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Globe Editor: Contract Caps, But Doesn’t End, Long Tumult At Paper

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The largest union at the Boston Globe has approved contract concessions totaling $10 million.

Members of the Boston Newspaper Guild ratified the agreement by a vote of 366 to 179. It includes a salary reduction, suspension of company contributions to employee retirement funds and the elimination of lifetime job guarantees for about 170 long-time employees.

The Guild was the last of the paper’s major unions to approve the concessions. Six weeks ago, its members rejected a deal similar to the one it approved Monday. Management responded by slashing salaries 23 percent.

The Globe’s owner, The New York Times Co., had threatened to shut the newspaper down entirely if unions did not agree to wage and benefit cuts. It has since backed off that threat, but is now trying to find a buyer for the Globe.

Boston Globe editor Marty Baron spoke with us about the new contract deal and where the paper goes from here.

Delores Handy: What is the mood in the newsroom now that the deal has been approved?

Marty Baron: Well of course this vote concluded last night and it’s a little hard for me to gauge the mood in the newsroom, but I think that for the most part people are ready to move on, to put this behind us and focus on our journalism.

It’s been a very tense — of course — intense time, and very difficult for everyone, but people are definitely ready to look ahead.

Were these negotiations a distraction? How did they affect the operation of the newsroom?

Well, anytime you have discussions that are as intense and as tense as this, there is some level of distraction, of course. On the other hand, everybody in the newsroom has been very much focused on their work, on their mission, on doing the best possible journalism.

And I think that we have proved that — day after day we have done very powerful journalism and journalism that demonstrates the enduring value of the Boston Globe in this community.

How have you tried to keep morale up and keep the operation running smoothly, though?

Well, what I’ve done, what I think all of us have done — editors, reporters, photographers, graphics artists, designers, everyone who works in our newsroom — is simply focus on the journalism. I think people understand that their work is important in this community, they believe in their work, they’re very much committed to it, very dedicated — we have an impressively dedicated staff.

We needed to focus on our journalism and that the journalism came above everything else. And that’s what people have done.

Now that the lifetime job guarantees are gone for employees, do you expect job cuts in the near future?

Well I really don’t know. You know, those kinds of decisions are made at the corporate level; I’m not aware of anything in particular. I think people recognize that over time that our industry is gettting smaller, and that’s what’s happened over the last several years — maybe more than that actually, over a longer period of time. But I’m not aware of anything in particular.

Do you feel that the worst is behind you now, or might a sale make for even bigger upheaval?

Well, it’s hard to say. Our industry is in a state of continuous turmoil. We seem to be endlessly battered by what’s happening in our industry and what’s happening in the worldwide economy. So we have to continue to contend with all of that.

That said, the steps that have been taken with this vote, with the votes of the other unions and with the overall turnaround plan of the Boston Globe — which involves savings and additional revenues in a variety of areas — I hope and I trust that we’ll be on much more stable ground.

Would you like to see local ownership for the Globe, or does it matter?

Well, it’s not for me to say. That, too, is a decision that’s made at the corporate level about what they might do with the Globe, and that’s something that’s entirely out of my control and it’s probably not appropriate for me to even weigh in on the matter.

How do you feel right now?

I feel relieved that this is behind us, very much looking forward to the great journalism that we will be doing in the weeks and months and years ahead.

And this was a very difficult time, in many ways we had to sort of confront the reality of the worldwide economy, of our industry and of our own internal business conditions, and I think that that’s what’s happened.

And now I think we’re on much more stable ground and we’re ready to move ahead, and I’m ready to move ahead as well.

This program aired on July 22, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

Delores Handy Twitter Reporter
Delores Handy was formerly a host and reporter at WBUR.

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