Friday, June 06, 2014

The Glib, Glob, Globe Really Tries


For the longest time, the Boston Globe didn't really try.  Truth be told, for MA politics, the NYT bureau chief, Fox Butterfield, was the source. It got worse when the Globe was sold and shuffled and stifled. Like all badly managed media, the top team fired reporters, cut back on local coverage even more and sucked with an even mightier wind. Whoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

Here we alternated calling it The Glob or The Glib.

My retribution was the recent resurgence of political reportage in the new, John Henry-owned, paper. They honestly do more.

Too much of it is Murdoch quality. The wee competitor, the Boston Herald, remains in size and spirit, the true tabloid in the market. Yet the Glib/Glob/Globe tries in its own way to be as salacious and scandal mongering.

Just yesterday, I couldn't help bemoaning early in the chat with Dem candidate for AG, Maura Healey, on Left Ahead just how how low-brow coverage has been. You can click this link to go to the half-hour show, but know that the gist of the media mini-rant is that she was just the latest drive-by reporting false scoops by The Globe.

The empire is more like a shire, bragging about being the 24th largest circulation (total print and digital) in the country. That's pretty much on par with Boston not ever being the nation's capital or busiest port or largest anything except maybe just maybe money-market center. (Wait, we did have the first working subway by a couple of years; does that count?)

Back to Healey, I went on about how the local larger rag has a new emphasis to go with its insatiable Pulitzer hunting. It's pretty good about siccing staff on potentially prize-winning features, almost as though they work for the Washington Post. You can see when they get a good subject and how they worry it like a puppy with a balled-up sock. To their credit, they end up with more than their share. Meanwhile, local coverage is weak. Thanks to the media gods and Adam Gaffin for Universal Hub, which constantly beats the Glob/Glib/Globe in depth and range of coverage of Boston-areas news.

On the political side, the Henry version has spot scoops of scandal. Given a commonwealth-wide or high-profile MA regional candidate, Glob/Glib/Globe reporters apparently have the task normally assigned to opposition research by competitors.

Every candidate is in for a mud painting. Like Gov. would-be Martha Coakley didn't reimburse MA in a timely fashion for gas and mileage when she was campaigning while being AG. In the replace-the AG race, we see Healey and her partner inferred to be ethics violators (partner being Appeals-Court judge when Healey used their home as the campaign HQ for four months), and Warren Tolman, also running for AG, hit for owning part of an online-gambling software firm.

These and other other stories in this election cycle are OK and have modest factual value. However, they are not of real substance and seem far more intended to inflate the Glob/Glib/Globe rather than inform the electorate. They aren't, lackaday, John Henry, Pulitzer catalysts.

Now,  we suddenly got a new section, Capital, in the paper. This sports-section thin add-in that first appeared today does not atone to those of who lave long lived here for so many years of tepid local and political coverage. However, I'm willing to give it a few months to see if they can teach it to sing and dance politics.

It could end up being just another Sunday Globe Ideas Section, that's more unneeded, formulaic mush mouth. That'd be a few lefty pieces, one or two kinda right-wing ones, and some this-but-that yawners. TBD.

The first insert was not inspiring. The lead was a highly boosterism Clout or Drought. It chewed and re-chewed the meaningless factoid that for the first time in four Prez elections no MA candidate was likely to be running. Again, yawn. Again, how parochial can you get? Is this a The Onion parody of newspapers?

However, a lesser front-pager was a poll and analysis of what the public thought of gubernatorial hopefuls for the 2014 election. That was useful and well done.

I'll reserve judgment for a bit (not too long though). The recently reawakened Glob/Glib/Globe has paid long overdue attention to political coverage. Yeah for that. Much of it has been sad, strange, desperate barely-stories in the gotcha range, smearing one candidate or office holder after another. This unfortunately falls in the cliché of throwing enough sh*t against the wall to see what sticks.

So here's to the paper:

  • Stopping the puerile regionalism in coverage
  • Telling reporters who find a mini-scandal to go deeper and do analysis
  • Going after abstracts and ideas instead of left-brain obvious stories
  • Pressing pols to drop the PR and make real promises they can be held to

Let's drum our fingers while we wait and watch.


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