Shattering the Globe

There's a blog rally underway among Boston-based blogs in an effort to save the Globe, which as you may have read is facing the prospect of closure. The text of the rally post is this:

We have all read recently about the threat of possible closure faced by the Boston Globe. A number of Boston-based bloggers who care about the continued existence of the Globe have banded together in conducting a blog rally. We are simultaneously posting this paragraph to solicit your ideas of steps the Globe could take to improve its financial picture.

We view the Globe as an important community resource, and we think that lots of people in the region agree and might have creative ideas that might help in this situation. So, here’s your chance. Please don’t write with nasty comments and sarcasm: Use this forum for thoughtful and interesting steps you would recommend to the management that would improve readership, enhance the Globe’s community presence, and make money. Who knows, someone here might come up with an idea that will work, or at least help. Thank you.

It's more than a bit naive to believe comments on blog posts will contain the answer that can single-handedly save New England's largest newspaper (and by extension the entire industry, for the Globe's problems are in some way the problems of all newspapers).

The fact is this, and it's a hard truth: When a company is threatening to shutter a newspaper, the decision to close it has already been made. No amount of drastic action was able to save the Rocky Mountain News or Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and I strongly doubt anything will pursuade the Sulzbergers to continue to bleed millions for the Globe.

Likewise, any decisions that could affect the newspaper will likely be incremental stopgaps that do not address the real problems. Because the problems are caused by decisions that have already been made — stupid, short-sighted decisions to acquire newspaper companies or build glamorous new buildings, acquiring millions in debt, and stupid, greedy decisions to take private companies public, exposing the newspapers to the whims of investors and the demands of stock-holders.

It's maddening. This was avoidable. Not the recession and the painful cuts that would have been necessary to get through it, but the death spiral caused by the blind slashing of newsrooms while pouring millions into marketing and sales. It's too late now. For the Globe, certainly, and likely for the Philadelphia newspapers, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Detroit newspapers, and at least one of the New York newspapers (if not both the Times and the Daily News), and the Chicago Sun-Times (if not both Chicago papers) and even the great grandfather of them all, the Hartford Courant, the oldest continually published newspaper in America.

I'm tired of mourning the losses of newspapers as I would the losses of old friends. Yet I can do nothing else. And whether others realize it yet or not, in the end we all will mourn what transpired here, at the end of the 21st century's first decade.

7 comments… add one

  • > Shattering the Globe
    A simple, intriguing title for a reflective post that has my mind spinning.

    attackgerbil April 7, 2009, 1:48 pm
  • Wow.
    Paul this post is great. It’s hard to think about the Globe closing because it was my paper. It’s the paper I would clip stories and pictures from and when I lived far away from Boston in 2004 it was the newspaper my parents mailed to me after the World Series.
    Related, the NY Times CO still owns a share of the Sox correct? When does that get put up for sale?

    pj-SF April 7, 2009, 2:02 pm
  • The parent companies of both my childhood newspapers — the Courant and the New Haven Register — are in bankruptcy. After every big Red Sox win from 1995-98, I would walk two blocks to the corner gas station and buy copies of the Globe and Herald.
    I would guess that by this time next year, all four of those papers will no longer exist in a printed format. If they exist at all.
    I know it used to be chic for sports bloggers and right-wing mediots to openly root for the demise of the old media, classifying them as biased or out of touch or what have you. I don’t think many are doing that anymore. No one wants the only source of news to be 24 hours of talking heads and a half hour each night of crime stories.

    Paul SF April 7, 2009, 2:40 pm
  • It’s nice to see bloggers attempting to help the Globe, considering the two mediums have been at odds with one another for quite some time now. Unfortunately, I just don’t see it making much of a difference.
    Great post Paul, however depressing it may be.

    Atheose April 7, 2009, 3:03 pm
  • This move by the Times seems less a real threat at closing the Globe but more seizing an opportunity to screw over labor and the unions. They are trying to save $20M, and if that’s the sum then there are more choices for the Times Company that don’t involve forcing the workers to take a hit. To me this is a transparent effort to hurt labor.

    SF April 7, 2009, 5:08 pm
  • You may well be right, SF, but I don’t think it precludes necessarily the reality of the Globe’s likely closure. More likely, the NYT Co. is hoping to set a precedent it can then use against the NYT’s own union while closing the Globe anyway. According to that article, the Globe is on pace to lose $80+ million this year. $20 million in union concessions won’t do much to help the bottom line — assuming there is any way to even gain that much in cuts out of a newsroom that’s already been slashed in half over the last five years.

    Paul SF April 7, 2009, 10:50 pm
  • I’d love to know where you think those more choices would come from. As Paul pointed out above, they are deep in debt from some stupid decisions, although I’d disagree with Paul’s assessment and say that it was buying BACK the stock – and watching it tumble in price as the print model collapsed – that is the company’s biggest problem.
    I also disagree with the assessment that we’re all going to mourn what transpired here UNLESS – and this is the problem we REALLY need to address – the end of print means the end of journalism. Companies dying is sad, but what would be much, much worse is companies dying without anyone finding and exploiting the new model for “printed” news, whatever that may be.

    Eric Hanson April 8, 2009, 6:03 pm

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