for conflicts with a new owner who also owns the city’s most iconic sports franchise, but its story also featured lots of hometown bouquets being tossed Henry’s way. To hear the real reservations about what the deal could mean for sports coverage in the Globe, you had to to go yesterday’s Times, which offered a much more unvarnished view, but one that had insider Globe knowledge all over it.

In a piece written by former Globe sports writer Peter May, veteran Globe columnist Bob Ryan doesn’t mince words in raining on the parade of niceties being showered on John Henry.  “This was the last circumstance anyone would want,” he told May. “It’s nothing anyone would wish. It’s scary, to say the least, for all involved.”

While Globe editor Brian McGrory was essentially telling everyone move along, there’s nothing to see here — “We have no plans whatsoever to change our Red Sox coverage specifically, or our sports coverage in general, nor will be asked,” he told his own paperGlobe sports editor Joe Sullivan offered May a much less spin-driven take. “I would hope to be able to continue to cover the Red Sox the way we always have.”  As for the potential for conflicts of interest, he said. “It will be there, hanging in the air.”

For his part, Henry said in a statement released on Saturday night, “Now that I have a prospective role in Globe leadership, if I were foolish enough to try to influence Sox coverage by the Globe, I would only succeed in diminishing the value of both great institutions.”

In central Massachusetts, the question is what the sale will mean for the future of the Telegram & Gazette, which is included in the deal. Speculation had been that a new owner would quickly look to unload the Worcester daily, but Northeastern University journalism professor Dan Kennedy tells the T&G that he thinks it’s possible that Henry will keep the paper.

The Herald jumped on news of the sale by playing up complaints from losing bidder U-T San Diego that it had outbid Henry but still not been chosen, something the Herald terms a “bombshell allegation,” with U-T CEO John Lynch saying it could delay the deal with Henry from closing. The Globe gets in on the lower-bid-wins storyline today, with a piece reporting that three of the different bidding groups actually offered more than Henry.  

The real question, of course, is whether Henry will actually be a winner by acquiring the paper. As Ken Doctor points out on the Nieman Journalism Lab site, unlike the options open to other recent buyers of struggling newspapers, the Globe has already made most of the moves papers have turned to in trying to adapt to the new digital age — all seemingly to no avail, as numbers keep falling across almost all important categories — circulation, circulation revenue, print ad revenue, digital ad revenue.

Much has been made of the greater than 90 percent discount Henry is getting on the $1.1 billion the Times paid for the Globe and he Worcester Telegram 20 years ago. But $70 million is still real money, even to a guy whose boat alone is worth more than a third of that.  Nevertheless, a savvy commodities trader like Henry doesn’t go overboard in gushing about the futures market for newspapers. “I sat with various publishers and, in studying the challenges newspapers face across the country, I became extremely interested in potential solutions,” he said in a response on Saturday to questions from the Globe. “I’m not sure that anyone has successfully put forward a sustainable financial model for metros given the magnitude and consistency of revenue declines, but if I were going to bet on one it would be The Boston Globe.’’

                                                                                                                                                      –MICHAEL JONAS

BEACON HILL

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr tells Keller@Large what he thinks will be the negative impact on consumers of the new gas and tobacco taxes. Meanwhile, Tarr’s opportunities to affect any legislation just got reduced even more as his four-member Republican caucus is about to be reduced by 25 percent with the sudden resignation of state Sen. Michael Knapik to take a job at Westfield State University.

Charles Chieppo decries the clout union PACs wield over Beacon Hill.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Brockton Enterprise reveals a School Committee member running for mayor has a history of financial problems including filing for bankruptcy three times in the past 10 years.

INTERNATIONAL

The US closes embassies and consulates throughout the Middle East and North Africa amidst intelligence reports of possible terrorist threats from Al Qaeda.

ELECTIONS

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll is expected to cruise to victory this November, which would be her third, four-year term, the Salem News reports.

Boston mayoral candidate John Barros is depending on a section of Roxbury he helped transform as his base in the upcoming election, WBUR reports. In his Herald column, John Nucci wonders whether Felix Arroyo’s volunteer-driven ground game can make up for his paltry fundraising efforts. Dan Conley says that if Boston moves to reject a casino, he’ll try to sink the one proposed for Everett, too.

Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is criticized by mayoral rival and City Council president Timothy Phelan for suggesting that Phelan’s wife’s pursuit of a job as a principal puts school officials in an awkward situation, the Item reports.

Donor fatigue has set in among Democratic highrollers in Massachusetts.

The Wall Street Journal looks at a GOP-friendly Senate map in 2014.

CASINOS

A Globe editorial says the state gambling commission needs to clarify ownership of Suffolk Downs race track, whose largest shareholder said it selling out to avoid the scrutiny of a background check but has yet to to do so.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Basic rules governing foreclosure procedures are still being broken by banks, despite efforts to crack down on such practices, reports the Globe.

Blogger Robert David Sullivan weighs in with more thoughts on Boston’s sniffy aversion to Walmart — including among all but one of the 12 candidates for mayor.

The state chips in $100,000 toward the restoration of the Victory Theatre in Holyoke.

A new report finds assets for community foundations are now larger than they were before the recession began, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

EDUCATION

Massachusetts community colleges gear up to train the workforce that will man the state’s casinos, the MetroWest Daily News reports.

HEALTH CARE

Paul Levy takes issue with the Massachusetts Nurses Association’s push for a referendum that would mandate minimum staffing levels at hospitals.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Bristol Community College in Fall River will begin offering a certificate course in wind energy to train locals for the expected boom in the region.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Heroin arrests skyrocket in Methuen, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

CSI: Braintree. The Devon Woods condominium association has begun running DNA tests on dog excrement left around the complex in an effort to crack down on owners who fail to scoop their pooch’s poop.

MEDIA

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

With more on the Globe sale, Dan Kennedy has some pressing questions for John Henry and his plans for the Globe. Slate’s Matt Yglesias notes that, when factoring in the $110 million in Globe pension costs the Times Co. will retain, the Henry purchase actually pegs the Globe’s value at negative $40 million. Henry tells the Telegram & Gazette that he will visit the Globe today but won’t comment on his plans until his purchase is completed in 30 to 60 days. The Herald speaks with two bidders who say they outbid Henry, and raises the prospect of a shareholder lawsuit. Of course, the notion of an actual shareholder revolt is remote, considering that the Times Co. had a mandate from the Sulzberger clan to dump the Globe as quickly as possible, as a way of reinstating a lucrative special dividend for the family.

Boston-based writer Daniel Flynn pens an ode — and eulogy — to AM radio for American Spectator, highlighting the medium’s Hub roots.