BOSTON — The aging newspaper industry received an injection of fresh blood as The New York Times Co. announced the sale of The Boston Globe to John Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox. The fanfare surrounding the paper’s return to local ownership largely eclipsed the tacit admission of an otherwise open secret long held by owners of broadsheets.
“The game has completely changed,” said media critic Howard Kurtz of Fox News, whose former employer, The Washington Post, announced on Monday its sale to Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon.com. “Today’s audience doesn’t have the attention span to sit on the sidelines and read yesterday’s news. They’ve become adrenaline junkies, looking for quick fixes amidst a news cycle on steroids,” Bezos pointed out.
With print subscriptions in free fall, advertising revenue down, and cable news barely keeping pace, The New York Times Co. had no choice but to take a significant loss in the sale as it sought to focus its attention on modernizing its titular brand.
The Times, a New York institution, now openly regrets purchasing The Globe for $1.1 billion in 1993. Rather than being stuck with a beleaguered player in its roster of media holdings, the company accepted a mere $70 million in cash in the sale and still retains the pension obligations from the transferred property.
In an unprecedented report released Monday, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn sought to make an example out of The Globe’s sale by naming 12 other major legacy media holdings that could benefit from local ownership more invested in issues that matter to the community.
But she warned new publishers like Henry to beware of potential conflicts of interest, threatening stiff sanctions should The Globe’s coverage of matters related to the Red Sox undercut its responsibility as a public service.
The Globe will continue its print run as the deal is finalized.