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Employees at the Boston Globe will hear first-hand Thursday morning why the paper is no longer up for sale. The New York Times Co. CEO Janet Robinson is visiting the newsroom to follow up on a memo in which she said the paper had "significantly improved its financial footing."
With the Globe now off the market, there's a sense of relief, but not much surprise, among its employees.
The New York Times Co. had recently told them that salary and benefit cuts, combined with raising the price of the paper, have put it back on the path to profitability. So the memo from Robinson and publisher Arthur Sulzberger saying the Globe was no longer for sale didn't shock reporter Michael Paulson.
"I’m certainly pleased," Paulson said, "especially after taking a look at what the alternatives were. I think The Times is the best possible owner for us going forward."
The alternatives were Stephen Taylor and his cousin Ben Taylor — part of the family that previously owned the paper for almost a century — or the California-based buyout firm Platinum Equity. It is believed the Taylors were having trouble raising the money for the purchase and Platinum Equity has little experience in newspaper publishing.
Both offered less than a tenth of what The Times paid for the paper in 1993, and many at the Globe believe that made The Times think twice about a sale.
Others said they were not surprised The Times was no longer selling now, if, in fact, the paper was not losing money. If that proves true, reporter Marcella Bombardieri said she and others want The Times to give back some of what they lost in union concessions.
"I would really hope that they would look at, you know, how much they’ve hurt their workers, given that they say they’ve improved their financial footing a great deal," Bombardieri said. "They took so much away from us and we didn’t realize when we approved the contract that our health plan was just going to be devastated."
The decision not to sell was a complete turnaround from April, when the Times said it would shut the paper down if it did not get $20 million in concessions from the paper’s 13 unions.
What followed was four months of intense negotiations with the paper’s largest union, The Boston Newspaper Guild, over the extent of the cuts. In July, the union agreed to cut $10 million in wages and benefits.
There is still a strong undercurrent of anger at the owners for wringing steep cutbacks from the unions. One employee who did not want to be identified said he believes the threat to close or sell the paper was a trick to win union concessions.
But Globe reporter and union steward Beth Daley said she did not see an organized plan to fool union members, and she hopes that when Times CEO Janet Robinson visits the newsroom Thursday they can begin to mend fences — especially over health care.
"It does leave us with an owner that has not been very nice in the health care front," Daley said. "We’ve all given up a lot. When you look at our health care policy, it’s sort of added insult to injury."
Union members have already asked management to restore a large part of the $1.5 million in health care cuts. Meanwhile, employees at the Boston Globe hope things will get back to normal — whatever normal is in a dying industry with the economy still in recession.
This program aired on October 14, 2009.
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