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Sad Times at the Globe

There are doubtless a lot of emotions, few of them pleasant, swirling through The Boston Globe as staffers and management digest the potential impact of the New York Times. Co. announcement this week that it would be cutting 500 jobs company wide, including about three dozen in the Globe newsroom.

Asked to describe the mood inside the paper, Steve Richards, vice president of the union the represents about 1100 Globe staffers, said "the two words I would use would be 'anxious'...and 'frustrated.'"

I wonder if "nostalgic" would fit as well. Nostalgic for the days when the Globe was an independent family-owned newspaper operated by the Taylors. Sure, people used words like "plantation" and "the velvet coffin" to jokingly -- and somewhat mockingly -- describe the relatively comfortable life at the Globe under the benign stewardship of the Taylors. (There are still, according to Richards, more than 300 unionized staffers hired before 1994 on a layoff-protected list.) No one uses those terms now.

Richards acknowledges that part of the concern inside the Globe is a sense of detachment from corporate headquarters in New York -- "the sense that we've got kind of an absentee landlord in New York...The feeling we're Triple A. We're numbers and not faces." It goes without saying that there's a much different feeling when your bosses communicate via email from 200 miles away instead of simply walking into the newsroom.

When the Taylors sold the paper to The New York Times Co. for an estimated $1.1 billion a dozen years ago, it was widely viewed as a smart move with the family proactively seeking a white knight owner before the expiration of family trusts exposed the Globe to potential buyers with a far less honorable journalistic pedigree than the Times.

At the time of that sale, I'm not sure anyone could have foreseen the full impact of the Internet, the vagaries of the economy, and the continued erosion of readership, particularly among the young, that have newspaper companies cutting jobs and budgets on a regular basis. And who's to say the Globe would have fared any better had the Taylors somehow managed to hang on to the property all these years?

But six summers ago, on the day when the Times Co. formally ended 126 years of Taylor leadership at the Globe by replacing publisher Ben Taylor with Richard Gilman, William O. Taylor -- who had spent 20 years as publisher before retiring in 1997 -- spoke to a meeting of Globe department heads.

"This is a very sad day for both Ben and myself as our family winds up a long career managing this newspaper," he said. "I hope the history books will be kind to both of us."

They probably will be.
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