Boston Globe-Union Negoatiations: Down to the Wire

Boston Globe front page, April 4, 2009
Boston Globe front page: April 4, 2009

Midnight tonight Sunday is the deadline set by the New York Times Co. to wring $20 million in concessions from the union representing workers at the Boston Globe. No agreement, no Globe, according to the Times’ leaders.

No agreement has been announced, yet.

This has been excruciating to watch. The Globe’s unions have resorted to begging for fawning letters from the state’s congressional delegations to the Times to treat the Globe “fairly” – whatever “fair” means when a newspaper is hemorrhaging $1.63 million a week. We’ve also learned some details about why the Globe is in such a big hole – among them, the scores of employees who have lifetime guaranteed contracts.

The Globe and the Times made a lot of decisions that today seem stupid but, back then, didn’t. Anyone who slams these decisions today is just taking easy cheap shots, because I don’t remember many people saying anything back then. Smug second-guessers have a special circle in hell.

The city’s other’s day paper, the Herald, hasn’t distinguished itself either. It’s been churlish in its reporting, as if it’s not facing financial Doomsday itself. The real shock is that Herald could actually outlast the Globe, even if for only a day.

What will happen to journalism here if the Globe folds? Some 20 years ago, after his star pitcher walked out of training camp in a salary dispute, a reporter asked the Red Sox general manager what would happen next. Lou Gorman’s answer: “The sun will rise, the sun will set, and I’ll have lunch.”

Something like that will happen in Boston. The Herald will still be the Herald – irrelevant. TV stations will actually have to work for news that doesn’t drop into their laps from American Idol or the police scanner. Local newspapers will still cover the school committees and the zoning boards,. and do a decent job with it too. ESPN will still do great sports reporting.

But the big stories won’t be reported, which will make the entrenched powers happy. Currently in Boston, that includes public pension abuses and the infuritating attitude of entitlement that pervades the governing class. We’ll miss that reporting, for a while. Call me an optimist, but I believe that this, too, will survive, if enough people care.

Stay tuned to what happens at the Globe.