Tag Archives: Worcester Telegram

Globe’s Catholic site, downtown move are getting closer

Published previously at WGBHNews.org

John Henry’s vision for The Boston Globe is slipping more and more into focus, as the paper is edging closer to launching its website covering Catholicism and moving from Dorchester to downtown Boston.

The Catholic site will include three reporters and a Web producer, according to an announcement by Teresa Hanafin, the longtime Globe veteran who will edit the project. Look for it to debut in September.

In addition to John Allen, who’s been covering the Church for the Globe since being lured away from the National Catholic Reporter earlier this year, the team will comprise Ines San Martin, an Argentinian journalist who will report from the Vatican; Michael O’Loughlin, a Yale Divinity School graduate who will be the site’s national reporter; and Web producer Christina Reinwald.

Unlike the Globe’s new print-oriented Friday Capital section, which covers politics, the Catholic site will be aimed both at and well beyond Boston with national and international audiences in mind. “It will have a global audience. There’s a natural audience for it,” Globe chief executive officer Mike Sheehan said in a just-published interview with CommonWealth magazine editor (and former Globe reporter) Bruce Mohl.

Because of that, Globe spokeswoman Ellen Clegg tells me, the Catholic site will be exempt from the Globe’s paywall. It will be interesting to see how Sheehan, an ad man by trade, grapples with the difficult challenge of selling enough online advertising to make it work. Although this is pure speculation, I wonder if some of the content could be repackaged in, say, a weekly print magazine supported by paid subscriptions and ads.

The relocation from Dorchester to downtown, meanwhile, has moved closer to reality. Thomas Grillo reported in the Boston Business Journal on Tuesday that John Henry has hired Colliers International to find 150,000 square feet of office space — a considerable downsizing from the 815,000 square feet in the 1950s-era Dorchester plant. The Globe’s printing operations would most likely be shifted to a facility in Millbury, which Henry kept when he recently sold the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester to a Florida chain.

One of the locations Colliers is investigating, Grillo reports, is in the Seaport District. And Sheehan, in the CommonWealth interview, says that would be his top choice: “I’d love to be in the Seaport area. If we were within walking distance of South Station, that would be ideal.”

If it happens, among the Globe’s new neighbors would be the Boston Herald, which moved to the Seaport District in 2012.

Six takeaways from BoMag’s big John Henry profile

John Henry

John Henry

This article was posted earlier at WGBH News.

The local media community has been buzzing since Tuesday, when Jason Schwartz’s 5,000-word Boston magazine article on the state of The Boston Globe under John Henry went live. The piece is chock-full of goodies, and you should read the whole thing. As you do, here are six takeaways for you to ponder.

1. It could have been a lot worse. Although we knew that Douglas Manchester, the right-wing hotel magnate who bought the San Diego Union-Tribune and unforgivably renamed it U-T San Diego, was interested in buying the Globe (he even threatened legal action after it was sold to Henry instead of him), it is nevertheless chilling to read Schwartz’s account of Manchester’s coming in and kicking the tires after the New York Times Co. put the Globe up for sale.

As I wrote in my book about online community journalism, “The Wired City,” Manchester has been described as “a minor-league Donald Trump” who uses his newspaper to promote his business interests as well as conservative causes such as his opposition to same-sex marriage.

In the Boston magazine article, Globe editor Brian McGrory tells Schwartz that “some potential bidders” — and by “some,” it’s clear that he’s including Manchester — would have “cut the living bejesus out of the place.” And Schwartz includes this delicious anecdote: “During the U-T San Diego presentation, people who were in the room attest, Manchester at one point instructed McGrory to call him ‘Papa Doug.’ McGrory did not call him Papa Doug.”

2. It’s official: The Globe is moving. Even before Henry won the Globe sweepstakes, it was clear that the next owner was likely to sell the paper’s 1950s-era Dorchester headquarters for redevelopment — a move that would presumably recoup virtually all of the $70 million Henry paid to purchase the Globe, the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester and related properties.

Henry has now made it official, telling Schwartz his goal is to move the paper to a smaller space with better access “in the heart of the city.”

Of course, the Globe still needs a printing press, not only for its own use but for other publications it prints under contract — including its tabloid rival, the Boston Herald. One likely possibility: the Telegram & Gazette’s printing facility in Millbury, which Henry said he was keeping when he announced recently that he was putting the T&G up for sale.

3. The two-website strategy needs an overhaul. Since the fall of 2011, the Globe has offered two websites: BostonGlobe.com, a paid-subscription site offering Globe content and a few extras; and Boston.com, a free site that’s been around since the mid-1990s.

The problem, Schwartz tells us, is that Boston.com, stripped of most Globe content, has been struggling, while BostonGlobe.com hasn’t produced as much revenue as Globe executives would like. The next step: a looser paywall for BostonGlobe.com to encourage more social sharing and a mobile-first Boston.com that’s still in development. (Joshua Benton has more at the Nieman Journalism Lab.)

4. Henry wants to reinvent the newspaper business. This week’s New Yorker includes a rather dispiriting account by George Packer of how Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com took over the book business. Anyone looking for signs that Bezos has a clear idea of what to do with The Washington Post, which he agreed to buy just days after Henry’s purchase of the Globe was announced, will come away disappointed — although he is, to his credit, spending money on the Post.

By contrast, Henry comes across as energized, bristling with ideas — peppering Brian McGrory with emails at all hours of the night — and getting ready to unveil new products, such as standalone websites that cover religion, innovation and other topics.

“I wanted to be a part of finding the solution for the Globe and newspapers in general,” Henry tells Schwartz. “I feel my mortality. I don’t want to waste any of the time I have left, and I felt this was a cause worth fighting for.”

5. Mike Barnicle is lurking off stage. If you were worried when you spotted Barnicle with Henry during the World Series, well, you were right to be. Barnicle, who left the Globe in 1998 after a career full of ethical missteps finally caught up with him, really does have Henry’s ear — and even supplied him with the email address of John Allen, the National Catholic Reporter journalist whom Henry successfully talked into coming to the Globe.

The old reprobate hasn’t changed, either, supplying Schwartz with a great quote that artfully combines religion with an F-bomb.

6. The executive team is now in place. By accepting publisher Christopher Mayer’s resignation, naming himself publisher and bringing in former Hill Holliday president Mike Sheehan as his chief executive officer, Henry has completed a series of moves that have remade the top layer of Globe leadership. McGrory is staying. Andrew Perlmutter, who made his bones at Atlantic Media and The Daily Beast, has replaced Jeff Moriarty, who left for a job in Britain, as the Globe’s chief digital strategist.

That’s not to rule out further change, especially if Henry’s goals aren’t met. But the sense you get is that Henry — to use a Red Sox analogy — now has his Larry Lucchino/Ben Cherington/John Farrell triumvirate in place. No doubt they all realize that winning a world championship is a lot easier than finding a profitable way forward for the beleaguered newspaper business.

When public information isn’t public

Many police departments in Central Massachusetts violate the law when asked to produce public police-log records, according to an investigation by the Worcester Sunday Telegram. Some flat-out refused. Others demanded identification in violation of the law, and three even went so far as to run a database check on the person requesting the records, the paper reports.

The law is clear,” the story begins. “Police departments must keep and update a daily log of their activities, reported crimes and arrests, and that log must be readily available to the public at no cost and with no questions asked.”

This interactive graphic provides a quick overview as to which police departments were in compliance and which weren’t.

Any of us who has worked in journalism knows that some police departments cooperate only with reporters they know and trust, despite the state public-records law, which requires them to produce records pertaining to incidents and people who’ve been arrested.

Police departments are not required to produce detailed incident reports about pending investigations.

Whenever I’ve sent students out to obtain police-log records, the results have been mixed. Boston Police, whose headquarters is a short walk from the Northeastern campus, was so accustomed to student requests that they’d form a virtual welcoming committee, giving them everything they needed before they were even asked. I eventually had to require that students visit other police departments — Boston was making it too easy.

But some police departments in Greater Boston were so uncooperative that my students were unable to complete the assignment unless they returned two or three times.

Media lawyer Jonathan Albano, a member of the board of directors of the Northeastern-affiliated New England First Amendment Coalition, tells the Telegram:

This shows why you need the public records law. People in those positions worry about if it’s all right or not to give someone this public information. After a while, they start to think of it as their information and that it’s their job to protect it.

The Telegram’s investigation also demonstrates the dangers of what happens when the police become a law unto themselves.

Worcester paper abandons printing presses, too

It’s become a flood. The Telegram & Gazette of Worcester has announced it’s shutting down most of its printing operations, costing 64 employees their jobs. The T&G will be printed at the Boston Globe. Both papers are owned by the New York Times Co.

The announcement comes within days of the Boston Herald’s deal with the Globe, and with the New Haven Register’s decision to shut down its presses and shift its printing operations to the Hartford Courant.

Total job loss: 222. Absolutely necessary. And a tragedy for the workers, their families and the local economy.

A lackluster 2011 for the Globe’s finances

Looks like it’s been a pretty lackluster 2011 so far for the Boston Globe, according to the latest financial results from the New York Times Co. Revenues at the New England Media Group, which consists of the Globe, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and Boston.com, were down 3.6 percent for the second quarter compared to 2010, and down 4.3 percent for the first six months.

That includes a 2.7 percent decline in advertising revenue for the quarter (3.8 percent for the first six months) and a 5.4 percent drop in circulation revenue for the quarter (6 percent for the first six months). Total revenue for the second quarter was reported at $102.5 million. The circulation decline suggests that the higher prices instituted for the print edition a couple of years ago have now worked their way through the system, and that revenues are sliding as the number of papers sold continues to shrink, as is the case at most daily newspapers.

Business has stabilized at the Globe — certainly compared to 2009, when the Times Co. was threatening to close the company if it couldn’t extract painful union concessions in the face of huge operating losses. But neither the Globe nor the newspaper business in general is close to being out of the woods.

Next stop is the Globe’s experiment in charging for online distribution, scheduled to be unveiled later this year. The Times itself has apparently had some success with its own pay model. The delicate state of the Globe’s finances shows how important it is that its own experiment doesn’t blow up in the lab.

Also: News business analyst Alan Mutter recently analyzed the unexpectedly steep drop in newspaper advertising revenue.

The Taylors make another run at the Globe

News that Ben and Steve Taylor have signed on to businessman Aaron Kushner’s bid to buy the Boston Globe has changed the dynamic. The Taylors, of course, are prominent members of the family that owned and ran the Globe for more than 100 years. Ben was the publisher before he was ousted in 1999. Steve was executive vice president.

The Taylors, who are cousins, fell short in a bid to buy the paper back from the New York Times Co. in 2009. The reason was never announced, but the buzz was that their group was undercapitalized, and that the Times Co. would have had to accept a ridiculously low price in that year of economic crisis. The Globe would undoubtedly be worth more now, but how much more is hard to say.

The significance of the Taylors’ involvement is that there now will be support within influential circles for the Times Co. to return the Globe to local ownership.

Would Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger sell the Globe? By placing the Globe, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and their associated websites on the block in 2009, he made it clear that he would if the price was right and if he and other Times Co. executives were comfortable with the buyers.

I suspect the big question they’ll now have to answer is whether they can get the price they want — or if, instead, they think they can get more by hanging on to their New England properties for another few years.

The Globe first reported Kushner’s interest last October.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

A possible buyer emerges for the Globe and T&G

Is the Boston Globe for sale? For the right price — maybe. An investment group headed by a 37-year-old greeting-card entrepreneur named Aaron Kushner emerged this afternoon as a possible buyer for the Globe, Boston.com and the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester.

But the New York Times Co., which wanted to sell the properties in 2009, may no longer be interested. No doubt that would change if Kushner’s group is prepared to fork over some serious money. But we don’t know that yet.

Another caution: Kushner says he wants to beef up the newsroom. Well, wouldn’t we all? He may be well-intentioned, but no one is going to bolster the Globe’s staff unless his intention is to operate the paper at a loss.

Ralph Ranalli is gathering links at Beat the Press.

Boston Globe edges closer to paywall

The Boston Globe will soon start charging for online content, Eric Convey reports in the Boston Business Journal. As with plans being developed by its corporate cousin the New York Times, the Globe’s paywall will be deliberately porous so that bloggers and their readers can share a certain number of stories each month. Heavy users, though, will be expected to cough up.

I predict, at best, very limited success — so limited that it may prove not worth doing. The Times Co. reported today that its revenue from print advertising and circulation continues to fall, but that online ad revenues are up by 14 percent compared to a year ago. Yes, the overall volume is lower, but online is where the growth is.

Rupert Murdoch’s Times of London lost between two-thirds and 90 percent of its online readers when it erected an admittedly more rigid paywall earlier this year. The Globe’s website, Boston.com, draws about 5 million unique visitors each month. The paywall could wind up alienating readers and advertisers alike.

I’d keep Boston.com free but get rid of the “Today’s Globe” section, which is a perfect replica of the print edition. Post most Globe stories to Boston.com, but maybe not all of them. Make sure readers get the message that the Globe and Boston.com are not the same. And reserve the full contents of the Globe itself for paid platforms — not just print, but mobile, iPad, Reader, Kindle and the like.

The Boston Herald already does a good job of differentiating its print and online editions. And the Globe has a greater opportunity, because the Herald is lagging in alternative electronic platforms.

More from Ralph Ranalli at BeatthePress.org, whose post alerted me to this story. Also, another Times Co. property, the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester, started charging for online content last month.

Telegram.com takes the paid-content plunge

The Telegram & Gazette of Worcester began charging for online content today. It’s a move widely seen as a test run for the New York Times, which plans to start charging for Web access next year, and whose parent company also owns the T&G (as well as the Boston Globe).

The T&G model, explained in a memo from publisher Bruce Gaultney and editor Leah Lamson, is fairly complex, as the Times model reportedly will be. Here are the basics:

  • Print subscribers will have full access to Telegram.com for no additional charge.
  • Non-subscribers will be able to access up to 10 local stories per month without paying. But they will have to register.
  • Non-subscribers who wish to access more than 10 local stories will have to pay $14.95 per month or $1 for a day pass.
  • Some Web content will remain free, including breaking-news stories.

Will the plan succeed? It depends on your definition of success. It may bolster print circulation, or at least slow its decline. The tiered pricing system is clearly aimed at non-subscribers who make heavy use of the website. Anyone who’s thinking about dropping his print subscription will now have a good reason not to do so.

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the T&G’s Monday-through-Friday circulation is about 70,000, and 81,000 buy the Sunday paper. Among other things, charging for Web access will allow management to count paying online readers in those numbers.

On the other hand, I doubt many people are going to fork over $14.95 a month to read Telegram.com without getting the paper. Even if the move bolsters the Telegram’s bottom line, the danger is that the website will wither. (According to Compete.com, the T&G’s website draws about 275,000 unique visitors each month. The T&G claims about 800,000. Measuring online traffic is notoriously difficult.)

I also don’t see how this amounts to a test run for the Times — the papers are too different. The T&G’s readership is almost entirely local, and I can’t imagine its website has ever been a major priority. The Times is a national paper whose website, NYTimes.com, with nearly 20 million unique vistors per month, is the most widely read newspaper.com in the country.

Yet the T&G may be better positioned to get away with this than the Times, which has any number of competitors for national and international news. There is little competition for news in Worcester and the surrounding area — although this does present an opportunity for an existing news organization to beef up its own free website.

Based on a sampling of the more than 300 comments to Gaultney and Lamson’s memo, it doesn’t seem that the T&G’s announcement has been well-received. Yet that’s a self-selecting group. I did like the comment from the reader who buys a copy on his way to work every morning and thus won’t get free Web access. Management needs to think about how to take care of good customers like him.

My prediction is that the move will be of limited benefit, but that it won’t look that way. Very few people will sign up for Web access, and print circulation will continue to decline — but the drop in print would be worse if the T&G hadn’t made this move.

Note: I spoke with WBUR Radio (90.9 FM) this morning about the T&G’s move. I’m not sure whether it made it on to the newscast, and it doesn’t seem to have been posted online yet.

Worcester Guild slams Times Co. executives

One month after Newspaper Guild members at the Boston Globe circulated a letter criticizing New York Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger and president Janet Robinson for richly rewarding themselves while threatening to shut the Globe, their counterparts at Worcester’s Telegram & Gazette have followed suit.

Beset by what they describe as a four-year pay freeze, substantial newsroom downsizing and proposed cuts in benefits, union officials say management has repeatedly called for “sacrifice” while Sulzberger and Robinson paid themselves more than $12 million in 2009.

As you no doubt know, the Times Co. operates the Globe, the T&G and Boston.com as a unit known as the New England Media Group. But though the Guild has a presence at both papers, the largest union at the Globe is the Boston Newspaper Guild, whereas T&G employees are represented by the Providence Newspaper Guild.

The Worcester protest coincides with an announcement by the T&G that it will start charging for some online content starting this summer. (So, too, will the Concord Monitor, as the paid-content trend continues to ramp up. Here is Tony Schinella’s take.)

The full text of the Worcester Guild’s press release and letter to Sulzberger and Robinson follows.

NYTimes Execs Big Raises Gall Guild in Worcester

Contact:

Bob Datz  508 xxx-xxxx
Lee Hammel 508 xxx-xxxx
Worcester Unit Council members
Local 31041 The Newspaper Guild

The letter below was sent April 23 to NY Times Co. chairman  Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and CEO Janet Robinson by the Worcester (Mass.) unit of The Newspaper Guild, expressing frustration with the enormous pay raises they recived.

During the three years that contract negotiations with the Guild in Worcester have stretched out, the company has offered its employees no pay raise. (The day before union members were scheduled to ratify the letter,  the company finally offered a one-time $750 signing bonus, which amounts to about  0.4 percent of pay over 3 years without raising base pay, in exchange for stripping away hard-won rights and benefits).

We would appreciate if you would consider a story alerting your readers to the dichotomy between the NYTimes editorial insistence that others behave justly and its attitude toward its own employees.

April 23, 2010

Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr.
Chairman
Janet Robinson
President and Chief Executive Officer
The New York Times Company
620 8th Avenue
New York, NY10018

Dear Arthur and Janet,

Many of us at the Telegram & Gazette in Worcester don’t pay a lot of attention to high finance in New York. We have terrific jobs in the world’s best industry, and we are only too happy to concentrate on the business and politics and human drama that enliven Central Massachusettsday in and day out that we are privileged to gather and write and distribute.

But even the most focused of us could not help but notice the pay raises that both of you received for 2009. You have told us that our business is changing and times are difficult, and we have heard the same in contract negotiations over the past three years. We understand that we must change with the times in an environment where paid circulation and advertising revenue are falling. And management has told us that sacrifice is necessary.

So imagine our surprise upon learning the kind of “sacrifice” that you are enduring. As President and Chief Executive Officer, you Janet, have been given a 31.8 percent increase in salary, bonus, and other compensation in a single year, bringing your total compensation to $6.3 million.

Arthur, as Board Chairman and Publisher of the New York Times, your total compensation more than doubled in 2009, to $6 million. The $3.7 million that your compensation increased could pay the salary of some 75 of the people that have been laid off by the company, some of whom we have been saddened to see walk out our own doors.

Meanwhile, The Newspaper Guild has been in negotiation with the management in Worcester, as our contract expired nearly three years ago. Fortunately, we are told, the Telegram & Gazette is not only not losing money, but continues to make money through this period, albeit at lower than customary levels.

Nevertheless we have been offered neither a pay raise nor bonus over a four-year period. In fact, the company proposes to slash real compensation when benefits are considered. Management also wants to stop offering a pension to any new hires and to freeze the guaranteed pension of those of us who have one, in a “tradeoff” that the company should be well aware calculates to significant losses in projected retirement income.

While offering little or no financial incentive, the company wants to change contract language to remove the substantial equivalency of our medical coverage with no guarantees on the proportionate sharing of the premium costs. Finally, the company wishes to be allowed to lay off employees regardless of seniority.

This takes place in a backdrop of existing layoffs, buyouts and hiring freezes that have brought an 18 percent reduction of the company’s work force in 2009 alone. The employees remaining are asked, or forced, to reduce their benefits in the wake of a management decision to build a new skyscraper for the company headquarters. Our productivity subsidizes not only distant and ill-fated real estate transactions (click here) but deficits in units where employees are paid significantly better than we are, even with recent concessionary contracts.

We are thrilled to see the New York Times editorial pages seek fair treatment for people. Arthur and Janet, we ask that we, like you, receive some financial consideration for our efforts and that you recognize the increased work load we have taken on, because we, like you, have families who depend on us.

Sincerely,

Members of The Newspaper Guild
Worcester Unit, Local 31041