The vote heard ‘round the newspaper world.

[9 June 2009]

By Colin McGuire

PopMatters Music Reviews Editor

Twelve votes.

That was the difference Monday night when The Boston Newspaper Guild voted 277-265 against a new contract with the New York Times Co. that would have, if nothing else, guaranteed The Boston Globe a lifeline for a little while, at least. Instead, the paper now stares at the possibility of shutting its doors more intently than ever, considering the Times Co. said it needed at least $20 million in annual savings from Globe unions — half of that number slated to come from the Guild.

From the Associated Press:

The Times Co. demanded the concessions amid an increasingly dire financial situation at the Globe. The newspaper like others has struggled as readers migrated to the Internet, advertising revenue declined drastically and circulation fell. The Globe had $50 million in operating losses in 2008 and had been projected to lose $85 million this year.

Six other Globe unions have approved concessions — but they hinged on the Guild’s ratification of new terms.

The Times Co. had said that if the Guild rejected the proposal, it would try to impose a 23 percent wage cut. It also has threatened to close the newspaper, which would require giving 60 days notice to employees and the state.

In a statement released after the vote, the Globe said it was disappointed with the outcome and had no “financially viable alternative” but to declare an impasse and impose the deeper wage cut to achieve the necessary savings.

“This evening we have sent a letter to the Guild stating that as a result of the rejection of this proposal, we have reverted to our alternative Final Record Proposal which provides for a 23 percent wage reduction for all Guild members,” the statement read.

The cut would take effect next week. The Globe said the newspaper would be willing to meet with the union this week to review implementation of the cut.

The story continues to quote a bureau chief who makes the obvious point by saying a 23 percent decrease in pay would cost the paper “a lot of very talented journalists.” Another reporter is quoted as saying the Times needs to “take away the gun pointed at our heads.” Naturally, he voted against the contract. 

This is rough, but monumental nonetheless. If The Globe goes down, having already seen the Rocky Mountain News fold and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer move to online-only content over the course of the past year, the demise of The Boston Globe might just be the proverbial white flag the newspaper industry has been trying so hard to avoid through these incredibly hard times.

And it’s utterly impossible to point fingers at this point, too. Workers need to get paid and companies need to make money. Both of those things have become increasingly hard to achieve in the world’s flailing economy, let alone a business that has been doing all it can to simply keep its head from being completely submerged in water.

Is this the end? Can something be worked out for both the Times Co. and The Globe? Can advertising dollars rebound in the second half of the year? Even more so, when the global economy happens to be fixed, will the newspaper industry benefit from that at all, or will it simply be too late? Is there hope?

If nothing else, these two parties need to come to an agreement when they sit back down later this week in order to salvage the humungous hit the industry’s morale would take should The Globe have to go under. Because while this problem may seem to come down to the mere value of dollars and cents, there is so much more at stake here than simply money.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/94752-the-vote-heard-round-the-newspaper-world/