By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Thinking about a locally owned Globe

What would a locally owned Boston Globe look like? How would it differ from the New York Times Co.-owned version?

It may be too soon to answer those questions, but it’s certainly not too soon to ask them. The Globe continues to be a drain on Times Co. revenues. Company executives respond by cutting the Globe still further. It’s an endless cycle, and one that is getting increasingly nasty.

Today’s Boston Herald reports that some 20 politicians and union officials, including Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. Stephen Lynch, have signed letters urging the Times Co. to ease up on the slice-o-matic. And check out this toxic quote from Dan Totten, president of the Boston Newspaper Guild, in today’s New York Post: “It seems to us they’ve ruined the paper and are guilty of gutting it.” This goes far beyond the rhetoric of previous Globe union heads, such as Robert Jordan and Steve Richards.

Let’s be honest: Local ownership would not save the Globe from advertising and circulation pressures. You hear a lot of talk in newspaper circles about local owners’ being willing to accept lower profit margins, such as 5 or 10 percent, as opposed to the 20 percent or more demanded by corporate owners such as Gannett, the former Knight Ridder and the Times Co. But as the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, the Globe right now isn’t making any money at all.

Whether locally owned or not, large regional dailies such as the Globe are going to keep getting smaller and more focused on covering their region rather than the entire world. When the Times, the Washington Post, the BBC et al. are just a click away, the mission statement of a paper such as the Globe has to change.

Nevertheless, the corporate-ownership model may be reaching the end of its useful life in the newspaper business. The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News have been sold to a local group. The Chicago-based Tribune Co. is under pressure to sell the Los Angeles Times to L.A. investors. Why not here?

What’s missing is an identifiable group of Boston-based investors who’d be interested in buying the Globe. I would love to see such a group step forward so we could all have a look. A locally owned Globe might be a better Globe — but it all depends on who those owners might be.

Update: Romenesko’s got PDFs of the letters. And the Times reports that its parent company isn’t selling the Globe. Not yet!

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Coloring the debate


Gee whiz


  1. Rick in Duxbury

    “an identifiable group of Boston-based investors”. Oh they’re there, all right. The Globe has been mocking their world view for years. We reap what we sow.

  2. Citizen Charles Foster Kane

    Well Rick, since you seem to know who they are, why are you holding out on us? Dan doesn’t know who they are, I don’t know who they are. Why don’t you be a sport and clue us in?

  3. Rick in Duxbury

    CFK,You miss the point. Unless Soros is looking for another hobby, the Globe is circling the bowl. Think Bain is a prospect? How about Abby Johnson? (been there, done that). Pete Nicholas? Tom Flatley? The Fish or Cashman families? Why would anyone with money invest in a paper whose message, over the last 20 years, has become wealth redistribution? If you can get people to invest in a suicide pact, you are indeed eloquent. (Although I pray to God it’s not my money you’re managing).

  4. Anonymous

    C’mon Rick, that’s a pile of sophistry. these guys want to make $$$. they dont care about ideology. plenty of ways to hit it big with globe. buy it up along with the Gatehouse (ex-CNC) papers and create a monopoly, killing off the herald and taking over the regional car ads completely. put some rich NE content back into the globe – the times gutted that and a lot more – and make the paper more exciting (like yes the herald). hire some columnists who are under 48 and actually leave the building to do their reporting. i could go on but i dont consult for free.

  5. Amusedbutinformedobserver

    Ready to admit that the past claims that characterizing the globe as awash in red ink, based as they were on onthing more than speculation, were a bit premature?All anyone has right now is the Wall Street Journal saying “people familar with” the paper’s numbers say it is “on track” for an “unprofitable” year.What in perdition does that mean?The facts are no losses have been reported for Boston by the parent, publicly-held company. The question about operating losses in Boston didn’t even come up in the analysts conference-call about the NYT Co.’s third-quarter results. To run with speculation as fact would be repeating the ultimate Internet sin. Unfortunately that sin is committed with depressing regularity.Internet blogs are notorious for playing fast and loose with the facts and it appears that we are on track for another round of unfounded claims about el Globbo. (Then again, there was never any corroboration for a 2001 Phoenix claim attributed to Frank Phillips, printed without any apparent effort to confirm it, that the Taylors “would operate the paper at a lower profit margin, or even a loss”[06/07/01]).Beware the perils of one-source journalism — in print or on-line. Questions before conclusions, please.

  6. Dan Kennedy

    Amused –I’m glad you mentioned my 6/7/01 story, which I think has held up remarkably well. Have a look, folks, and see if you think it’s “one-source journalism.”As for my supposedly nonexistent attempts to “confirm” Frank Phillips’ claim about the Taylors, you might have missed this:”Earlier this year, Bill Taylor, through a spokeswoman, declined a written request for an interview to talk about the way the Times Company has managed the Globe. Ben Taylor did not respond to a telephone request for an interview.”As for your analysis of the Wall Street Journal story, what can I say? It seems like the worse the numbers get, the more you don’t believe them. The WSJ story is certainly in accord with what my sources have been telling me.

  7. Rick in Duxbury

    Dan,Touche. Amused took the time to listen in on the analysts conference call but is surprised no one at the Globe spoke on the record about the situation? Never mind the SEC, at my firm talking to the press without authorization gets one shown to the door. I suppose a positive attitude is a good thing though…

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