The New York Times’s Happy Divorce from the Boston Globe

An article in the Times explores the improving lot of the paper it unloaded last year.

Associated Press

Associated Press

There is an article in the New York Times on the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize win that is as interesting for its underlying dynamics as for its  content. The New York Times Co.’s owners sold the Globe to John Henry last year, so you might see the story as a check-up with a long-lost romance. The Times likes what it sees. For there is a sense of optimism in the Boston Globe newsroom, thanks, of course, to the departure of the New York Times:

A main reason for the cautious optimism was the reserved, bespectacled man standing quietly as Mr. McGrory delivered his remarks: John W. Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, who took ownership of The Globe in October pledging to invest in the paper. Six months later, the paper is teeming with new projects, including photo-heavy print sections and niche websites focused on Catholicism and technology.

Globe editor Brian McGrory actually tells a reporter for the Times, “We had come to be used to the fact that we weren’t the priority for any owner, and now we are.” There is, of course, a difference between the Times’s journalists and their owners, so reporter Leslie Kaufman probably wasn’t too offended, but it is nevertheless amusing to read him subtly knocking his former owners in their namesake newspaper.

And in fact, this optimistic situation is likely what the New York Times Co. had in mind for the Globe when it sought buyers last year. They wanted not only to unload the paper, but to do so in a way that would do right by it. As Jason Schwartz wrote in the March issue of Boston magazine:

Not wanting to look like it was leaving Boston to the dogs […], the Times Company had been looking for a graceful exit from the city. Henry’s offer of $70 million cash had the advantage of being debt free, meaning there would be little chance of an immediate, embarrassing bankruptcy or harsh cost-cutting to satisfy creditors. His status as a wealthy, civic-minded local provided even more cover. Though other groups say they presented higher offers, on August 3, the Times Company chose John Henry to be the next owner of the Boston Globe.

In short, they wanted someone who had good intentions for the Globe, even if that person didn’t offer the highest bid. And by most accounts—Both the Times’s and Schwartz’s—Henry has taken to the job with enthusiasm, immersing himself in the paper’s operations rather than keeping it as a vanity project. Even the Times knows when its old flame has found a more compatible situation, and for now, it seems that’s what the Globe has done.