- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 7, 2009

This is no mother and child reunion. The ‘Gray Lady’ is having serious problems with her billion-dollar baby.

The New York Times' threats to shutter the Boston Globe over its financial losses have turned emotional as the parent company disciplines the troublesome property and a city frets over the potential loss of a newspaper.

“The Globe is an institution. It would be a terrible shame if it was to shut down,” said Neil Solomon, co-owner of Johnny's Luncheonette, an eatery in Newton, a Boston suburb.

“I start every day with the Globe. And I can guesstimate that every one of my customers does, too. Breakfast and the Globe. That's a ritual,” Mr. Solomon said.

The ritual is at risk amid the clash of news titans - and a welter of numbers.

The Times bought the Globe in 1993 for $1.1 billion and, despite 20 Pulitzer Prizes, the Globe now is losing $1.5 million a week. The New York paper, meanwhile, is already $1 billion in debt, owes $250 million to a Mexican financier at 14 percent interest, and is facing buyouts and pay cuts of its own.

On Friday, the Times ordered the Globe to provide $20 million in concessions from its 13 labor unions by May 1 - or risk closure.

“This is a populist nightmare for the Times. It's always embarrassing when a newspaper that blows passionate kisses at labor unionism develops a financial fever, and suddenly it's caught with its hands around the throat of its own unions,” said Tim Graham of the Media Research Center.

“Let's hope someone pulls out this clipping the next time the Times starts portraying some other corporate titan as a 'Snidely Whiplash' strangling the common man,” he added.

The Globe responded to the Times' threats with its own tactics, publishing two stories that said union employees and readers were “stunned” to hear that the 137-year-old paper was threatened.

“The real story here is whether the New York Times is going to go under,” said James Boyce, a blogger for Huffington Post and founder of the news-aggregating site Newsladders.com.

“I don't think they're union-busting or harassing union members here. I think they're trying to survive, and losing over $1 million a week is not sustainable,” Mr. Boyce said. “The problem for the Times, and other papers, is that they took on a whole lot of debt back when it was cheap to do so.”

He is critical of the Globe for other reasons, however.

“They are just so supremely arrogant. It's unbelievable. They're losing money and running their own campaign against the Times, saying, 'We're so valuable and important, people can't live without us.' Well, here's news: They can live without you,” Mr. Boyce said.

A survey of 1,000 adults conducted March 29-30 by Rasmussen Reports suggests that sentiment is real: 61 percent of the respondents were “confident that online and other news sources” can replace newspapers. Still, 53 percent said that it would be “a real tragedy” if their paper were to go out of business.

In a telling move, the American Society of Newspaper Editors dropped the word “newspaper” from its name on Monday, a move approved by three-fourths of the group's 600 members. They are now the American Society of News Editors.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press took action of its own Monday to perhaps lighten the load of the nation's newspapers by cutting its rates for news content by about a third and offering loyalty discounts to its member papers.

“We feel it is critical to help our members during these extremely difficult times,” said chairman Dean Singleton during the news service's annual meeting in San Diego.

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