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

It’s alive

In what can only be described as great news for the city and the region, the New York Times Co. and the Boston Newspaper Guild have reached an agreement, ending an increasingly tense and ugly standoff over the future of Boston’s largest and most important news organization.

The Globe’s Rob Gavin and Keith O’Brien report on the deal here; the Boston Herald’s Jessica Heslam and Christine McConville’s story is here. Not many details yet, but it sounds like the Guild agreed to take significant pay cuts (though not the 23 percent cuts that were being bandied about yesterday), and to yield at least to some extent on those lifetime job guarantees.

If you want to know what’s happening at the Globe, just read my predictions and go with the opposite. After the Times Co. made it clear earlier this week that closure of the paper was at least 60 days away, I was certain that the two sides would break off talks for a while. Instead, they got it done.

There seems little doubt, though, that the $20 million in union givebacks is just the beginning. Guild president Dan Totten has warned his members that management is hinting at a massive round of layoffs. And the easing of lifetime job guarantees, the Globe notes, could clear the way for a sale of the paper, as no prospective owner wanted to take on the task of revitalizing the Globe without maximum flexibility.

In the long run, I suspect that the major metropolitan daily is a doomed relic of the Industrial Age. Still, I’d like to think papers like the Globe can survive another five to 10 years as we transition to whatever’s next. The Globe produces the lion’s share of public-interest journalism and investigative reporting in Greater Boston. The challenge will be to preserve that function with a much smaller staff — keeping in mind that the newsroom has already shrunk from 550 to 330 full-timers in recent years.

In today’s Globe, columnist Jeff Jacoby challenges those who believe the Globe and papers like it are being punished for their liberal bias. Jacoby’s premise is based on the common-sense observation that the Globe isn’t actually losing readers. There’s an apples-and-oranges quality to to readership numbers. But there’s a strong case to be made that when you factor in online readers, the Globe is reaching as many people as it ever has, regardless of its plummeting print circulation.

George Snell offers some worthwhile thoughts on what’s next for the Globe. He has correctly identified the biggest challenge: How can the Globe reinvent itself while simultaneously slashing its news coverage? It’s already cut much of its international and national reporting and closed its foreign bureaus. In order to thrive as a great local paper, it’s got to offer compelling local coverage. Will it be able to continue doing that?

Finally, Herald columnist Joe Fitzgerald sanctimoniously tells us why he’s got no problem with the Herald’s snarky comments on the Globe’s meltdown. He says the Globe was mean to the Herald 27 years ago, when Rupert Murdoch saved the tabloid from what had seemed like certain death.

Good grief. Talk about a long, long, long memory. Howie Carr wasn’t around in 1982. Neither was current Herald owner Pat Purcell. The Herald American, as it was then called, was being mismanaged into extinction by Hearst. For that matter, the Globe was under different ownership, too.

I guess this is why they say the two favorite sports in Boston are politics and revenge.

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7 Comments

  1. endangered coffee

    27 years ago. That’s pretty freaking modern when it comes to Joe Fitz. Probably spends his dies pining away for Ike and Pope Pius.

  2. Rick in Duxbury

    Dan, some of us even remember why Hal Clancy had to sell to Hearst in the first place, before THEY sold to Murdoch. I grant you that nostalgia is easily confused with institutional memory. That said, the Globe has never hidden their revulsion for Rupert. They have their positions; he has his. Their level of arrogance, however, is unrivaled. It would be more accurate to say that Murdoch was dealing with an assassination, not just certain death. The Globe negotiations remind me of a Mark Knopfler song: “Punish the monkey and let the organ grinder go”. The wrong people are getting screwed here.

  3. Mike

    I actually thought that was one of Fitzgerald’s better reads in quite some time. He makes it clear he doesn’t think the Globe folding would be a good thing, and, well, if the Globe really was half as gleeful about the Herald’s seeming demise as was portrayed, then why shouldn’t he remember it?

  4. NewsHound

    The Globe will begin to have staying power once its advertising rates are price competitive and economically profitable, even if marginally so . . . and once that happens it can go on into perpetuity. The view looking out a year or two often looks clear but things change which make predicting almost anything impossible.Maybe we are at the end of print. It is too early to tell – – – it has never been tested with a major city dominant daily long term.In spite of national trends or anything else, the Globe must not only stop the loss of circulation, it must build circulation – and a lot – at almost any price, or it will fail. This stuff about too liberal might be hogwash – so long as there is news in a well written style in a decent newspaper that can be purchased very cheap so that almost everybody is a reader.If they want to make money, which is a necessity, they need to go down on the price, not up – and the same applies to the compensation for the staff and management. If Ms. Robinson needs $6 million a year to squeak by on, and her cohorts the same, by charging so much for copies of the Globe to threaten its existence, that is their choice and beyond the control of Globe employees, advertisers, former advertisers, readers and former readers.

  5. Peter Porcupine

    DK – I was always under the impression that the undying rivalry was what MADE the Boring Broadsheet and Tawdry Tabloid; that the Neverending Story of scoops, counter-scoops, reporter stealing, and daggers drawn was part of the BENEFIT of being a two paper town.After all, is there ever a time limit on an insult to HONOR?Can you imaging the Globe and Herald being combined into a single paper the way the Worcester Telegram and Evening Gazette were in my youth? Yin and Yang keep them BOTH alive.Reference the old saw about how a town that can’t support one lawyer can ALWAYS support two.

  6. Dan Kennedy

    PP: One thing I would point out is that the Herald American no longer exists. Today’s Herald is essentially a start-up launched by Rupert Murdoch, and that has almost nothing to do with the Hearst-owned paper that came before it.

  7. Patricia of Trakai

    Also, PP, if I recall correctly, the Worcester Telegram & Evening Gazette were owned by the same company for a number of years. They just maintained separate staffs. I distinctly remember the Telegram as a morning paper and the Evening Gazette as, well, an evening paper. When I was in junior high school and needed more than my hometown's tiny daily (evening) paper, my parents subscribed to the Telegram but not the Gazette.I believe the Gazette was canned and the staffs were merged sometime in the 1980s. But even before that, the "T" and the "G" weren't as separate as the Globe and the Herald are today.

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