Carroll: Union Cuts Won’t Stop Paper-Shredding At The Globe

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Whichever way the Boston Newspaper Guild votes on Monday, the Globe as we’ve known it is yesterday’s news.

Even if the Globe’s parent New York Times Co. gets its $20 million in union givebacks, the paper-shredding at the local broadsheet has just begun. There’s still $65 million more the Globe will lose this year, according to Times Co. projections.

That means a much leaner, much lighter, much less ambitious Boston Globe in the near future.

That also means fewer local investigative efforts such as the one that dismantled former House Speaker Sal DiMasi. Or the one that defrocked pedophile priests in the Archdiocese of Boston. Or the one that deconstructed the waste, fraud and abuse at the Big Dig.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many candidates to replace the Globe in that department.

Certainly there are journalism schools at local universities collaborating on investigative work with Boston media outlets. Beyond that, local TV stations experience periodic spasms of investigative reporting.

There are also a couple radio stations here — modesty prevents me from naming any — that could pick up some investigative slack.

And, yes, there’s always the Boston Herald, which normally serves as a lively index to the Globe, but often scoops everybody else in town.

But all those combined will only approach the firepower the Globe once had.

Whatever Boston Globe survives will reportedly lose 50 percent of its classified advertising and 25 percent of overall revenue in the coming year. Meanwhile, the Times Co. has lost over 70 percent of its value in the past year.

Desperate times, desperate measures.

Maybe the Globe will go the way of the Detroit Free Press, which cut home delivery back to three days a week –Thursday, Friday and Sunday, when the newspaper actually makes money.

Or perhaps it will follow the example of the Hartford Courant, which adopts content wholesale from its mother ship, the Chicago Tribune. Or it could channel the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which folded its print edition and went all-Web this year.

Then again, the Post-Intelligencer slashed 80 percent of its newsroom in the process, so maybe that could be a last resort.

The Globe is in this jam because it made the same mistake as virtually every other newspaper — they thought the Internet was the caboose. Turns out, of course, it’s the engine. But the train has left the station in terms of charging for the content on the Globe’s  Web site.

In the end, it comes down to this: Over the past decade, the media world changed, and newspapers didn’t change with it. But they’re sure as heck gonna change now.

John Carroll is senior media analyst for WBUR and a mass communication professor at Boston University.

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