What’s Next for Tomase, Herald?

So now that the dust is settling on Matt Walsh’s anticlimactic meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell today, it’s natural to wonder this meeting means for the future of John Tomase and the Boston Herald.

The situation isn’t as cut-and-dry as it might appear at a casual glance. The original story by Tomase was very detailed in describing what his source told him:

According to a source close to the team during the 2001 season, here’s what happened. On Feb. 2, 2002, one day before the Patriots’ Super Bowl game against heavily favored St. Louis in New Orleans, the Patriots visited the Superdome for their final walkthrough.

After completing the walkthrough, they had their team picture taken and the Rams then took the field. According to the source, a member of the team’s video staff stayed behind after attending the team’s walkthrough and filmed St. Louis’ walkthrough.

At no point was he asked to identify himself or produce a press pass, the source said. The cameraman rode the media shuttle back to the hotel with news photographers when the Rams walkthrough was completed, the source said.

But then, Tomase got very ambiguous when he later added:

It’s not known what the cameraman did with the tape from there. It’s also not known if he made the recording on his own initiative or if he was instructed to make the recording by someone with the Patriots or anyone else.

According to the Goodell’s press conference today, Walsh had no knowledge of any such event, and he was there. He was even on the field while the Rams were going through their workout…in his Patriots gear. Here are the comments from Goodell on this matter in today’s press conference:

“We were also able to verify that there was no Rams walkthrough tape. No one asked him to tape the walkthrough. He’s not aware of anybody else who may have taped the walkthrough. He had not seen such a tape. He does not know of anybody who says there is a tape. He was in the building at the time of the walkthrough along with other Patriots video personnel. They were doing their job prior to the game. He in fact was even on the sidelines in his Patriots gear while the Rams were practicing. So it was clear that there was not an overt attack addressing access into the Rams walkthrough.”

Clearly there is a conflict here. The Herald posted one update today on the Walsh meeting, but it is not clear whether anyone from the paper was actually in New York for the event. (Edit: As of 3:50 this afternoon, that post has been removed. How strange. Also, commenters are saying Tomase was in NY today…) It would make sense that they would be reticent about sending Tomase, as he could’ve found himself quickly in the spotlight and having to address questions about his role in the whole tidal wave of publicity regarding the supposed walkthrough tape.

There is a lot of talk about whether the Patriots will file a lawsuit against the Herald, but I can’t see that happening. (Mike Florio suggests that Walsh could be the star witness for the Patriots in a suit against the Herald) What do they really have to gain from that? The damage is done. What would they be looking to prove? Reckless reporting? I can’t see maliciousness being a motive. The Patriots could potentially lean on the Herald and try to get Tomase sanctioned or taken off the beat, but I don’t see that happening either. I can see the Patriots making a statement now that this part is over, and refusing to discuss it ever again. (Edit: Right on cue, here is the statement.)

But what does the future hold for Tomase? He’s not a favorite of Patriots’ fans right now, the comments section of his blog and posts have been closed by the Herald because of the outcry. I even had to edit and remove many comments in the Tomase approval ratings post last week.

I don’t think he’ll be punished by the paper, but will they take him off the Patriots beat? I’d imagine he’s not getting a very warm reception down at Gillette these days. Will his future work be tainted by this incident? His name is always going to be brought up when this incident is mentioned.

I asked Frank Shorr, who runs the Boston University Sports Institute, which includes a seminar on sports journalism for a comment on what is now facing the Herald and Tomase, he had the following to say:

I think John needs to set the record straight but that in and of itself presents problems….identifying a source is not something any reporter wants to do but somewhere along the line you have to clear the air… John’s and the Herald’s credibility is at stake here…

Clearly they can’t remain silent forever. This needs to be addressed. For the record, I don’t advocate Tomase losing his job, his editors should bear just as much responsibility for the story being published as Tomase himself. Something however, needs to be said or done to acknowledge or explain what has happened here.

The mainstream media (including employees of the Herald) loves to crow about bloggers having no accountability for the things they write and get wrong.

Where’s the accountability here?

  • Lance

    The Herald, in typical fashion has tried to click their red heels 3 times and go home to the place they were before Feb. 2. Ain’t going to happen. I agree Bruce, the Herald editors need to come clean on their participation in this fiasco too. Until the Herald addresses the issue completely then the Globe will have a monopoly on the Patriots. The biggest loser, until that happens, will be the very competent Karen Guregian. The Herald will be tainted as long as Tomase remains there. If he had any dignity at all (which I strongly doubt), then he’d resign and relieve his current employer of the headache he’s caused.

  • gary

    What do you expect from a paper that employs plagarizers (Barnicle) and rascists (Callahan)? Tomase, along with whatever editor okayed the story, should be either suspended or fired. Either way, take him off the Pats because he’ll certainly get nothing from the players, staff, etc…

  • ben

    Happy to hear Frank Shorr’s take. Why would Tomase owe a source that ruins his career with bad info any kind of confidentiality?

  • NSW

    So there are two potential allegations, right?

    One – Tomase made the whole thing up, maybe gambling that a rumor was true, or exaggerating the idea that since Walsh was there it was sort of true anyway, or he made the whole thing out of whole cloth, figuring it was juicy and nobody could ever disprove him anyway.

    Two – a source, maybe Walsh, tried to spin him with a lie, or details that were totally incorrect. Is it possible that the source knew Walsh was at the practice and got confused about the truth? Or possibly set Tomase up to embarrass the Herald?

    I agree that Tomase owes the source nothing, but he can always fall back on the “I stand by my source” line, or just admit his source got it wrong but without id’ing him or her.

    Since he makes it clear that it’s a source he’s using that does make a difference to me. Look at all the “sources” the media listened to about WMDs in Iraq, and they all still have jobs, so it seems odd to hold Tomase to a higher standard.

    Does the argument come to he should not have printed a tip without better corrobation? Because at the time, this wasn’t totally outrageous, and like any anomously sourced story, it’s also up to the reader to give it the credibility it deserves.

    I dunno…it’s all pretty confusing. I wish Tomase would man up and say “I got bamboozled, and here’s who did it to me.”

    • Curtis

      I agree completely. Its a complicated issue, but one that could be squashed pretty quickly if Tomase would fall on his sword. I wouldnt hold my breath waiting for that though.
      And I do think this issue – going with stories that should really be held until checked further – is only going to happen more frequently in this hyper-competitive times for media.

  • http://fangsbites.blogspot.com/ Ken Fang

    This is something the Herald needs to address. Right now, there is some piling on the Herald by ESPN and the Chicago Tribune, but it’s deserved.

    Going on one source is not recommended unless the story is absolutely watertight and right now, holes are being shot through this with high powered rifles.

    You wonder when and if the editors and Tomase are going to say something. The longer they remain silent, the longer this is going to linger.

  • Wilson

    Let the Pats sue the heck out of the Herald and get
    back the half a million that Bill Belichick had to drop.(Which Kraft probably paid for…)
    Plus as many other damages as they could to put that rag out of business.
    How great would it be to see Callahan in the unemployment line!!

    • jon

      Not to sound like a neener-neener prick here, but god forbid we ever become a one paper town. Seriously, that would really suck. The Herald needs to suffer some consequences here, surely. I know no one here really wants to actually shut the Herald down, truly, but it still needed to be said. Long live the Herald, hopefully with a rehauled staff.

  • Marc

    This one is not hard to figure folks.

    Felger has said repeatedly the Walsh taping the walkthrough story has been rumored for years – likely from Walsh lying to friends to overstate his importance to the Pats. He has a history of doing so – resume for example.

    Tomase was pursuing it based on hearing the rumor from a guy who heard it from a guy who knows Walsh who said he taped it and maybe even has the tape. He calls Walsh and couldn’t get Walsh on the record but didn’t get a denial either. He and his editors were picturing Pulitzers, house on the beach, sitting next to Larry King. They just need a second source or Walsh on the record.

    Then the Times puts Walsh name out there the Friday before the SB. ESPN puts more Walsh info out there. Tomase and his editors fear their career story going to others because ESPN or the NYT have nailed it and are going to put it out Super Sunday – Jackie MacMullen style.

    They decide where there is smoke there is fire and run it because it just has to be true. So they print the article based on the rumor from a guy who heard it from a guy who knows Walsh taped it and maybe even has the tape.

    • mandb97

      Speaking of Felger, did anyone see him on ESPN today during their coverage. When Trey Wingo said that Felger was a representative of the Herald, I thought there was going to be a hangup situation as Felger jumped ugly on Wingo. Felger said he was not a representative of the Herald and continued to tell Wingo he needed to ask his management. He also asked Wingo if he was responsible for everything said at ESPN. I wonder what Tang will say about the way Felger spoke to the Mothership?

  • Dan

    Tomase himself was actually in New York today covering the story, you can see him in the background in the video clip of Walsh’s lawyer making his statement after the meeting concluded.

  • Mike

    Bruce – Tomase was in NYC. He’s seen in the video of Walsh’s attorney, Michael Levy, when he’s making his statement

  • patrickpass

    I think the source was a media member. They saw Walsh there setting up cameras. Knew him casually. Probably wondered at the time if he was filming, but didn’t give it too too much thought. It explains the part about Walsh supposedly being on the media bus back to the hotel. Hmmm, who would be on the media bus? So when Walsh’s name pops back in the news as maybe having evidence on new Patriots taping allegations, the media guy remembers his suspicions. Wondering about it suddenly becomes “I saw it happen!!!” So he tells Tomase. Says he witnessed it himself. Tomase goes with it, he knows the guy and the guy says he saw it for himself. Only problem is, while Walsh was there setting up cameras, he wasn’t filming. No matter what happened, it was clearly completely sloppy and incompetent on Tomase’s part.

  • EC

    Actually, the Herald doesn’t need to do anything, and Tomase doesn’t need to do anything. Dan Pompei reported that this story was offered to several news outlets, and only the Herald ran with it. So there are many media members who know exactly who Tomase’s source is. The classy thing for Tomase to do would be to out his source himself. But if that’s not going to happen, then other media members should not cover for Tomase.

    And given that Gregg Easterbrook kept on saying “there’s something more” and in a chat, said “remember the name Matt Walsh”, ESPN in particular should not be piling on the Herald.

    • DaveR

      I will bet every penny I own that Easterbrook writes something along the lines of “all this proves is that we’ll never know the extent of the Pats’ cheating,” yadda yadda yadda, as if his viewpoint had been unconditionally ratified by Walsh’s mere existence.

      What a conspiracist hack he’s become. So sad.

  • DaveR

    Upon contemplation, I’m thinking that patrickpass is right — the source is a media member. Specifically, a (still) photographer either employed by the Pats or assigned to the Pats by a news organization during that season. I don’t think any print or TV/radio media would have been at the team photo, and they certainly wouldn’t have been permitted to view the walkthroughs. So the more I think about it, the more I’m guessing that it was a photog who, as patrickpass wrote, saw Walsh and assumed he was taping the practice.

    Another thing I think supports that inference: If it were a print/radio/TV journalist, they almost certainly would have reported it themselves, because they witnessed it live and could directly report without the need for attribution or corroboration. So the source has to be someone who would not have directly benefitted from reporting the “incident” him/herself.

    If it’s a photog, it would probably be easy to narrow down the possible candidates….

    • patrickpass

      Well, you may be right. But I think it could have been a reporter. I think reporters were wandering around during the thing. I have heard numerous media types say so. And why wouldn’t they report it? Maybe they couldn’t. Numerous news organizations turned it down. Maybe the guy’s own organization turned it down and, frustrated, the guy gave it to Tomase. Maybe the fact the reporter couldn’t say for a fact the camera was on (and it turns out, it wasn’t) led the editor to say “no way….” But he tells Tomase, c’mon man, I can’t believe they won’t let me run with this. The guy is back in the news hinting he has something big, what else could it be? And Tomase, with Herald standards, goes with it.

      • patrickpass

        Just one more note, I think nothing points to this theory in a stronger way than the media bus reference. Who else would know he was on the media bus? It had to be media and Tomase practically gives it away by including that nugget in his original story.

  • Timmy

    Oh please… Walsh was the source or someone close to him and Walsh feed them the story – let’s break it down.

    JT: When did you attend the Ram walkthrough: ,
    Source: the day before the Super Bowl

    JT: Why were you there:
    Source: to take the team picture

    JT: Where the Rams there?
    Source: the Rams then took the field after.

    JT: Did you leave with the team.
    Source: no

    JT: What was your job
    Source: Member of the video staff

    JT: Why did you stay?
    Source: to film St. Louis’ walkthrough.

    JT: Did anyone stop you or ask for a press press?
    Source: Hell no!

    JT: Who drove you back to the hotel
    Source: I took media shuttle back

  • Lance

    Bruce, not sure why you don’t publish the Herald Sports Editors name but to all the readers it’s: Hank Hryniewicz.

  • patrickpass

    We don’t know who the source was. But one thing is completely obvious at this point. It wasn’t Walsh.

  • pete

    Bruce, I think you should do a John Tomase death watch. A special place for people to voice their opinions (since the Herald has turned off comments) and to track how many days Tomase and the Herald are in denial. It should be hilarious!

  • Timmy

    it was Walsh

  • Tim

    Problem for the Herald is Tomase may have been right. What’s transpired in the last few days is by no means proof he’s wrong. True, the NFL didn’t find evidence a Super Bowl walkthrough had been taped, but it was in the league’s best interest NOT to find evidence. Anyone who thinks the league is impartial in this is kidding themselves.

    If I read one more blog post or comment about how the Patriots have been “cleared” of wrongdoing in Tapegate I’ll put my fist through the screen.

    Let me say this as plainly as possible: THE PATRIOTS HAVE NOT BEEN CLEARED. TAPEGATE IS REAL. It was one of the most arrogant, bush-league actions in the history of the NFL. They admitted they did it, and the league appropriately handed out the stiffest punishment ever.

    The Patriots are cheaters, folks. Patriots apologists don’t like to hear it, but it’s true.

    • http://www.geocities.com/boompc99/he.html Jon

      Maybe you should take this argument to one of the Pats bashing comment sections on ESPN?

    • Chris

      Timmy! Go get Lassie!

  • Brad

    There’s a reason the Herald has always been a second class newspaper in Boston. The columnists have always been weak, dating back to the 1960′s and 1970′s when I grew up in Greater Boston. This transcends sports…the local and political scribes have never stacked up against the Globe, and this was personified when the ‘great Mike Barnicle’ was rightfully dumped for plagiarism a few years back. As a Patriots fan for 45 of my 52 years on this planet, they were wrong to tape anything they weren’t supposed to, and their championships have been tainted by the notion that they cheated. Belichick has no credibility, and if I hear Kraft get on TV one more time and say ‘We are proud that the Patriots, like all our family businesses, are run by first class people with integrity” (I’m paraphrasing but you’ve all seen it time and time again”, I’m going to puke. And remember, I’m a fan. But to my original point, the Herald was sniffing in the right place, they just couldn’t close the deal. And that’s why they are second rate and will never be anything other than a gossip rag on the same scale as the Enquirer or the Globe. Tomase swings…and misses..Strikeout!

  • Chris

    The blog-versus-MSM war has been won…by the blogs. Despite the hue & cry from gray-haired sports media hacks everywhere, the MSM has dug its own grave with shoddy, biased, agenda-driven reporting. The gray-hairs lament the loss of ‘olden-days’ traditions, when only THEY had access to news and views. I’m quite happy to see the collapse of the traditional media sources such as newspapers, radio and TV. They’ve all lost their way, and reaping what they sow.

    As for Tomase, someone there loses either way. If the Herald jettisons him, Tomase and his career go ‘poof.’ If he stays, the Herald will forever be linked to bad reporting and, more importantly, for NOT doing the right thing. If Tomase stays with the Herald, the Patriots should maintain his press credential and then make life a living Hell for him every time he enters the New England locker room. He’ll be blackballed and that will result in tepid work from Tomase, lacking any sort of relevance or depth. His work will be like a rice cake.

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