Monday, April 05, 2004

COMATOSE ON THE RANGE. The New York Times today reports that the Disney board is pondering how much authority to exercise over Michael Eisner, who's still running the company despite losing the title of chairman following a recent shareholders' revolt.

May I suggest that the board take a field trip to the local multiplex and catch Disney's latest, Home on the Range. I took my daughter, Becky, to see it yesterday. Now, granted, I haven't seen every one of them, but I think this might be the worst animated feature Disney has ever made. It is plotless and charmless. The animation is atrocious. Mercifully, it is only an hour and 16 minutes long, which meant that I only looked at my watch 30 or 40 times.

The reviews are not as bad as I would have thought, and Becky liked it. So maybe it was just me. My guess, though, is that this is not going to be a box-office sensation.

HERALD NOTES. Given all the uncertainty pervading the newly sensationalized Boston Herald these days, it's encouraging to see that there's at least some commitment to covering important stories. Today, Thomas Caywood weighs in with the first of a two-parter on the renewed heroin epidemic.

And here's a good companion piece: a front-page Boston Globe article by Stephen Smith on how Governor Mitt Romney's cuts in drug-treatment programs have endangered $9 million in federal aid.

Meanwhile, a few folks at the Herald are reacting publicly to my piece in this week's Phoenix on the Herald versus the Globe, and whether the Herald can maintain relevance against its much-larger rival.

At Jim Romenesko's media-news site, Herald staffer and union official Tom Mashberg lambastes me for "attempting to assess changes at the Herald based on about a month of Herald experimentation" (scroll down a bit). Business reporter Jay Fitzgerald, on his widely read "Hub Blog," endorses Mashberg's comments. And business columnist Cosmo Macero Jr., on his site, writes that I've "basically declared war" on the Herald.

To which I'll offer a couple of responses.

-- The month-long experiment to which Mashberg refers is, from where I'm sitting, approaching a year old. The Herald has been moving increasingly toward sensationalism ever since former editor Ken Chandler was brought back as a consultant last spring. The continued presence of editor Andy Costello served as a counterbalance, a guarantor that Chandler wouldn't get too out of hand in making the Herald look more and more like his previous paper, the New York Post. Costello's removal more than a month ago did not mark the beginning of a new experiment, but the acceleration of an experiment that was already under way.

-- Except for a few people who've left, the Herald staff is the same one that has been producing good work for years. I've heard, through private e-mails and conversations, that in some circles my article has been interpreted as an attack on the staff. That's ridiculous. If anything, my reporting reflected the frustration of good staff members who worry that they will no longer be taken seriously.

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