METRO AND THE INTERNET. To read the Boston Herald's World War III-style coverage of allegations of racism and sexism at Metro International on Tuesday, you'd think the tab had been the first to discover Rory O'Connor's exposé at MediaChannel.org.
Yesterday, O'Connor posted a tick-tock of what really happened, noting that Media Log was among the first, on Monday, to get this story further out into the open and to push for an answer from the New York Times Company. (The Times Company had purchased a 49 percent share of Boston's Metro for $16.5 million the previous week.) By Monday evening, Media Log had posted the complete text of statements from the Times Company and from Metro International. All this was amplified by the media world's online water cooler, Jim Romenesko's site at Poynter.org.
Noting that neither the Times Company nor Metro would comment for his original story, O'Connor writes, "The arrogance of the two 'communications' companies in refusing to communicate with the public about the tasteless, racist comments made by top Metro executives could not continue, however, due to the awesome, unchecked power of blogs and the Internet."
The war over the Metro continues today. In the Herald, which is trying to scotch the deal on anti-competitive grounds, John Strahinich and Greg Gatlin report on further allegations about the company. Herald columnist Howard Manly calls for a boycott (sub. req.), which he has also done in his capacity as president of the Boston Association of Black Journalists. The Herald editorial page observes, "The fish rots from the head." Gee, shouldn't that be attributed to Michael Dukakis?
Perhaps the most interesting comment of the day, though, comes from Rem Rieder, editor of the American Journalism Review, who tells the Boston Globe's Mark Jurkowitz that if he were an official of the Times Company, "I think I'd be thinking seriously about walking away."
Well, yes, that's one possible response. What Rieder leaves hanging is that the Times Company could move in the other direction, buying the remaining 51 percent of the local Metro and cleaning house. There's a certain logic to this. If the Times Company sticks with the 49 percent deal, it lacks the control it needs at what may be a troubled operation, as well as the leverage it wants in meeting the concerns of leaders in the African-American community. If it walks away, as Rieder suggests, the Metro is left staggering at a time when the parent company's North American operations are reportedly in some financial trouble. But if the Times Company buys the whole thing, it gets to control the Metro's destiny and just might be able to make it a more appealing paper besides.
I have no idea whether that would pass antitrust muster. Maybe it wouldn't - or shouldn't. But there's no doubt that would be Herald publisher Pat Purcell's biggest nightmare.