That said, Ortega may well end up improving the paper. From the sexless misadventures of new sex columnist Essie Carmichael to the misadventures of cub reporter Mara Altman (including cover pieces on girls who fix cars and a disabled guy’s sex life) to the December 2006 cover story on candy addiction (!), Blum gave the Voice's critics plenty of fodder. If there were ever an opportune time to see if the New Times method plays in New York, this is it.
Annals of embarrassing cross-promotion
How was the Herald’s March 5 cover lame? Let us count the ways. There was the schoolyard tone of the headline: WHACK JOB! OUR GUY HOWIE’S HOWLIN’ MAD, WANTS FINNERAN JAILED FOR HIS ON AIR ‘HIT’ JOKE. There was the great big photo of Howie Carr, the pugnacious Herald columnist, looking delicate and sensitive and haunted. There was the obvious promotion, not just of Carr's radio show on WRKO-AM, but of Finneran's WKRO show as well. (The WRKO microphone in the lower left-hand corner was a nice touch. Remember the Herald this Christmas, Jason Wolfe and Julie Kahn.)
And then, beneath Finneran's pic, there was this sober synopsis of the story in question: “Herald columnist and WRKO talk-show host Howie Carr wants a judge to throw radio colleague Tom Finneran — the former House Speaker and a convicted felon — in jail for joking on air about having Carr whacked and stuffed in the trunk of Gov. Deval Patrick's Cadillac.”
Judging from reporter Laurel Sweet’s “exclusive” on page three, the premise is this: since Finneran, the ex-Massachusetts House Speaker, is currently on probation for obstructing justice in connection with the state legislature’s 2002 redistricting, the joke should land him behind bars.
Maybe Carr really thinks WRKO fucked up by hiring Finneran. And whether he’s motivated by genuine outrage or just looking to pad his ratings, Carr has every right to cultivate a public feud with his co-worker. But does the Herald really need to play along and put this stuff on the cover, for God’s sake?
Here’s what Herald editor Kevin Convey tells the Phoenix: “The bottom line is, tabloids have to splash with something. . . . Howie has a huge radio audience and a huge audience of people who love him here at the paper, and the times we’ve splashed with him before, we’ve gotten a good response. In fact, if you take it strictly in terms of readership, that was the most highly read story online [at BostonHerald.com] that day.
“On a news basis, it’s not that big a deal,” Convey admits. “As far as news stories go, I wouldn’t class it with the news coming out of Iraq. But the truth is, on a slow Sunday, you have to make a choice, and that was the best choice we had at the time.”
Okay, Kevin. We forgive you. But Carr is another matter. Let’s all remember that, as Finneran prepared to join him on the WRKO payroll, Carr trotted out some nasty ad hominems via his Herald column. For example:
Tommy Finneran always thought he was the smartest guy in the State House. But yesterday, the former speaker started crying as he cops a plea at the federal courthouse, and this was all he has to say in his own defense. I was an idiot. I was a bad boy, a very bad boy. I am very, very sorry. And then he started choking up, and blubbering, and melting into a puddle, and from now on you can just call him Boo Hoo.