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

At the Globe, “Dear Colleagues”

Media Nation has obtained an e-mail sent to the staff by Boston Globe publisher Steve Ainsley confirming reductions at the Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. I’ve done a little guessing at where the paragraph breaks ought to be. Here’s the text:

Dear Colleagues:

As part of a company-wide effort to achieve greater operational efficiencies, we will be offering voluntary buyouts to employees of The Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Boston Globe employees will receive offers next week. Telegram & Gazette employees will receive offers the following week. and GlobeDirect employees are ineligible for this program.

We are expecting a total reduction of 80 positions, with approximately 60 from the Globe and roughly 20 from the T&G. This reduction in staff is a difficult but necessary step toward our ongoing goals of reducing costs and finding efficiencies that allow for the long-term health of our business.

As you all know, these are difficult times in the newspaper business. The good news is that our on-line revenue continues to grow although not yet at a scale that offsets the downturn in print. Going forward our newspapers must continue to adapt to changing patterns of media consumption while our on-line business expands our capabilities to present high quality news and information in new formats and new platforms.

For these strategic reasons we are excluding from the voluntary buyout program. Instead, we will continue to invest in this growing area of the business as it scales up in content delivery, advertising and audience. We are also excluding GlobeDirect from the buyout program because it just completed a restructuring as part of its consolidation into the Millbury facility and further reductions are not warranted.

Finally, I should note the terms of this buyout — while still generous — are less generous than similar offers in the recent past. For most employees the basic severance payout will be two weeks of pay for every pension year of service with a cap of one-year’s pay. We are offering an enhanced package to some employees — those Newspaper Guild members at the Globe with lifetime job guarantees, in recognition of their many years of service to the company and the value to them of the job guarantee benefit. They will be eligible to receive three weeks of pay for every year of service with a cap of two years pay. This distinction will not be made in any future buyouts that may be offered. A complete package will be mailed to your homes shortly which will go into greater detail as to the payout components, timing and healthcare benefits associated with the package.

I know that it can be a stressful time for eligible employees at the Globe and Telegram & Gazette who must make an important decision about their careers. Our Human Resources and Employee Relations departments are on hand to help you with any questions you may have about this offer.

I’d like to thank everyone for their continued dedication while we redirect our business to future success.

— Steve

These are very ugly times in the newspaper business. What this tells me is that Ainsley and company are merely trying to keep up with the deteriorating revenue picture, and are making no pretense of knowing where the bottom is.

It’s also interesting — and smart — that is being spared. When you add print and online readership together, you can make a case that the Globe isn’t losing readers at all. It’s the business model that’s falling apart. What the Globe and every other paper need to do is hang on to those readers while figuring out what comes next.

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  1. acf

    Having been through a RIF, I know how this feels to the employees. I only hope that the buyout is financially viable for those employees involved. Now, as a reader, and therefore a customer of the Globe, here is my opinion. Reducing the viability of the product is a fruitless way of trying to save your venture. If, by virtue of the cutbacks you make, you diminish the product you are selling, you also diminish my reason for buying it. I suspect the reason why the Globe claims that their online product is continuing to grow revenue is because it is free to online readers. Put it on the same footing as the print paper, with fees, and that fact will quickly change for the worse, as viewers abandon the online product, as the New York Times discovered with their failed Times Select offering. The Globe, since their purchase of controlling interest in the Metro, has Metroized its paper, and believe me, that’s not something to be proud of. They may think you’ve made it ‘brighter and more exciting’, but what you have done is dumb it down to attract a crowd who doesn’t read, doesn’t think about what is written, and is, in fact, only attracted by pretty pictures and entertainment gossip, not intelligent reportage and analysis. Keep it up, and I will be gone, along with my subscription, and while I’m at it, the local (Chs 4, 5, and 7) are not much better. Their news programs have devolved into little more than infotainment with the emphasis on the ‘tainment’. Everything doesn’t have to be made fun. Sometimes serious things have to be presented seriously, without mock gravitas dished out with it for effect. The news should stand on its own merit.

  2. Anonymous

    So where will you get your local news, your true, professionally reported local reporting when the Globe, GateHouse papers, the Boston TV stations are all either gone or turned into 100% Paris Hilton “news” venues? I don’t agree with what you are saying but people who want news of their communities have to realize what is happening to the dwindling number of sources of that news.

  3. Anonymous

    The Globe acts like the private economy in Mass can just absorb one burden after another, taxes, regulations whatever. Well now it comes back to bite them. Why is the Globe hurting? Why is Boston hurting? Why is Mass hurting? Because we have high business taxes and a crappy job environment. — wellbasically

  4. T.J. Donegan

    The problem ultimately becomes a matter of choice for consumers. Most people who are regular newspaper readers, the customers that the Globe feels they are losing, also are people who have computers and internet access. Those people are not going to shell out money for a paper subscription when the can get the exact same content online for free.The analog paper is dying. That is a reality that people simple have to deal with. The question I have is whether the free online paper is dying as well. When analogs are all gone, will online papers at once make a switch to subscription?Journalism isn’t going to die, but the way people get it is certainly a giant question mark.

  5. Amusedbutinformedobserver

    Get the Herald obituaries ready. Morning line Herald will suspend before the end of 2009: 5-2Over/Under: January 15, 2009.JOA anyone

  6. mike_b1

    anon 8:32, Nice try, but how to explain similar (or worse) problems at darn near every newspaper in the country?(And the jobs situation is still darn good here.)

  7. Anonymous

    anon 8:32 …and why is the GLOBE responsible for the situation in this state? Citizens for Limited Taxation and prop 2.5 have done more direct damage to this state than any journalist. We all lose when the discussion gets changed to easily digested, but short sighted, arguments like “globe bad” “taxes bad” and “greed good.”

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Then there’s my own perverse view: liberals, good; Prop. 2 1/2, good.

  9. Local Editor

    Dan,Guess that makes me a pervert too.Whenever someone gripes about property taxes here, I remember what my family pays back in NJ.

  10. bostonph

    Don’t forget “fees aren’t taxes.” I’d personally like to encourage the Massachusetts sucks folks to go live in Dallas or Houston for a few years. I can’t think of a single thing (besides housing) which isn’t cheaper here than in my beloved home state. Texas doesn’t have income tax, but makes up for it with one of the most byzantine fee and sales tax systems I’ve encountered. They’re not too big on civil liberties or education, either.

  11. bostonph

    Almost forgot, I strongly suggest Globe critics spend some quality time with “The Mercury News,” “Houston Chronicle,” or even the “Dallas Morning News.”Recent hard hitting exposes in the Texas papers include “Skunks in the living room: Delightful or disgusting?” and “McKinney cheerleading scandal inspires Lifetime movie.”

  12. Dan Kennedy

    bostonph: Anything on mid-life overachievers becoming cheesemakers in Vermont? Or wealthy, self-absorbed childless couples moving in to condos at the mall?

  13. bostonph

    DK,I can’t figure out if that sort of coverage is what people want or what newspapers think people want, but it’s a distinction without a difference. The effect is pretty much universal, though.To the greater point: I’ve lived here 17 years and have watched the Globe go steadily downhill. I’m probably unique in loathing while still reading the print edition. I still wouldn’t trade the combo for either of the Texas paper’s I mentioned. FWIW, my home page is set to the LATimes. They have more interesting celebrities to gossip about. 😉

  14. Anonymous

    Dan, if the headline read “Blessed are the cheesemakers,” it would have been worth it.Bob in PeabodyFormerly of the Judean People’s FrontFormerly of the People’s Front of Judea

  15. Stan Nelson

    I could be wrong — hope so, anyway, — but I think you misinterpreted the line, “ and GlobeDirect employees are ineligible for this program.” That’s rather delicately worded, and should not be taken to mean that these employees will not be downsized. It only means what it says: They can’t ask for buyouts. The Globe thereby leaves its options open as to what it can do with or for these employees.

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