Tuesday's news that Ian Rapoport would be leaving the Boston Herald to join the NFL Network was bad news for the newspaper.
Rapoport played a huge role in re-establishing the credibility of the Herald on the Patriots beat. When Rapoport joined the Herald in the summer of 2009, the paper was barely a year removed from having to issue a front-page apology to the New England Patriots for John Tomase's 2008 report that the Patriots had taped a St Louis Rams walkthrough prior to Super Bowl XXXVI.
Unbelievably, Tomase was left on the Patriots beat for an entire season after the incident, only being moved over to the Red Sox beat for the 2009 season. In the midst of the Tomase report and the paper's apology, Tony Massarotti, still with the Herald at that point, wrote perhaps the most acerbic column I've ever read, blasting Patriots fans as sycophants and Tedy Bruschi-jersey wearing morons. Looking back at Massarotti's path since that point, his hatred of Patriots fans comes as no surprise, but at the time, it was a shocking column.
All of this left the Herald as a laughingstock by the time the 2009 season rolled around. By this point, many fans were still openly boycotting the paper's coverage, and urging others to do so as well. (I still hear from people who refuse to read the Herald because of that incident.)
The Herald could've just promoted some from within, or brought someone in from another outlet in the market. To their credit, they went in an entirely different direction, and hired Rapoport off the Alabama football beat with The Birmingham News. I'll confess, I had no idea who he was, probably no one else around here did either, and that was probably the best thing the paper could've done at that point.
They needed a fresh start, and they got it. When Rapoport was hired, I had the chance to talk with him, and he told me what to expect from him on the beat: "Fair, accurate, all-encompassing reporting for the newspapers and an endless stream of blog posts for our Web site. The fair and accurate parts don’t need much of an explanation, except to note that because I’m the beat reporter, I won’t write about my own opinion."
That was exactly what the Herald needed at that point, and Rapoport delivered. While he at times had a tendency to go a little crazy with off-topic posts on Twitter, he was a tenacious reporter, who gave you all the information you could want about the Patriots. His stories in the paper were always well written and free of slant. He gave the Herald back its credibility. He and Karen Guregian made a very good team on the beat the last few years, delivering (in my opinion) more content and coverage in the paper and online than any other outlet in town. I don't have the numbers of posts, articles, etc, but on a daily basis, the Herald would crank out 4-5 stories a day in print - more than the other papers in town - and also fill up the blog with multiple posts. At least anecdotically, it seems like the Herald has been more productive on the beat than their competition.
With Rapoport gone, what direction does the paper take? Do they look for another outsider, or do they take what Rapoport has built here and promote someone inside (Someone like, Dan Duggan for instance) to sort of take the torch and carry on in the same manner?
Whichever way the Herald decides to go, that person will have some big shoes to fill, and the Herald owes Ian Rapoport a big debt of gratitude for what he did for them.