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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Who killed the Boston Globe (II)?

While it's way to early to write the epitaph of the newspaper New Englanders love to hate, the word that New York Times management is playing hardball with closure threats seems an appropriate time to dust off an earlier entry about the problems between 8th Avenue and Morrissey Boulevard.

It's not quite a year since that item but in that time the economy has headed further toward Antarctica and there is probably not one company in America that has been spared the problem of falling revenues, rising costs and the need to jettison people.

But continued erosion of the Globe's advertising base isn't the only reason for its ills. Let me focus on two: competition and competence (of the management variety).

The media landscape -- online and off -- continues to change so dramatically that the Globe can be scooped on its own story. True, the unions probably had no intention of taking its talks public, but in this multimedia world what was the likelihood the bargaining session would remain a secret?

While the Globe provides the fodder for many part-time pundits like me, there are far too many outlets around today who are ready, willing and able to accept leaks and rumors. Thankfully, this one was broken by a reporter like Adam Reilly who believes in doing journalism right.

The other thought that strikes me as noteworthy is the timing -- right after the buyout or layoff of 50 employees. Who exactly is running the show in New York? Are they counting with fingers and toes or do they not do long-range planning?

Morale at the Globe was already in the basement and Marty Baron had put out a buck up the troops memo and then Times management drops this bombshell? What were they thinking?

I have been waiting for my perfume sample-packed edition of Vanity Fair to arrive so I haven't yet read Mark Bowden's profile of Arthur Sulzberger Jr. So in the meantime, I'll just point you to Dan Kennedy's analysis of the analysis -- with a proviso that I am someone who does blame Sulzberger's bad business decisions as having a major role in New York dumping its troubles onto Boston.

I doubt the Globe will fold up shop in 30 days. I strongly suspect the unions will agree to concessions -- but only after they wring some promises of sacrifice from management too. The industry is indeed dying, but I can't see people voluntarily ending their jobs in this economic environment.

And we can only hope there is a white knight out there to scoop up the pride of New England journalism -- for a bargain price to be sure.

I'll start rooting around in my change bowl and penny collection. Anyone care to join me?

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Blogger Chris Rich said...

Much of this may be seen as the ruinous outcome of merger acquisition frenzy that has been with us in febrile form since Reagan.

Peter Drucker once made an interesting observation on the phenomenon. CEO's het bored with the grubby detail work that attends running a large enterprise so they dream up deals to cut for mergers.

But as we see time and time again, this approach usually results in a gutting and enfeeblement of the acquired entity.

Mergers add new layers of cost to a system and absent unusual profitability, the purchaser ends up wrecking the thing purchased.

In the case of oligarchic big media for a rapidly obsolescent thing like a newspaper, the outcome is an acceleration of decline.

April 04, 2009 8:27 AM  

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