Approval Ratings – Tony Massarotti

Tony Massarotti, come on down…

Massarotti has been with the Herald since 1989, as he joined the paper fresh from Tufts University. He was the Massachusetts Winner of the 2001 National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Sportswriter of the Year award.

He’s been covering the Red Sox since 1994, but in recent years has moved into more of a general columnist role. With a few exceptions, his columns on sports outside of baseball usually tend to be on the negative side, and his recent column attacking Patriots fans alienated many readers.

He is highly visible on the Boston sports media scene, appearing on WEEI, Comcast SportsNet, NESN and WHDH TV.

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Tony Massarotti Approval Ratings
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Herald, Massarotti Continue Alienation of Readers

There will be no approval ratings today. Instead, we’re going with this analysis of the Boston Herald’s ongoing apology.

Has the Boston Herald been carefully orchestrating this whole walkthrough apology in order to generate the most attention (and revenue)?

It would appear so.

Yes, I certainly wanted more from the paper than simply the statement that was issued retracting the story and apologizing to the Patriots, but in addition to the apology, I would also expect some humility, contriteness, and sincerity to be a part of that package.

Dan Kennedy wonders how anyone could doubt the Herald’s sincerity, but he also admits that he believes Curt Schilling’s shoulder is a bigger story than the Super Bowl…

Herald editor Kevin R. Convey issued the following statement in regards to the episode.

A newspaper’s bond with its readers rests on credibility and accountability. When a mistake is made in reporting a story, that bond can remain intact, but only if the mistake is acknowledged, and acknowledged boldly, clearly and unequivocally.

The Herald did just that yesterday with its unprecedented front-page apology to the New England Patriots. We thought our story was solid. It wasn’t. And we owned up to it.

Nevertheless, I continue to stand behind the work of the Herald sports department and John Tomase, a talented journalist who has dealt with this difficult matter professionally while continuing to do his job under intense pressure.

In the end, as editor in chief of the Herald, I take full responsibility for the publication of this story, and I offer my own apology to our readers and our staff.

In tomorrow’s Herald, you’ll hear from John Tomase directly. And I hope that you’ll see, as our coverage of this story and others goes forward, that our dedication to accuracy remains unchanged, and that our first priority will always be maintaining that bond of trust with our readers.

I might be a bit too sensitive here, but his line about the “unprecedented front-page apology” strikes me as just a tad self-congratulatory. Look at us! We shouted it from the rooftops! Why couldn’t he have called it their “sincere” front page apology? Or just said “our apology?” Now is not the time to bask in your deeds.

He praises John Tomase for dealing with this “difficult matter professionally.” I’m just glad he didn’t laud John for his courage under “intense pressure.” Tomase brought this “difficult matter” and “intense pressure” upon himself by his lack of professionalism. We can’t forget that.

How about that last line: “our first priority will always be maintaining that bond of trust with our readers.” A little late for that, I’m afraid. Rather than maintaining, you’re going to have to build it first.

One sure way not to build a bond and trust with your readers is to publish pure garbage and hate like that spewed by Tony Massarotti this morning.

Not in New England, now the official home of yahoos, hero worshipers and gutless suck-ups. To this entire group, it was all about whether there was a tape; anything else doesn’t matter so much.

I don’t know about you, but reading that in the Herald gives me the warm fuzzies. I’m feeling a warm bond of trust building between the Boston Herald and all Patriots fans. Not that Tony is very specific. He says “this entire group” can’t see that the Patriots broke the rules. That means YOU.

Now let’s get to the stories behind the story, the stuff nobody wants to talk about for fear of being exposed. The media is a sordid business. Professional and personal relationships frequently collide. Patriots coach Bill Belichick gives Christmas gifts and holiday cards to some members of the media, cyanide-tipped glares to others. You’re either a Belichicklet or you are not, and there is no base-level membership.

If you’re going to buy in, you have to sell out.

Thanks but no thanks.

Right. Tony’s not going to sell out. I said Tony’s not going to sell out. Really. He’s above all of that material bullsh*t. He would never allow his personal and professional relationships to collide or get involved with a subject he covers. Never.

Whoops. I guess it really is a material world and Tony is a material girl.

As you are a member of the public, we strongly urge you to review all media stories (particularly this continuously developing one) with a cynical and skeptical eye. Try to discern which members of the media show up to work wearing Patriots Super Bowl jackets, and which of your pathetic, repressed middle-aged neighbors wear their Tedy Bruschi jerseys on Sundays.

I think he’s writing about my friend Matt here, but I can’t be sure. Oh wait, Matt has a Vrabel jersey. Can’t be him. Again though, the Herald is just cuddling me in a warm blanket of trust. A pathetic, repressed blanket of truth.

Oh, I see, he’s talking about Glenn Ordway, Pete Sheppard and Fred Smerlas. Do they also qualify as “pathetic, repressed” and “middle-aged?” Check. (according to Tony.)

Meanwhile, take time to wonder if those same neighbors are blogging and posting on message boards while spending hours on hold so they might hear their voices on the radio.

Listen, mom!

Just like karaoke!

Ah…now we’re into it. It’s the bloggers fault!

By the way, Tony would sell his firstborn child for a permanent co-host position on WEEI. When Eddie Andelman left the station, Tony badly wanted the job which eventually went to Bob Neumeier. He was so disgruntled, that he abandoned WEEI and jumped over to 1510 because they would give him more hours. Eventually when 1510 started to go South, he came back to the WEEI fold. I guess Tony likes to hear his voice on the radio too.

If WEEI calls and wants him on the Big Show this afternoon to capitalize on this story, he’ll gladly take the $75/hour (or whatever they’re paying Big Show co-hosts these days) and sit right next to those media members “wearing Patriots Super Bowl jackets.”

Also, isn’t it just amazing how much these bloggers and message board posters get under skin of these media types?

These are the people who preserve the sports fantasy world that justifies their own sorry existence.

Tony goes to the games, watches the athletes play sports, eats well, gets quotes from the athletes, writes snide columns, and gets paid. Who’s living in the sports fantasy world here? For most people sports is a fun subset of their life. They work in the real world. Sports are an escape. For Tony, it is his life. Does Tony feel he leads a sorry existence? Is that what this is about?

Somewhere along the line during this Golden Era of Boston sports, maybe we all went soft. In the past year or so, the Pats have been fined and stripped of a first-round draft pick, had two players arrested for drug possession and another suspended for the use of human growth hormone. Then the Pats went out and lost one of the biggest games in the history of professional sports against a team they were favored to beat by two touchdowns.

How dare anyone criticize them?

Let’s move the goalposts on what the subject is this week. Who said the Patriots couldn’t be criticized? That’s not remotely what this is all about. This outcry is about the fact that Tony’s paper ran a story that wasn’t true…and one they didn’t check their facts on. This isn’t about criticizing the Patriots, it’s about shoddy journalism.

Speaking of which, Convey emphasized the “dedication to accuracy” at the Herald. So much for that. The Patriots didn’t have two players arrested for drug possession this offseason. Kevin Faulk was not arrested. Small point, yes, as Faulk did get in trouble, but this “dedication to accuracy” should dictate that Massarotti and the Herald get their facts straight.

What was the point of this column?

My instinct tells me it’s the Herald capitalizing on the publicity that this whole incident has generated. Tony writes angry column. Fans can’t help but read it. They respond by commenting and talking about it with others. More papers are purchased. More ads are shown online as more pageviews are generated. The comments fly in on the page. People return again and again to read them, creating even more page views and thus ad views. The column gets analyzed on blogs and on sports radio.

Get ready for groundhog day, as the same thing is going to happen tomorrow. Tomase’s explanation of what happened and where the story went wrong is on tap. The paper is teasing it, getting people talking about it, building anticipation.

I’m looking forward to seeing what he has to say. It should be interesting, seeing as how he’s still been playing the antagonist with his reporting this week, even having a post removed from the Point After blog -(the one with the lede about Walsh admitting to spying on the Rams) either by himself or by the higher-ups at the paper. We’re supposed to believe he’s suddenly contrite and humble about the whole thing? I’d like to see Tomase address the issues laid out by Scott Benson. We also should see the source named. We will be waiting to see what he has to say.

Which is exactly what the Herald wants.

Yes, the Herald is orchestrating this whole event so as to capitalize on the publicity. I guess you can’t blame them. If they’re going to get all this attention they might as well make some money off it, right?

Dirt Dog Fallout

Couple items leftover from yesterday, first, thank you for the overwhelming support on the column, a couple people even made donations to express their appreciation, and that means so much to me. Thank you.

Among the things that a lot of people have commented on the curious, dismissive reply I got from Boston.com editor Teresa Hanafin. It’s interesting to note that to me, she made sure to emphasize that BostonDirtDogs was “just a blog”, implying that there is a separate set of standards for it compared to the rest of Boston.com. If that is indeed the case, then fine. If he’s not a journalist, then he shouldn’t be trumpeting scoops, making high profile media appearances and doesn’t need to be held to the standards and ethics that the other columnists and reporters on Boston.com are held to. However, a quote from Ms. Hanafin herself back in May when Boston.com was acquiring the website seems to indicate that the intentions were much different:

Hey, guys, Jason is right: We are going to hold BostonDirtDogs to the same editorial standards as the rest of the site, but we’re going to work really hard NOT to squelch its spirit. But I am torn about the design. I think the big headlines etc. are part of its charm, and our plan is to keep it exactly the way it is, but is that why you visit BostonDirtDogs? Or would you not mind seeing the design cleaned up a little to make it more readable?
Posted by: Teresa Hanafin, editor of Boston.com at May 28, 2004 12:44 PM

Just to get the full effect, here’s a reminder of the exact words of Ms. Hanafin the other day when I approached her about this issue:

Oh, Bruce, please — spare me. It’s a blog, for God’s sake. Lighten up. Given some of the content on your website, you’re hardly in a position to be flinging mud.

There I go, flinging mud again. You’ll excuse me for being a little confused on this matter. Also, BostonDirtDogs may be “just a blog” in the eyes of some, but Steve Silva is an employee of Boston.com. He is sent to Fenway to take pictures for the site, and as an article from UPI yesterday shows, he’s going to spring training…and the piece characterizes him as “part of the Boston Globe online” and “now filing regular reports from the World Series champion Red Sox spring-training site in Florida.”

Finally from someone with Globe ties comes this quote:

“People associate him with the sports section, which drives virtually everyone in the department insane, but Teresa doesn’t seem to have a clue that his irresponsible little web page reflects on Boston.com and the rest of the paper.”

Onto the links for today:

Boston Radio Watch is reporting that Entercom radio stations here in Boston, including WEEI will return to streaming their broadcasts over the internet within the next two weeks. Great news for day-time cubicle dwellers…

Antoine Walker made his return to the home floor of Boston last night and helped the Celtics beat the Lakers before a sold out, frenzied crowd. More Spring training reports as the Red Sox visited the president yesterday and prepare for the exhibition opener today. The Patriots lose Joe Andruzzi to the Browns, but could be picking up a shutdown cornerback via trade.

First, It’s been much rumored and assumed, but Doc Rivers said this morning on WEEI with Greg Dickerson and Gerry Callahan that Gary Payton will be back with the Celtics. (Last night he was just “pretty sure“)He can’t say it’s official, but all that needs to be done is for him to sign. He talked to both Payton and his agent past night, and they told him Payton is coming back to the Celtics. By the way, Dickerson and Callahan are much better and more informed talking Celtics than Glenn Ordway these days, whose only mission it seems is to harp on past mistakes and spout recycled (and sometimes contradictory) statements about how you build a team in the NBA.

Shira Springer, Steve Bulpett and Carolyn Thornton report on Antoine’s return to Boston, wearing number 8. Lenny Megliola says that for one night, it felts like old times for the Celtics and Lakers. Christopher Price also reports on the game and the return of the original employee number 8. Jackie MacMullan writes that Walker is ready to do what it takes to allow him to stay here beyond this season. He doesn’t want to bounce around the NBA, an appreciates what Boston is about. Mark Murphy says that last night was just like old times for Antoine and the Celtics…complete with missed shots. Tom E Curran steps over from Patriots coverage to also write about Antoine’s return to Boston. Frank Dell’Apa looks at a rough fourth quarter for Kobe Bryant. Bulpett’s notebook looks at how Antoine get number 8 back from Al Jefferson, while Springer’s notebook and Thornton’s notebook each look at the impending return of Payton.

Be sure to also check out the BSMW Full Court Press coverage of the Celtics/Lakers game from last night.

There were a bunch of idiots at the White House yesterday. (Insert joke here) The Red Sox met with President Bush to receive congratulations from the Commander in Chief. Coverage is provided by Gordon Edes, Tony Massarotti, John E Mulligan for the Providence Journal and David Lightman. Edes’ also writes about the Red Sox meeting with some real life American heroes.

In other stories, Jeff Horrigan looks at Lenny DiNardo, who hopes to have a bigger role with the Red Sox after spending last season with them as a Rule V draftee. Tony Massarotti looks at this year’s Rule V pickup, outfielder Adam Stern. Chris Snow has a look at left handed hitting first baseman Roberto Petagine, hoping to make it in the big leagues are starring in Japan for many years. Steven Krasner examines the Red Sox roster as they begin playing games today. David Borges looks at Matt Clement, who will start the first exhibition game today. Horrigan also looks at Alan Embree, who has found a comfort zone in his role with the Red Sox, and is understandably proud of what he’s done here, both in the regular season and postseason.

Horrigan’s notebook has Johnny Damon speaking in favor of MLB’s new drug testing policies. Krasner’s notebook has more from Damon, as does Borges’ notebook. Snow’s notebook looks at Manny Ramirez and Bronson Arroyo missing the visit with the President yesterday. He questions Manny’s excuse of a sick grandmother.

Another Patriot stalwart is out the door. Joe Andruzzi became the latest yesterday, signing a four year deal with the Cleveland Browns. Michael Felger, Jerome Solomon, Tom E Curran, Alan Greenberg and Michael Parente all have the story of the Patriots losing the offensive lineman to Romeo Crennel. Eric McHugh says that the Patriots are making it clear that they don’t have room for sentiment when making personnel decisions…they’re not about to turn Foxboro into a rest home. Hector Longo feels that if Troy Brown isn’t going to return to the Patriots, he should retire rather than bouncing to another team. Mike Reiss’ blog – which I believe is a textbook example of how a blog run by a news organization should be run – has five Patriots related items a couple not noted by anyone else, and promises more by 3:00 PM. I’ve said it before and will again, Reiss’ blog is a must-visit destination for Patriots fans. Felger’s notebook has the rumored trade between the Patriots and Cardinals that would bring cornerback Duane Starks to Foxboro.

TNT has Pacers/Nuggets at 8:00 and Pistons/Suns at 10:30. ESPN has Miami/Duke at 7:00. ESPN2 has Charlotte/Louisville at 7:00 and Purdue/Illinois at 9:00. NESN has Red Sox/Twins at 7:00.