"Depend upon it, sir," Samuel Johnson once said, "when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."
If that's the case, minds at the Boston Globe must be concentrated like Minute Maid these days. The New York Times Co. is the hangman, and the Globe is the hangee – to the tune of $20 million in union concessions just to keep the lights on at the Globe.
At least for now.
The Boston Newspaper Guild, the Globe's largest labor union, has fashioned a patchwork of responses -- from demanding that contract negotiations be held in public sessions, to demanding that the Guild deal directly with potential buyers of the Globe.
Not surprisingly, both demands went over like the metric system. So the Guild is taking its case to the public. In addition to Friday's pep rally, the union has launched a "Save The Boston Globe" petition on its website.
"As a community asset," the petition says, "the Boston Globe is necessary to the character of the city of Boston and indeed the entire New England region." That would be the same region that has abandoned the print edition of the Globe by the hundreds of thousands.
Regardless, the Globe is hoping the public will rally to support the paper. One local luminary already on the bandwagon is Sen. John (Can You Hear Me Now?) Kerry, who has told Globe employees he is committed to their fight and will hold hearings in May on the problems facing the newspaper industry. Presumably, Kerry thinks the government could help in some way.
As often happens with the junior senator from Massachusetts, though, his concern is a day late and a dollar short. And that's probably a good thing in this case, considering that once you let the government into the house, it's eventually gonna kick off its shoes and make itself a sandwich.
In its latest State of the News Media report, the Pew Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism said, "The problem facing American journalism is not fundamentally an audience problem or a credibility problem. It is a revenue problem . . . the decoupling of advertising from news."
Maybe the Globe union should be petitioning potential advertisers instead of indifferent readers. After all, voting with your clicker is easy. Voting with your wallet is something else entirely.
John Carroll is senior media analyst for WBUR and a mass communication professor at Boston University.
This program aired on April 24, 2009.