Flanagan 'report' about Herald News 'unsubstantiated and untrue'
Jack Foley | Herald News
On Wednesday afternoon, Fall River Mayor Will Flanagan sent a text message to Herald News city hall reporter Jo Goode claiming that a "reliable source" told him a local businessman made an offer to buy the newspaper. Flanagan's cell phone number has been blurred.
The Herald News is not for sale, and businessman Joseph Ruggiero has not placed a bid to buy the newspaper, said Lisa Strattan, the publisher of The Herald News , Taunton Daily Gazette and O Jornal .
“We haven’t received any sort of offer, and we’re not even for sale,” Strattan said Friday after Mayor William Flanagan “confirmed” on radio station WSAR that Ruggiero had told him that he had recently placed a bid for The Herald News .
“It’s astonishing to me that the mayor of our city would target a taxpaying business that has been established in the city for nearly 140 years and spread unsubstantiated and untrue rumors throughout the city and in the media,” Strattan said.
Flanagan declined to respond directly to Strattan’s criticism. Flanagan said he was only confirming a “fact” when WSAR News Director Barry Richard asked him on his Thursday afternoon Newsroom show to confirm rumors that he was helping to broker a $4.5 million deal for a local developer to buy the newspaper.
Flanagan said he told Richard that Ruggiero had recently told him he was interested in The Herald News , and that Ruggiero told Flanagan that he had placed an offer to buy the newspaper. Flanagan did not offer a dollar amount for Ruggiero’s bid.
“I was asked a question, and I answered the question,” Flanagan said Friday. “It’s not unheard of for business people to buy news outlets. Bob Kraft [the owner of the New England Patriots] put in an offer to buy the Boston Globe .”
However, on Wednesday afternoon, Flanagan sent a text message to Herald News city hall reporter Jo Goode propagating the same tale. “FYI, I was told from a reliable source that Joe Ruggiero placed an offer to by (sic) the Herald News!” the text message read.
“The Herald News is a stone’s throw from Government Center,” Strattan said. “It’s unfathomable that the mayor would ‘confirm’ this erroneous report in the public arena and on air when he – or the radio station – could have just as easily picked up the phone and learned the truth. I don’t know who is more ridiculous.”
Flanagan raised the Ruggiero issue at a time when The Herald News ’ parent company, GateHouse Media Inc., has filed for voluntary chapter 11 bankruptcy to restructure $1.2 billion of debt scheduled to come due in August 2014. GateHouse plans to reorganize into a new company with Local Media Group, which owns the Cape Cod Times and The Standard-Times of New Bedford, after it emerges from bankruptcy.