Breaking News: You Might Not Be Around Tomorrow

Is it just me, or has there been a palpable lack of interest/outcry/fervor/what-have-you concerning the possibly imminent demise of The Boston Globe? I mean, people comment on articles (with mixed emotions, admittedly), and there are blog posts here and there, but I haven’t felt that “buzz” that usually permeates the air (actual and virtual) when a crisis is afoot. It’s weird.

With a midnight deadline looming, even on the Globe’s own site, the updated story about the ongoing negotiations is buried as the first link under the Business lead, way below the scroll:

Boston Globe management and its largest union are locked in high stakes negotiations as they pushed to meet a midnight deadline to reach agreement on millions of dollars in concessions from the unions, or risk the shutdown of the 137-year-old paper.

I mean, that sounds pretty dire, right? The story, of course, is leading on the Boston Herald’s site, and they also strike a pretty urgent tone:

Leaders of the Boston Globe press operators union say they are “gravely concerned” as the New York Times Co.’s threatened deadline to close The Boston Globe looms.

With just hours to go until the Times-imposed deadline of midnight tonight, the pressmen’s union had not reached an agreement with Times Co. management on the proposed budget cuts.

The Boston Phoenix’s Adam Reilly had a good piece in this week’s paper about the future of the Globe, giving an overview of the situation and impact of the paper’s demise. He touches on the rally held last week and really paints a sorry picture. First of all, rally? What rally? Apparently, this was the least publicized rally ever. Which goes to show how out of touch the folks in the newspaper industry are with the way the web works (as does the 39-year Globe employee who declared at the rally, “We want to get the whole story, not the tidbits from the Internet!”). Relatedly,I wonder how the blogger rally went?

(Also, note that their online petition is hosted on the union site, and is essentially an online form; there is no way for the public to gauge the momentum behind the cause.)

Basically, the impression I’ve gotten from the coverage is that the union is inept, the NYT Co. management is inept (since they flubbed the accounting that was an inherent part of their May 1 ultimatum, forcing the Globe unions to find an additional $4.5 million) and no one seems to care either way. I mean, is the Times threat that empty or that unlikely? Are people in denial? Does it even matter to anyone if the Globe lives or dies? I mean, I don’t have much insight on this. I’m honestly curious. Why the relatively weak reaction to this genuine crisis?

Maybe people are in the same state I am: half of me feels like the closure of the Globe is too ridiculous to happen, while the other half is almost resigned to it as an inevitable consequence of their failure to adapt. Call it corporate Darwinism. Sometimes, you need to blow up the model and start from scratch to survive, but the only strategy they seem to have is burning the wood to stay warm instead of making a raft to get the hell off the island.

Would the shutdown of the Globe create a void? Yes, of course, a tremendous one. Could it be filled? The fact that I can’t unequivocally say no, well, that means something. Maybe I’m just mad. I mean, they had a chance to get in on the ground floor of a partnership with Monster.com. That could have a been a game-changer, not just for the Globe, but for online classifieds and newspapers in general. Yes, it was the mid-90s, and the Internet was very new, but the communications world has been nothing over the course of history is not ever-evolving, and any self-respecting communications organization should have people on staff who are paid to see beyond the bottom line and the fiscal year, to chart the course for years and decades to come. If they had that person on board way back when, we might be in a very different position today. And I can’t help but hold that against them.

That said, while they’ve screwed up a bunch and let Boston.com become muddied by pageview-whoring and cash-grabs, they are a huge asset to the region. I truly hope that they not only survive, but find a way to innovate and thrive once more. And I hope that isn’t asking the impossible.

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One response to “Breaking News: You Might Not Be Around Tomorrow

  1. I’ve been obsessively following the story, to the point of staying up tonight to see what (if anything) would happen at midnight. But what can we do?

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