Saturday, April 04, 2009

Reach out and open up, Globe!

There is a very, very disturbing story in today's Boston Globe about the Globe itself. The NY Times company, which owns the paper, is demanding major concessions from the unions and is threatening to close the paper if it does not receive them. The thought of losing this newspaper is deeply disturbing. It is the major source for investigative journalism that keeps the government, corporations, and, yes, non-profits honest and accountable. We simply cannot afford not to have it.

Yet, I look at these two lines from the story and experience cognitive dissonance.

Catherine Mathis, a Times Co. spokeswoman, declined to comment last night. Globe publisher P. Steven Ainsley also declined to comment.

The Times Co. is seeking concessions from the unions because the New York company, which is also suffering from the recession, can no longer subsidize the Globe's losses, said the Globe employee who is not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

The entire story is splayed across the front page and yet company people will not comment or they seek anonymity. What is there left to be held confidential? If you are seeking concessions from the staff, you need to be totally transparent with regard to the situation so you can be trusted in providing accurate financial information. Maybe a union environment makes this harder to do, but it is not impossible.

Also, why isn't the Globe asking their biggest natural constituency -- the loyal readership -- for ideas and suggestions that might help in some ways to save the paper?

Back in 2007, I wrote about the newspaper and made some suggestions along these lines. Maybe they were good ideas or maybe they were stupid, but the point is that there are a lot of engaged and thoughtful people in the region who would want to help. My conclusion still holds:

If people believe it is their paper they will read it. Use the forces and opportunities of technology to make it happen so your excellent reporters and columnists can earn a salary and work on the really important functions envisioned in the Constitution.


The Reverend of Rock and Roll said...

This blog makes me sad, Paul.

I work in Health Care PR, and I have a journalism background, so this hits close to home.

It is no secret that print publications are struggling right now. I love the Globe, and I certainly don't want to see it go away, but in this day and age, with more and more viewers taking their news electronically, this trend is only going to continue.

I agree with you about the people choosing to read THEIR paper.

Good post!


catsandmusic said...

The Globe has always been a part of my life. One of my earliest memories is of my dad reading "the Sunday funnies" to his brood of preschoolers. I still love reading the Globe.

Rachel Maddow did a great commentary on her show a couple of weeks ago (when another newspaper closed somewhere) about the loss to society when newspapers close. I wish I could reference it, as it was very eloquent.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your comments Paul. However I believe the union will make little concessions and unfortunately more people will be put out of work.
Also with that said, if concessions are maid doesnt this only place a band-aid on a much larger problem: print newspaper journalism has been facing troubled waters for years now even before the recession.

Barry Carol said...

The advertiser supported newspaper business is in secular decline for a host of reasons. Investigative journalism is important for the reasons Paul stated. However, it seems that the combined salaries and benefits of investigative journalists are only a tiny percentage of the Globe’s total cost structure. I think the investigative role could be assumed by either a locally oriented magazine, similar to Philadelphia Magazine, that serves that city and the surrounding area and publishes monthly, think tanks like the Manhattan Institute which has published extensively about issues that affect the New York City region, or public interest groups, funded by charitable donations. Television news divisions could probably also take on more investigative projects. If this work is valuable (which it is), however, people need to find ways to support it financially. It can and should be done.

Jerry said...

The newspaper industry dug its own grave when it decided to give the product away for free online. A whole generation of people learned to get their news online and feel no need to hold a paper. The entire industry needs to stand together and charge people for using readin their online content. I would happily pay to read the Globe online and I am sure many others would as well.

fibrowitch said...

I think, but am not sure, that the reason the Times is pushing for concessions is because they have mortgaged them selves to the hilt.

I hope someone comes forward and buys the paper from the Times. I am saddened at the number of young people who have little interest in news. All they want from the news is what effects them right now. Why can't they drive down this street. Not any thing in depth.

Anonymous said...

The Globe is in such rough shape, my paper trained dog now pees next to it on the floor. Not a good sign when the canines even pick up on a lost cause.

Tom Linnell said...

What is being played out so very publicly is the treatment of the symptom, not of the disease.

In fact, it is painfully obvious that the downward spiral that the papers are currently entangled in - i.e., readership declines, advertising revenue goes down, staff is reduced - is a doom loop from which there is no escape.

In order to solve the problem, one must fundamentally understand the core value that the newspaper industry brings to their customers. Clearly, the mode of delivery is one such issue they have been struggling with, but perhaps the method is as well - they provide the same dump of information to every one of their customers, yet we all have a slightly unique set of interests and requirements. Tailoring the information to an individuals tastes would make them much more relevant. There are technologies available to make this work seamlessly and inexpensively, yet I have yet to see any evidence of application.