Something potentially shameful and frightening is happening to the Boston Globe, one of America’s venerable daily newspapers.
Finally, the New York Times Co. has unloaded the daily for $70 million to John Henry, the owner of the Red Sox, the most fabled sports team in all of New England. Sure, the Celtics, the Bruins and the Patriots have also won championships in recent years, but the Red Sox still command that great city’s hearts and minds.
As Slate pointed out: “The New York Times is finally biting the bullet and selling the Boston Globe two decades after paying the highest price on record for a U.S. newspaper and four years after it first put the 141-year-old paper up for sale.”
The deal has raised the ire of media observers because it appears that the Globe will have a conflict of interest in covering the Red Sox. Globe editors shrug off the talk, saying they will continue to adhere to the highest ethical and journalistic standards. Of course, they say that.
I hope so. The Globe DOES have a terrific legacy of covering the “Saux.” Peter Gammons, one of the best baseball-beat reporters of all time and the author of the remarkable book Beyond the Sixth Game, set a standard that I hope future Globe reporters can keep up.
What will happen, though, the next time the Red Sox are embroiled in a financial or a steroids scandal, which threatens to damage the value of the team? Will the Globe aggressively and objectively cover the story the way the previous ownership might have?
Or will the paper play ball (so to speak) with the team and diminish the magnitude of bad news?
Corporations don’t like to see the values of their assets sink — and they hate it when the local newspaper is sounding the call. Covering the Red Sox beat for the Globe could wind up as potentially perilous as reporting on Berkshire Hathaway’s performance for one of Warren Buffett’s dailies.
Let’s hope it doesn’t boil down to the caption of a New Yorker cartoon that I have mounted on the wall of my apartment: “The New York Rangers lost, three to two, but declared victory anyway.”