FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2 p.m. - It looks like Will McDonough has the Boston Globe over a barrel once again.
In an effort to reduce its budget in the face of a precipitous advertising drop-off, the Globe recently sent letters to about 800 of its more than 2000 employees, offering to pay them to take early retirement. And veteran sports columnist McDonough - who retired and then quickly unretired last summer - reportedly wants not only to take the buyout, but to find a way to keep writing for the Globe as well.
McDonough, a regular on Mike Barnicle's show on WTKK Radio (96.9 FM), dropped this bombshell on the air today, shortly after 11 a.m., according to a reliable earwitness. McDonough also said he would like to keep writing his weekly column on some sort of freelance basis, but wants it returned to its Saturday slot. Last fall, in an effort to boost its flagging Sunday circulation, Globe management moved McDonough into the Sunday paper, a change McDonough had resisted.
McDonough did not return calls seeking comment. Globe sports editor Don Skwar confirmed the story, but said no deal has been reached. Yet McDonough, a swaggering sort whose contacts among professional sports owners is legendary, may simply be too big an asset to the Globe not to get his own way. McDonough may not be as good a writer as Dan Shaughnessy nor as gifted an analyst as Bob Ryan. But he's got access, he breaks stories, and he's a link to the old Globe - a link that may become especially important as the June 15 deadline for the buyout approaches and we learn which well-known veterans are walking out the door.
It was only last summer that McDonough, who had reached 65, was temporarily forced into retirement because of a mandatory-retirement age for Globe management. (McDonough is an associate editor.) But amid rumors that he might take his column to the Herald, McDonough suddenly returned. It turned out, conveniently enough, that the retirement age applied only to managers with supervisory duties, which McDonough did not have.
At the time, McDonough denied he would have gone to the Herald if the retirement snafu hadn't been worked out. But in a Phoenix interview, he conceded that he and Herald publisher Pat Purcell were friends, and that they had discussed the possibility of taking his column to the Herald on several occasions in the past (see " This Just In, " News and Features, September 1, 2000). (Link: www.bostonphoenix.com/archive/features/00/08/31/tji/MEDIA.html)
That McDonough would choose to go public today on Barnicle's show is itself rife with ironies. About 10 years ago, when the Globe was going through a previous round of buyouts, Barnicle, then a metro columnist, told management that he'd be happy to take his check and go home. Fearful of losing one of their marquee attractions, Globe managers talked Barnicle into staying by boosting his salary and giving him a management title.
Of course, it all came to grief a few years later when, in August 1998, Barnicle left the Globe amid charges of plagiarism and fabrication.