What I would miss about the Boston Globe

A producer for Public Radio International’s The Takeaway saw last month’s Save the Boston Globe post that I published as part of the “blog rally” organized by Paul Levy and asked me to appear on the show along with another devoted Globe reader. The show aired early this morning and you can listen to a recording of it here.

In preparation for the interview I spent some time thinking about what the Globe means to me and what I would miss if it ceased publication. (As it turned out the host decided to call me Daniel and ask different questions than what I’d prepared, but that’s radio I guess.)

What I’d miss most about the Globe is its investigative reporting. We have a lot of powerful institutions in Boston and in Massachusetts more broadly, including the state government, the city government (and its powerful four-term mayor), big universities, unions, health care players and religious organizations. I wish we could say we also have powerful businesses but I don’t know that we have many these days.

These institutions don’t have a lot of natural watchdogs other than the Boston Globe. Most people are too scared, too involved, or too uninterested to rock the boat and those that aren’t lack a broad platform.  If the Globe weren’t around a lot of scandals would never be exposed. I also believe that people in power think twice before doing something because they consider that the Globe might find out about it. If the Globe went away who knows what would happen?

Big city dailies like the Globe used to have a great model. They had a near-monopoly on local advertising, especially classified ads. That meant they could charge high ad rates and support the news operation without having to charge high subscription rates and without having to worry about what their advertisers thought about their news coverage. That’s gone away now, and no new model has emerged to take its place.

I went back to have a look at investigative topics the Globe has covered over the past year or so. A quick glance through the (free) archives revealed several substantial stories that I doubt would have seen the light of day without the Globe’s efforts. For example:

And of course, who can forget the Globe’s role in breaking the priest sex abuse scandal a few years back?

May 5, 2009

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