Sizing up the Times Co.'s Globe stewardship


Eileen McNamara says the New York Times Co. treats the Globe like a "cheap whore." Rory O'Connor agrees. Given that the Times Co. is threatening to close the paper--without even deigning to publicly comment on this threat--I understand why they're pissed.

But without defending the Times Co.'s current MO, let me play devil's advocate. For starters, unpleasant as they are, the Times Co.'s current hardball tactics are hardly unprecedented in this era of newspaper implosion. And under the Times Co., the Globe newsroom has fared better than many (though not as well as the Times newsroom itself).

It's also worth noting that the Times Co.-owned Globe has kept its Washington bureau alive at a time when every other comparable paper seems to be closing shop in DC. Politico's Michael Calderone discusses this in a piece today; here's an excerpt:

While there have been more reporters in the bureau over the past couple of decades — perhaps as many as a dozen — the Globe's staffing level is still high for Washington at this precarious moment within the newspaper industry; now, regional dailies continue to rely more heavily on D.C. copy from wire services or niche outlets. 

Salt Lake Tribune reporter Thomas Burr, who's currently president of the Regional Reporters Association, said "it's impressive that The Boston Globe has been able to hang on in this town." 

"In this day and age," Burr continued, "it's pretty unusual to see that." 

Consider, too, the Globe's Pulitzer yield before and after the Times Co.'s purchase of the paper in 1993. Here's a list that doesn't include Mark Feeney's 2008 win for criticism; when Feeney's factored in, the Times Co.-run Globe can claim eight Pulitzers in the past 16 years. That's not as impressive a clip as 1972-1985, when the paper pulled in a whopping eleven Pulitzers. But it's quite an improvement over the late 80's and early 90's, before the Times Co. bought the paper from the Taylor family, when the paper fell off the Pulitzer committee's radar screen altogether. 
I can't tell you what's changed for the worse since the Times Co. took over, because I only began reading the Globe after moving to Boston in 1996. I can tell you that I'd like more coverage of Boston and Massachusetts politics, and less paeans to luxury.
But I also know that Boston politics is currently in an ice age of sorts, and that the Globe still covers the State House pretty damn well, and that chronicling the lush life (which, as someone recently pointed out to me, is a very NY Times-ish tic) is a good way to chase ad dollars, obnoxious as some of us may find it. And at the risk of stating the obvious, I'm keenly aware that newspapers everywhere simply aren't what they used to be.
That doesn't mean that there aren't valid criticisms to be made of the Times Co.'s stewardship of the Globe. But those criticisms should be focused on specific Times Co. decisions that proved to be destructive, rather than local manifestations of industry-wide woes. And the Times Co.-owned Globe should also be credited for what it's accomplished--at least up to this very unpleasant moment.


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