Monday, April 6, 2009

Newsroom Cuts Not Enough to Spare Boston Globe

Last week the Globe announced that it had completed its newsroom cuts, the equivalent of 50 full-time jobs.

This week, the New York Times Co. met with the local unions to request concessions. Check out Times Co. threatens to shut Globe; seeks $20m in cuts from unions.

Turns out, instead of losing $1M per week, the Globe has been losing $1.6M per week or $85M annually.

As a current and longtime subscriber, I'm not sure I see where that money has been going. The paper is thin, with four standalone sections in the daily paper: Front/national section, Metro (which includes business), Sports and g (which includes comics, arts, health and whatever else doesn't fit in the front, metro or sports. The business section -- well, at first, I wrote "business page," though technically it usually has about 2 1/2 pages -- has a couple of reporters. Same for the health, which no longer has its own section.

The challenge for the Globe, the dominant paper in New England, by circulation, is that its web site is not great. To compete as an online-only site, it would have to improve the search engine capability on the site, improve navigation, add multimedia -- in other words, it will take some investment to make it successful online.

That's probably true, too, for the Seattle P-I and other papers making the shift.

They all have to reinvent themselves as an online outlet.

As for the print Globe itself, NY Times management is asking the union to make concessions. Given unemployment figures and lack of alternatives, I think they'll have to work with management to save the Globe and their jobs.

But I actually read a quote from a journalism professor that said, in part, "The newspaper is telling the unions that radical changes have to be made or the newspaper is no longer viable. The question is whether it's a negotiating ploy."

I'd say, given the current market, the steps the Times Co. has taken to raise money, that that person was not paying attention. (He added, "In this situation, the request on the part of the management is not unusual or out of the ordinary" but I think we're beyond "negotiating ploys.")

Good luck, Boston Globe.

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