Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Trusting Dan

If you live within earshot of Boston you can't ignore the furor over Theo Epstein and the role that Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy apparently played in the whole mess.

A quick recap goes like this: the Red Sox were close to a deal with their boy-wonder GM when a column appeared in Sunday's Globe giving out details that Epstein realized came from his boss, Larry Lucchino. That set of a chain of events that led to him tossing in his red socks and walking out onto Yawkey Way for the last time as a Sox employee. There' s a lot of he-said-she-said in all this. If you're really interested in the story you should check out some other blogs.

So, what does this have to do with issues I'm writing about? In a word: trust.

The New York Times Company, the parent of the Boston Globe, owns a portion of the Red Sox. Frankly, a small part. Still, it's enough to have people making accusations, like that Lucchino called in some favors to the Globe to get their top columnist to write something for his side.

Is this true? Probably not. But it doesn't matter. In an age when newspapers are struggling to maintain readers and relevance, anything that erodes public trust is dangerous. And that's just what happens when a city's primary publication invests in a business that is so central to the city.

What I can't understand is that while the Globe would never consider making a significant investment in Gillette (now part of Proctor & Gamble) or in John Hancock Insurance, owners were willing to invest in the Red Sox.

Maybe it has something to do with the way we view sports. Not as a business, but just as entertainment.

Even so, I'm curious as to how this plays out over time. The New York Times has already experimented with charging for columnists, as has the Globe's cross-town rival The Boston Herald. What if the Globe wants to consider this kind of move. Will people pay money to read columns by writers they no longer trust?

I'd venture to say that they wouldn't.

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