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N.Y. Times Co. Threatens To Close 'Boston Globe'

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N.Y. Times Co. Threatens To Close 'Boston Globe'


N.Y. Times Co. Threatens To Close 'Boston Globe'

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block. The Boston Globe, one of the most respected newspapers in the country, is on track to lose $85 million this year. Its owner, the New York Times Company, is threatening to shut down the 137-year-old paper unless workers agree to pay cuts in the coming weeks. From member station WBUR in Boston, Curt Nickisch reports.

CURT NICKISCH: Talk about burying the lead, the editor of The Boston Globe, Marty Baron, gave a talk last week on the shrinking newsroom. And he told of the sad cost-cutting decision a few years ago to close the Globe's foreign bureaus.

Mr. MARTY BARON (Editor, The Boston Globe): Today, that decision over foreign bureaus looks easy. The decisions we are making today, as money becomes more painfully tight, are harder. They cut closer to the bone, threatening to remove muscle.

NICKISCH: But really, every fiber of The Boston Globe could be under the knife. The same day Baron spoke, the New York Times Company gave an ultimatum that Globe workers call draconian: Give up $20 million in pay and benefits by the end of the month or else see the paper shut down.

(Soundbite of cafe)

Suddenly, readers used to waking up to headlines exposing state government corruption or sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, woke up to the headline exposing the possible end of the paper altogether.

Mr. MIKE KELLY(ph): It'd be sad. It'd be a sad day in Boston. The paper's been here over a hundred years, right?

NICKISCH: Mike Kelly was reading the Globe at a cafe in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain. The power line repairman looks forward to picking up a copy each morning.

Mr. KELLY: It's just part of the city, part of the history of Boston.

NICKISCH: Over at the next table, David Bragg(ph) was reading the Globe issue with its coverage of teacher job cuts and the Boston Red Sox home opener. He calls the potential loss of the paper a depressing prospect.

Mr. DAVID BRAGG: It's a little frustrating that an outside company hundreds of miles away might make a business decision that impacts millions of people here in New England, that would do away with their main news source.

NICKISCH: But that main news source isn't exactly making it easy on the parent New York Times Company. The Boston Globe is losing as much as $7 million per month, even after getting rid of 50 people in the newsroom last week. The New York Times is having its own problems making ends meet.

So Lou Ureneck, the head of the journalism department at Boston University, says the Times Company is sending the message: It can no longer subsidize the Globe's losses. Even so, he says:

Professor LOU URENECK (Professor of Journalism, Boston University): It's unlikely the paper will be shuttered. It's a possibility, but I don't think it will happen.

NICKISCH: Instead, Ureneck thinks the Times Company is trying to shore up the Globe's finances to unload it.

Prof. URENECK: The New York Times would sell the Globe in a heartbeat if it had an opportunity, if it had the right buyer.

NICKISCH: But buyers nowadays are few and far between. Other metro dailies up for sale recently in Denver and Seattle failed to find one. Ureneck thinks New England's premier regional paper might be different. But even if the Times Company found a savior for the Globe, it's unlikely the company would get anything close to the $1.1 billion it paid for it 15 years ago.

Newspaper industry analyst John Morton says the Globe is worth maybe a quarter of that now. He thinks the Times won't let it go for that.

Mr. JOHN MORTON (Newspaper Industry Analyst): I doubt whether the New York Times is eager to try to, you know, get out of their situation here. I think they want to improve it, and that's what they're trying to do.

NICKISCH: After all, he says, the Times Company is in the newspaper business and wants to run profitable newspapers. But as circulation and ad revenue keep declining, that's getting a lot harder. As Globe editor Marty Baron said in his talk last week:

Mr. BARON: We do not know long-term, or really even short-term, what our actual financial resources will be.

NICKISCH: And that has New Englanders worried their seminal news source will cease to be. For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickisch in Boston.

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