“Our job is not to promote companies or individuals. We’re not here to make people feel good.” Larry Edelman, Boston Globe business editor, told PR pros at the Globe’s soon-to-be-closed newsroom and printing plant on Morrissey Boulevard.
As Edelman explained to Boston Public Relations Society of America members, The Globe no longer focuses on information that is available elsewhere such as stock summations. “We now live or die on exclusive news,” citing the two-hour leg up his paper got on news about GE moving to Boston. The story garnered 125,000 page views during that time period. GE’s Boston decision Edelman added, “had a lot to do with the schools here and tons of talent.”
GE aside, Andrew Caffrey, deputy business editor, told the group, “We used to cover the tall skyscraper figures of business,” such as Fidelity, to which the Globe had two full-time reporters assigned. “Now, younger, up-and-coming local business owners are getting more attention.”
“So much great stuff is going on with small companies,” said Edelman adding that the industry hot buttons for his department are health, life sciences, real estate development, energy and higher education.
For publicity-seeking CEOs other opportunities for exposure exist. High-tech columnist Hiawatha Bray covers the spectrum of technical innovation and Sacha Pfeiffer focuses on philanthropic young entrepreneurs. Five Things is a regular feature on what you need to know about just about everything. Recent Five Things columns covered home interiors and online marketing wiz Larry Kim who founded WordStream.
Like every US paper with ironically named Web presses the length of three football fields and boxy delivery trucks that look they belong in a Gasoline Alley, comic strip, The Boston Globe is carving out its place in a digital world. The Globe continues to produce a print product that has to be tossed on people’s doorsteps before their first cup of coffee or it’ll be hell to pay. That was born out when the Globe’s contract with its home delivery contractor got messed up and the papers didn’t show up. Reporters even volunteered to become carriers.
Despite complaints and cancellations by print edition subscribers, the future is heading away from ink on paper. The number of digital subscribers has been steadily increasing over the past few years and print subscribers are growing older. The Globe editorial staff is moving to downtown Boston and the printing will be done at a facility in Taunton that will offer printing to other publications.
When the trend toward digital news delivery began, The Globe created Boston.com, giving away its content to keep readers in the fold. Eventually the owners made a decision that, online or not, if readers want quality journalism they will have to pay for it. A prime example is the Globe’sSpotlight Team that remains intact despite overall cuts in newsroom staffing. The investigative team inspired the critically acclaimed motion picture Spotlight.
Boston.com has now been cut loose as a separate online publication with its own newsroom staff, collocated with The Globe. The Globe pushes online subscriptions, with readers getting five free stories before a pay wall pops up on their screens offering an introductory paid subscription.
“I ride the trolley and I used to see people reading the paper in the morning. Now their heads are buried in their smart phones. They’re playing games. They’re reading the news,” said Edelman.
Observed Edelman, “We get one million page views between six am and noon,” which is having a big impact on reporters’ lives. Journalists used to amble in in the morning knowing they had until five pm to file their stories for the next day’s edition. “Now they have to come in with a story three quarters written.” They have to “slice and dice,” to file online as the story develops. “The idea now is to get what you know posted online, then add to the story throughout the day with quotes from other sources.”
Sports does the best job of meeting multiple deadlines throughout the day. According to Edelman, this department, “Has fresh stuff all the time. They will get 30 stories out of a Sunday Patriots game. The Business Section needs to work on that.”
For PR folks who represent those CEOs who want to see their companies appear in The Boston Globe, warns Edelman: “When reporters call with questions, speed matters. I’ll get back to you tomorrow is no longer good enough.”
Photo: Larry Edelman, business editor The Boston Globe (c) 2015 Dick Pirozzolo