Pas de D’oh! Boston Dailies Skip Local Ballet Scandal

August 2, 2021

Saturday’s New York Times featured a pretty explosive story by reporter Julia Jacobs about a former Boston Ballet principal dancer and her husband.

Mitchell Taylor Button was accused of abuse, and his wife, Dusty Button, a dancer with a large Instagram following, was accused of participating in some of it but not named as a defendant.

A pair of professional dancers filed a lawsuit on Wednesday accusing a former dance teacher of sexually assaulting and abusing them, and accusing his wife — an internet-famous ballerina who has danced with the Boston Ballet — of participating in some of that abuse.

The former teacher — who has been known by several names, but is called Mitchell Taylor Button in the suit — is married to Dusty Button, who was a principal dancer with the Boston Ballet and who has amassed more than 300,000 Instagram followers and several corporate sponsorships with viral photos and videos of her dancing.

Locally, WBUR’s Amelia Mason also had the story over the weekend.

One of the plaintiffs, Sage Humphries, is currently a dancer with the Boston Ballet. In 2017, she was a member of Boston Ballet II, the company’s apprenticeship program. The suit says that Dusty Button, then a principal dancer with the Boston Ballet, lured Humphries into an increasingly abusive and controlling relationship with herself and her husband. According to the suit, Mitchell Taylor Button sexually assaulted Humphries on a regular basis over the course of some months and performed violent sex acts on her without her consent. It says that on several occasions, Dusty Button held Humphries down while her husband sexually assaulted the young dancer. The lawsuit also accuses Mitchell Taylor Button of verbal and physical abuse.

The Boston Ballet has released this statement in support of Sara Humphries.

Who we haven’t heard from (just before 6 pm on Monday) are the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald. Talk about being a step behind . . .


Two Buck Shuck: Boston Herald Touts ‘Premium Plus’

July 28, 2021

Well the hardrreading staff opened up the old emailbag yesterday and here’s what poured out.

According to the Herald’s Digital Subscription Frequently Asked Questions, a regular digital subscription includes:

  • Unlimited, exclusive journalism from our reporters and photographers.
  • Opinions and reviews from columnists and critics.
  • Daily access to the Digital Replica edition, an exact replica of what we print and produce each day.

So your two bucks is basically buying you a) No Pop-up or Video Ads, and b) 2x Faster Page Loads for the next  six months. Which is all good. Except . .

1) You’ll pay $4 per week for Premium Plus after that, and

2) That whole “trusted news, analysis, and interviews” thing has been gutted like a sea bass by the Herald’s bloodsucking hedge fund owner, Alden Global Capital.

The Herald newsroom – which, again thanks to the paper’s vulture-capital owners, has been forced to shack up with its kissin’ cousins at the Lowell Sun – can barely field a soccer team at this point. It’s gotten so bad at the scrawny local tabloid that executive editor Joe Dwinell has been known to write two or three pieces in a day for the paper.

Go ask the Boston Globe’s Brian McGrory how often he hits send on a story about, say, a Martha’s Vineyard porn lawsuit.

The hardreading staff – despite our often gimlet eye – has long been #TeamHerald, if only to keep the stately local broadsheet a bit less overbearing. But we wonder how long the flimsy local tabloid can keep offering less content for more money, as Alden relentlessly strip mines it like West Virginia coal country.

Maybe a “Premium Minus” Go Fund Me page is in order right about now.


Only Boston Herald Readers Buy Black Market Cigs?

July 15, 2021

Last month Philip Morris International launched an advertising campaign to spotlight, and obviously decry, illicit trafficking of cigarettes. The campaign also mentions other counterfeit goods – cell phones, laptop batteries, Marilyn Monroe-abilia –  just to make it seem a bit less self-serving.

PMI press release:

Philip Morris International Launches New Campaign to Combat Black Market Trade

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Philip Morris International Inc. (PMI) today launched a public education initiative entitled United to Safeguard America from Illegal Trade (USA-IT) to combat black market trade. Supported by a coalition of national and state private and public sector partners, the campaign will provide local officials, law enforcement, and thought leaders with information and training programs to help tackle illegal trade and raise public awareness of the depth of the problem as well as the severe consequences inflicted on states and municipalities by black market profiteers.

The campaign will run through 2021 in eight states facing critical illegal trade issues: Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

The PR flack forgot, however, to mention Massachusetts; PMI’s campaign came to the Bay State yesterday via this full-page Boston Herald ad. (The campaign’s website also omits Massachusetts.)

Here’s the text.

Interestingly, the hardreading staff looked in vain for the ad in the Boston Globe – both yesterday and today. What to make of that? Are we to infer that the readers of the stately local broadsheet are unconcerned about the trafficking in illicit goods? Or that they’re too posh to stoop to black market cigarettes, unlike their counterparts at the sneaky local tabloid.

Your conclusion goes here.


Boston Dailies Ignore Intercept’s Baker Bomb$hell

July 7, 2021

Let’s stipulate from the outset that The Intercept is a media outlet that pushes a progressive agenda hard enough to break a wrist (h/t Raymond Chandler). Even so, Matthew Cunningham-Cook’s deep dive into how Gov. Charlie Baker has appeared to play footsie with his financial backers is pretty eye-popping.

FIRMS THAT BACKED GOV. CHARLIE BAKER’S PRO-CHARTER INITIATIVE SCORED MILLIONS IN CONTRACTS WITH MASSACHUSETTS PENSION FUND

Three private equity investment managers who supported the Yes on 2 campaign in 2016 have since seen their companies receive a windfall of new investments.

IN THE 2016 ELECTION, executives at high-fee, high-risk investment firms poured cash into a Massachusetts pro-charter school initiative championed by Gov. Charlie Baker. In the years since, those investment firms have reaped a total of $320 million in new lucrative investment management contracts with the state pension fund.

The Massachusetts Pension Reserve Investment Management Board, which oversees more than $74 billion in assets covering 300,000 beneficiaries, frequently touts its investment performance that helps to provide $1 billion in benefits annually. Baker sits on the MassPRIM Board via a designee and appoints two additional members.

A comparison of the pension fund’s return to a straight and simple 70/30 portfolio — wherein 70 percent is allocated toward the S&P 500 and 30 percent goes to a blue-chip bond index fund — reveals underperformance, with the pension returning 10.4 percent annualized for the five years ending December 31, 2020, and the index fund returning 11.58 percent, costing the commonwealth of Massachusetts, its taxpayers, and active and retired public employees more than $5 billion over that period

The numbers are knee-buckling. According to the Intercept piece, executives from three private equity investment managers – Summit Partners, Berkshire, and Charlesbank Capital Partners – funneled $1.34 million in contributions to various pro-charter school groups in 2016 and subsequently reaped $475 million in MassPRIM investment commitments between 2016 and 2018.

Beyond that, according to the Intercept piece, the three firms are reaping unusually large profits from their management of taxpayer dollars.

Summit, Charlesbank, and Berkshire are all so-called alternative investments, meaning that they are subject to much less regulation than public companies and charge enormous fees that are typically 2 percent of assets and 20 percent of performance, which is over 5,000 percent higher than index funds for ordinary stocks and bonds, which can have fees as low as 0.04 percent or lower.

Even worse, the piece says that two of the investment firms have produced returns that significantly trail those of the S&P 500. MassPRIM declined to provide performance data about the third firm.

Also trailing? The local dailies. The Intercept piece dropped five days ago, and so far we haven’t heard a peep out of the Boston Globe or the Boston Herald. We get it that news organizations avoid Xerox journalism whenever possible, but surely five days is long enough to 1) move the story forward,  2) poke holes in it, or 3) get Charlie Baker to address it.

Or are we missing something here.


Labor Unions Blast Boston Globe in Boston Globe Ad

June 4, 2021

Contract negotiations between Boston GlobeSox owners John/Linda Henry and the Boston Newspaper Guild (the employee union for The Boston Globe) have been limping along for two-plus years, thanks in no small part to the hardball tactics employed by law firm Jones Day, which is to unions what bowling balls are to tenpins.

As a result, three local unions – the Greater Boston Labor Council, the Greater Boston Building Trade Unions, and the Communication Workers of America – joined forces to run this full-page ad in yesterday’s edition of the $tately local broadsheet.

 

 

Those who venture to DearGlobeReaders.org find this right off the top.

 

 

The website also features press releases about the paper’s proposed outsourcing and elimination of “just cause” protections against arbitrary firings or suspensions. In addition, there’s this accusation: “Behind closed doors, subscriber money is being squandered on attacks against the journalists who bring you the news each day, as many of us put our own safety on the line to do so.”

Those personal stories are reflected in the Boston Newspaper Guild’s Twitter feed as well.

 

 

Sorry to be the skunk at the garden party for the umpteenth time, but if past is prologue, this protest is destined to go pretty much nowhere. None of the NewsGuild’s previous efforts to generate public pressure on the Globe seem to have moved the needle at all.

We’re a long way from the days when average Americans got exercised over the corporate looting of local newspapers the way the good citizens of Atlanta did in the 1980s, which was chronicled in the documentary Fear and Favor in the Newsroom.

When muckraking Atlanta Journal-Constitution editor Bill Kovach resigned in 1988 over “irreconcilable differences” with the management of the Cox media chain, several hundred readers and employees of the AJC draped themselves in black and marched to the paper’s headquarters, where they deposited a newsprint-stuffed coffin labeled “Here lies the truth.”

 

 

But here lies the new truth: That is something you will likely never see in Boston. Or much of anywhere else in the U.S. for that matter. It really is a shame.


The Fur Flies in Opposite Directions at Boston Dailies

May 17, 2021

The professional provocateurs at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals took out a full-page ad in yesterday’s Boston Sunday Globe accusing researchers at UMass-Amherst of animal abuse.

 

 

According to PETA’s website, Taxpayer-Funded Lab Torments Imprisoned Monkeys, Drives Them Mad.

The University of Massachusetts–Amherst (UMass) tried to keep you from seeing this video. PETA sued, and we won. But before we even got the footage, the experimenter retired!

Now you can see what the school was trying to hide: Experimenters at four National Primate Research CentersOregon National Primate Research Center, Southwest National Primate Research Center, Washington National Primate Research Center, and the now-shuttered New England National Primate Research Center—were paid for two decades to study how being caged in laboratories affects monkeys. Our government dumped tens of millions of dollars into these atrocities—and has never even acted on what it learned.

This dustup has been going on for like forever.

Crosstown at the Boston Herald (not really – neither local daily actually resides in Boston right now), the fur was more filing than flying in this half-page ad.

 

 

Not to be mean but, c’mon – how many of the 22,000 surviving daily Herald readers do you think actually own fur coats? Then again, that package deal looks pretty good, no?


Boston Globe Looks for Subscribers . . . in the Herald

April 9, 2021

Well the hardreading staff was clicking through the Boston Herald’s E-Edition at our usual brisk pace when what should we come across but this.

 

 

Wait, what? The stately local broadsheet has taken to the feisty local tabloid to goose its circulation?

Get. Out.

The Globe’s virtual slumming comes at an interesting crisscross(road) for the paper, as illustrated by this graph from the Boston Business Journal.

As the BBJ’s crack managing editor Don Seiffert wrote last winter, it’s always smart to follow the money.

The Globe’s digital circulation has been the envy of regional daily newspapers nationwide in the past couple of years. It was one of the first papers in the nation to have more online subscribers than print ones last year.

The Globe has also raised its print prices to as much as $1,300 a year for some weekday subscribers, which may have accelerated the switch from print to digital. Some have even speculated that forcing readers to switch to online-only, thereby saving the business money, may be an intentional strategy.

Here’s a question, though: How does it make sense to trade a (potentially) $1300 a year print subscriber for a $360 a year digital subscriber? Not to mention, those departing print subscribers mean reduced print ad revenue as well.

Asking for a friend.

Meanwhile, the redoubtable Dan Kennedy at Media Nation provided this update on the Globe’s Fall 2020 circulation numbers, which included roughly 220,000 digital-only subscribers.

Paid print Friday circulation was down to 81,579 as of early September, lower than the 12-month average by about 1,500. A similar slide was reported in the publisher’s statement that appeared on Sunday: print circulation was 139,307 as of Sept. 6, down nearly 10,000 from the 12-month average.

But, Kennedy also notes, “Like many papers, the Globe has been signing up new subscribers at a steep discount. The challenge will be holding onto them once they are asked to re-up at the full rate of $30 a month.”

Which, as best we can tell, is the highest digital subscription rate – by far – of any major metro newspaper in the country.

That’s a whole nother challenge.

Meanwhile, the thirsty local tabloid is downright parched these days, as the BBJ’s Don Seiffert noted several months ago.

The Herald, owned by Denver-based MediaNews Group since March 2018, said in a filing with the Alliance for Audited Media that its total weekday print circulation over the six months from April to September [of 2020] averaged 24,540 per day. That’s down from 34,219 in the same six month span in 2019 — a 28% drop in a single year.

Even more knee-buckling: “Over the six months from April to September [of 2020], single-copy sales of the Herald averaged 12,619 per day, according to the filing. Last year, the average from April to September was 21,331 — a 41% drop.”

Even more knee-buckling: The Herald’s digital subscriptions at the same time were somewhere south of 10,000.

So any advertising revenue is welcome at the scrawny local tabloid – even from the hately local broadsheet.


RIP Marvin Hagler (PS: He Totally Beat Ray Leonard)

March 14, 2021

I’ve always had a soft spot for Marvin Hagler, given that he launched my career as a media analyst.

As I’ve written elsewhere, on April 15, 1985 I trundled down to the old Boston Garden with a couple of friends to catch the closed-circuit telecast of the fight between undisputed middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns, the world junior middleweight champion who was moving up in weight class.

Also undisputed: The first three minutes of the fight constituted one of the greatest rounds, if not the greatest, of all time.

 

 

As we exited the old Causeway Street barn after those eight minutes of frenzied fighting, I said to my friend Greg, “that was direct response at its best, yeah?”

Greg happened to be the editor of the monthly trade publication AdEast. He said, “wanna write that up for our next issue? I need it by five o’clock tomorrow.”

No problem.

 

 

Crowd went nuts graf:

The Garden crowd had started in a frenzy and worked its way into high gear. Between rounds they would hold whatever pitch they had reached, then crank it up another notch when the action was rejoined. It built and it built and in the third round, it blew.

It was a direct response to Hagler’s ultimate response – occasioned, oddly enough, by a break in the action. The referee stopped the fight to check the cut on Hagler’s forehead. Hagler, always fearful of the officials in Las Vegas, decided to put the hammer down.

He crossed-up Hearns with a right lead to the temple that sent the challenger stumbling backward, somehow staying upright, halfway across the ring. And Hagler chased him, and landed another vicious shot to the same place. That’s when the oblivion express pulled into the station. Hagler’s third right took care of the baggage.

The roar went beyond sound. It became the very air itself.

After that I became a regular AdEast columnist, then a columnist for Ad Week, an advertising commentator for WBUR, an advertising analyst for the Boston Globe, and etc.

All thanks to Marvin Hagler.

And now we need to address his sendoff in the Boston dailies.

The Globe has its story on Page One of the Sports section. It touches on the usual highlights of Hagler’s career – winning the middleweight belt in 1980 by beating Alan Minter in a London bout, the classic battle with Hearns, his final fight against Leonard (who has always been just Ray Leonard to me, as there is only one Sugar Ray, and that would be Robinson).

As the piece points out, Leonard ducked Hagler for years. “They finally met in 1987, Hagler almost 33 years old and 66 fights into his career. Leonard won a controversial split decision that night, Hagler’s last in ring. He left dejected and angered, never to return to the squared circle. ”

He was right to be angry, as this AP piece in today’s Herald indicates.

Leonard . . . was coming off a three-year layoff from a detached retina, in [Hagler’s] final fight in 1987. Hagler was favored going into the fight and many thought he would destroy Leonard — but Leonard had other plans.

While Hagler pursued him around the ring, Leonard fought backing up, flicking out his left jab and throwing combinations that didn’t hurt Hagler but won him points on the ringside scorecards. Still, when the bell rang at the end of the 12th round, many thought Hagler had pulled out the fight — only to lose a controversial split decision.

Beyond that, Leonard would actually stand and trade punches for the final 30 seconds of each round, which the credulous judges bought as carrying the fight.

The Herald’s Bruce Castleberry puts it nicely in his piece today: “[Leonard] was a boxer, not a fighter. I couldn’t stand the way he approached the sport. In and out of the ring, everything was calculated and programmed. Soulless.”

Marvin Hagler, by contrast, was soulful. And complicated. And a joy to watch. As the memorials say, gone too soon at age 66.


Boston Globe Bleeds Subscribers for Extra $109/year

January 28, 2021

For the past year or two, the hardreading staff has subscribed to the print edition of the Boston Sunday Globe, which also gets us unlimited digital access to the stately local broadsheet (as well as the print edition of the Saturday Globe, which for some inexplicable reason we started getting for no additional charge).

And then yesterday we got this in our emailbox.

Dear Globe Subscriber,

It’s become a bit clichéd to say that 2020 was a year unlike any other. But there’s no other good way to sum it up. It was a year in which we saw unfathomable death from the global pandemic. We saw so much of our economy collapse. We saw a vital social justice movement. We saw the most important presidential campaign in generations. And we saw an election aftermath unlike any that came before.

We also saw how much journalism mattered . . .

As costs of covering the news have increased, we are increasing the weekly rate by $2.10, effective on your next subscription renewal . . .

Not to get technical about it, but it turns out that by “subscription renewal” the Globe means “your next automatic credit card payment.”

So, starting sort of right now, a hike of $109.20 per annum.

For those of you keeping score at home, Boston Business Journal stalwart Don Seiffert detailed the Globe rate card last year.

The Globe’s subscription rates have historically been considered among the highest of any regional daily in the nation. Its website currently indicates a regular, weekday subscription rate of $21 a week ($1,092 a year), and a Sunday-only rate of $8 a week ($416 per year), after introductory discounts expire . . .

The Globe’s regular online-only subscription rate, before discounts, is $6.93 per week, or $360 annually.

Subscription rates vary widely, but bottom line for us: We could pay $556 to keep what we currently have, or drop the Sunday print edition and save $224 a year.

Which is exactly what we did.

So we gotta ask: Who’s doing the math at the Boston Globe?

As this BBJ chart shows, print subscriptions are cratering at the Globe while online subscriptions rise.

How does replacing departed $1000 print subscribers with (at best) $525 digital subscribers work as a revenue model? Taking a 50% haircut for every lost print subscription hardly seems a recipe for long-term success. (Keep in mind that the Globe’s print circulation in 2013 – when John Henry bought the paper – was 245,572.)

Or are we missing something here?


Boston Herald Goes Full MAGAt on Pardon for Trump

January 15, 2021

For the past five years the Boston Herald has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Donald Trump, but today the chumpy local tabloid has plumbed new depths.

From Jay Fitzgerald and Keith Regan in today’s MASSterList:

Curious timing: ‘Biden should consider pardon for Trump’

It’s pretty amazing for a newspaper editorial board that has remained absolutely silent, one way or the other, on President Trump’s divisive charges that the presidential election was stolen from him is now advising Joe Biden to consider giving Trump a pardon. But that’s exactly what a Herald editorial is advising this morning.

We’re a long, long way from the sane Pat Purcell/Rachelle Cohen editorial days at the Herald, folks.

Here it is.

Totally nuts graf from the madcap editorial:

Pardoning Trump would also give Biden room to address the country’s urgent problems, such as getting coronavirus vaccines to all who need them, freeing up stimulus checks to help struggling families, and taking steps to get the economy back on track after a devastating year.

Seriously? Pardoning Trump is going to get Biden to 60 votes in the Senate? Or convince more than 60% of Americans to actually get vaccinated?

That’s about as likely as Trump taking Biden to Bedminster for a round of golf.

I don’t know what they’re smoking at the goofy local tabloid, but it’s probably not cigars.