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New York Times Co. To Sell 'Boston Globe'


A big New York company shedding its non-core assets to focus on its global brand.


At least that's how they'd put it in corporate-speak.

MONTAGNE: Yeah. And it's also news fit to print, because it involves The New York Times, which is putting the Boston Globe up for sale.

Curt Nickisch reports from member station WBUR in Boston, where many are uneasy about a new owner.

CURT NICKISCH, BYLINE: The New York Times has already sold off some other ownership stakes. It even used to own part of the Boston Red Sox baseball team. Now Times Company CEO Mark Thompson says he wants to sell the newspaper, too, so that his company can focus on its own pages.


NICKISCH: Waiting for the T - that's what Bostonians call the subway - Ben Hill was surprised by the news.

BEN HILL: I think it's kind of sad. I mean, I thought they weren't going to sell it. Why are they doing it now? Why not just keep it?

NICKISCH: Hill is a fish broker at a seafood company, in his mid 30s. He grew up on one of the islands off of Cape Cod. And his hockey team would share a copy of the Globe while taking the boat to games.

HILL: I remember being a little kid, just looking at the Boston Globe, having it thrown on our stoop and our doorstep, and just like, wow. This is the Boston Globe. I took a tour of the Globe with our school, and I thought it was, like, the coolest thing in the world. And it's just - to me, it's an institution to Boston.

NICKISCH: An institution now at risk.

BEN TAYLOR: We need it to thrive and survive and prosper. And when you don't know who the next owner's going to be, it just creates uncertainty.

NICKISCH: That's Ben Taylor, and he should know. He used to be the publisher of the newspaper read not just in Boston, but across New England. His family owned the Globe for generations, until 1993. That's when the Taylors sold it to The New York Times for more than $1 billion.

TAYLOR: I mean, the paper's done pretty darn well under The Times' management. But I think it was probably inevitable. Totally understand their desire to focus on the future of The New York Times.

NICKISCH: Because the future for any newspaper is plenty to worry about in the age of the Internet. The Boston Globe may be 140 years old, but that matters little to college freshman Sarah Abreu.

SARAH ABREU: I don't really read newspapers.


ABREU: I'm, like, kind of really like not. I don't know.

NICKISCH: Her friend Alex Kaufman does have to read the Globe sometimes for class.

ALEX KAUFMAN: When I read it, I feel a lot smarter. And I like knowing what's going on. I pay attention online sometimes.

NICKISCH: The Globe has been boosting its digital subscribers. But its advertising revenue has been falling. Profits were basically flat last year. It's why media analyst Ken Doctor says The New York Times will only get a small portion of what it paid for the Globe 20 years ago.

KEN DOCTOR: My sense is the price is going to be between about a hundred and $150 million. That's a relatively small price to pay for the prestige and, really, the power of the Boston Globe.

NICKISCH: It's not the first time the Times has tried to unload the Globe. Management cut staff and other costs before shopping the Boston paper around for months in 2009. Doctor says the market for newspapers has stabilized. Even Warren Buffett has been buying dailies around the country. The question now is not whether the Globe will sell, but which buyer The Times will choose.

DOCTOR: The money is the money, and they may get a higher bid from one bidder than another. But will they apply a civic interest, as well, to try to be a good steward, as they pass the Globe to someone else?

NICKISCH: After all, under The Times, The Globe kept on winning Pulitzer Prizes, including one for exposing widespread clergy sex abuse. Now Bostonians wonder if that kind of journalism can continue under a new owner.

For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickisch, in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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