Morrissey Boulevard melancholia

Amid the latest cutbacks, dejection reigns at the Globe
By ADAM REILLY  |  January 31, 2007

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The mood at the Boston Globe has been increasingly dismal since the turn of the millennium. No surprise there: two big rounds of buyouts (in 2001 and 2005) and the demise of the national desk will do that to a paper — even to one that’s won six Pulitzers in 11 years. Today, however, spirits at Morrissey Boulevard seem to be at an all-time low. On January 11, management announced plans to cut 125 jobs from the Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, which is also owned by the Times Co.’s New England Media Group, including 17 jobs in the Globe’s newsroom and two from the editorial pages. (The Times Co. hopes about 70 people accept voluntary buyout packages; another 45 to 55 financial employees will be given severance packages similar to the buyouts and see their jobs outsourced to India). Then, on January 23, Globe staffers learned in a memo from editor Marty Baron that the paper was closing its three foreign bureaus — in Jerusalem, Berlin, and Bogota — and calling home the four reporters who’d staffed them. The cutback announcement heightened fears about the future; when speaking with the Phoenix, several Globe insiders predicted the next batch of staffing reductions would be accomplished with pink slips instead. The closing of the foreign bureaus, meanwhile, was symbolically potent: more than anything, it signaled a sharp reduction in the paper’s institutional ambitions.

The agonized tone of Baron’s memo suggested real regret; among other things, he praised the Globe’s foreign correspondents — all of whom will be offered other jobs at the paper — and explained that eliminating their positions would allow the Globe to preserve a dozen or so other jobs. (Once the latest cuts are implemented, the Globe newsroom will have about 395 employees; by way of comparison, the Boston Herald has 105.) Still, he tried to close on an upbeat note. “We remain positioned for another year of outstanding journalism,” Baron wrote, “with robust local coverage, ambitious plans for the presidential campaign, and continued strength in sports, arts, business, features, Washington coverage, and many other areas. You can also expect even more aggressive initiatives online.” But these assurances seem to have fallen flat. “The mood is despondent,” says one Globe staffer. “People are sad. We’re seeing the death of the Globe that many of us who’ve been there a long time grew up with, and what’s going to emerge in the spring is going to be a really different paper.”

Industry standard?
Of course, that’s par for the course these days. The examples vary: some are laughable (the Providence Journal cut in-house writing awards and pizza luncheons), some depressing (the Philadelphia Inquirer laid off 68 newsroom employees at the start of 2006), some tragically inspiring (LA Times editor Dean Baquet quit to protest cuts ordered by corporate parent Tribune Co). Still, the lesson remains the same. Thanks to an assortment of problems — the rise of the Internet, the corresponding decline in newspaper circulation and advertising revenue, and corporate ownership’s insistence on hefty profit margins — the newspaper business just isn’t what it used to be. And neither are a bunch of once-proud newspapers.

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Things are hard all over. Here’s a by-the-numbers round-up of how the dailies are faring across the country.

1000: minimum number of job cuts at large and midsize daily newspapers in 2006, according to Editor & Publisher (E&P)
2000: approximate number of job cuts at such papers in 2005, according to E&P
64: number of newsroom buyouts at the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2006
80: number at the Washington Post
111: number at the Dallas Morning News
7 percent: drop in the Globe’s daily circulation between April and September 2006, to approximately 386,000, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations figures
10 percent: decline in the Globe’s Sunday circulation, to approximately 587,000
2.8 percent: average national decline in daily circulation between April and September 2006
3.4 percent: average national decline in Sunday circulation
12.4 percent: drop in third-quarter advertising revenues for the New York Times Co.’s New England Media Group, which includes the Globe, from 2005 to 2006
4.2 percent: drop in third-quarter ad revenues for the entire Times Co. as a whole
395: approximate number of newsroom employees at the Globe after the current round of job cuts is implemented, according to a spokesman for the paper
105: approximate number at the Herald, according to Kevin Convey, the paper’s editor

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