Sep 23 2008
By David Scott
Boston Sports Media Watch
WEEI.com editor Rob Bradford has confirmed to Scott’s Shots that part-timer Ron Borges is leaving the site for a full-time gig at the Boston Herald.
When reached on his cell phone Tuesday night in the 7 p.m. hour, Borges hung up on me after I identified myself. I took that as a classless way of saying “no comment.”
But Bradford indicated Borges would be done with WEEI.com on or about October 3 and that it is likely Borges will be writing for the Herald when the Patriots return from the bye week in San Francisco.
“The Herald is getting a guy who is being read and I have the numbers to prove it,” said Bradford, who declined to be specific on page views. “He was living up to the investment we made in him. I would encourage anyone to go back and look at the 14 (pieces) he has done for us (so far) and they will see exactly the reasons we hired Ron: (among them were) his NFL sources, his strong voice and his writing.”
Bradford said he has no regrets in what turns out to be a month-long rental of the former Boston Globe writer who “retired” after his suspension from that paper for what the Globe termed plagiarism.
Since then, Borges has been on a road to redemption with frequent, paid TV spots and several writing gigs, in addition to a weak attempt at personal blogging. His short, but effective stint at WEEI.com may have helped remind locals what “Good Ron Borges” can offer in terms of expertise and insight. It’s the “Evil Ron Borges” that adds the intrigue to the whole package.
“That was a defining moment in getting Ron and it gave us some momentum that we haven’t relinquished,” Bradford said. “We are grateful to Ron for what he did for us and I think he was grateful for the (opportunity). What he did for us, I think, helped his position in the eyes of the marketplace and that’s good for him.”
It’s unclear whether the move will wind up being good for the Boston Herald and sports editor Hank Hryniewicz. The hire comes at a pivotal time for the scrappy tabloid, especially on the sports desk where recent defections have left the ranks of Hank’s Heroes very thin. Beyond the personnel losses, the Borges hire signifies a calculated risk by Hryniewicz, who finds himself only four months removed from the mid-May maelstrom over the John Tomase matter.
With Tomase and Borges on his staff, Hank Herald now holds two of the most notorious sportswriters in the city’s history on his roster. In reality, it amounts to a cross-highway trade of Borges for Tony Massarotti – a swap that would seem to favor the Globe.
The falling dominoes were set in motion over the course of the summer as the Herald lost valued contributors Bradford (WEEI.com), Massarotti (Globe), Mike Felger (WEEI) and Jeff Horrigan (lifestyle change). Hank Herald is in the process of filling three vacant spots and Borges appears to be the first move that has been locked down, with the two other spots likely going to baseball writers.
Last week, Hryniewicz told Shots in an email that he would have “no comment on any ongoing interviews or negotiations. I will say, however, that I continue to speak with a number of impressive candidates for the three positions and I am quite pleased with the quality of the individuals who have shown an interest in coming to work for the Boston Herald.”
Bradford said he knew there was a possibility that a full time offer would woo Borges away from Entercom’s fledgling webiste, “but it was still a good move for us and for Ron. I told him, ‘I’m happy for you and I’m also happy for Hank and the Herald.”
. . . It’s also unclear how the new job will affect Borges’s other multi-media affiliations. He currently averages about two nights per week on the CN8 7 p.m. edition of “Out of Bounds.” [Disclaimer: Shots also appears on that and the 11:30 p.m. OOB.] But Borges – who will likely be traveling more in his Herald role – also recently appeared on Comcast SportsNet and those appearances likely require less time at a similar payscale to the CN8 spots. Alliances such as the one with Golden Boy Promotions would clearly have to cease if, in fact, they are still in place (as they appear to be according to Dan Rafael). Other part-time gigs would also likely be out for Borges per terms of his Herald deal.
. . . Bradford has already begun the process of filling the soon-to-be vacant Borges spot and said “there is no shortage” of candidates. He also indicated the site is close to filling two part-time Celtics slots after having already posted some of new Bruins’ contributor, Joe Haggerty.
. . . Not sure if we should expect a “Welcome to the Paperhood” note from Kerry J. Byrne or not?
• SHOTS’ INSTANT ANALYSIS OF THE BORGES HIRE:
Bradford is right. The Herald is getting a voice. But at what cost?
Borges is both polarizing and abrasive – two traits that usually make for excellent tabloid journalism. But he’s also never fully explained his departure from the Globe and the lingering questions are something Hryniewicz needs to have answered before Borges can effectively do his job. The Tomase situation was handled with some very sloppy direction from above which makes it imperative for the re-birth of Borges at Wingo Way to be handled with glasnost and transparency by ALL involved.
I don’t want to get too personal on this assessment of Borges, but I do thing his reaction to my Tuesday call is quite telling. How hard is a “no comment” or an “I’m not talking to you,” instead of simply hanging up?
There’s no question I have been critical of the former Broadsheet Bully (turned Tabloid Tyrant), but I have also made every attempt to balance my coverage of Borges since his odd separation from the Globe. When his Brady scoop from earlier in the month happened, I – and others – gave Borges credit. When he started a personal blog and infrequently updated it, I called him out on it. When it was apparent that Borges was in cahoots with Oscar De La Hoya, I pointed it out. And when WEEI.com hired him, I gave both the pros and cons of such a move. In other words, I’ve covered Borges the way he covers his subjects.
Would I hire Ron Borges if I were Hank Herald. Probably not. But maybe that’s because I don’t know Ron’s side of things from the plagiarism examples that were unearthed while he was at the Globe. He once suggested that the Lord would have a role in dispersing the true story, but as of yet the Almighty has not deemed it a worthy topic. Perhaps He should.
There is, as a trusted reader reminded me recently, only one mortal sin in the business of professional journalism and that is the act of plagiarism. Even if the industry has long forgotten that tenet (Witness: Barnicle, Mike; Davis, Ken; et al), it is still the duty of reputable news organizations to have the decency to ensure readers that the highest level of journalism is being practiced. If there is someone on staff who has had blemishes on his past works, it would seem only proper that those blemishes be addressed before the writer begins earnestly trying to gain our trust again.
Especially at a paper where the “bond” of trust is so valued.
• The Papelbon-fueled post-game celebration from Fenway on Tuesday night gave a telling glimpse into how the NESN people are considering using their sideline talent as the season wends into October. Using both Heidi Watney and Kathryn Tappen for post-game reaction, the network leaned much more heavily on the more polished Tappen for interviews (including Terry Francona’s). Watney was caught unprepared with follow-up questions several times (with a very patient Theo Epstein once) and was clearly asked by a producer to fall back on the catch-all “greatest memory of the season” question.
It’s worth monitoring who NESN sends on the road with the Sox in the playoffs as it might behoove the in-house network of the team to have a more seasoned and ready reporter (Tappen) under the pressure of post-season pre- and post-game duties.
. . . “It never gets old,” but then again, it gets old pretty quickly. I mean really, WHAT have they accomplished? I hate to be cranky, but it’s just a little too much champagne spraying for September 23. Save the bubbly for October wins of note.
David Scott writes from a seaside shanty on the shores of Hull, Mass. and can be reached at shotsATbostonsportsmediaDOTcom.
Scott’s first book, with Memphis Coach John Calipari, is scheduled for release in the Fall of 2009.