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.