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The Globe Is Not For Sale, But Its Future Is Still 'Fragile' 05:55
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Employees at the Boston Globe meet with the newspaper’s owners on Thursday morning to hear why the Globe is no longer for sale.

In a memo to Globe employees on Wednesday, New York Times Co. CEO Janet Robinson said The Times would keep the 137-year-old broadsheet and that its finances had turned around.

“The new normal at the Globe, as it is at most other metropolitan newspapers, is a much more spartan place than it used to be,” said Tom Fiedler, a longtime newspaper journalist and dean of the College of Communication at Boston University.

"The idea — the hope — that many Globe news staffers have, that somehow the givebacks that they endured just a few month ago will somehow be reversed, I think, frankly, is unlikely to happen," Fiedler said.

The Times had been projecting that the Globe would lose $85 million this year. But Fiedler said finances would still be tight at the paper even though The Times recently shut down a Billerica printing plant and got $20 million in contract concessions from Globe union employees.

"If you go with the math, that would still leave the Globe somehow in the red, losing something on the order of $40 million," Fiedler said. "That's not an environment in which the employees are going to expect somehow better days ahead."

In part, Fiedler said, The Times decided not to sell the Globe because its management was not happy with the two bids it had received from prospective buyers Stephen Taylor and Platinum Equity. Each group bid around $35 million, which Fiedler noted was about 10 cents on the dollar of what The Times had paid for the Globe in 1993.

"Maybe they do see that there's a path to get the Globe into the black, but, if so, it's going to be a very fragile profitability," Fiedler said.

The Times has not ruled out the sale of its other Massachusetts newspaper, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Fiedler said that sale seems fairly certain.

"It serves a very strong local market, but I don't think it affects the bottom line of The New York Times Co. in the same way" as the Globe, Fiedler said.

Looking down the road, Fiedler said, the Globe's Web site will be critical to the future of the organization.

"Boston.com is one of the most successful news-based Web sites in the country," Fiedler said. "As revenues from the print paper decline — hopefully that will be slowly — and revenues from boston.com go up — probably also slowly — somewhere along the line in the future those lines will cross."

Newspapers across the country are still struggling to figure out the economics of online news, but Fiedler said the Boston Globe and boston.com will thrive on the fact that, above all else, people are looking for a brand they can trust.

"I think increasingly what people who are looking for news online are demanding is credibility," Fiedler said, " and those sites by and large are still operated by traditional news companies — the Boston Globe being one."

WBUR's Kathleen McNerney compiled this report.


This program aired on October 15, 2009.

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Bob Oakes has been WBUR's Morning Edition anchor since 1992.

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