Boston Herald Union Blasts Management in Letter to Human Resources

The union raised concerns over 'covert maneuvering' by the Herald’s management and called recent actions 'despicable.'

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Photograph by Sarah Fisher

The newsroom at the Boston Herald is rife with discontent and teeming with frustration, according to a blistering open letter from the paper’s editorial union obtained by Boston. The memo, according to sources familiar with the letter, was sent on Thursday to John Flinn, the Herald’s vice president of human resources, following recent changes to the roles of two staffers, Jed Gottlieb and James Verniere.

Earlier this summer, we wrote an in-depth look at the Herald in which Bill Brotherton, then the head of the editorial union, confirmed that a number of unofficial complaints regarding editorial leadership had been brought to the company’s attention. Brotherton noted specifically that one of the chief concerns was “bullying” by certain members of management.

Since then, Brotherton has retired from the Herald. However, this week’s letter suggests that few improvements have been made since his departure and that tension between the union and the paper’s management is nearing a breaking point.

The union’s letter to Flinn begins:


There is a general discontent in the newsroom right now, and that discontent is tied to the remarkable amount of covert maneuvering by the Boston Herald’s management. Through side conversations and innuendo, we learned that two staffers were laid off. That fact has not been confirmed or acknowledged by management. Obviously, that also means that management has not:

1) Explained to us in plain language why we are losing editorial employees;

2) Discussed whatever financial situation the Herald finds itself in;

3) Assuaged the fears of hardworking editorial employees who believe they could be next; and

4) Acknowledged the hard work that these former employees put in during their time at the paper.

That is unacceptable, and frankly it borders on despicable.

The letter goes on to raise concerns about alleged cuts to overtime, exorbitant parking fees, and a lack of overall manpower for digital and print operations. Brian Whelan, president of the union—Local 31032, TNG—confirmed that management has received the letter. Whelan said that the two sides plan to meet in the near future to discuss next steps.

As the Globe reported on Friday, Jed Gottlieb, a longtime music writer for the Herald, is no longer with the paper but is expected to contribute on a freelance basis.  Verniere, a film critic, told the Globe that his status with the paper is changing, though the details are still being hammered out.

A union member who asked not to be identified offered us the following statement regarding the letter:

For us, the biggest slap in the face is the silence from the Editor in Chief and Publisher about layoffs and the paper’s financial condition. Every company that suffers layoffs understands the obligation it has to the remaining employees to tell them why it happened, what is being done to fix the problem, and to show them the path the company is taking to make sure it doesn’t happen again. It is shameful that there has been no mention of the people we lost, their outstanding work, or any acknowledgment of their contributions to the Herald over the combined decades in which they worked here.

A spokesperson for publisher Pat Purcell and editor Joe Sciacca did not respond to a request for comment as of press time. Flinn, the HR rep, also did not respond. We’ll update this post if we hear back.

This post was updated Friday afternoon to include additional information from the Globe.