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

Brian Mooney responds

Brian Mooney has e-mailed a response to the item I posted earlier today. I am publishing it here in full with his permission.

You’ve completely misrepresented the position of those of us who are arguing for a “no” vote and done it in a demeaning, insulting manner. We understand a lot better than you do the state of the newspaper industry in general and the Globe in particular. We have said repeatedly and publicly that we are willing to absorb our share of the cuts to help the paper through this period which we hope is a transition to a multi-media platform.

And I personally resent your ill-informed opinion about what the membership should do. You don’t know what you’re talking about and until you do, you should keep your mouth shut.

This is not some mindless, nihilistic, send-’em-a-message exercise. It’s a painful decision for everyone in the Guild. The best-case scenario is bad, and we all know it. The Times Co. will impose Wal-Mart-like employment conditions here if it can get away with it.

Because you do not seem to have a grasp of any actual facts, I’ll try to explain some to you.

The major issues are fairness and bad-faith bargaining.

Both of the company’s ultimatums amount to $10 million a year — the equivalent of a permanent 23-percent reduction in our wages, albeit by dramatically different methods. At the same time, managers and other exempts are taking a temporary 5-percent cut. While the company wants to reduce from 3 percent to zero the maximum match for union members’ 401k contributions, managers this year received an increase in their 401k match from 3 percent to 5 percent. While the company wants to dramatically reduce its contribution to our health insurance fund, which would precipitate a $1,000 per year increase in premiums paid by Guild members, the company has provided managers enhanced health and dental coverage and is paying most of the increase in cost. While the company wants to freeze Guild members’ pensions, it is reducing managers pensions by only one-third.

In each of those cases, exempt employees already enjoy significantly better compensation and benefits than Guild members.

The publisher, Steve Ainsley, has claimed that managers and other exempts have absorbed the equivalent of a 16-percent loss in salary and bonuses since last year but has not produced any backup information to support it. That’s probably because the numbers can’t possibly add up to that. If they’re taking a 5-percent pay cut, does that mean they received, on average, an 11-percent bonus for 2008, a year in which the Globe lost $50 million? I doubt it.

But even if the figure is accurate — and no one believes it — the exempts are taking a 16-percent hit and the Guild members are taking a 23-percent whack.

Never mind that the Times itself continues to inch closer to the precipice of bankruptcy with a series of colossal business blunders and an unwillingness to take more serious steps to stop the bleeding in its own business, which includes the International Herald Tribune. The IHT has always lost money and, in the era of the Internet, is an anachronism and in this economy is probably losing record amounts. The Times Co. says it does not disclose the financial performance of its component parts, but we know that’s not true. They made sure the amount of Globe losses appeared on the paper’s front page and every other media outlet as part of their negotiating strategy.

Yet the Times Co. said it was prepared to shut down the Boston Globe, which has long served a distinctive community, before it would shut down the IHT, the precious “global edition of the New York Times,” an expensive hood ornament indeed.

During the course of negotiations, the company has repeatedly engaged in punitive, bad-faith bargaining and basically committed an act of corporate terrorism with its threat to close the paper. They have traumatized their own employees, their employees’ families, and the wider community that cares about and depends on this newspaper.

I think we’ve put to bed the notion that they can afford to make good on that threat, because the Times Company’s own finances are so fragile, the cost of closing us would wreck the parent company. But the damage is done.

Finally, the lifetime job security issue is a red herring promoted by the Times Co. Your reliance on it to support your threadbare position betrays your ignorance. Many of us, maybe most, with so-called lifetime job security would get rid of it, and if the company wants to get rid of it, they can go to binding arbitration under the terms of our contract. Their problem is that they have publicly stated the monetary value to the company of eliminating the language is zero. Zero.

Brian C. Mooney
Staff reporter
The Boston Globe

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52 Comments

  1. NewsHound

    That's the best letter I've read in a long time.Dan – you do a wonderful job with this blog and you make a great contribution to honest journalism. Brian seems a little warm under the collar today but it is that spirit that helps energize himself and his cause. Sadly, it is sad for these people. Many of these people could otherwise give a hoot about the New York Times Company and all their officers and directors and stock and lending deals and extraordinary compensation packages. Their focus is on journalism in Boston and their devotion is to their very own Boston Globe. These are lives and passions to them and it is evident they choose otherwise to being a side show to corporate finagling and employee manipulation.These are the loyal, dedicated, skilled people who do the real work – who prepare a salable product with their heart and soul and perhaps they have been properly compensated, to say the least, historically. But people like Pinch, Miss Robinson and Steve – now there's about ten million a year right there alone. How many square inches of newsprint in the Boston Globe did they contribute to in the last year?Walmart? I don't think so. But, playing funny little money games with these people is not fair. If I were Brian I'd be angry too, and if they want to kill the Globe for $10 million I'd let them do it.I'd vote no too, not the least for the money, but for principle.Yes, I know principle is expensive. This time I'd pay the price.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    NewsHound: Mooney is one of the most respected reporters at the Globe, and he's entitled to his opinion. He has every right to be angry over the way management has treated the employees.

  3. HNG

    Mooney's arrogance is unbearable. What special insight does he have on the state of the newspaper business that other industry observers don't have?

  4. NewsHound

    Dan – I agree!Circulation is the lifeblood of any newspaper. Without that it is nothing. Diminished it is close to nothing.Over the years the Guild has negotiated compensation levels that provides management the opportunity to hire and motivate the very best talent and skill. These are the tools that create a salable top quality product and with sales and marketing skills can optimize circulation so long as the product is not over priced.These are bad times and I can understand the willingness of employees to give in to previously negotiated contracts that didn't come easily. Treating employees this way certainly doesn't build or retain morale.I think the people who were paid millions in the past should work for free this year. And if management is really serious about saving the Globe those managers not in the millions category should be paid, instead of a few hundred thousand a year, exactly the same as reporters and editors during this period.I certainly agree Brian has every right to be angry.

  5. Dan Kennedy

    NewsHound: By the way, are you ever going to step out from the shadows? I don't think you've ever said anything that could get you into trouble, and you clearly have an interesting and relevant background.

  6. NewsHound

    Dan – thank you for such nice comments. At this stage I'm happy being a golden retriever.Frankly, I think my comments are better evaluated by some of the readers and participants without the bias or confusion of knowing my identity. Maybe sometime we will meet or I will share more with you privately. In the meantime, thanks for the comments.

  7. mike_b1

    Mooney completely misses the point. He claims: "The major issues are fairness and bad-faith bargaining."Wrong. There is one issue, and one only: Money."Fairness" is a canard. Like it's ever been fair that The CHB makes what he makes to write what he writes.

  8. NewsHound

    HNG – Mr. Mooney presents himself as a seasoned reporter with that figurative fire burning in his belly and skill to cut through the mustard.It's Mr. Mooney and a lot of others like him who have brought us one of the best state-wide newspapers in the country. These are the reporters who dig into the issues.And, these are the kind of people with principles and values who can instantly smell and a rat and will expose it for what it is – whether it's a news story to be published or their co-workers being unfairly challenged.Yes, HNG – he did seem a little warmed up this afternoon but like I wrote earlier, it's the best letter I've read in a long time.I think the drama is his style to effectively communicate but not to be taken personally.We wonder if people like Pinch are really and truly news people, or just recipients of money – previously taking too much of the profits for themselves and cheating shareholders and now that that has gone to pot, try to eat their employees lunch.Sadly, too many people in this country have been working for spoiled brats who want too much for themselves.

  9. GFS3

    Hi Dan: I disagree with your assessment of Brian's comments. He indeed has a right to a strong opinion, but so do others.How good a reporter can he actually be when he believes that there's only one side to a story: his own? And dismissing contrary opinions with a snide order for them to shut up is a simply rude.He does a disservice to his cause, his peers and the Guild when he resorts to insults and bullying tactics. Hard to get your points across when you're engaged in that type of discourse.George Snellhttp://hightalk.net/

  10. Ken

    Brian Mooney has shown himself to be one big, fat arrogant horse's ass. 'Oh, my apologies to the horse for the analogy.

  11. Mike Saunders

    Ken, I disagree with Brian's position. I disagree with his interpretation of the numbers, which makes me disagree with his reasoning.But I just as strongly disagree with your characterization of him, and anyone else supporting the "No" vote. Regardless of what happens on Mon day, and the punitive hammer that falls on Tuesday, we'll be working with each other to put out a good product. /rant

  12. Ken

    Mike,Don't get me wrong. As a former Guild member myself, I'd probably vote no on Monday.I was reacting only to Mooney's vitriolic screed aimed at the best damn media critic Boston has ever known.

  13. Gray

    Imho both Mooney and Kennedy failed. Mooney by not clearly seeing that the lifetime job guarantee has to go, without compensation. Its ridiculously anachronistic in a time newspapers shut down by the dozen, there's next to no public support for it, and its the most damaging weapon in the management's arsenal of arguments against the union.On the other hand, Dan Kennedy's article was too much on the light side, not questioning the management's stance enough, who after all, are responsible for the papers being in a mess. Sure, times are hard, but there are competitors who are doing better than the NYT and the Globe. And maybe really nobody thinks "the New York Times Co. is lying about the Globe's being on track to lose $85 million this year". But also, nobody can explain in detail what costs are hurting the business. It simply can't be that everything is the fault of the workforce being too costly. Mooney has a strong point in questioning if the brass do their part in sharing the burden. That's a question Kennedy should have raised in his story, in order to provide a better balance.

  14. NewsHound

    In good years lots of profit has gone to management and some to stockholders. It isn't distributed to the workforce any more than sending extra money to the newsprint mill, ink supplier, etc. These are bad times but that doesn't mean it should be subsidized by the workforce or suppliers. During times like this there certainly should be motivation to participate in salvage efforts, but the ups and downs of business is essentially the risk and rewards of capital.If employees are expected to participate, they need to be issued shares of stock, full accounting reports and assurances that Pinch and Company is not eating their lunch.

  15. Dan Kennedy

    Gray: Other than the Washington Post, which is partly subsidized by its Kaplan Testing subsidiary, what papers can you point to that are doing better than the NYT and the Globe?

  16. David Rogers

    WSJ, Financial Times.

  17. Dan Kennedy

    WSJ? Not anymore. It's dragging down Rupert's entire company. I'll give you the FT, but it's a tiny specialty publication.

  18. NewsHound

    I think a lot of newspapers are doing better than the companies that own them. They are contributing earnings to the parent but cash profits are being consumed by the cost of acquisition and other debt. The business simply is not as robust as speculated when buying and borrowing.Absent of debt (and absent of seeing detailed financial reports) I suspect the Dow Jones properties continue to contribute handsomely. And, I suspect, too, that Mr. Murdoch, like most of us, didn't see the economy falling to such a low level.

  19. Dan Kennedy

    NewsHound: I think that's true of community papers, but major metros like the Globe are falling apart across the country. In the long run, NYT, WP and WSJ will be fine because of their national scope and huge readerships. So will the Newton Tab. It's the papers in the middle that are having almost an impossible time redefining their missions.

  20. Gray

    Dan Kennedy: Well, indeed I was thinking of WaPo. Doesn't make sense to me that the one newspaper of national importance should fare much better than the oter. It has to be management which makes the difference (it certainly isn't true that WoPo's reporting is better. Quite to the contrary, imho).And I think that the management really has to offer concessions of their own, instead of simply pointinmg fingers at the unions. For instance, it would have been a positive sign if they had fired Friedman immediately after he bragged about his unlimited line of expenses. There are dozens of popular bloggers who write better opinion pieces than "just wait another six months" Tom, and they could be hired for a quarter of his salary or even less. If the times are hard and costs have to be cut, then everything should be on the table, not only the wages of the workers.

  21. Dan Kennedy

    Gray: Sorry, but I'm a big Friedman fan. His comments were impolitic, but the guy's work habits are above reproach.Look, if you go back to what I wrote to which Mooney responded, you will see that I was extremely harsh toward Times Co. management, pointing out — unlike GateHouse and the Phoenix — it was cutting its own perks very little while doling out most of the pain for the rank and file.That said, every newspaper company may have its own unique tale of managerial malfeasance, but the crisis is pretty much the same everywhere.

  22. badubois

    Dan,Often I don't share your opinions on current events, but I always find your blog interesting to read… and having said that, you did the right — and probably painful — thing in printing this letter. Good job.

  23. Ron Newman

    My family in Ohio tell me that the Columbus Dispatch is doing well and has been winning journalistic awards of late. I never see it mentioned in any of the various places that chronicle the current newspaper crisis. The Dispatch is privately owned by its founding family, which probably helps a lot.

  24. Dan Kennedy

    Ron: A friend who works there has told me about some pretty wrenching rounds of downsizing the Dispatch has gone through in recent years. So it all depends on your definition of "doing well." But you're right, the ownership model matters a lot.For that matter, with annual revenues still in the range of $300 million-plus a year, there is clearly a level at which the Globe, too, can do well.

  25. Dan Kennedy

    badubois: I want to assure you that it wasn't painful in the least. I'll leave it at that.

  26. endangered coffee

    While Mr. Mooney is a fine reporter, and I don't necessarily disagree with him, his act as the tough guy, hot under the collar big city beat guy is wearing a little thin.There are plenty of other folks who know what it's like in the newspaper industry. i worked in it for 15 years and was laid off. You'd be better off presenting your facts without the pseuodo-Hemingway bullsh**

  27. Treg

    It's a common thing, this critisizing the style of someone's argument when the substance is unassailable. How about addressing the specifics in Mooney's note, rather than condemning him for being a grouch?Mike – Shaughnessy is an overpaid hack. Is it fair what he makes? Yes. It's what the Globe agreed to pay him. No one held a gun to their heads. Honoring a contract is fair.HNG – I'd say Mooney offers plenty of insight. Read his note again and comment on specifics.GFS3 – Just because he told DK to shut up doesn't mean he isn't addressing the contrary arguments in detail. Read his note.

  28. David Rogers

    Treg- It's not what you say, it's how you say it, at least that's what my wife says.Mooney is an employee of the Boston Globe and his comments to Dan reflects poorly on his employer regardless if he thinks they stink. He should be more professional.

  29. An Astute Observer

    **You don't know what you're talking about and until you do, you should keep your mouth shut.**One thing I will give you credit for Dan…is you leave critical posts up…and are not afraid to take the heat. That's admirable….

  30. Treg

    David Rogers – What a bunch of crap! It's a blog. Get over it! Oh, and your wife is wrong.

  31. matteomht

    Am I the only one who thinks Mooney raises some good points, but they're lost in the verbal diarrhea of that letter, and that he comes across as an a-hole?

  32. Treg

    matteomht, I don't think he comes across as an a-hole. I think he comes off as a guy who is tired of seeing these issues mischaracterized. Like I said, he's grouchy. I would be too.His detractors here are conveniently latching onto that and ignoring the specific points he raises. I wonder why.

  33. endangered coffee

    Treg,I think I and some of the other "detractors" are probably sympathetic to the points he's raising. Sad as it may seem to you, there's is validity in watching how you package your arguments. If the people who are sympathetic to him are looking at him sideways like he's a cranky uncle, then how do you expect all those rightwing, bury the Globe loonies to respond to this?

  34. Treg

    I expect them to respond point by point to his argument, that's how. His current temperament is not uncalled for, and I hope it serves to ignite some passion in the rank and file. This isn't just some abstract philosophical argument here. I agree with Mooney's phrase: corporate terrorism.

  35. HNG

    Mooney is just "grouchy"? The guy has issues–perhaps he's one of the 190 Globe employees destined to lose the ridiculous lifetime job guarantee.Also: I'm happy to read that I'm not the only Media Nation reader who thinks it's the best media blog in the Boston area.

  36. mike_b1

    Treg, I don't disagree that honoring a contract is fair. But for Mooney to suggest that this fight between the Guild and NYT management is about "fairness and bad-faith bargaining" is nothing more than a weak attempt to change the PR battle from something the Guild can't win — a fight over money — to one it might — "principles." Moreover, it is utterly wrong. And he spends the next several grafs saying as much.

  37. NewsHound

    I would tend to agree with Mrs. Rogers but after reading Steve's so-so friendly letter to Globe employees and Rick Daniels similar letter to GateHouse employees last week, Brian Mooney's letter was like a breath of fresh air because he quickly cut through all the phony twaddle and put some honest-to-goodness feeling and energy into his writing.At least he said what was on his mind and he was supporting the value of his own work and the people he works with instead of coming at it as a much higher paid-lesser-contributor with hypocritical false pleasantry announcing arbitrary pay cuts which are absent of future potential reward if the salvage effort is successful.

  38. Treg

    I've taken the liberty of reducing Mooney's comments to a set of 8 bullet points. I think it's time for anyone who thinks he has "issues" to respond to each:1. Both of the company's ultimatums amount to $10 million a year — the equivalent of a permanent 23-percent reduction in our wages, albeit by dramatically different methods. At the same time, managers and other exempts are taking a temporary 5-percent cut. 2. While the company wants to reduce from 3 percent to zero the maximum match for union members' 401k contributions, managers this year received an increase in their 401k match from 3 percent to 5 percent. 3. While the company wants to dramatically reduce its contribution to our health insurance fund, which would precipitate a $1,000 per year increase in premiums paid by Guild members, the company has provided managers enhanced health and dental coverage and is paying most of the increase in cost. 4. While the company wants to freeze Guild members' pensions, it is reducing managers pensions by only one-third.In each of those cases, exempt employees already enjoy significantly better compensation and benefits than Guild members.5. The publisher, Steve Ainsley, has claimed that managers and other exempts have absorbed the equivalent of a 16-percent loss in salary and bonuses since last year but has not produced any backup information to support it. That's probably because the numbers can't possibly add up to that. If they're taking a 5-percent pay cut, does that mean they received, on average, an 11-percent bonus for 2008, a year in which the Globe lost $50 million? I doubt it.But even if the figure is accurate — and no one believes it — the exempts are taking a 16-percent hit and the Guild members are taking a 23-percent whack.6. The IHT has always lost money and, in the era of the Internet, is an anachronism and in this economy is probably losing record amounts. The Times Co. says it does not disclose the financial performance of its component parts, but we know that's not true. They made sure the amount of Globe losses appeared on the paper's front page and every other media outlet as part of their negotiating strategy.7. the Times Company's own finances are so fragile, the cost of closing us would wreck the parent company. 8. the lifetime job security issue is a red herring promoted by the Times Co. . . . Many of us, maybe most, with so-called lifetime job security would get rid of it, and if the company wants to get rid of it, they can go to binding arbitration under the terms of our contract. Their problem is that they have publicly stated the monetary value to the company of eliminating the language is zero. Zero.

  39. NewsHound

    When in salvage mode and non-controlling people are forced to make sacrifices to contribute to the cause, everyone should be treated alike. No one in management during this salvage period should be paid or rewarded more than Mr. Mooney. Not if they are sincerely trying to all pitch in and save the Company.

  40. GFS3

    Treg:It is amazing to me – especially as a former journalist – how Mooney can dismiss his detractors in such a juvenile and caustic manner. It isn't professional – nor even logical for a man who makes his living analyzing and reporting on politics.As I wrote about today on my blog http://hightalk.net – Mooney and the Guild make excellent points. If I was still a Guild member (& worked for the Globe) I'm not sure I'd vote to ratify the cuts.But just because Mooney makes some valid points doesn't give him the right to throw around the furniture and bully those who disagree with him. And, yes, Media Nation is a blog, but that doesn't mean you get to act like a troll.George Snellhttp://hightalk.net

  41. Treg

    I disagree. I think it's high time someone in the Guild started "throwing furniture." The Times Co. and Globe management have been getting away with murder on the PR front. Oh, those greedy union members and their lifetime job guarantees. Don't they know times are tough? This is all their fault.

  42. GFS3

    Treg:Throw furniture at the Times management then. Not at other media outlets – even us lowly bloggers – covering/opining on the story. Brian has a right to disagree – passionately – without being insulting and degrading.Don't defend rudeness.As a side note: I support the life-long contracts – or at least getting something in return for giving them up. But the Guild has done a horrible job explaining the life-time guarantees and how they were actually concessions for other cuts. Why aren't you doing better PR?My sympathies are with the Guild members. I strongly believe that the newspaper management is to blame for being slow to adopt new technologies and to treat the web as a supplement rather than the engine (and many other mistake for that matter).I wish you the best of luck on Monday.

  43. Treg

    There's a time and a place for rudeness. In this instance, I'm not only defending it, I'm celebrating it.Funny how the publishers tend to win PR battles, isn't it.

  44. NewsHound

    Feelings are real, too. Devoting so much of a life to journalistic integrity only to discover its value is reduced to supplying multi-million dollar compensation packages to top management crying the blues during very difficult times, is enough to get a reasonable person a little riled. Newsprint and ink doesn't have feelings the same as people. I doubt management is offering an ultimatum to newsprint and ink suppliers that they must accept 23% less. And if they did accept you could expect to see the Globe printed with colored kerosene on dried, yellowed newsprint.

  45. NewsHound

    Tregg – "I'm celebrating it."Now you're cooking.

  46. NewsHound

    This isn't all about money. It's about courtesy, respect and dignity.The New York Times Company hasn't even followed basic elementary manners.They should have told employees right in the beginning they are in an awful mess and don't have a clue how to fix it, and in the meantime they have cut their own salaries to zero.Its as simple as not serving yourself steaks and guests hot dogs when hosting friends. New York Times management has been far too dominant and arrogant. A little courtesy in asking employees to give a little during these times is quite basic. It really doesn't demonstrate the multi-million dollar-a-year compensation for the brilliance of a top MBA achiever.Most any child with good manners could outperform this act.

  47. Mike Saunders

    Treg: A couple of points …If the NYT is being as lopsided to management as you claim, ask yourself why. Is it because our NY overlords are "devils," as was claimed in the last union meeting? Are they all just mean, as was said to me outside the meeting hall? Naaaah. They're way too smart to be that nasty without a reason. Look at the re-opener clause of the contract to see why they would possibly want to be extremely nice to managers if the terms of the contract are laid aside. If they're thinking that the re-opener gives them the right to implement the 23 percent cut, it also gives the right, to either side, for a lockout or a strike. How much good will and "unity" is there among other unions if there's a Guild lockout? Do you think that other unions — all of whom made deep cuts — will stay out to support the Guild's decision? (Especially since we've been painted as tweed-jacketed whiners for sticking to the lifetime job guarantees that our union chief has maintained are "strictly off the table.") Anyway…have to run to get the kids from what will probably be their last full week of daycare.

  48. Treg

    Mike Saunders, yes, the Times Co. clearly wants to favor management over the Guild for the reason you cite (among others). Doesn't mean it's a winning strategy, though. I think a lockout is pretty unlikely.And no, I don't think they're "devils," whatever that's supposed to mean. I think they're greedy, overdressed business school types who have failed to lead and now want someone else to pay the price.

  49. Mike Saunders

    Treg, I agree that it's not a winning strategy. It would be incredibly damaging, at least in the short term. Long term? It's a scorched-earth plan that would seriously cut labor costs and probably make the paper attractive to circling vultures.Everyone is saying that the Times can't shutdown the Globe because it would be too expensive and bankrupt the parent company. They're right, but it's an incredibly wan ray of hope. And we're agreed on the failures of the mothership. They made a series of bad decisions that we're being asked to pay for; it's no minor irony that the biggest of those bad decisions might have been buying the Globe in the first place….

  50. T

    Brian Mooney is a damn good reporter. He started at the Herald, and is part of the institutional memory of Boston. This counts. Look at our cycle of Massachusetts House speakers: elected, indicted, elected, indicted, elected, indicted….We need reporters who have been on the scene and can put it all in context. Better a cranky reporter than a lazy one.There have been lots of cuts at the Globe. Why does the NYTimes Company need all these management positions to supervise people who are no longer there, given there are fewer reporters and less advertising? There is still a disconnect at the top levels of corporate America. The salaries are absurd. That is a more important financial issue than the life-time job guarantee. The union should offer to give it up and ask something BIG from management – pay cuts, fire some management – and see what they say.

  51. NewsHound

    Union should take $10 million pay cut in exchange for $10 million of stock in New York Times Co., and pledge from officers that economics will move to salvation mode in the executive and management areas.

  52. mike_b1

    T, you seem to forget, in this instance top management owns the company. And you can't fire the owner.

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