Patrick J. Purcell, longtime owner and publisher of the Boston Herald, is someone who has spent most of his adult life tending to one of the most essential tasks of our democracy: leading civic conversations that are sometimes contentious but are invariably important. While his efforts on behalf of journalism for the city are well known, the personal impact he has had on so many over decades isn’t as well known.
Boston knows Pat as the driven media executive who long ago bought the Herald from Rupert Murdoch and infused it with a very strong vision for his adopted city. But he is also unfailingly described as a loyal friend and devoted family man, who landed here after a colorful career in New York and became a Bostonian to the core.
I was giving Pat a tour of the Globe’s new print facility in Taunton about a year ago and as we walked through, people would seek him out just to shake his hand to thank him for things he had quietly done for them personally, or for having helped a family member or associate. Herald colleagues tell similar stories of a tough negotiator and businessman who nevertheless took time to make sure that an employee struggling with a serious issue was taken care of.
His passion for local issues is legend. Under his leadership, the Herald brought a strong local flavor — and decidedly sharp elbows — to coverage of politics, business, crime, and sports.
I saw that firsthand during the first decade I spent in Boston. Right after acquiring the Red Sox, we went to see Pat and his editorial board. The Herald had not been kind at all during the Sox sales process because he had wanted local ownership to prevail. Who were these out-of-towners!? We went to the Herald bearing gifts. We presented Pat with a hatchet, seeking to bury the past and start afresh with an attitude that we were all in this together going forward.
Today the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, and media in general in the Greater Boston area — including GateHouse, which is everywhere in Massachusetts — we are all in this together. We continue to bring relevant, diverging points of view and unlike so many cities in America, we continue to have sizeable, vibrant newsrooms because of the strong support we receive from readers just like you.
I know Pat would have liked to have retired some time ago. He spent the last five years of his life looking for a buyer who could create the next era of the Boston Herald. He had employees he did not want to disappoint. He had readers he was determined were going to hear an alternative view to every other media organization in Boston on important issues. His opinion page has always been first class. He did not want to see those voices silenced.
So it must have been a very, very difficult day when, after 33 years at the helm, Pat finally decided he could no longer continue funding the Herald. He could have chosen to close and file for disposition – Chapter 7. But he chose reorganization in the hope that someone else would opt to continue the proud tradition of the Boston Herald.
While I am a great admirer of the Boston Globe, I am also a subscriber to the Boston Herald. My hope is that GateHouse (or another bidder) will carry on the work of the Herald.
Similarly, I hope that the people of Boston will recognize and celebrate what Pat Purcell brought to our great city over his years in charge of a feisty, driven, provocative newspaper. He made us sit up and take notice seven days a week.
Good luck, Herald. Good luck, Pat – and thank you for all these years of service, dedication, and passion for our city.