Boston Globe fate hangs in the balance

The fate of the Boston Globe is hanging in the balance this week as the New York Times Company moves towards a deal with unions, but one with journalists is so far out of reach.

According to a report in the Washington Post, the New York Times Company has backed off from threats to close the paper temporarily at least. It has reached agreement with six of the seven unions that operate at the Globe, but crucially not with the union representing journalists, the Newspaper Guild, which represents 600 editorial staff.

The remaining $10m of cuts the New York Times Co wants to see have to come from the Newspaper Guild, which said it has offered a proposal that has met management’s demands. But the New York Times Company says the Guild hasn’t come gone far enough.

But even if they do agree the $20m cuts its nowhere near the $85m that the paper is going to lose this year.


There are a number of sticking points. While both have proposed ways of cutting $10m in pay and benefits the Newspaper Guild and the New York Times Company have gone about it in different ways. The Guild has proposed pay cuts of 3.5% as well as longer working hours and reductions in benefits. The New York Times Company wants pay cuts of 23%. There is a lot of distance between those two figures.


That said, that isn’t even the main stick point. This is the fact that the union is demanding that the lifetime job guarantee is retained. I can see why they want this. Once that is lifted it is likely the New York Times Company could use it as a way to cut jobs. In particular it would get rid of expensive long serving staff. It is what happens.


But what do you do? The New York Times Co has the Guild over a barrel as the US newspaper industry goes down the pan faster than you can say, I don’t know, pan? And with the Boston Globe set to lose $85m (to recap) in 2009 there is no way it can not continue with those kinds of losses for long as pretty soon you will end up with no newspaper and no jobs at all. Period. 


It’s sad in so many ways as people will lose their jobs, and we’re all concerned for the future, but some jobs have to be better than no jobs?

There’s loads of coverage around on this here at the Washington Post with more at the New York Times and not forgetting the Boston’s Globe’s comprehensive coverage of its own troubles.

While down market rival the Boston Herald reports that if talks do fail and the New York Times decides to sell or close the paper, it might not get that much for the asset it paid $1.1bn back in 1993.

Also worth a look is the Wall Street Journal’s useful map and table tracking trials and tribulations of the US newspaper industry.



  • Stephen Newton

    US newspapers do seem to employ a huge number of editorial staff. 600 at the Boston Globe. How does that compare with the Evening Standard, say? Don’t some nationals get by on half that?

  • Gordon Macmillan

    US newspapers are notoriously overstaffed.

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