Issues facing The Boston Globe are facing other newspapers and online entities. Industry insiders and academics shared what the future of journalism looks like and how to prepare for the new media environment:
Industry & Academic Insiders On Boston Globe Crisis
Many newspapers are dealing with reader gravitation away from print news and toward news online.
The Republican, a newspaper based in Springfield, Massachusetts, has a separate Web site component called “MassLive.” It’s headed by a five-person team, which include TV and local sports bloggers. The Web site posts headline news in addition to message boards. They thrive off reader comments and try to connect with their audience. The MassLive team has become community oriented.
The Christian Science Monitor recently went online-only last year. They now publish an issue weekly.
When news hit the stands about the potential closing of the Boston Globe, industry insiders and academics expressed mixed feelings of what it would be like without this significant news entity that has existed since 1872. Many wondered how the citizens of Boston and surrounding regions would react without a print version of one of the most popular area papers and whether or not the Globe’s Web site, Boston.com, would remain online.
Industry insiders were generally surprised at the thought of the Globe shutting down. Ed Kubosiak, online editor at MassLive, feels a deep connection with the Globe, even though he lives in western Massachusetts. He admits to “being upset at the thought of the organization going away, it’s jarring.”
“I was really surprised that the Globe was on the block to be eliminated. Just a year ago, people were wondering about the Herald. No one thought the Globe would be facing elimination from the publishing world,” said Braverman.
Insiders remain optimistic regarding the Globe’s future, even before the Union agreements. Erik Gallant, a sports blogger and producer at MassLive, believes that the Globe (along with all newspapers) will eventually move online only.
“Even if they if they stop printing the physical paper, I think they will be pretty well set up and continue on and the reason for that is because I think they have a lot of great writers. I think those writers are the people who draw people to the paper and the website,” said Gallant.
MassLive senior producer, Jeff Hobbs, has faith in the Globe’s innovativeness.
“If the print went away, it would still be a highly successful website,” said Hobbs.
Senior lecturer B.J. Roche, who teaches in the journalism program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is also looking at the future of the Boston Globe as an online-only entity with a smaller newsroom, and believes the troubles faced by the Globe are “a problem of advertising.”
“People will see a lot less real reporting because they won’t have the bodies to do it,” said Roche.
Roche had a weekly column about New England titled “Peaks and Valleys,” in the Sunday edition of the Boston Globe three years ago.
“To get something published in the Globe was a huge accomplishment,” said Roche, “where are you going to get an audience of half a million viewers?”
Roche’s column was cut, because “it wasn’t necessary.”
Some question whether an online-only model would work.
The Globe is not charging for content on Boston.com now, but that may change in the future.
Braverman, whose paper has a weekly paid model, wonders, “Why would I want to pay for the Globe? I can read the whole thing online…the newspaper industry has given you a free plate online.” Gallant believes that the appetite for news remains, even in the younger generation.
Over the past few years, the Globe has changed its focus of coverage. It covers big world and national news and happenings inside of Boston. The Globe only covers western Massachusetts (and other regions of New England) when a big story breaks there, therefore leaving some readers to gravitate towards local papers, such as The Daily Hampshire Gazette or The Republican, the print version of MassLive.
The closing of the Globe would affect the Boston area the greatest, but would affect the rest of Massachusetts differently.
Roche does not think the closing of the print edition of the Globe would “affect anywhere outside of that tight suburb of Boston…I don’t think it would affect the Amherst area at all.”
Kubosiak is based in Springfield and deals with mostly western Massachusetts news. He said, “There’s been a pattern of thinking that eastern Massachusetts doesn’t care about western Massachusetts, whether on the political news front [or elsewhere]. I haven’t felt that all that much. The Globe would usually cover UMass basketball. I think they need to do a great job with Boston, there’s a lot going on there.”
Assistant Editor for the Gardner News, Andres Caamano, would be affected by a shutdown of the Globe. He values the content that the Globe sells to the Associated Press.
“The stories that the Associated Press has sent out about the Craigslist killing have been mostly from the Globe. The impact would be felt in small newspapers in Massachusetts and throughout the country.”
The Globe has been a watchdog organization for the City of Boston for many years. Citizens rely on its strong reporting to keep politicians in check and inform them of the happenings at City Hall. Braverman believes it would be a problem if the Globe shut down.
“If the Globe or the Herald went away, they wouldn’t be watching them (politicians). They would go scot-free. The good things that the politicians do wouldn’t be known either,” said Braverman.
Kubosiak also elaborated on the situation.
“I think of the globe as an important entity, both for the community and as an institution. They’ve proven over the years to be a watch dog,” said Kubosiak.
Roche is worried about the impact on politics and that there will be lighter coverage of City Hall. “No citizen blogger is going to know how to go in and research public documents,” said Roche. “They don’t have the skills like someone who has worked 20 years on a political beat.”
“Quite honestly I don’t know how they’ll prevent something like this again,” said Marshall Ingwerson, managing editor of the Christian Science Monitor. “They are in the same situation as most metro newspapers making financial cuts.”
While the Globe may be fine for now, it is likely that in the near future they will be faced with making more financial cuts as readers continue to rely on the Internet as their main source of news. As a result of the warning from the New York Times Company, on May 6, 2009 the Boston Globe proposed pay cuts, unpaid furloughs, and the elimination of lifetime contracts to ensure that the Globe would not shut down. The Boston Newspaper Guild still needs to vote on the wage cuts.
Boston Globe reader react to the possibility of the paper closing:
Residents of Massachusetts express strong connection to The Boston Globe
When walking through The Boston Commons, many Boston Globe readers of diverse ages and backgrounds can be found. Readers prove to have different preferences when it comes to the way they receive their news.
One interviewee that seemed to capture the general response of the online generation was twenty-two year old Allison Cummings of Malden. When asked if she read the Boston Globe, her initial response was a quick no. After she thought about her answer though, she admitted to reading it online only. Her reason was that the online version was free and easily accessible, which seems to suit the college student lifestyle. She also said was trying to be “green” and save paper by reading it online.
On the contrary, seventy-three year old Samuel DeMerit of Cambridge, felt a deep attachment to the print version of the Globe. In a soft-spoken voice, DeMerit said that he would read the Globe online if he had to, but he prefers having the print version to look over. He also said that the Globe was a leader in investigative journalism, giving the example of the priest sexual abuse scandals. “It would be a calamity if the Globe went away,” he said.
Kate Duval, 24 of Needham, was another online reader of Boston.com. Although she acknowledged that the closure of the Globe would be a “sad end to an era,” she does not feel her personal life would be affected without the print version.
Peter Daniels, 37 of Boston, said that he gets his news from his closest resource whether it’s the television, Internet, or newspapers, “but there are things in the Globe you can’t get anywhere else.”
Twenty year old Emerson College journalism student, Stefanie Le, said for one of her classes they read the Globe every day, and not having it would be a loss of an educational resource.
Although the threat of the Globe closing down was palpable a month ago, and agreements were reached to keep it open, greater Boston residents still had strong opinions on the subject. After realizing how quickly such a large entity could disappear, readers also realized how important the Globe was to them. One of the most prevalent concerns was not having a counterpart to The Boston Herald.
“Without the Globe we’d have a more slanted look at politics, the Herald being more conservative,” said Michael Hickey of Medford.
“How would people find jobs, or housing?” said Marty Baird, of Brockton, “It’s the number one resource and turning to a competitor would not be the same.”
“Readers deserve a quality newspaper, and it should be a two newspaper town,” said Mark Bell, Boston resident and Globe employee.
As the industry changes more papers are going through financial crises causing job losses, and in some cases closures. The million-dollar question seems to be, what next and how? Now that the Globe has reached the demands of The New York Times Company it will continue to reach its devoted readers while struggling to find the answer. Some residents offer their suggestions on what they think the Globe should do.
“The slow down in the economy will let us breathe and rethink the next step,” said Ian MacKinnon of Boston. He proposed that despite the multifunction of the Globe and Boston.com, they diversify further into other markets such as a convenience store or in song form.
“The New York Times Company is only concerned with The New York Times,” said Bell. Bell said he thought the Globe needed new owners that cared about the quality of the newspaper and that in recent times the only prominence left was in the sports section.
When The New York Times Company asked for $20 million in concessions on April 9, The Boston Guild acted quickly to start a petition and organized a rally in order to gain reader and worker support. In an attempt to fight off the looming deadline of May 1, workers spoke their opinions on the issue at a rally outside Faneuil Hall on April 24. Over 300 readers gathered to show their loyalty.
Hickey, who came to the rally with his wife and kids to show his support, said “We all read the Globe, it is an important part of our lives.”
According to the advertising section of BostonGlobe.com, the daily circulation is 323,983 and a Sunday circulation of 503,659, while Boston.com reaches 6.1 million users. Now that readers have seen how quickly their trusted resource could disappear, it seems their will to help in its survival has increased.
As reader Katie Ward described its importance “The Globe is a reputable newspaper that knows the city,” and said losing it would be a huge loss not only for Boston, but New England as well.
The Boston Globe’s strong relationship with Boston readers and the state is at risk according to industry insiders and academics:
Readership of the Boston Globe is certainly different compared to the Boston audience.
Dorion Sagan, currently living in Amherst, said he doesn’t usually buy papers and he doesn’t seek the Globe out in print or online.
But, Sagan said of the Globe’s situation, “It’s demoralizing, as if the Boston Red Sox moved to Florida.”
Susan Sherman, who grew up in Springfield and is currently living in Amherst, said, “I think people always look to the Globe. It’s an authority in the biggest city close to us. I think everyone respects it.”
Sherman regularly reads The Republican for local news, and reads the Globe primarily for state news.
Marilyn Smith, like Sherman, reads a local paper, the Amherst Bulliten, for local news. Smith said she feels no connection to the Globe and prefers The New York Times.
Sagan also said he prefers The New York Times over the Globe.
While Sherman said she reads the Globe’s content online and might pay for online content in the future, neither Smith or Sagan said they would seek out and pay for online content on Boston.com.
Sagan said the Globe brings a sense of “urban solidarity” to Boston, but Boston’s sense of identity would survive.