As the face of the Globe, Ainsley should be reassuring readers that everything possible will be done to keep the paper alive. Meanwhile, the notion that the story could be kept quiet — then broken at the Globe's leisure — suggests ignorance of how quickly information moves nowadays, and how easily news is reported online, by a bevy of different outlets. Throw in the fact that, as one Globe source says, Ainsley is "publisher of a paper whose reporters beat down the doors of people many times, every day, to force reluctant people to say things," and his silence looks downright indefensible.
Not surprisingly, Mathis and Powers declined comment for this story.
Friends in need
The Globe usually buries news of its own woes deep inside the paper, but it gave this shut-down story the sort of play usually reserved for elections and wars: front-page, above-the-fold headlines on both Saturday and Sunday, with stories on the ultimatum itself, union response, and a man-on-the-street treatment that bore the emo-esque title "Threat to Globe Triggers Flood of Feelings." Since the Globe's very existence may be at stake here, this dramatic treatment wasn't unreasonable. But did the paper really need to solicit testimonials from an assortment of the state's most powerful politicians, as well?
On Saturday, it was Governor Deval Patrick ("It's hard to imagine starting the day or doing this current job without the Globe") and Boston Mayor Tom Menino ("The Globe holds people accountable on the issues, and that's important"). On Sunday, it was US Senator John Kerry ("It's difficult to imagine Massachusetts without the Globe and I'm not even going to try"), Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray ("[T]here's still time for things to be worked out and for the Globe to play the role it historically has"), and Massachusetts Treasurer Tim Cahill ("If the Boston Globe were to close, not only would it be a significant loss to the community, but also it would mean more people out of work in this tough economy").
The problem, obviously, is that a central part of the Globe's mission is to critically scrutinize local politicians. But now these same politicians are coming to the paper's aid in a time of great duress — raising at least the possibility that this assistance will somehow be rewarded down the road, even unconsciously, in the endorsements the paper makes and the news it does and doesn't cover.
Some people see this as a nonissue. "This is in extremis for the Globe, and they need all the help they can get," argues Alex Jones, director of Harvard's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. "As far as I'm concerned, this doesn't compromise the Globe, and they would be crazy if they didn't try to enlist this kind of help. I don't think there is any quid pro quo."
In the same vein, Frank Phillips, the Globe's State House bureau chief, says the encomiums won't affect the paper's coverage at all. "I think it's very gracious of them to be able to rise above [criticism in the press] and understand what journalism is," Phillips tells the Phoenix. "We don't take it personally when they denounce us or when they praise what we do. We just go ahead and do our journalism."