By Edward Shanahan
Despite a long-time addiction to newspapers, I gave up buying and
reading the weekday Boston Globe more than a year ago, a habit I
thought I would never want to kick.
But kick it I did and I feel better for having done so.
I'm now working on the next step in my self-improvement effort -
giving up the Sunday Globe, which increasingly disappoints as strewn
sections, quickly read and disposed of, litter the floor around
In recent weeks, Globe editor Matthew Storin has tried to put a
happy face in his notes to readers as to why we should prefer a
Sunday Globe absent a separate New England section, especially those
of us living west of Interstate 495. He also wants us to do without
the stand-alone book section, which now has been merged with a shrunken
Focus section, which means considerably less space devoted to articles
and opinion pieces about issues and ideas of substance.
He cites as reasons for these changes the decline in advertising
revenue and the parallel increases in the cost of newsprint. Thus,
economies are required, economies dictated by the owners of the
Globe, the stockholders of the New York Times Co.
It has been five or six years since the Times bought the Globe from
the Taylor family, local owners and publishers of many generations,
for a reported $1 billion. For a few years, the Times allowed the
Globe to continue to operate more or less independently of New York,
but now the Times management is fully in charge.
A recent exchange of e-mail messages with my friend Tom Mulvoy,
who was managing editor of the Globe until he allowed himself to
be bought out and retired last fall, produced the following assessment:
"It's a pity what is going on at my old workplace. The Taylors never
would have cut muscle out of their paper to meet short-term financial
needs; they'd have borrowed or taken some other route, not cut Focus
into a skeletal embarrassment or eliminated New England and our
Hobbies page or trimmed the newshole by 10 percent or placed ads
on Pages 2 and 3.
"That is the Times way, though, with all of their properties save
the one they publish in Gotham, which is untouchable (understandably).
My dread is that slowly and surely they are consciously reducing
the Globe to the status of just another Times Company property (Fort
Lauderdale North) and not the second largest jewel in the bag.
"They sent buyout letters to 800 people three weeks ago, hoping
to persuade thereby 250-300 people to leave. It looks like the newsroom
will lose about 40 people, most of them steady old hands. The publisher
we got from the Times in July 1998 seems tone deaf to the Globe's
institutional rhythm, or maybe he just doesn't care to listen to
the beat. One of my former colleagues says 'there's very little
reason to smile around there these days.'
"I am glad I am out of there after giving them 34 years and 6 weeks
out of my life."
That is a sad admission from someone whom I admire as I used to
admire the newspaper he toiled for.
Meanwhile, I checked in with Evelynne Kramer, who worked as a reporter
and editor at the Daily Hampshire Gazette, before spending 15 years
as an editor of the Globe, including being in charge of the Sunday
"Indeed, the Globe feels tired (reads tired) and unsure of its mission,
I feel privileged to have been there at a different time when it
was so exhilarating to be part of a major metro daily ... But the
landscape of the American workplace has changed, and somehow, it
is not so surprising that a newspaper (read: the newspaper business)
has changed as well. The Times will always be judged on the quality
of the Times, not the Globe, which, I fear, has become the cash
So blame not the Globe for its deficiencies; shame on the august
New York Times Co., which, as a typical media conglomerate, is anything
One journalist footnote: Stephen G. Smith, who recently was removed
as the top editor of US. News & World Report, long ago worked as
a reporter in the bureau of the Gazette. Freshly graduated from
the University of Pennsylvania, it was Smith's first newspaper job.
And, in fact, Steve was the first reporter I hired in 1971 after
I arrived as editor of the Gazette.
Steve Smith went on to work for the Albany Times Union, the Globe,
Philadelphia Inquirer, and later was as an editor of Time Magazine,
Newsweek, and a host of other publications. Active as a graduate
of Deerfield Academy, he visits this area from time to time. He
will, I suspect, recover nicely from this latest professional pothole.