With the Boston Globe potentially facing an imminent demise, Globe reporters and the Boston Newspaper Guild have teamed with local politicans to host a rally at noon “in support of saving the Boston Globe.” The event was billed as featuring “journalists and business staff” from the paper, along with Boston City Council President Mike Ross and union leaders. At the rally, members of the public were invited to sign a petition saying they are “committed to saving the Boston Globe from the threat of closure.”
This morning, the Globe’s crosstown rival, the Boston Herald, published a story claiming that the rally raises “concerns about potential conflicts” because the Guild organized the event with the powerful Boston lobbying firm Oâ€™Neill and Associates and sought the participation of area politicians. Massachusetts State Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei told the Herald that he was invited to attend, but “would feel uncomfortable.” The Herald also spoke with Poynter Institute scholar Bob Steele, who said it “puts pressure on the principle of journalistic independence,” when reporters ask politicians for support. Massachusetts senator John Kerry has also spoken out in support of the Globe, calling for Senate committee hearings on the future of the newspaper industry in response to the crisis.
Earlier today, we spoke with Scott Allen, an investigative reporter who’s been at the Globe for almost 17 years, to get his take on the mood in the newsroom…
Allen said he would be attending the rally because he’s “afraid of the Boston Globe going into a very steep decline with staff cuts or even closing.” While he acknowledged that some Globe reporters were “skittish” about participating the rally due to the ethical questions raised by the Herald, Allen dismissed criticism of the event, saying “the Herald can say whatever they want to say… I hope one day they’re ashamed at some of the stuff they’ve written.” According to Allen, the rallying reporters want to “send a message to general public that we matter and that we’re worth fighting for.” Allen rejected the notion that Globe staffers seek favors from local politicians, telling FBNY, “we’re not just sitting around here waiting for a bailout.”
Ealier this month, Boston Globe owner The New York Times Company told the Newspaper Guild that the paper could be shut down if unions representing the Globe do not agree to $20 million in budget cuts by May 1. Yesterday, NYT Co. CEO Janet Robinson reaffirmed the company’s intention to enforce the May 1 deadline. Globe staffers are represented by at least 10 different unions; the Boston Newspaper Guild is responsible for coming up with $10 million in cuts.
Allen was cautiously optimistic that parties involved in the negotiations would agree to a solution. He said he “believe[s] the union leadership has found a way to get to $10 million [in cuts], but you’ve still got to sell it to the membership and the management, which is not an easy task.” There are some who are critical of Times management in the Globe newsroom, Allen acknowledged, but he also believes many reporters recognize that management is in a difficult situation. “There are plenty of newspapers closing and filing for Chapter 11 that weren’t managed by the Times,” he pointed out.
This week, the New York Times Company reported losses of $74.5 million for the first quarter of this year. The Boston Globe posted a $50 million operating loss last year and is poised to lose another $85 million in 2009. Boston Globe spokesman Robert Powers and Newspaper Guild president Dan Totten did not respond to requests for comment on this story, and New York Times Company spokeswoman Catherine Mathis declined to comment.
–Rebecca L. Fox & Hunter Walker
Disclosure: Hunter Walker worked as a corporate communications intern at the New York Times Company from August 2006 to May 2007.