Carroll: The Globe Documents Its Own Dismantling

The Boston Globe
The Boston Globe

The Boston Globe is in the unfortunate position of having to document its own dismantling.

The New York Times Co. jump started its demolition derby with a demand that the local daily commandeer $20 million in union concessions. The Globe responded in its Saturday edition with a Page 1 above the fold five-column headline that read, “Times Co. threatens to shut Globe, seeks $20m in cuts from unions.”

That’s what’s known in psychological circles as repressed hostility. Or maybe not so repressed.

The next day’s page one above the fold four-column headline read, “Threat to Globe triggers flood of feelings.” Globe reporters fanned out across doughnut shops, newsstands, libraries, luncheonettes and convenience stores to interview distressed Globe readers.

Local luminaries also piped up, from politicians suddenly enamored with the Globe, to religious, cultural and entertainment figures lamenting the prospect of Boston Globe-less.

All that Globe breast-beating, however, struck one observer as entirely counter-productive. Veteran media executive Alan Mutter, who writes the Reflections of a Newsosaur blog, said the Globe coverage “not only was vastly overplayed but also may serve to unnecessarily damage the newspaper’s already weakened business.

“The editors, who evidently let emotion overcome their news judgment, should have known better,” Mutter concluded.

No problem in that department at the Times, where the Globe-ectomy has been business as usual – and not even high-profile business at that. The only story the mother ship has run about Globe cutbacks appeared on page B5.

On Saturday.

You can’t get more buried than that unless you’re Jimmy Hoffa.

Meanwhile, back in the Hub of the Universe, the Global warning is very much a hot topic.

On the old-media side you have the Boston Herald and various talk-radio ghouls dancing on what they hope is the Globe’s grave. On the new-media side you have this week’s stirring Blog Rally coordinated to underscore the importance of keeping the Globe solvent — presumably to continue providing blogs with something to criticize.

On the Boston Globe side you have a proud and distinguished newspaper publishing its own slow-motion obituary. That’s certainly not the saddest thing happening in Boston right now, but it might be the most consequential thing in the long run.

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

This program aired on April 10, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.


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