Kevin Cullen

N.H. scribe’s vile Plan B

By Kevin Cullen
Globe Columnist / March 22, 2011

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It’s tough to make a living in the newspaper business these days.

Every paper has seen its revenue shrink, as classified advertising has moved to the Web, as have a lot of readers. Newsroom jobs and salaries have been cut. And a lot of newspaper people have had to get second jobs.

Many teach journalism. Others tend bar, write books, tutor kids, and I know a guy who gives guitar lessons.

All pretty boring stuff compared to Kevin Provencher. When his bosses cut his pay as a sportswriter for the Union-Leader in Manchester, N.H., Provencher started moonlighting as a pimp.

His chosen second profession is particularly revolting, as it involves the exploitation of women to satisfy men who need a psychiatrist more than a hooker.

But it’s a shockingly good story — good as in interesting, ironic, and downright sad.

It’s interesting because Provencher was no journalistic slouch; he was a four-time New Hampshire sportswriter of the year.

It’s ironic because Provencher advertised his prostitution business on Craigslist, the free Web listing service that has done wonders to ruin the revenue stream that paid for journalists and the most ambitious journalism.

And it’s downright sad because the lives involved in all of this are just that.

Provencher was arrested and lost his job at the Union-Leader in the summer of 2009, when workers at a hotel in Andover noticed that a succession of men were using the rooms on Minuteman Road for, um, minutes. While the cops didn’t know it at the time, there was a dead giveaway that Provencher was a newspaperman: whenever he booked hotel rooms, he insisted on getting reward points.

A couple of Andover police detectives, Mike Lane and Greg Scott, set up a sting and got some of Provencher’s hookers to tell them and State Police Sergeant Pi Heseltine the whole story. Provencher was cute: He set up a website that purported to represent a female-run escort service. When women answered the ad, someone named “Patti’’ replied, but when they went for their interview at a hotel, Provencher was waiting. He had sex with them, police said, seemingly as a condition of hiring.

He used Craigslist and other sites to advertise his hookers’ services, $240 for an hour and $150 for a half-hour. Provencher split the money with the women, but made them pay for the hotel room, according to Essex Assistant District Attorney Melissa Woodard, who prosecuted him.

Last week, Provencher pleaded guilty and threw himself on the mercy of Judge Feeley in Salem Superior Court, saying newsroom cutbacks drove him to a life of crime. But Feeley’s first name is Timothy, not Touchy, and he wasn’t buying it. He sentenced Provencher to 2 1/2 years in jail.

Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said his office prosecutes about 50 pimps a year, but none has ever fit the profile of Kevin Provencher. “He was someone who had a good job and the respect of his peers, and he threw it all away,’’ Blodgett said. “It doesn’t escape me that he used his journalistic skills, and Craigslist, to run a prostitution business. It leaves me shaking my head.’’

Down-on-their-luck sportswriters turning to crime is a couple of cases away from becoming a Newsweek cover story. Blodgett said his first assistant, Jack Dawley, is preparing to go to trial against Ken Powers, the Patriots beat writer for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette who was fired in 2005 for plagiarism. Powers is accused of stealing $100,000 from the golf shop he was managing.

Mommas, don’t let your babies grow up to be sportswriters.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at