Watching Boston Globe developments with ambilvalence

4 05 2009

I can’t help rooting for a solution, however temporary, to keep the Globe on life support. It’s hard to imagine Boston without the Globe. But it’s become a shadow of itself, and the current concessions that the New York Times Co. is forcing on the Newspaper Guild can only accelerate the death spiral.

Note the lukewarm vote of confidence from the newspaper’s publisher:

While negotiations with the paper’s smaller unions have been relatively productive, the Guild, representing such a large and diverse group, has had to overcome deeper divisions. Still, most Guild members felt something would be worked out to avoid closure, according to Globe employees, and an email Thursday from Globe publisher Steven Ainsley lifted their hopes.

“By all accounts the talks have been substantive,” Mr. Ainsley wrote, adding that he thinks “we’ll emerge from this difficult period in better shape than when we entered it.”

On Sunday night, the Guild said that after “arduous deliberations” it had exceeded management’s demands for $10 million in cuts. “These tremendous sacrifices, across virtually all categories of compensation and benefits, are more than adequate to continue The Boston Globe’s mission of quality journalism,” the Guild said in its statement.

Viewing the situation as a “difficult period” from which we can emerge is part of the problem. It’s the end of the era for newspapers, and what will emerge for journalism has yet to take shape. But now is the time for creative evolution, not the prolonging of death throes.

I love newspapers and journalism, and I admire the commitment and courage of those still fighting the good fight. But you can’t cost-cut your way out of this problem. The work must be done on the revenue side and in building a viable business model.

Boston is the home of some of the world’s greatest minds in technology and business. I’ve got to believe that if there is a future for journalism, it can be born here.