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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Global positioning

The Boring Broadsheet in the Murdoch stable? That's the juiciest of the rumors afloat as the New York Times once again puts the Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram on the auction block.

The former owner of Boston Herald is one of the last remaining newspaper lovers in the business world and he's also been mentioned as a buyer of the Los Angeles Times as the Tribune Company looks to unload.

Speculation on the final landing spot for the region's largest newspaper is an rampant as guesses on where the Red Sox will end up this year. And we have a list of the usual suspects, the same names were in the mix when the Times primed the Globe for sale several years -- with painful staff cuts.

Murdoch's name is the one real curveball in that list. And while the staff over at the Little Picture Paper reacted with now familiar schadenfreude, even the hint of News Corp. money coming to their hated rival has to be sobering.

It's not as if the rumor is wholly without merit: Murdoch snapped up the Wall Street Journal several years ago. The editorial page has changed since it already mirrored his views but there have been changes in news coverage and writing style, none of which have damaged the Journal's image.

But the reality is Murdoch, who already owns Fox 25, has a strong place in his heart for the Herald and owner Pat Purcell. While the Australian-born newspaperman is a tough businessman, it's hard to see him setting up shop to oppose Purcell -- particularly when the Herald already owns the style Murdoch prefers.

Which brings us back to the usual subjects: the Taylor family that sold the company to the New York interlopers 20 years ago in a deal that will never get Arthur Sulzberger Jr., a return on the investment his family made.

Then there's a local group that was fronted by Jack Connors, the retired advertising executive. And Wellesley native Aaron Kushner, who longed for the paper until he found a new opportunity in the Orange County Register.

The most intriguing name, aside from Murdoch, is that Warren Buffett, a newspaper lover who just purchased the Greensboro, NC, News & Record.

One thing to consider is whether this will end up the same way as last time -- no sale. The Globe has been slimmed and trimmed, slowed leakage with a paid web site that's going to get stingier, and isn't losing money hand over fist this time. But the paper still has a substantial pension obligations that could shy away purchasers unless the Times eats that cost.

The Times has to be reconciled to making far less than the $1.1 billion they paid for the Globe. But how much less was a deal breaker the last time around and any group in the hunt is going to remind the sellers that the overall outlook for newspapers printed on dead trees is not a good one.

So stay tuned. At least we have something else to speculate about other than low low will the Sox finish this year.

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