Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A new twist to an old tale – when ball clubs get too close to news coverage

The Boston Globe newspaper has new ownership – it became known this past weekend that the group that controls the Boston Red Sox baseball team is going to spend $70 million or so to purchase the newspaper, its assets and a sister newspaper in the suburbs.

Now some have tried to make much of the fact that when the New York Times bought the Boston Globe, they paid $1.1 billion. Or the fact that the Washington Post on Monday was sold for $250 million. The sale price is significantly less.

ALTHOUGH THAT ANGLE doesn’t intrigue me as much as the idea of just who actually bought the paper. Professional sports and news coverage have always been intertwined, and not just in Boston.

Here in Chicago, we had the ultimate combination of the two entities for the nearly three decades that Tribune Co. included among its assets the Chicago Cubs.

We had many decades worth of conspiracy theories about how the Chicago Tribune tailored its news coverage to bolster the Cubbie-blue image, thereby making it more attractive as a broadcast property carried over Tribune-owned television and radio stations.

A true combination of interests that was appalling to anyone who cared less about the Cubs!

IT’S NOT UNIQUE. Let’s not forget how Ted Turner turned his local Atlanta television station into a cable television powerhouse by carrying Atlanta Braves baseball – making it possible for people who didn’t live near any major league market to be able to watch Major League Baseball games on a regular basis.

And let’s not forget how Rupert Murdoch tried to bolster Fox broadcasting interests with a stint owning the Los Angeles Dodgers.

So the Globe and the Red Sox being business partners? This one is a little different. Because in this case, the ball club is going to be the dominant partner.

Instead of a case where a media property is hoping to bolster itself and its programming options by operating a baseball club, this is a case where a baseball club is going to have say over the coverage that it gets.

IS THE BOSTON Globe about to become a butt-kissing rag for the Red Sox that lives up to the worst conspiracy theories that Chicago White Sox fans have always held about the Chicago Tribune?

The new HQ of the Boston Globe?
I’d hate to think so. Because that is a situation where nobody would benefit. It can only be hoped that the new Globe owners view themselves as Boston people wanting to benefit their community to the point where they see their two business properties as being separate entities.

Because a news reporting property has more to it than a sports section, and it would be pathetic if people wanting to know more about Boston would have to turn to the Boston Herald for a more honest view of what happened in the world – considering that the Herald has its own ideological hang-ups it wishes to live up to.

I have always suspected that the decline of the newspaper medium was going to have consequences that would not be appreciated until it was too late to do anything about it. Many people just don’t comprehend how much the newspaper medium is the one that picks up on stories and does research that gets picked up by news programs on so many broadcast and Internet mediums.

AND WHILE I comprehend that a new generation exists that wants information presented to them on their assorted gadgets rather than the printed page, there are still assets of a newspaper that can be converted over to other information-based mediums.

Globe has headaches no longer at Tribune
The Globe has its benefits, and a $70 million price tag could turn out to be quite a bargain – if they are managed properly. But turning the newspaper into an entity that merely promotes the Red Sox could be what further speeds up the decline of the Globe.

Watching the Chicago media scene all these years, I am convinced that many Tribune people tried to avoid conflicts during that period when the paper was a business partner with the Cubs. But there were many moments when conflicts just couldn’t be avoided, and the paper came off looking ridiculous.

The Red Sox owners haven’t said what they plan to do with the Globe. Let’s hope they don’t bring ridiculous moments upon themselves on purpose.


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