An Instructive Episode at What Remains of the Boston Globe
Some of us have speculated that many newsrooms in America are so hell-bent on maintaining their supposedly hallowed positions -- and that by their way of "thinking" they are exempt from the normal laws of economics -- that they will have be dragged kicking and screaming from their keyboards when the repo men come around to turn out the lights. This week's events at the Boston Globe give validity to that theory.
Let's take it on faith that the Globe, the onetime New England jewel of the New York Times, really has been losing money at the rate of $1 million a week, that the Times really does need to seriously cut costs, and that all of the Globe's unions have to make concessions if the paper is to either survive within the Times, or as rumored, be salable to whatever outside entity might be brave enough to take it off the Old Gray Lady's hands.
Six of the Globe's seven(!) unions have agreed to accept concessions. They include "drivers, mailers, pressmen, electricians, machinists and technical-services workers."
Which one do you think turned the Times down?
Why, it's the Boston Newspaper Guild, which represents "more than 600 writers, editors and advertising and marketing staff members, as well as some administrative workers." It appears they would rather maintain their incomes for only a short while longer and force the Times to close it instead of making the concessions everyone else has made to keep it viable.
Even though there is a report today that there may be parties interested in purchasing the Globe (or taking money from the Times to get it out of their hair), a Globe story yesterday reports that -- surprise, surprise -- it's tougher to sell a paper that's in the middle of what looks to be a protracted labor dispute:
The latest contract dispute between The New York Times Co. and The Boston Globe's biggest union could drag on for several months, if not years, complicating the potential sale of the newspaper, according to legal and business analysts.
The Globe reported yesterday that the Times Co. is seeking bids on the newspaper it has owned since 1993, less than a day after the Boston Newspaper Guild filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board. The Guild is challenging the company's decision to declare an impasse in negotiations and impose a 23 percent wage cut on the union's members.
Globe spokesman Robert Powers said, "We've been in touch with the NLRB and are in the process of responding as appropriate."
It gets better. Globe reporters' beloved president and his party represent one of the hold-up points in eventually resolving any labor dispute involving potential government intervention:
In the best of circumstances, the process is slow as a charge moves through NLRB investigations, hearings, and appeals, then the federal court system, labor law specialists said. But the process could slow further because the five-member NLRB has three vacancies, and a federal Appeals Court in Washington recently ruled that two sitting members are not enough to make decisions.
The NLRB has petitioned the court to reconsider that decision. President Obama has named nominees for two of the vacancies. The nominations must be confirmed by the Senate.
But the prospect of a long labor dispute could make the paper less attractive to buyers, analysts said. If the case is eventually decided in favor of the Guild, a new owner could face a huge bill for back pay and interest, said Thomas Kohler, a Boston College law professor.
"Anybody who buys it, buys it with the liabilities," Kohler said. "Unless the board and courts make fast decisions, there's ongoing liabilities, and that makes the paper less attractive."
If you've ever wondered why the news from so many establishment media outlets is often one-sidedly sympathetic with labor, antagonistic towards management, and dismissive of economic realities, you often need to look no further than the militance of the unions representing their writers and others involved.
Collectively, among the others involved in producing the paper, these guys and gals are supposed to be the smartest people in the room (just ask them). Even when faced with the death of their employer (there's no guarantee that their will be buyer interest once the tires get kicked, and the Times's threat to shutter the paper has to be taken seriously), they concede nothing. Why should we surprised that they almost never concede their errors, omissions, and blatant biases, even when caught red-handed?
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.