Paper Thin: 'Boston Herald' Axes 130+ Employees

Boston Herald cover 625The Boston Herald will cut 130-160 employees in the next few months, focusing on the production staff, according to Herald President and Publisher Patrick J. Purcell, who announced the decision in a meeting with union leaders.

Purcell said printing will be outsourced to presses in nearby Chicopee and Norwood, Mass.; the Chicopee facility is owned by Dow Jones, the Norwood facility by Boston Offset.

The move will allow the company to avoid the expense of replacing its aging printing presses, some of which are 50 years old. In happier times, newspaper publishers viewed presses as valuable assets, worth modernizing through long-term, amortized investments. Owning a press not only made a newspaper independent, but allowed it to run a commercial printing business for outside clients, providing a profitable sideline.

The steady decline in print readership, the flight of advertisers to the Internet and the soaring price of newsprint have altered the equation, making presses liabilities rather than profit centers.

Meanwhile, the Herald's main competitor, The Boston Globe, is asking union members--many associated with printing operations--to take a pay cut of 10%. The proposed pay cut comes after a round of layoffs at the newspaper, which has been hit especially hard by the secular downturn in the newspaper business.

The Boston Globe has been a steady drain on the finances of its owner, the New York Times Corp., and periodically the company is rumored to be considering selling it. In January 2007, NYTCO CEO Janet Robinson stated that the Globe was not for sale, but its continuing dismal performance, and shareholder pressure, may prompt a change of heart.

In 2007, the New England Media Group, led by The Boston Globe, saw total ad revenue drop 8.6% compared to 2006, to $389 million. In the first quarter of 2008, ad revenues at the group tumbled 16.3% to $81.4 million.

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