WHEN LINDA PIZZUTI HENRY and her husband, John W. Henry, bought The Boston Globe in 2013 for $70 million, she announced her intention to adapt the venerable institution to the changing media landscape.
“When I walked into the old Morrissey Boulevard building with John on our first day over seven years ago, past the hum of the presses and the welcoming smell of ink, I wasn’t sure exactly what my role would be,” Pizzuti Henry said. “But I knew that I was lucky to work here, and it was clear to me why this institution needed to not only survive the secular decline of trusted local journalism, but also needed to innovate and evolve and invest in a new way of doing things in order to thrive and effectively serve our mission.”
Eight years later, having served as managing director and now as CEO, Pizzuti Henry’s “new way of doing things” looks a lot more like the old-school, hardball playbook of union-busting to pinch pennies and take away workers’ rights.
Pizzuti Henry and Globe executives have extolled the quality of journalism being produced by The Boston Globe, Boston.com, and STAT News employees while deploying the notoriously anti-union firm Jones Day to slow-walk contract negotiations. For more than two and half years, Jones Day has been pushing proposals across the table that undermine job security and basic protections for Globe, Boston.com, and STAT employees.
Attacking and undermining your workforce is never a recipe for success — but particularly at a time when truth itself is often in danger, those doing the hard work of creating Boston’s paper of record deserve respect and recognition. The increasing turnover at the Globe is evidence of this failed strategy.
Despite winning awards and honors, and maintaining a profitable status envied in the field, the Boston Globe has lost dozens of excellent journalists in the past two years. You can’t blame reporters for leaving, given the prospect of working with fewer job rights and protections despite the paper’s award-winning coverage and economic success. The startling reporter exodus comes in no small part because of the precarious work environment created by Henry and her team.
When Pizzuti Henry and Henry first bought the paper, they said in a statement that their investment was not “about profit at all.” Yet, their actions haven’t matched their PR prose.
In an admittedly tough media landscape, The Boston Globe continues to innovate, producing high-quality news both in print and on digital platforms. It is thanks to the experienced and talented staff that the Globe has maintained a 149-year track record of hard-hitting, insightful journalism.
STAT News, which focuses on health, medicine, and science, has racked up accolades for its trailblazing coverage of the public health crisis and saw significant growth over the last year and a half.
Earlier this year, Boston.com took home 15 awards for its top-of-the-class reporting, and this month it launched a long-planned site redesign that cements its status as the region’s best source for free local news online.
In 2020, The Boston Globe achieved a long-sought goal of securing more than 200,000 digital subscribers. Globe staffers won dozens of awards and multiple honors from organizations ranging from the Online Journalism Awards to the Toner Prize for Excellence in National Political Reporting, and three Globe journalists being named as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize – the news industry’s highest honor. In 2021, the Globe won a Pulitzer Prize.
Running a newspaper takes more than issuing bold proclamations. It involves listening to and communicating with those who create its value by producing and delivering exceptional journalism. It requires finding solutions that not only address the bottom line, but ensure that employees have the job security and protections they need. Leadership and management are not the same things.
It’s time for Globe ownership to respect the dignity and rights of its union workforce. We continue to hope that Pizzuti Henry will demonstrate that she is a leader, not simply a manager, and that she and Globe execs still consider The Boston Globe to be an institution worth respecting and preserving.
Lily Huang and Alicia Fleming are co-executive directors of Massachusetts Jobs With Justice.