It’s the end of an era at the Boston Herald: Editor in chief Joe Sciacca is leaving the newspaper after nearly four decades for a job at WHDH-TV.
Linda Miele, news director at WHDH, announced Sciacca’s hiring in an e-mail to staff on Tuesday.
“I’m very excited to share the news that Joe Sciacca is joining our newsroom,” Miele wrote. “Joe’s been the editor-in-chief at the Boston Herald for almost 10 years and a journalist in this area for more than 40 years. His enthusiasm for what we do and his skill in doing it are unmatched.”
As an enterprise editor at the Sunbeam Television-owned station, Sciacca will organize WHDH’s investigations and coverage of big events, such as the New Hampshire presidential primaries.
Sciacca first joined the Herald in 1983 and became the editor of the tabloid in 2010.
After hedge fund firm Alden Global Capital acquired the paper in 2018, Sciacca’s responsibilities expanded to include other papers in Alden’s MediaNews Group chain.
As a regional editor for the chain, he manages journalists at the Sun of Lowell and the Sentinel & Enterprise of Fitchburg as well as four daily papers in upstate New York.
The veteran newsman took to Twitter to say he’s excited “about this new chapter and proud of the incredible work by my Herald newsroom colleagues that keeps that important voice alive. I’ll remain a loyal reader, that’s for sure!”
Like many other daily newspapers, the Herald has endured painful staffing cuts in recent years as the industry reels from drastic declines in print ad revenue.
The Herald employed some 240 people two years ago, when it was still under local ownership, overseen by publisher Pat Purcell.
At the time, Purcell tried to sell the paper through a bankruptcy process to GateHouse Media, which took on the Gannett name after GateHouse and Gannett merged last month. But bankruptcy auctions allow for other suitors: Alden Global arrived as a last-minute bidder with its newspaper chain, then also known as Digital First Media, and eventually beat out GateHouse with a nearly $12 million bid for the paper.
Digital First, a company notorious for its cost-cutting, had pledged to offer jobs to 175 Herald workers at the time of the sale.
But by the end of 2018, roughly 100 employees remained, and job cuts continued in 2019. The Herald left its Seaport District digs for an office in Braintree, while much of the copy editing work was outsourced to MediaNews colleagues in Denver, and ad sales shifted to Lowell.
Newspapers have also struggled to hang onto print readers, and have generally increased prices in part to compensate for circulation declines.
In the Herald’s case, the daily print circulation fell to about 34,000, including nearly 21,000 from newsstand sales, in the third quarter of 2019, according to data provided by the Alliance for Audited Media. That represents a drop from about 44,000 two years ago, including 28,000 single-copy sales. (The Herald’s overall circulation, including digital subscriptions, totaled about 60,000 in the third quarter.)
Sciacca didn’t respond to an e-mail from The Boston Globe seeking a comment about his move. But he spoke of the industry’s troubles in an interview with WBUR. “There are lots of things that I might have been able to do 20 years ago that I can’t do today because of financial constraints and resources that are tighter,” Sciacca told the radio station. “But, to me, honestly, every day that the Herald is published is a win. It’s a win for Boston; it’s a win for the readers. And so, I’m somebody who, as an advocate for journalism, whatever it takes to keep that paper afloat, I’m going to support it.”