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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Monday, April 13, 2009

Times discovers Boston!

In the trail-blazing spirit for which it is known, the New York Times has apparently dispatched a reporter to the wilds of Boston to explore the distant rumblings of rebellion that have been slowly reaching their way to the executive suites of the Renzo Piano monument on 8th Avenue.

The hearty reporter engaged local leaders and even entered the native habitat on some strange conveyance called the Red Line in search of the answer: can the Hub of the Universe exist with a Globe?

OK, a bit sarcastic to be sure, but Richard Perez-Pena's story in today's New York Times represents The Paper of Record's first real acknowledgment of the impact that its game of corporate chicken is having.

In many respects, it reads a bit like a foreign dispatch, complete with tired references to Boston chafing at the loss of its own identity as corporations come in an swoop up local institutions, including "the Red Sox baseball team — an organization close to a civic religion..."

The only stereotype missing was a reference to the Bean and the Cod.

It's instructive to read the story as an example of "big foot journalism," often practiced by the television networks. Correspondents parachute into a location, spend a few hours or days taking the pulse of the community and then head back off to civilization to report on their brush with the natives.

I personally think we're over the "faraway headquarters" angst -- something the faraway owners of the Times should have recognized awhile ago, if they paid attention. BankBoston, John Hancock, Gillette. That's so 20th Century.

In fact, we've adapted quite well to Google and Microsoft entering our midst to provide employment for folks with an affinity to MIT, that other major Cambridge institution whose name does not begin with an H.

No offense to Perez-Pena, but the assignment seemed as if it were described as "find out why those people are so upset." The folks in charge in Manhattan seem to be totally out of touch with the reality of Boston today.

Almost as out of touch as are folks who think boycotting the Times print product will actually make a difference.

It would be nice if the Times had not opted for a stereotypical look at a controversy, particularly one in which they are squarely in the middle.

The newspaper industry is in serious jeopardy, fueled by falling advertising revenues and bad decision-making. Newspapers like the Globe, the Rocky Mountain News, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the San Francisco Chronicle are or were vital components of their community and losing them is or will be far more significant than Manulife buying Hancock. That's the story which should have been assigned.

But that local connection has always been lacking at the Times. Queens may well as be Queensland for a reporter hoping for Page One. New Yorkers who want to know what goes on in their town read the Daily News or the Post.

We've just been reminded again of why.

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Blogger Adam Gaffin said...

You give him too much credit. The guy obviously never left Manhattan:

"In 2006, the Filene's department store chain ceased to exist, and its owner, Federated Department Stores, turned some stores into the Macy’s banner — another shadow cast by New York. But it did not convert the huge Filene's flagship store, leaving a vacant, hulking shell that still stands in the heart of downtown Boston."

Was written by somebody who's relying on two-year-old clips rather than somebody who knows that what's now there is a vacant, empty hole that sits in the heart of downtown Boston.

April 13, 2009 7:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done!

April 13, 2009 8:13 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

You may well be right Adam, in which case we may want to ask the Times why there is a Boston dateline on the story. I thought NYT style matches that of other reputable newspapers and requires the reporter to actually be somewhere in order to get a byline over that dateline.

April 13, 2009 8:19 AM  
Blogger Adam Gaffin said...

Maybe he simply met all his "sources" in the lobby of the Westin. Might also explain the reference to BankBoston, when, in fact, it was FleetBank that got taken away from us (you may recall that when Fleet bought BankBoston, it moved its headquarters here from Providence).

April 13, 2009 3:42 PM  

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