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

Point, counterpoint on the Globe contract

Both from the same person!

On the one hand, there is an air of unreality to the stance taken by Boston Newspaper Guild president Dan Totten and those urging a “no” vote next Monday, the most public of whom has been Boston Globe political reporter Brian Mooney. It’s as though they never visit Romenekso and don’t understand that the newspaper business as we know it has come to an end.

Talk to knowledgeable observers and you won’t find anyone who thinks the New York Times Co. is lying about the Globe’s being on track to lose $85 million this year. I think there’s a way forward for papers like the Globe — but only as leaner, smaller enterprises. You don’t get there by continuing those archaic lifetime job guarantees for 190 Guild members.

On the other hand, Times Co. management has behaved in a contemptible and erratic fashion. As Totten pointed out in his letter to Guild members (pdf) yesterday, companies such as GateHouse Media and the Phoenix media outlets have cut disproportionately at the top. The Times Co., by contrast, is targeting the rank and file.

Moreover, management’s ever-shifting threats would give anyone the impression that it’s bluffing. At first, the company threatened to close the paper in 30 days if it didn’t get $20 million in cuts. After 30 days had passed, executives claimed they’d really meant to say they would start a 60-day shutdown process if they didn’t get what they wanted. Then they called that off.

Finally, they said that if the Guild votes down the current agreement — to cut pay by about 10 percent and eliminate the lifetime jobs — then they would unilaterally impose a 23 percent pay cut. Uh, what happened to the threat to close the paper?

I have absolutely no idea what will happen on Monday. My head tells me that members should overlook management’s bad behavior and approve the agreement. My gut tells me that they’re going to vote it down.

After that? Who knows? Totten has said he believes management will reopen negotiations at that point. Right now, it’s hard to know what to think.

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Brian Mooney responds


  1. NewsHound

    I wonder if debt holders would approve the destruction of an asset that cost $1 billion, over $10 million.

  2. The upside

    You hit the nail on the head in your first graph, Dan. More than half of the Guild membership — and 6/7 of the Guild leadership — aren't journalists. They're in advertising, marketing, sales. They don't read Romanesko… half the time it seems like they don't even read It's as if they feel bullied by a greedy corporate giant, but have no clue that the newspaper industry as a whole is wrecked.

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