Wednesday, January 12, 2005

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

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

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.


Steve said...

I had exactly the same thought last night - NYT should buy them out and fire the ones associated with bad conduct. It's the business model they want, not the bad actors. Of course, if the deal winds up not going through, I expect the Herald to wait a few months until the heat dies down then buy the Metro themselves. (You can call this move the "Extended Barnicle".)

Anonymous said...

I heard a talk-radio host say he's likely going to drop the Herald,if they don't knock off the front page headlines of Metro racism. The odd thing is they had just got him back after he droped them due to the bloody manslaughter picture,in the Fenway.
The Herald has made some interesting decisions of late and I can't see this as being a net positive but I guess if your up to your nose in trouble,you do what you feel you have to do.

Anonymous said...

Dan, isn't there something hugely hypocritical about
the Herald's accusations of bias, when the Herald
still employs Gerry Callahan, our dear friend who made
those lovely remarks about Metco a year and a half ago?

Anonymous said...

To Steve,

I'm glad you asked that question. I had the same one myself. If he was so offended, why didn't John Wipers get up and walk out of the event? Why did he, in turn, stay on as editor for months after the incident if he feels so strongly that the whole company is filled with racist, sexist people? Why didn't the blogger state in his story why Wilpers is the FORMER editor of the Metro (it's because he was fired, BTW). While his allegations are true, his motives to come forward right after the Times decided to buy shares of the Metro is nothing more than to get back at the company out of spite.

While I am appalled, but not surprise, about all the bad news about the corporate climate at Metro, I'm glad Dan finally called a spade a spade about the Herald's coverage of this story. It's completely self-serving to call for boycotts and put the pressure on the Times to back out through overexposure. This is the same paper that just months ago was dealing with its own crisis and boycott threats with the photos of the dying girl. As the saying goes...he who lives in glass houses...

I personally think the Times buying stake in the Metro is the best thing that could happen to that paper and I wish they would consider Dan's suggestion to purchase the entire thing.