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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Full, complete coverage?

The fate of the Boston Globe is Topic No. 1 around town these days (OK, maybe No. 2 after the opening of the 2009 baseball season). Want to read about the latest twists and turns?

Don't count on the Globe. And certainly not the apparent villain in this set piece, the New York Times.

Want to know exactly what management is saying in the wake of the weekend bombshell? Try Media Nation. Curious about the mood inside the paper? Try the Herald. Looking to survey the field of possible saviors? Mosey on over to the Boston Business Journal.

The Globe has offered up a short story on the blog rally in which I am taking part. But the main story offers little in the way of substance. The newspaper that doesn't take no for an answer when someone says "I don't want to negotiate in public" is in full hunker down.

While the stance is hardly surprising -- and it's not the reporters fault that editors won't publish what they would like to report on -- the contrast is rather harsh.

Publisher Steve Ainsley's declaration that management imposed a 5 percent cut on non-union employees (in exchange for 10 extra days off) is offered as an example that managers are willing to make sacrifices too.

Doesn't seem quite the same as giving up lifetime job security (the merits of tenure in a reporting job notwithstanding).

Ainsley did seem a tad out of touch when he told the journalists who work for him:
"It was certainly not our intention for you to learn of these preliminary discussions through reports in the Globe and other media."
Have you been paying to attention to the proliferation of other media outlets -- traditional and otherwise who were ready, willing and able to pick up this story and run with it?

Despite the lack of details emanating from Morrissey Boulevard, it seems the discussions with the unions will come down to two crucial areas:
  • Management is going to have to justify the $85 million projected loss. There is ample speculation about the number and questions why the cuts are being targeted only at the Globe and not its partner in the New England group that includes the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
  • The reported 430 lifetime job guarantees. That guarantee is worthless if the paper folds. Reasonable people have already suggested it is a valid thing to give up in exchange for a job, period. But what they get in return for that huge concession is crucial. It may seem a bit jarring, but many folks at the Globe have been working for four years without a raise. It could be that simple.
Ainsley's memo suggests you and I will be asked to dig a little deeper too -- a curious thought at a time when the product continues to shrink in size and, potentially, the number of days it will appear in print. I'm not ready to buy into Dan Kennedy's suggestion for a $2 daily and $5 Sunday read, but some hike in exchange for some stability seems reasonable.

What's interesting, in the wake of the mother ship's radio silence on the Globe issue, is today's story by Richard Perez-Pena, in which the Associated Press appears to be ready to do battle against aggregators like Google and Yahoo.

The debate appears to be shifting from the argument over whether aggregators are within their constitutional rights to pluck off headlines and into the real meat of the question -- who is getting paid for the work.
“This is not about defining fair use,” said Sue A. Cross, a senior vice president of the [AP], who added several times during an interview that news organizations want to work with the aggregators, not against them. “There’s a bigger economic issue at stake here that we’re trying to tackle.”
The remains one very large cash cow in this shrinking economy: Google. Not only does it provides one-stop shopping for casual readers and link-needy bloggers, it also charges advertisers when those eyeballs land on the pages loaded with links. They are clearly making a buck on the work product of the Globe, Times,. Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and AP.

That could prove to be a very interesting battle. Whether it comes to a resolution before the Globe and other newspapers slip under the waves for the third time remains highly doubtful.

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