Globe Coverage Disappoints

Globe Management heading to work.

Boston Globe Management heading to work.

The Boston Globe featured two stories about its financial problems in its Sunday edition yesterday. One article on the front page called “A Jewel in the Crown Loses its Luster” and a second story in the business section called “What Went Wrong.” Some interesting data in both, including the fact that the Globe had an early opportunity to invest in (which it declined) and the fact that the company used to pull in more than $100 million in profit.

However, after reading both articles, I’ve lost whatever optimism I’ve had that the newspaper might actually survive. Here are the three primary reasons I was extremely disheartened and disappointed by the coverage:

1. Defeatist Attitude

Both of the stories read like obituaries. If there is any fight left in the Boston Globe, you’d never know it by listening to its former leadership. They’ve all but cut and run and are already pointing fingers of blame (at everyone, but themselves). It doesn’t get any bleaker than this closing quote from Tom Mulvoy, the former Globe managing editor, in the “A Jewel in the Crown Loses its Luster” story: “But nobody had any answers then and nobody has any answers now.”

Matthew V. Storin, the former Globe editor, has my favorite quote: “Because let’s face it: You can point fingers all you want, but the Internet came in and stole a huge part of our classified ad revenue.” Someone should remind Storin that the classified ads didn’t belong to the Globe and they weren’t entitled to them (despite the Globe‘s near monopoly on them for decades).  The words seemed to be spoken like a true monopolist when a better business model comes along and plucks away their customer base.

But the tone – and message – in both stories was that the war was already won – and the Globe had lost.

2. Interviewing Themselves

After I wrote my post “5 Other Reasons the Boston Globe Faces Closure” I received a rather nasty email from a Globe editor who took issue with my opinion of the Globe as elitist and insular. Yet all the evidence you’d need for both assertions was on the front page of yesterday’s newspaper. The story didn’t feature a single source – not one – from outside of the Globe or the New York Times Co.

That isn’t insular? And elitist? Also, in fact, slanted? They interviewed Globe insiders – the people responsible for selling the Globe to the New York Times Co. The insiders were allowed to justify the decision to sell the Globe and then deflect responsibility of the failure away from themselves. How could the reporters not have interviewed a journalism professor, an industry analyst or a newspaper pundit? Clearly the Globe doesn’t think any outside, impartial opinions about its situation is worthy of consideration.

And hasn’t that been part of the problem?

3. No Look Forward

The Globe is reeling right now and still hasn’t provided any insight about the strategy moving forward. Both of yesterday’s stories were focused on the past and what went wrong. There was nothing about possible solutions to fix the problem. In fact, the Globe hasn’t written any articles exploring how they might overcome its current woes (other than firing employees).  Where is the story called “What Can Go Right” or “Globe Management Introduces Innovative New Ideas to Save Paper”?

Globe management has even refused to even discuss the situation on the record (another sign that they just don’t understand the concept of transparency and two-way communication with customers in the age of the web).  Can you imagine the Globe coverage of a regional institution that was on the verge of closure if its leadership refused to talk?  There would be op-eds and editorials demanding openness – and answers.  The hypocrisy is getting thick.

So far all readers know is they are slashing staff, eliminating benefits, and increasing prices. And that’s not a strategy – that’s bailing water out of a sinking boat.

2 Responses to “Globe Coverage Disappoints”

  1. Scottsdale Meathead April 13, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    It is difficult to monetize the news when the editorial views are so slanted. While not impossible, it is very difficult.

    I haven’t read a newspaper in over a month. I occasionally pick up the Sunday paper and even the $2-$4.00 I pay to look at more ads for cars, bras, and watches, and less at well written stories that aren’t syndicated doesn’t exactly get me going.

    I honestly think that the newspapers aren’t worth it. I get so much information I want to read instantly without the ads from RSS/ATOM feeds. I read the Economist, which i suspect i’m paying a premium for, but the writing is less watered down, less slanted, and more “fair and balanced” then others that claim that ground.

    That said, even the Economist is loaded with an editorial slant that it is becoming a bit tedious.

    You bring up when The Globe and The Times, actually interviewing editors and writers; Is the making of the news really news? Let’s prop Barbara Walters up on 60 minutes? I think the news tried to be far too opinionated and entertainment-like; They overshot.

    Media needs the recession. Recessions weed out the inferior. The Times and The Globe should get their head out of the sand, and hunker down, otherwise they will be toast.

  2. Hi Scottsdale Meathead:
    I disagree that newspapers aren’t worth it. I think the news gathering and reporting on newspapers is pretty good – not like it was one or two decades ago, but better than what you can get from blogs and magazines.

    That said I don’t think a “newspaper” needs to be paper. The Globe should be exploring ways to become an exclusive online entity.

    There is no way to remove bias from news stories – because they are written by people. But the goal to be as fair as possible is a worthy one that most newspapers, including the Globe, strive for.

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