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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Times Square hold 'em

A day has gone by, enough time to absorb the shock of the New York Times' declaration that the Boston Globe employees must either come up with $20 million in concessions or the lights go off on Morrissey Boulevard.

The public is reacting, (including the terminally clueless who are shocked a newspaper employs 1,400 people and that the Globe's passing would be a reflection of its liberal bias) and employees are saying the right things (sure we will make concessions, but management needs to do so too).

So it's time to take out the crystal ball. And while I agree the folks down on Eighth Avenue are deadly serious about extracting concessions, I think the likelihood of actually shutting down the Boston Globe is slim.

Why? Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr.'s legacy. Having now plowed through the massive profile in May's Vanity Fair, I cannot believe Young Arthur would risk the Times' reputation on such an act. Not because he cares about The Globe, but rather the damage such a crass business act would do to the reputation of Times as the fount of all that is good in journalism.

And as observers without as much invested in the saga suggest, a sale may be the exact end game the Times is angling for with this ham-handed ultimatum -- which came just after the buyout and layoff of 50 employees.

Take it from Matt Storin, who led the Globe in the days before New York swooped in and paid $1.2 billion amid promises of maintaining excellence.
"I do think it's obvious that the Times would like to get the Globe off its books," he said. "It's possible they're trying to reduce costs because they have a prospective buyer who is negotiating on that basis."
Rumors have been floating for quite some time about local efforts to purchase the paper. Jack Welch and Jack Connors and Boston Herald publisher Pat Purcell have all shot down the idea on several occasions -- but if the price is right and the Times does all the nasty trimming of excess cost, why not reconsider?

And there are no doubt other rich, civic-minded folks who would love to ride in and rescue the Globe from the clutches of that other Evil Empire 200 miles away. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has always been a name that has popped into my head.

The Globe is not worthless -- no matter what the critics think -- even if it is a far less valuable than what the Times paid. There is the land, the presses and boston.com, the sixth most popular web destination with 5.2 million hits a month.

We can all repeat the mantra the web advertising can't come close to generating the revenue from newsprint -- but it ain't chopped liver either. There is enough available to sustain a leaner, meaner newsprint product until the economy turns around and people start buying things again.

Sulzberger's legacy is tied up in this debacle of his own making. I think he's looking for an exit strategy that will enable him to dump the Globe and the Red Sox and forget about Boston.

And when that happens, the feeling will no doubt be mutual.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Not Whitey Bulger said...

Yes, the Globe's land has value independent of the Globe newspaper, but how much value does Boston.com have without Globe stories on it? And how much are those presses worth today? Is a new newspaper going to open up in Boston - or elsewhere - and buy them? Big city newspapers are closing right and left - I think that market is saturated.

And if you think the Globe's problem is primarily the current economic downturn, you're dreaming. It's going to take years to get our economy going again, and when it happens Craigslist will still be there.

The Globe probably will be sold, but the days of dead tree glory are gone. An online version with a tiny staff is the best that can be hoped for.

April 05, 2009 9:26 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

You are correct that boston.com is where the value is -- and that the economic problems go beyond the current downturn. Craigslist, monster.com and vehix.com make sure of that.

But a stripped down staff -- which is what will be left when/if it is purchased -- can crank out enough to make the web site valuable. And heaven knows we taxpayers have been supporting Citi and other banks but full-page ads.

In other words -- we agree!

April 05, 2009 9:36 AM  
OpenID thetathx1138 said...

There is no buyer for the Globe. I have little doubt you're correct in that the Times hopes to sell it. But that's just the final end-stage of newspaper death: put up for sale, and when no buyer steps forward...two in the head, one in the heart.

April 05, 2009 10:58 PM  

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