John Henry Means Business with the Boston Globe

He emphasized a focus on the business end by naming himself publisher.

John Henry is no longer merely the owner of the Boston Globe. He’s also the publisher.

The announcement came Thursday in a press release, in which Henry also named former Hill Holiday CEO Mike Sheehan the newspaper’s chief executive.

A publisher generally runs the business side of a newspaper, though it’s exact meaning and job duties shift depending on the newspaper. Mixing the roles of publisher and owner is by no means unprecedented. Family-owned papers like The New York Times and, until recently, The Washington Post had a family member serve in the publisher position. What it seems to mean in the case of Henry, who, of course, also heads another organization called the Boston Red Sox, is that this is more than a vanity purchase for him. He wants to involve himself in the newspaper business (such as it is these days). Naming a “chief executive” sends a similar message that the paper ought to run like something other than a money incinerator. The Boston Globe story on the appointments reflects that attitude:

“My main role as publisher is to ensure that the Globe has the right management, and that management has the resources to accomplish its mission,” Henry said. He reiterated his commitment to focusing on improving the company’s business results, and to steer clear of making decisions about news coverage.

That last part is important, and speaks to worries that Henry’s ownership might compromise the paper’s sports coverage. He has, from the outset, claimed he will exert no influence. (Nonetheless, when the sale went through, columnist Dan Shaugnessy jokingly tweeted that it was time to “shred documents and shatter hard drives.” You know, just in case.)

Henry’s  focus on finding “the right management” also underscores that most of the daily work won’t fall to him. That brings us to the chief executive, Sheehan, who was already serving as a consultant to the paper to increase its ad revenue as well as serving as treasurer of the One Fund and chairman of Hill Holiday. The Globe reports that Sheehan stepped down from the latter position this week, which frees him up to invest more of his energy into the advertising issue. His statement to the press release suggests he’s already hard at work. “The opportunity for advertisers to reach a highly educated, civically engaged audience in the fifth wealthiest DMA in the country is limitless,” he said. Hey, it’d be a waste of a press release if they didn’t try to drum up some business while they were at it.