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

Lylah Alphonse’s response to Brian Mooney

Media Nation has obtained the full text of Boston Globe staff member Lylah Alphonse’s open e-mail to Brian Mooney. Alphonse favors approval of the Boston Newspaper Guild’s latest deal with the New York Times Co.; Mooney is opposed. Let’s get right to it:

To: Brian Mooney
[email addresses removed]

07/08/2009 11:44 AM

Of course it’s only marginally better than the one voted down June 8. What on earth were you expecting?

“Rejecting their outlandish demands” sounds great. What are you proposing instead, in order to achieve the $10 Million in savings? In all of the “vote no” emails I’ve received since June 8, not a single one has offered up a viable solution the $10 Million problem.

The NLRB route is a crapshoot, at best. In Fiscal Year 2008, just 36 percent of unfair labor practice cases (8,100 out of 22,501) filed in the Regional Offices were determined to have merit and warranted the issuance of an unfair labor practice complaint. In Fiscal Year 2008, the NLRB resolved 68 percent of those “meritorious” cases “by withdrawal, dismissal, or closing upon compliance” within 120 days of filing. A total of 76 percent of the “meritorious” cases were resolved within a year of filing. Which means that a quarter of the cases that the NLRB deemed worth pursuing took more than a year to close.


A no vote will not postpone layoffs — a yes vote locks NYT in to the new contract through the end of 2010, a no vote allows them to do whatever they plan to do sooner than that. And of course layoffs are coming. We’re printing fewer papers. Ad sales are plummeting — they dropped nearly 30% in the first quarter of 2009 and are still dropping (source: We’re beefing up and Globe reader; more readers get their news online. All of that requires less staff, maybe in the newsroom, definitely in advertising, sales, classified, and printing- and distribution-related departments.

A quick NLRB resolution would take, at best, 3 to 4 months. A quick sale would take 4 to 6 months, judging by previous sales here and elsewhere. It would be easy for the union or for the Globe to drag things out, but the longer this drags out, the easier it is for NYT to turn to other options — like bankruptcy.

Bottom line: If you think you can get a better job with another company, now is a great time to go for it. But if you plan to stay at the Globe — or don’t think you can land a better job elsewhere — you’re going to have to deal with what NYT is dishing out: a 23% paycut or a package of cuts that seems to get worse with every negotiation.

Your choice.
Lylah M. Alphonse
The Boston Globe
135 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125

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  1. Treg

    Sorry, I guess I've already made my views on this subject clear in other threads here.But I'll just briefly comment that this an argument from fear. I think the Guild's position is a lot stronger than that.

  2. Mike Saunders

    Treg, so a 23 percent indefinite pay cut isn't scary?

  3. Treg

    Sure it is, Mike. But like I said – I think the Guild's position is stronger than that.

  4. thedailyreason

    What's that adage? If you're a journalist and not scared you're definitely not paying attention.

  5. Lylah M. Alphonse

    Treg, I've read some of your comments on the previous post, and your argument is interesting, but you don't provide any actual solutions to the problem. Even given the fact that the $85 Million figure that's being thrown about is wrong (and I think it is), there's no getting around the fact that the Globe and the NYT are losing money and need to make some changes in order to stay viable and competitive.You wrote: "With creative thinking and better management, I think the Globe is one of the major newspapers that can survive this period. The Guild should work out the best contract possible instead of selling themselves down the river."Creative thinking is awesome. What do you propose that they haven't already tried and that can be implemented easily, cheaply, immediately, and without adversely impacting any employees? Exactly.As for the Guild working out the best contract possible… who do you think was sitting across from the NYT/Globe team at the negotiating table? This IS the contract they worked out — in fact, this is the SECOND contract they worked out. A third contract won't be much different… except that NYT will need more money, and the people producing the paper will get squeezed even more.In one of our Guild meetings, someone asked: If Globe management had to choose between saving itself and saving the Telegram, which do you think they would choose? The Globe would do what it had to to save itself, of course. NYT doesn't want to save the Globe, it wants to save itself. It's business, not bullying.

  6. Treg

    Lylah, first, I'd say it is bullying when they make up phony numbers for how much they're losing, and issue empty threats about shuttering the place unless the Guild does what it's told. As for creative thinking, I can't suggest anything easy, cheap, and immediate. Nor should you need it to be. The Globe is not going out of business next week, or next year.Globe management has had a long time to adapt to the realities of the new media age, and they have largely failed. Yet, as Dan has pointed out, the readers are there. And where there are readers, advertising dollars should follow. More and better reporting, and a better online portal ( isn't exactly Salon or Huffpo) would be a start. The dumbing down that started when the Globe was sold to the Times Co. needs to be reversed.More and better reporting will cost money, and so will an expanded and radically changed online presence. I suggest the owners and upper management take the hit.Or sell the thing to someone more committed.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Treg: Where there are readers, the advertising dollars used to follow. But the business has changed irreversibly. Advertising will never remotely be what it used to be, and readers are going to have to pick up more of the tab.I am loving Times Reader and GlobeReader, two paid online products that are an improvement on the Web.And as I've said before, I would do away with the online edition of the Globe. Yes, the Globe should continue to post all or most of its content on, but it should stop giving away a perfect substitute for the print edition. The website should be a different product.Those are two baby steps, but they're a start.

  8. matteomht

    Lylah's arguments seem to make much more sense than Mooney's. And she sounds a hell of a lot less obnoxious than Mooney, too.

  9. Amused

    It is tragic to watch workers at any level willing to unnecessarily give up their rights to collectively bargain over wages, hours and working conditions. Guess what? Without collective bargaining the people at the Globe would be earning sub-Herald wages.The fact is, the NLRB complaint has merit; a company can not declare an impasse and then reach back in time to impose a contract and that is precisely what the Times Co. did.Alphonse uses all the logic of the human resources department at Wal Mart. Management lackeys in union situations are dangerous to their brothers and sisters and there is no better sign of a management lackey a union member who actually says "If you think you can get a better job with another company, now is a great time to go for it."

  10. matteomht

    I really don't follow Amused's logic, mostly because it over-complicates things. The Globe employees are going to get shafted either way; it's just a matter of getting shafted 23 percent, or 8 percent. That choice doesn't seem hard to make.Sure, Amused and Brian Mooney and all the others can rail about the mistreatment and hold out for NLRB decisions or whatever– but you still have a mammoth pay cut. That is the prime fact here. If you're a reporter or a sub-editor making $65,000 and looking at a new salary of $50,050, you should vote for that new contract. Even if the NLRB rules the pay-cut illegal– that's months away if not longer. You can't tell your kids to eat 23 percent fewer calories until then; you can't pay 23 percent less at the gas pump or 23 percent less on your rent. I don't like the huge management salaries on the other side of the table. I think the NYT management is idiotic, and I can barely believe they've kept the Globe open this long. But there's a difference between being right, like Mooney and the other sticklers, and doing right– which is to take what you can from an industry that's dying anyway. And Lylah's advice to go look for another job doesn't sound like management brown-nosing to me; it sounds like common sense.

  11. Dan Kennedy

    matteomht: I agree with you. The problem with Amused's position is that it fails to separate management's genuinely incompetent and loathsome behavior from the implosion of the industry in general. If the Globe had been well-run by nice people, things would be … well, not much different.

  12. Treg

    Dan, what if the Globe had been run by people who were not only nice, but also insightful and innovative?Absolutely, people. Cave in to their union busting, bullying tactics. The new owners will be grateful.

  13. Dan Kennedy

    Treg: Name a major metro where they've done it right and are not hanging on by their fingernails at this point. That is what has been a huge hole in your argument. Where are the insights and innovations? Who's doing them in a way that actually has their papers on a path to break-even and profitability? God knows we'd all love to hear about them.Management's miserable behavior aside, things seem to be spiraling down at the Globe just as they are everywhere else. There's nothing unique about what's happening here.

  14. Treg

    Ironically, the first that comes to mind is the NY Times. Is the product the Globe is collectively putting out in print and online even half as good? Lots of things have changed. But we stil have a large, very smart potential audience here that's hungry for good journalism. They have largely turned elsewhere because the Globe/ is so mediocre. More, better, deeper reporting. Eliminate the stupid puppys-in-Red-Sox-caps slideshows at and give me a reason to go there.Video, audio, live feeds, of things that actually matter.

  15. Dan Kennedy

    Eliminate the stupid puppys-in-Red-Sox-caps slideshows at and give me a reason to go there.Again … is the most heavily trafficked regional newspaper Web site in the country. Will your formula result in more traffic? Will it bring in more money?

  16. Treg

    I don't know. I'm shocked to learn that. What do people read there – bad AP pieces and 20 ways to go out and have fun during a recession?Maybe quantity of traffic isn't the problem – maybe it's quality of traffic. With that much traffic, how are they not making money on ads? Do the NYT and Washington Post make money on their online side?

  17. Dan Kennedy

    Treg: The other relevant statistic is that people spend more time on than they do on most newspaper sites — something like 15 minutes or so, which is a lifetime.I'm a little puzzled by your take on The entire Globe is there, as well as news blogs, links to all the investigative series, some really good news databases, etc., etc. Yes, the front page is a little lite, but you must know there's a lot there under the hood.That said, a huge part of it is the Red Sox. I've heard at least one Globe insider refer to the "Red Sox diaspora" as the main readership.

  18. Dan Kennedy

    As for whether anyone is making money online — it's impossible to say, because it's an accounting nightmare. How do you determine what percentage of salaries you assign to the paper and what percentage to the Web site? If throwing in an online ad helps you close the deal for an ad in the print edition, how do you account for that?Best estimate — I believe Marty Baron said this in his speech in Seattle, and it fits with what others have said — if you do away with the print edition and go with a Web-only major metro, you can probably only afford to employ 20 to 30 people. Which means that print has to remain part of the mix, even if you cut back to three or four days a week.

  19. matteomht

    Dan, I think you have half of the right equation here. Let's take Marty Baron's estimate that a Web-only major metro could afford to employ only 20 or 30 people as true. The plain truth is, that's all you need. The major metro of the future will *only* cover the major metro. No foreign news. No movie reviews. No Washington news. Not much regional or business news, either. Boston, Cambridge, the wealthy burbs, and sports– that's all.Because, really, why *would* that major metro want to cover global or national news? The reader can get better news on those fronts straight from the source. I can read the Guardian in London, the South China Morning Post,– the list is endless. In a world of fractured news, you only need to cover one particular fracture really, really well. And that doesn't take many people. Leave it to the reader to pick up news from all the other fractures. That's my biggest beef with the media industry these days: they keep refusing to acknowledge that large corporations are the *wrong structure* to survive in the Internet era. Media moguls of tomorrow will never conquer the new world. They will never make a fortune. But the clever people will conquer a small bit of territory, exist in confederation with other small players sitting on their own small territories, and be able to earn a decent living. That's my bet.

  20. mike_b1

    Dan, 20-30 people doing what? Reporting? Reporting + editing? Does that include IT?My company today does a fraction of the sales of the Globe, and we can afford 20+ staff just on the basis of our Web ad income. (And based on what I've seen posted as the Globe salaries for reporters, we pay better too.) That "20-30 people" figure doesn't sound right at all.

  21. GFS3

    I find Dan's numbers low as well (or Marty's actually). If you employ 30 reporters at $60,000 each (not including benefits) that's $1.8 million a year (that might be less than the NYT brass's bonus checks).So for $3.6 million you could employ 60 reporters at a pretty good rate of pay. Certainly with its millions of unique visitors a month is pulling in more than that in ad revenue.I wish we could see the real ad revenue numbers from Snell

  22. acf

    At the point that assumed revenues allow for an online only entity of 20 to 30 staffers, will the product they create be worthy of comparison to the product being produced today as the Boston Globe? In other words, would the Boston Globe we know today just cease to exist, and a media product that uses the Boston Globe name appear that has little in common with the current product except its name? If that's the case, then why have this discussion at all, because the choice seems to be make the print edition viable, or forget the whole enterprise because the result won't be worth it?

  23. acf

    Are there estimates anywhere that attempt to differentiate between the problems cause by the recession, and those caused by the change in the business climate for print news delivery due to the Internet? Are there newspapers positioned to ride out the bad economy, or is everyone on the ropes because of the business model collapse, with the recession just the straw that broke the camel's back?

  24. Treg

    So maybe it's different in small markets. But for the Globe it seems part of the problem on the business side is that it's not Standard Oil. There's money to be made, but not enough to pay all the dividends and upper management pay to people who contribute nothing to the publication(s).That point's been made before, but I think it's relevant to the labor vs. management discussion. It's simplistic, I know. And I also still say the Globe has made things worse by being such a mediocrity for the past 16 years or so. But all that traffic and all those readers and all those subcribers to the print edition have got to translate into enough ad money to keep the thing viable. Maybe it just isn't the reliable cash cow the stockholders want it to be. And we don't know, do we?And that's not what the Times Co. wants anyone to think about as they prepare to sell.

  25. rozzie02131

    Matt-I don't want to be my own news editor every day. I don't have time to figure out whether the South China Morning Post or the Washington Post has the most important news for me. It's great that we have those choices. But I want a New Englander's take on world news, the arts, sports and business. If the Boston Globe started limiting itself to state politics and police roundups, my decades-long reading habit would go away very quickly.And Treg – the Globe under the New York Times' ownership has been pretty good. I challenge you to name 10 newspapers in North America that are better. Or, even this: name one North American newspaper that has gotten better than the Globe since the Times bought them.

  26. acf

    Rozzie:I think you picked up on my point that if the net result of a model change in the Globe is a new news product that uses the Globe name, but doesn't have the features or coverage that led us to read the it all these years, then what would have been accomplished, survival at what cost? I expect the Globe to have a global reach, not just another parochial, community publication. My community newspapers do that already.

  27. Dan Kennedy

    I expect the Globe to have a global reach, not just another parochial, community publication.Except for maybe three or four national papers, no major metro can have "global reach" in the new media world that's emerged. Local and regional are the only strategies left for papers like the Globe.

  28. matteomht

    Rozzie, I can see your point– but you're on the wrong side of history here. The trend in news readership (general newspapers and media down, specific niche online media soaring) shows most other people disagree with you. I'm not saying I like that; I'm saying that's what it is.

  29. Treg

    So, the Globe has *improved* since 1993? That's the consensus?

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