Prick Up Your Ears, Times Readers: Do You Know What Your New York Times Is Doing?

Michael Blim

Globe_121302 The minutes of the night tick down as I write this column. Soon I will have my morning reward. My column will come out on 3QD, and I will hear the thud of the Boston Globe against the front door.

My column will come out, but with the Boston Globe?

Ask The New York Times Company, its owner. For the past month, they have been threatening to close the Globe unless its workers give back $20 million in wages and benefits by May 1. For the past two days, the Times company has extended the deadline by one day. As I write, the Times company has put several hours back on the clock at the same time it is waving its official plant closing notice as required by the state in the faces of its employees.

The Globe, once the Sulzberger flagship for its New England media armada, and a cash cow to boot, is now losing a million dollars a week. It is the last paper of record in Boston, and has garnered dozens of national awards, including seven Pulitzer prizes since 1995. The 2007 prize was won by reporter Charlie Savage’s exposure of President Bush’s abuse of so-called signing statements, pithy bits of prose attached to his approval of laws that skewed or set aside whole provisions of legislation he could not summon the courage to veto. The 2003 prize was won the Globe’s spotlight team for their uncovering of the sex abuse scandal in the local and national Catholic churches.

These were hardly prizes awarded for art criticism, however valuable those forms of recognition may be. They were what newspapers do that no other institution or platform in America can yet do, which is to generate facts about and attention to serious, yet undiscovered problems in everyday life.

In Massachusetts, run so long via a Democratic Party daisy chain, the Globe is in effect the opposition party, even though it is a liberal institution –far more liberal institution than its owner’s paper, the New York Times.

Like so many major dailies across the country, it is hemorrhaging circulation and ad revenues. Its website, www.Boston.com, is the sixth busiest newspaper-related site in the United States, even though it is the 14th in circulation size nationally.

Despite its eminence and importance as the most authoritative journalistic voice in New England, the Globe’s editorial staff and workers are being frog-marched forward to concessions or oblivion by the Times. The Gray Lady herself has sunk to concession bargaining a great newspaper like some percale sheet producer would whoop a benighted southern-town labor force. This is not collective bargaining, but simply the blackmail that low-down employers in America use every day to discipline and dispossess their labor forces.

Prick up your ears, Times readers. For those of you for whom the Gray Lady is a messenger of enlightenment and truth, register its hypocrisy. As Globe copy editor Julie Dalton on April 4 put it: “People feel like the Times is willing to throw us overboard.”

Not willing, I would say, after a month of squeezing its employers for concessions on top of concessions made just 2 years ago in collective bargaining contracts. Quite ready.

Beginning soon, perhaps as early as later this week, if you read the Times, you will likely find you’re paying fifty cents a copy more.

In Boston, people fear that they will not be able to purchase the Globe at any price.

Consider not buying the Times for a couple of days. If you start getting the bends, read it on line if you must. Try reading another paper — you may enjoy the change. But let the Times Company know that you know what they are doing in Boston, and that concession bargaining Globe workers, especially given its pretensions to being something other than a union-busting percale sheet producer, doesn’t sit well with you.

Meanwhile, I’m going down to make coffee with the hope that my Globe delivery agent hits the door this time rather than the flowerbed.

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