Boston Globe avoids shutdown – at least for now
Could it produce a prototype that other struggling big-city newspapers could use to survive the current recession?
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Mr. Lee says he would be willing to pay more for his subscription if it would help keep the Globe afloat.Skip to next paragraph
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Another longtime Globe subscriber, Marie Crocetti, says she is "heartbroken" at the prospect of losing the paper. "I've been reading it for 60 years," she says. "I can't imagine not having it."
Although Mrs. Crocetti also reads the online versions of The Washington Post and The New York Times, she says, "[Reading online] is such a different experience. You look for something specific. You're not going to spend an hour reading it or have your coffee with it."
But many Boston readers are like Matt Bailey. He's a chef who reads the Globe online for world news, but he gets most of his local news from free alternative newsweeklies and the free Boston edition of the Metro newspaper, which is distributed on the subway. "It's almost like, why would you pay for a paper?" he asks.
Still, he says, it's hard to imagine the Globe disappearing: "It's an icon. It's a little strange to think it might not exist."
On break from his job as a barista in Boston, Andrew Smith is ambivalent about the potential loss of the Globe. He doesn't read it regularly, although the Starbucks where he works carries it and he glances at the headlines most days.
"I can't really say," he says. "My knee-jerk reaction is to say it wouldn't [affect me], but I think it would. I'd be sad." Mr. Smith grew up in the Boston suburbs and went to college at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, near the Globe's headquarters.
The current financial struggles are also difficult for many former employees to watch – particularly those still feel pride in the national reputation the Globe built as a journalistic powerhouse, known for its investigative journalism and worldwide bureaus.
"It's sad and stunning to see the peril it's in today," says Mark Jurkowitz, a former ombudsman for the Globe who is now associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a think tank in Washington.
For decades, newspapers were able to subsidize high-quality, in-depth journalism even as they covered daily events around the city and the world. But such journalism is expensive, and a key question for the industry to figure out is who will subsidize that reporting, Mr. Jurkowitz says.
"The real problem in journalism today is not an audience problem; it's a revenue problem," he says. "If you combine the total eyeballs that are either reading the daily papers or reading them online, these papers have more readers than they've ever had before. People are still interested in the news. The question is, how do we get advertisers or news aggregators [like Google] or the general public to pay for it?"
Even the most optimistic observers say it could take five to 10 years for the media industry to adapt to the drastically changing economic landscape.
"We have to look at the vulnerability of The Boston Globe within the context of many other weaknesses in American culture and American life right now," says Roy Clark, a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism foundation based in St. Petersburg, Fla. "We now have to build a bridge of survivability so we can eventually revive and thrive. But it won't come easy: It requires a lot of work, a lot of ingenuity, a lot of sacrifice and entrepreneurial cleverness, and lots of experiments, some of which may not pan out."