Stories are flooding in from all over about the NYT's threat to close the Boston Globe if the paper's 13 unions don't agree to shave $20M from the operating budget. This, even despite years of cutbacks, staff cuts, and layout tweaks.
All of my life, my family has had a subscription to the Globe. And when I was a budding journalist, back when "reporting" meant the person nearest the opening of the cave grunted when the rain stopped, I aspired to working for the paper that, at the time, was the 3rd most important paper in the country.
And now it's at a crisis. The Globe has grown into a hugely respected and needed newspaper. Without the Globe's hard-hitting, in-depth, and well-written news, Boston will suffer a huge lack of depth in what many of us in the area still refer to as "The Hub." The Globe is an integral part of many people's news and entertainment ritual. When we want to get to the truth of an issue, we turn to the Globe to report it accurately, fairly, and fully. We turn to the Globe for entertainment- such as keeping track of what cultural events are happening around our fair city and state, and which movies are playing where, and whether we should see them.
I've had arguments with friends in the past, who actually said out loud that they preferred the Herald due to the shape/layout of the paper. Slightly less important to them, apparently, is the quality of reporting, or accuracy. Not for me. If the Globe says something, I know I can rely on it. I'd hate to lose something I've trusted for so many years.
So what are the options? Some of the ideas floated are, naturally, staff cuts and elimination of the seniority system, the end of lifetime employment guarantees, cuts in pay and benefits. But I'd like to propose some others as well.
The idea has already been mentioned by pundits nation wide, but the Globe should consider moving more of its content online... and charging a small fee for access. Yes, I know its a little risky, but the fact is people are already moving to on-line news sources- that's why the Globe's circulation is down- and if the Globe can offer some unique, as well as high-quality content, people will pay for it.
Consider that, nationwide, people support National Public Radio (NPR) because they can only get their quality reporting/features from NPR. This is a model that many other papers will likely have to adopt anyway- the Globe can set a new standard. And yes, I'd pay for it. (I also think they should consider raising thier subscription price- for what you get, you get a lot.)
The Globe not only has the best reporting in all the Northeast, they have they have the people in the streets to see and know what's going on before any other source. They've got the contacts, the savvy, and most important, they've got the clout. If we lose that (as a nation, mind you!) it would be a huge blow to the fourth estate. Our fourth branch of government has already been crippled by Fox News, Rupert Murdoch, and people like Rush Limbaugh. We can't allow this bastion of reporting integrity be shut down.
I hope the unions and the NYT parent company reach an accomodation, and I hope they also explore options for charging a small fee for online content. Of course, it also means there would have to be some kind of project to bring some more special (and I think older) content online. Think of all the years of microfiche that need to be digitized so we can look through ancient newspapers! But if it meant most of the organization stayed intact, it would be worth the effort.
The alternative, of course, is for us all to ahve to rely on only the tabloid, The Boston Herald, as our source if news, insight, and culture. I for one would prefer not to be forced to read a paper that's the local equivalent of Gomer Pyle. The last things Boston needs is a NASCAR track down town and a suddent infusion of gun racks. The increase in wet-t-shirt contests and "tramp stamps" might be diverting for a while... but I'd still like to know what's happening at the ICA.