Times Co. Backs Off Threat To Close 'Boston Globe'

The owner of The Boston Globe backed away Monday from its threat to close the money-losing newspaper unless it won at least $20 million in concessions from its unions. Six unions reached agreements, but there's still one holdout — the largest.

From the Boston Newspaper Guild's point of view, the heavy in this saga is the storied New York Times Co. Once seen as a savior when it purchased the Globe in 1993, the corporate parent is now reviled by many journalists in Boston.

The Globe has won prizes for its reporting, but it has lost its foreign bureaus, endured many rounds of buyouts — and, in recent months, has been facing the prospect of being shuttered. Times Co. executives reiterated the threat Sunday night. Former Boston Globe media critic Mark Jurkowitz says his former colleagues are shellshocked.

"To watch this kind of an institution really struggling for its life in the hands of out-of-town owners who are now perceived — fairly or unfairly — to be clearly less interested in the fate of the Boston Globe than the The New York Times newspaper itself," he says. "It's really a stunning development."

But the Globe is on track to lose $85 million this year. And the Times Co. is playing a weak hand.

"What's mainly going on in Boston is what's going on all across the country," says Ken Doctor, a media analyst for the consulting company Outsell. "And you can see a few different strategies in place. But everybody is feeling the same pain. Advertising is down about 25 percent — $1 of every $4 — at just about every newspaper company."

The Boston Newspaper Guild, which represents 1,000 Globe employees, offered givebacks worth the $10 million demanded of it by the company. But the guild refused to relinquish job guarantees given to those guild members who were already working for the paper when it was bought by the Times Co.

On Sunday, the company rejected the guild's offer. But Monday, company officials said they will find other legal ways to save money and restructure the staff — and they said they have no current intention of shutting down the paper.

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