By: Joe Strupp
An unusual letter to New York Times Company Chairman Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. from a collection of Massachusetts politicians — ranging from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy to local Boston city council members — urged the owners of The Boston Globe to resist likely cutbacks at the financially-strapped newspaper.
The letter, dated Oct. 19, states “It is our interest, and duty, to help preserve quality journalism in Boston and throughout the New England region,” adding that “Boston Globe journalists have risked and, in some cases, given their lives in pursuit of news from the world’s most dangerous war zones and treacherous locales.”
But the writers quickly turn to the Times ownership of the Globe, criticizing the media chain for what they contend to have been poor stewardship of the paper. “… progressively over time since the New York Times Co. acquired the Boston Globe in 1993, a troubling pattern of disinvestment, downsizing, outsourcing and cost cutting has emerged.
“A gradual sea change in how consumers get their news has been underway for some time. And consequently, newspaper circulation, advertising revenue and overall staffing has suffered. The Globe is not immune to these conditions,” the letter continues. “However, neither is the Globe immune to the damaging effects of newsroom staff reductions. A shrinking news hole and the elimination of bureaus have stung the morale of employees facing increased health care costs and wage freezes. Any damage done to the Globe is, ultimately, damage done to the readers it serves.”
Sulzberger’s office had no comment on the letter. But Catherine Mathis, vice president of corporate communications for The New York Times Company, released a statement in response from Globe Publisher Steve Ainsley. “The Boston Globe, one of the nation’s greatest newspapers, remains committed to providing its readers with the high-quality journalism for which it is known,” Ainsley said.
The letter included a total of 28 signatories, from state legislators to the mayor of Somerville, Mass., and ended with a plea for Sulzberger to “invest in the Boston Globe and invest in the future of Globe employees – rather than look for new ways to get by with less and less. The Globe is far more than just another asset on your balance sheet.”
The letter came just a day after the Globe’s largest union, the Boston Newspaper Guild, rejected a contract offer that included raises tied to the paper’s revenue. The New York Times Company, meanwhile, announced Thursday that its third quarter profits had fallen by nearly 40%, sparking speculation that more cutbacks could occur.
Last year, The New York Times Company shook up the industry by announcing it would cut some 500 jobs across all of its holdings, including 35 in the Globe newsroom. Subsequently, the Globe issued a buyout offer that resulted in about 30 employees leaving the paper.