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

The vagaries of “not for sale”

In a profile today of entertainment mogul David Geffen and his interest in buying the Los Angeles Times (last item linked, below), New York Times reporters Geraldine Fabrikant and Sharon Waxman write that the New York Times Co. has said the Boston Globe is not for sale.

Knowing that the Globe recently posted a correction for a similar assertion by columnist Steve Bailey, I thought a review was in order. See if you can make any sense of this:

“Times Co. has said repeatedly that the Globe, despite its continued poor financial results, is not for sale.” — Steve Bailey, Boston Globe, Oct. 25

“Because of a reporting error, a Page One story and headline yesterday about a group of local business executives exploring a bid to purchase the Globe incorrectly stated that The New York Times Co. has repeatedly said the paper is not for sale. Times Co. executives have not commented publicly on any potential sale of the Globe.” — Correction, Boston Globe, Oct. 26

“The New York Times Company says The Globe is not for sale.” — “Today in Business,” New York Times, Oct. 26

“Times Co. officials had no comment yesterday. In a memo to Globe employees, recently appointed publisher P. Steven Ainsley said federal securities laws prohibited Times Co. officials from commenting on potential mergers and acquisitions, regardless of whether the rumors ‘are true or not.'” — Robert Gavin, Boston Globe, Oct. 26

“Catherine Mathis, a spokeswoman for The New York Times Company, said the company did not comment on potential acquisitions or sales. ‘We view The Globe as an important asset,’ she said.” — Landon Thomas Jr., New York Times, Nov. 2

“A Times Co. spokeswoman declined to comment, referring me to previous statements, which talked about the company’s commitment to growing Globe revenues, but acknowledging it is constantly reviewing its portfolio.” — Steve Bailey, Boston Globe, Nov. 3

“The New York Times Company, which owns The Globe, has said the paper is not for sale.” — Geraldine Fabrikant and Sharon Waxman, New York Times, Nov. 9

Here’s what it looks like to me: Whenever anyone actually asks someone at the Times Co. about the Globe, the response is a non-response. But whenever the urge strikes to stick in boilerplate language, the bit about the Globe’s not being for sale creeps in.

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  1. Anonymous

    Dan, you’re expending an awful lot of energy on a largely irrelevant publication. Who cares what happens to either of the two lame ass dalies in this town? Neither are of interest to anyone with an internet connection.

  2. Anonymous

    I don’t even know where to start about all the media mediocrity in the last few days, from the Depetro and Enterscum depravity, to the afraid-of-their-shadow cable networks with the Brit Fume’s smokescreens and Matthews on crack to Brian Baloney and other wingnut delusions and self-denials to irrelevant newspapers not knowing how to thread a new media age and losing value faster than the hyped Rove myth….I just wanted to stop and send my condolences to a good man’s family. Ed Bradley left us today and I am not sure how painful the last few days might have been. It seems he has worked through a lot of therapy and weight loss. HE should be a good example to follow for a new crop of investigative reporters, not only black ones, but of any stripe. Great career. Great Work. Great personality on screen and great credibility, selfless devotion to covering the plain news and facts. High standard for many to shoot for, for all the last thirty years plus.You rest in peace, Ed.N.

  3. Anonymous

    About this newspaper business, there is a revealing piece from Finke – she is usually pretty accurate with reliable sources- about what Geffen would love to do with the paper.I agree with most of what is attributed to said plans. I have dreamt about some of those things implemented for our area papers. So as it seems, it may not be such a bad thing for a Geffen to acutally be able to consumate the deal, after we have gotten past the interpretations and deciphering of what corporate spokespeople really meant with boilerplate denial-non denials.N FinkeOh, and did the Herald ‘borrow’ that “Rums Felled” headline from the Mirror??? Coincidental?? Oh ok…N.

  4. Anonymous

    “irrelevant publications”? I still wonder what any of you will do when/if regular newspapers go under? Sure they do a lot things wrong but why do so many people seem to be anxious to see them go the way of the dinosaur? I would hope they have a place in the future because the thought of them completely gone is not one of comfort to me. Online only might be the future but we’re all still waiting for the financial model of that to be worked out. It takes money to run any news organizaton of worth so unless you’re ready to start subscribing to multiple websites, give it a rest.

  5. Anonymous

    I referred to the Globe as largely irrelevant – that doesn’t mean that is how I view all newspapers or print media in general.I’m not saying the Globe is irrelevant because it is old/mainstream media. My point is that in an era in which the discerning reader has so many excellent options via the web, a mediocrity like the Globe doesn’t compete.Why should I get my national/international news from the Globe, when much of what they print in the front section of the paper comes from better newspapers (LA Times, Washington Post, which I can read online), or from the wire services (which I can access more completely online).Then there’s the local coverage – thin and superficial. Every day I pick up the City/Region section, all three or four pages of it, and marvel at what a small town Boston must be. So nice and quiet out here in the middle of nowhere.The Business section – anyone consider that their go-to for economic news? The op-ed page is a waste, except when they have good guest piece. The sports section is ok. But for every writer there I like (Ryan, Edes), there’s another I refuse to even read anymore (Shaughnessy, Borges). And there is always

  6. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 7:41: I come not to defend the Globe, but to point out some realities.The Globe has changed its front-page mix considerably in the past year or so. Now more than ever, page one is mostly local. So the City & Region section has really become a place for secondary local stories, much more than was the case 10 or even two years ago.As for the rest of your comments — look, we’d all like to see the Globe improve. And I wish the Herald was the paper it was in the mid to late ’90s. But answer me two questions:1. Is there a better source of reliable, fully reported and edited news about Massachusetts and Greater Boston than the Globe and, to a lesser extent, the Herald?2. Is there a paper anywhere in the United States that’s roughly the same size as the Globe that’s also a better paper than the Globe?Those questions are partly rhetorical, but partly sincere. Make your case. I’m curious.

  7. mike_b1

    Dan, by roughly the same size, do you mean by revenue or circ?Certainly the top four papers in terms of size and influence are the NY Times, WSJ, Wash Post and LA Times. (USA Today would rank 1st or 2d in circ, depending on how you slice it, but not in influence). The Globe falls in that next tier of family newspapers in large markets. The Chicago Trib, Phil Inquirer, Miami Herald, Dallas Morning Sun, SF Chronicle, and a few others would be in there as well. If that’s how you would group them, then I would say the Herald is hands down the best of that lot, poised to join the upper tier, and that the Globe falls somewhere toward the bottom of the rest of the group. Except for the Trib, I certainly don’t read all those papers daily, or even occasionally, though, so that’s just a personal impression.

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Mike: I mean roughly the same circulation, serving roughly the same size metro area. I do not read them regularly, either. My impressionistic view going back 15 years is that the Globe is about the best of the second tier, after the Times, the Post, the LA Times and the Wall Street Journal (not necessarily in that order; the Journal is the best paper in the country at its mission, which is obviously narrower than that of the Times and the Post). But certainly not USA Today.The Miami Herald has been decimated by cuts in recent years, so much so that that may have been a factor in Marty Baron’s deciding to leave his home state and come to Boston. (He’s never said.) Could it have really improved that much?The Philadelphia Inquirer is obviously struggling.Huge cuts have been announced at the Dallas Morning News.The Chicago Tribune ought to be in the first tier given the size of its metro area but never has been. Still, it’s certainly got the resources where it could be better than the Globe.The San Francisco Chronicle long had a reputation for being perhaps the worst big-city paper in the country — so bad that the San Jose Mercury News was trucked into the city from the suburbs every day. But by most accounts, the Chronicle has improved considerably under new ownership, so who knows?

  9. Anonymous

    Anon. 7:41 here, finally checking back in -Dan, I follow your points, and I appreciate your willingness to engage someone who is being so critical.To address your first question – no, there isn’t. But to me, that’s not the issue. The issue for me is that the Globe’s local coverage could be so much better than it is. Is there a better professional baseball team in the Tampa metro area than the Tampa Bay Devil Rays? Does that make the Devil Rays a particularly good major league team? Regarding your second question – I think I see your point. The Globe manages to be a decent paper, even though it doesn’t have anywhere near the resources the NY Times or Washington Post have.But again, I look at it differently. In my view, the Globe should be much bigger than it is. Just think of the potential audience they are somehow failing to fully engage. The greater Boston area is a major center of culture, polictics, research and academia. How can they have Harvard University, MIT, Tufts, BU, Northeastern, BC, Brandeis, UMass/Boston, etc.; the research hospitals – MGH, the Brigham, Dana-Farber, Beth Israel Deaconness, Joslin, Mass. Eye and Ear, etc., plus the biomedical companies; the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the MFA, Berklee, New England Conservatory, Mass. College of Art, the Museum School, etc.; plus Beacon Hill and the entire city of Boston, plus Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, and Newton, and so on; and oh yeah, the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins, right in their primary market and NOT be a first class paper? One other note – for me, it’s not only what’s sometimes missing in the Globe that is the problem. Just as often, it’s what’s there that I find so disappointing.

  10. Anonymous

    The Boston Globe has been a partisan paper for decades. Has its partisanship finally caught up with it?I think it is also fair to say that the Boston Globe has been an anti-Catholic paper for decades.And, no, I am not a redneck. I am not even a Roman Catholic. Indeed, I even taught at Harvard Law School briefly. So I can’t be too otiose! No?

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