Ever since the Globe, citing offensive and inappropriate content, banned its reporters from WEEIís morning and afternoon drive shows several years ago, relations between the two media outlets have been strained, to say the least. And Shaughnessy, in particular, has been a regular target of the station. (Bombastic Big Show sidekick Pete "The Meat" Sheppard could barely contain himself last week, bellowing that "Iím flat-out saying I donít like the guy [Shaughnessy], period. I think heís a jackass. I donít like him, period.")
And that, in a nutshell, is usually what WEEI brings to a situation as volatile as the Epstein-Lucchino dynamic ó much more heat than light.
But there were several fascinating moments on the station, including Shaughnessyís testy exchange with Callahan and Dennis that betrayed the basic discomfort between the parties. Shaughnessy dished out as good as he got, pointing out that "WEEI has a financial relationship with the Red Sox. Youíre the flagship station." He defended his Globe colleagues, declaring that "itís insulting to say if they have a story, itís spoon-fed to them.... Everything that WEEI gets regarding the Red Sox, the same thing could be said."
Callahan battled back, venturing that Shaughnessyís "dirty laundry" column "pissed [Epstein] off," adding that you "can call it a smear, you can call it spin... but [Massarotti] had a point."
On November 3, Sox owner John Henry appeared on The Big Show, and in one of the more surreal moments in sports-talk history, defended the use of confidential sources by invoking Watergate.
"After all, we would have never known about what was going on inside the Nixon White House" without such sources, the soft-spoken Henry said. In the same segment, Henry repeatedly pressed Massarotti about whether he really believed the "smear" charges he aired in his October 27 column, forcing the Herald writer to do some hemming and hawing before settling on the response that it was a question worth raising.
Those were some of the WEEI highlights that earned it a C grade. But for the most part, the station had a high old time airing the Heraldís "smear" charges and burying the issue in a cacophony of confusing chatter. Glenn Ordway, the stationís most important personality, turned into a media-ethics professor, going on about the overarching "perception"of a Globe conflict of interest and even declaring that "If you look at the layout of the paper... you can see times when theyíre clearly being influenced" by the Sox. At the same time, he acknowledged, "I feel bad for guys like Gordon Edes and Chris Snow."
"Letís face it," Ordway declared at one point. "Everybody in this town is in bed with somebody." Maybe thatís why one Big Show caller interrupted the stationís reverie to declare that it "seems to me, the smear campaign is the Herald and WEEI against the Globe."
The Lessons Learned
"From the moment the New York Times bought a stake into the club, the perception of conflict of interest is every bit as real as a real conflict of interest," Edes acknowledged on the Sports Final show.
The recent flare-up involved the sports pages, but the bigger perception problem for the Globe comes in its coverage of the Red Sox as a major municipal player. This is not just a baseball team, but a major marketer, land developer, tourist attraction, and aggressive business that demands coverage everywhere in the paper. Even though it seems tedious, the Globe ought to include a simple sentence disclosing its relationship with the Red Sox in every single story about the team that does not land on the sports pages. In a November 6 column, Globe ombudsman Chacon wrote that such a policy is in place, but he included Baronís acknowledgment that disclosure is sometimes omitted accidentally. That should be tightened up. Since the paper is not likely to divest, it must disclose.
As for the Herald, someday it will learn what all good politicians know: when your opponent is doing a perfectly good job of making a mess of things, stay the hell out of his way. If it hadnít been for the "smear campaign" mantra accusing the Globe of being corrupt, the Herald could have won the newspaper wars and claimed the moral high ground, too. The Heraldís portrayal of itself as the hardscrabble but honest tabloid bravely battling the privileged, lazy fat cats on Morrissey Boulevard may be an important motivational tool inside One Herald Square, but it verges on self-parody.
Finally, a bigger point. How come with all the manpower devoted to covering the Red Sox from spring training through the playoffs, we never really got a whiff of the serious ó and ultimately decisive ó tensions between Epstein and Lucchino until the contract talks blew up? Isnít that something that journalists in regular contact with the team for more than six months should get wind of and make part of the ongoing coverage? These days, the exploits and activities of the Red Sox regularly make page one, the business pages, and even the gossip columns. Where were the cityís aggressive sports media on what turned out to be the most important off-field story of the year?
Mark Jurkowitz can be reached at email@example.com 3
Issue Date: November 11 - 17, 2005
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