Will the Globe survive?

By ADAM REILLY  |  April 30, 2009

Based on conversations I've had, the Globe newsroom is generally comfortable with the measured tone Baron has struck since the Times Co. made its threat. One staffer put it this way: "His hands are tied. I think he's fucking heartbroken that he can't do more." (Side note: while there's a rumor that the Times Co. told Baron he couldn't participate in Senator John Kerry's hearings this week on the future of newspapers, Baron says he chose not to testify given long-standing Times Co. tradition, and that he had no desire to appear.) But at the Seaport, Baron's muted tone didn't exactly inspire optimism. After the editor took his seat, a gentleman at my table offered his assessment. "What we're seeing here," he predicted, "is the death of a newspaper."

MIXED MESSAGE: A Faneuil Hall rally in support of the Globe had its moments of clarity and inspiration, but was mostly overcome by misplaced speakers, clumsy tactics, and an air of depressed defeatism.
A union divided
There have been rumbles of dissatisfaction from some members of the Boston Newspaper Guild — which is the Globe's largest union, and represents both newsroom and non-newsroom members — for a while now. The current crisis has ratcheted up this frustration: on April 7, for example, the Herald reported that Globe reporter Donovan Slack sent a testy e-mail to the paper's editorial employees after the Guild failed to promptly inform its members of the Times Co.'s threat. ("With all due respect," Slack reportedly wrote, "I'm starting to wonder about our union leadership and whether we are going in the right direction.")

Broadly speaking, (dis)satisfaction with Guild leadership has correlated to age and job description, with younger journalists the most likely to express frustration. On April 10, an e-mail from Guild head Daniel Totten seemed to implicitly recognize this friction between the union's journalists and non-journalists: Totten praised the Guild's newsroom members as "some of the most skilled and intelligent communicators in the industry," and said that their assistance would be vital as the Guild worked to make its case to the public.

Judging from a recent meeting of the Guild's membership, though — also held on April 23, hours after Baron gave his South Boston speech — the union still has some serious cohesion problems. Two factions went at it that night in Dorchester: critics (mostly from the newsroom) who accused Guild leadership of being unresponsive to members, and union defenders (mostly not from the newsroom) who accused the critics of weakening the Guild.

One major point of disagreement: whether the Guild has paid sufficient attention, or any attention at all, to the surveys it distributed on April 13, asking its members what they would and wouldn't be willing to give up. As a reporter noted at the April 23 meeting, Totten had seemed to rule out certain concessions — including, apparently, changes to the paper's seniority structure and the elimination of the lifetime-job guarantees some members possess — in a public statement he made before the results could possibly have been tabulated. This, the reporter said, suggested that Guild leadership might not actually care what the surveys said.

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  Topics: Media -- Dont Quote Me , Brian Mooney, Brian Mooney, George Regan,  More more >
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