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Too Little, Too Late in Boston: The Times & The Globe (cont'd)

If I may be allowed to have one grumpy moment, let me admit that I don't really want to cover this particular psychodrama any longer, but there, now I've said it, onwards:

So, now The New York Times informs us that the Boston Writer's Guild has agreed to put a package of concessions before its membership for a vote. Said vote, should it pass, would theoretically make the Boston Globe, which is losing tens of millions of dollars a year, more attractive to a possible buyer.

The most telling quote in the Times' own report of these details this morning is this: "...executives have said that the company is open to selling The Globe for a small fraction of the $1.1 billion it paid for the paper in 1993."

The clear aim here is for the Sulzberger family to find a face-saving way to unload a property it cannot afford and does not want. If there is strong enough civic horror at the prospect of the print version of the Globe going belly up in Boston, someone or a group of someones will presumably show up with a tiny wad of cash.

(Wonder what a "small fraction" looks like? I've got an image in my mind.)
But all of this depends on the writers giving up, essentially, everything they've fought for and gained over the years. Newspaper reporters don't earn all that much, comparatively, so much of this has to do benefits, pensions, and -- most critically -- job security based on seniority.

Journalism has traditionally operated on an apprenticeship-model industry. Younger journalists are taught by older journalists, often while perched on stools at the corner bar. Newspapers, traditionally, functioned as working-class environments.

In the run-up to the collapse of this industry, newspaper owners were collecting massive profits -- easily in the 20 percent range annually -- so executives and the top editors at big metropolitan papers made (by journalism standards) huge salaries.

All of which went to waste. The corruption of easy success blinded newspaper execs to the mortal danger facing them with the advent of networked, interactive, digital technologies. They didn't listen or pay attention to the warning signals that were issued loudly and repeatedly by any number of analysts. (I was only one of the many writing and talking about this as early as the mid-'90s.)

I am now dead certain of three things regardless of whether the Boston Guild approves the package of concessions wrested by management yesterday or not:

  • The New York Times will no longer own the Boston Globe.
  • Many people will be laid off at the Boston Globe.
  • The new owner, if any, will have to shift the company's emphasis from paper to Boston.com, which is a pretty decent regional website, and to developing content suitable for mobile readers.
Otherwise, they might as well soak the last edition of the newspaper in formaldehyde and prepare it for display in one of the area's many fine museums.
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