My relationship with the Boston Globe is long and varied so it was with shock I read the news that the NYT Co was threatening to shut it down unless the unions give back $20 million this year. An empty threat it wasn’t. The Globe is forecast to lose $85 million this year and lost $50 million of the NYT Co.’s $57 million loss for 2008. The Globe is hurting badly.
The Globe and I go back a half century so it is with disbelief that the Globe newspaper could go away. New England (NE) without the Globe?! Take away clam chowdah, but not the Globe. A Globe-less Boston would be a colossal tragedy on so many levels for the region. Who’d keep politicians in check? Who’d campaign for fairness day in and out? Who’d report the good news? Who’d provide that wonderful paper edition for reading and 24 hours later, my wood stove? Who’d? Who’d? Who’d? The Globe is Boston and Boston is the Globe.
I was 8 or 9 when I started reading the comics in the Globe also known as the funnies. At the time, both the Globe and Herald had a.m. and p.m. editions. The papers bore colored stripes (dark pink and blue) to signify which edition they were (or political leanings…I forget…seems like the Herald had a blue strip). I guesstimate the Globe gave up on the p.m. in the mid-seventies.
I delivered a local newspaper and my mother was a high school English teacher so journalism was in my blood. My interests quickly expanded from comics Steve Roper & Mike Nomad, Mary Worth and Mutt and Jeff to the sports section and into the Globe at large which carried a terrific investigative pieces and a international reputation (after all, it’s called the Globe). After college, I drove a cab for several years and my day started with an exceptionally strong cup of coffee from Mull’s breakfast joint in South Boston and a copy of the Globe to read sports columnist Ray Fitzgerald, my all-time favorite.
My independent streak steered me into journalism in the mid-70s. Even then, newspaper jobs were scarce, but if you wanted a newspaper career bad enough, you could land a job. The Globe was the paragon of NE newspapering and many waited until their fifties to work there. I was 40 when I started writing for the Globe in the long since dropped Sunday Hobbies section.
On Feb. 18, 1990, my first Globe story which was on model railroad show in W. Springfield appeared and was followed by one in July on book collecting at the Old Corner Bookstore. They constituted The Odd Corner which was overseen by auto writer John R. White, a crusty editor who I once made the mistake of asking how long my stories should be. “When you get the end, stop,” he growled. So I went long and he ran half the story.
In 1995, I started writing a bi-weekly column called TechEdge on the Globe’s Emerging Business page. It was a column explaining new technology to business which back then wasn’t as big a deal it is today. The Business section was growing and Larry Edelman ran the section (Larry and I had both broke into tech writing at an IT trade rag called MIS Week…RIP). I wrote about 100 columns before I was lured away by the Wall Street Journal in late 1998.
Then, in 2000, I got a call from Edelman’s successor Peter Mancusi asking if I was interested in a new position called Technology Editor. I was wary of the long commute from my home to the Globe and was still writing for the WSJ, but went through four hours of interviewing which included time with Globe editor Matt Storin, exec. editor Helen Donovan and several others all since gone from the paper. Alas, I pulled out of the running given my commitments at the time and the specter of late nights helping to put out the the business section.
Rob Weisman, who has become a good friend, got the position of technology editor and has done well at the Globe. He’s given me a bunch of freelance assignments over the years and has become one of the lead writers following the Globe’s problems. Hopefully, he or no one will not write the paper’s obituary. He came to the Globe via the Seattle Times whose rival the Post Intelligencer just gave up on print and before that, the Hartford Courant.
My guess it’s just a matter of time before all newspapers give up on print given the huge expense and declining ad revenue. Boston.com is a decent site (I wish it were newsier) , but could not sustain the 300 reporters and editors still occupying the Globe newsroom still has. I suspect a small fraction of that large staff would endure.
Many think the Globe needs benevolent local ownership who cares more about the newspaper than profits. Expecting such a savior to suddenly appear might well be naive given the Globe’s mounting losses and grim prospects. Hopefully within what was once a bloated organization is a viable Boston Globe that can carry on the mission.
So I will cherish those remaining walks down the driveway every morning to grab my copy of the Globe.