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Boston Globe: A vote on the future of newspapers?

The Globe's largest union votes Monday on whether to accept a 10 percent pay cut, among other concessions. It points to the turmoil reshaping the industry.

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Earlier this year, the Times said it would close the Globe if it couldn't make the cuts. But since winning concessions from six of the Globe's seven unions, it has focused on across-the-board wage cuts rather than a closure.

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That's because The New York Times Co. would like to entertain an offer to sell the Globe, some media analysts say.

"Having some resolution about labor issues is almost a prerequisite to a sale," says Rick Edmonds, media business analyst at the Poynter Institute, a media research and educational foundation in St. Petersburg, Fla. "I don't think there's any real likelihood that it would be sold with the labor contract in turmoil or in appeal at the NLRB."

Earlier this year, the Monitor confirmed that at least one group of investors was actively negotiating with the Times for the purchase of the Globe. But the Times also made it clear to those investors that any press attention could undermine the prospects of a deal.

Some of the most vocal opponents of a "yes" on the contract concessions, such as reporter Brian Mooney, have declined to comment Monday until the results of the voting are known after 8 p.m. But in earlier reports, he argued strongly for a no vote, contending that management has not been asked to make similar sacrifices.

But staff members in favor of the concessions say they don't see the reasoning behind a no vote when, in the long run, it could lead to the closure of the paper.

"I don't fully fathom the rationale behind what looks like the less-economically-desirable no vote," says Alex Beam, a longtime Globe columnist. "If you want to send a message, try Western Union. That's not an original quote, but I don't get the notion of a protest vote. I don't get the notion of sending a message to The New York Times. We've all lived with this for a very long time. Reasonable people disagree about what brought us to this impasse."

Either way, Mr. Beam says, it's a terrible negotiated result for the union. A "yes" vote seems "like a way forward" for the Times to cut more staff through buyouts or "out and out layoffs." It also makes it easier to sell the Globe, he says.

"Obviously they want to get to a place where they could find a buyer for this investment that's gone wrong," he says.

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