- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 9, 2009

After two months of public drama between the New York Times and the Boston Globe, members of the Boston Newspaper Guild voted Monday night to turn down the Times’ demands that the union come up with $10 million in concessions on wages and benefits — or risk the shuttering of the paper.

The union rejected the move, by a vote of 277-265 — eliciting an almost immediate reaction from Globe management.

“We are disappointed,” they told the union in a letter. “As a result of the rejection of this proposal, we have reverted to our alternative Final Record Proposal, which provides for a 23 percent wage reduction for all Guild members.”

Management expressed perfunctory regret and added, “but we have no financially viable alternative.”

Union officials had no immediate reaction. The pay cuts take effect next week. The union earlier promised to take legal action should the cuts go into effect.

The guild, which represents editorial, advertising and business employees, allowed its members to vote on the package, but did not endorse it.

In total, the Times has asked for $20 million in concessions from all the staff’s unions, but the demand is still a work in progress. A union representing drivers trimmed $2.5 million from its operating costs Sunday. The Globe’s union machinists, however, have rejected any concessions.

guild ultimately turn down the edict of its paper’s parent company, the Times’ has threatened an across-the-board pay cut of 23 percent among the membership.

The Times paid $1.1 billion for the Globe in 1994, and the paper is now losing more than $1 million a week. The Times, meanwhile, is suffering through employee buyouts, pay cuts and a 28 percent drop in advertising revenue.

Some observers say the challenge has caused the traditionally pro-union Manhattan paper to change its stripes.

“It is horribly ironic that the New York Times, which is notoriously anti-business, now finds itself in the very role of the firms it often maligns. It is forced by a changing business climate to make hard choices to survive,” said Dan Gainor, vice president for business and culture at the Alexandria-based Media Research Center.

The situation between the Times and the Globe has been a showcase for a “death of newspapers” scenario, which has played out nationwide for the past two years, prompting close news coverage and plenty of editorials.

Faced with rising costs and competition from the Internet and broadcast, struggling print papers are seeking innovative but financially viable ways to deliver their content in an electronic age, an often desperate struggle punctuated by bankruptcy, job layoffs and the hope that multimedia platforms would prove a cure-all.

Almost 6,000 newspaper journalists lost their jobs last year - the biggest one-year drop in history - according to an official account released in April by the American Society of News Editors, which has conducted annual newsroom surveys for more than three decades.

“No lover of newspapers could ever cheer the demise of a newspaper or the loss of jobs. But the old way of doing things can be easily and more cheaply done online,” Mr. Gainor said. “One economist called the process ‘creative destruction.’ I just call it reality.”

There are greater things at stake, according to some politicians.

In Boston, there’s been a public outcry from lawmakers and local officials over the possible demise of the traditional hometown newspaper.

A recent Senate hearing examined the “future of journalism,” and a Newspaper Revitalization Act that would allow papers to operate as nonprofits has been introduced before the House.

“America’s newspapers are struggling to survive, and while there will be serious consequences in terms of the lives and financial security of the employees involved, including hundreds at the Globe, there will also be serious consequences for our democracy, where diversity of opinion and strong debate are paramount,” Sen. John Kerry said in a letter to Globe employees in April.

The Massachusetts Democrat is lending a particularly sympathetic ear to the Boston paper.

“I am committed to your fight, committed to your industry and committed to ensuring that the vital public service newspapers provide does not disappear,” he said.

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