Monday, April 06, 2009
Update: Vermont passes Same-Sex Marriage; DC recognizes same-sex marriages
The Vermont House of Representatives passed the bill by a 100-49 vote after it cleared the state Senate 23-5 earlier in the day. Vermont's vote comes just four days after Iowa's Supreme Court struck down a decade-old law that barred gays from marrying to make that state the first in the U.S. heartland to allow same-sex marriages.
Vermont, which became the first state in the country to allow full civil unions for same-sex couples in 2000, joins New England neighbors Connecticut and Massachusetts in allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. Lawmakers in New Hampshire and Maine are also considering bills to allow gay marriage, putting New England at the heart of a divisive national debate over the issue.
[Gay marriage opponents please note: this was done not by "activist judges" but by the people's representatives as part of the legislative process. September 1 has been set as the date the first same-sex marriages can take place in Vermont.
The majority of the stone carving on Vermont's state Capitol Building, by the way, was done by my Italian sculptor grandfather, Alessandro Fregosi, along with a crew under his supervision.]
Update updated: The news just keeps on coming. The District of Columbia, the nation's capital, will now recognize gay marriages from states where they are legal. The District may even be moving toward legalizing same sex marriage:
The D.C. Council voted today to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, on the same day that Vermont became the fourth state to legalize same-sex unions. Domestic partnerships are already legal in the nation's capital, and gay couples married in other states are recognized as domestic partners when they move to the city. But today's legislation, billed as an important milestone in gay rights, explicitly recognizes them as married couples. The initial vote was 12-0. The unanimous vote sets the stage for future debate on legalizing same-sex marriage in the District and a clash with Congress, which approves the city's laws under Home Rule. The council is expected to take a final vote on the legislation next month. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who is gay, called the amendment a matter of "basic fairness."
Steven Colbert’s new word and definition: engayify v. to gay it up.
Shock waves are still rumbling around Boston and the general New England over the New York Times’ ultimatum to the Boston Globe to cut at least $20 million in costs immediately or face being closed down. The Globe is the dominant news paper not only in Massachusetts but also in New England generally.
A distinguished publication (the attached article mentions its Pulitzer Prize totals) and an influential one, the Globe has suffered as have all print media from incursion by the internet, and particularly by the general lack of interest of many in the younger generations in reading, particularly in reading at length. Sound bites and the headlines sections of internet sites, along with The Daily Show seem to be where the media-oriented and attention span-challenged get their information, not from newspapers that can develop stories in depth and that have a stake in the welfare, development and local culture of the communities and regions they serve.
This last point has been uppermost in statements about the disastrous impact the closing of the Globe would have on the arts in the area. Jill Medvedow, Director of The Institute of Contemporary Art made eloquent comments about the effect the Globe had on the Institute’s complete reinvention of itself on the occasion of its move to a new, architecturally spectacular home on Boston Harbor. The Globe gave extensive coverage, including an insert devoted entirely to the ICA’s new building and the expansion of its collections. In the process, Medvedow explained, a museum that most Bostonians didn’t know, housed as it was in a dark and cramped converted firehouse, was presented to Boston and the nation as a dazzling, cutting edge facility and art resource in an incredible location to visit. The result was that the ICA has [deservedly] become a major stop on the tourist trail as well as an iconic symbol of contemporary Boston along with the Zakem Bridge.
Performance-based companies are also concerned as Globe publicity and reviewers are credited with being the major force that brings people into theaters, recital halls and opera venues. Jill Medvedow went on to recall that the Times has already engineered a major dismantling of the Globe’s departments in thisw decade. During that cut-back, we lost our chief theater and music critics (the latter being the well-respected Richard Dyer); eventually newer and younger critics were brought in, and we lucked out with Jeremy Eichler in music particularly. However, the scope of arts criticism and features was reduced noticeably; Medvedow (and I) are concerned that a new round of staff reductions and department downsizing will reduce arts coverage even further. The Globe has already said that regional coverage will be reduced considerably. Peter Wolf, the front man for the J. Geils Band, said losing the Globe would destroy readers' connection to the region.
At any rate, here’s the [slightly edited] news item that the Globe published about its situation last Friday:
The New York Times Co. has threatened to shut The Boston Globe unless the newspaper's unions swiftly agree to $20 million in concessions, union leaders said yesterday.
Executives from the Times Co. and Globe made the demands Thursday morning in an approximately 90-minute meeting with leaders of the newspaper's 13 unions, union officials said. The possible concessions include pay cuts, the end of pension contributions by the company, and the elimination of lifetime job guarantees now enjoyed by some veteran employees, said Daniel Totten, president of the Boston Newspaper Guild, the Globe's biggest union, which represents more than 700 editorial, advertising, and business office employees.
The concessions will be negotiated individually with each of the unions, said Totten and Ralph Giallanella, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 259, which represents about 200 drivers who deliver the newspaper.
"We all know the newspaper industry is going through great transition and loss,"' said Giallanella. "The ad revenues have fallen off the cliff. Just based on everything that's going on around the country, they're serious."
Totten said the Times Co. officials wanted the concessions within 30 days or else the paper would be shuttered, but Giallanella said officials did not mention a specific timetable.The newspaper industry, which had already been struggling as readers and advertisers moved to the Internet, has been hard hit by the recession, and the Globe is no exception. The newspaper's advertising revenues have declined sharply in recent years; once robustly profitable, it is now losing money.
This week, the Globe newsroom completed cutting the equivalent of 50 full-time jobs. But the deteriorating economy has made the Globe's financial outlook much worse. Management told union leaders Thursday that the Globe will lose $85 million in 2009 unless serious cutbacks are made. Last year the paper lost an estimated $50 million, the employee said.
The Times Co. is seeking concessions from the unions because the New York company, which is also suffering from the recession, can no longer subsidize the Globe's losses. The Times Co. posted a net loss of $57.8 million in 2008.
In recent months, the Times Co. has taken steps to raise cash. It has been shopping its stake in the Red Sox, and recently sold most of its headquarters in New York, while leasing back the office space. It received $250 million from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, agreeing to pay 14 percent interest. It also suspended shareholder dividends to save about $130 million.
Several major newspaper companies have filed for bankruptcy reorganization in recent months, and several have threatened to shut down operations unless they receive major concessions from workers. Some companies have already closed unprofitable publications. Hearst recently shut down the Seattle Post-Intelligencer after it failed to find a buyer, and E.W. Scripps Co. shuttered the Rocky Mountain News in Denver.
Lou Ureneck, chairman of the journalism department at Boston University's College of Communications, said he believed the Times Co. is hoping to get the concessions and keep publishing the Globe. But he said the Times Co. management seems to have decided that the flagship New York Times newspaper is its top priority and it will no longer subsidize its New England newspaper group.
Ureneck said a shutdown of the Globe would be a catastrophe for the community. "It's a crucial part of life in Boston," he said. "This city would be diminished by the loss of The Boston Globe. I can't even imagine it. The Globe is the 14th-largest paper in the country and by far the region's circulation leader.
Local leaders yesterday expressed shock at the possibility of the Globe's closure and trepidation over a future without it.
"I believe in good government, and I believe good government depends on a strong paper, and the Globe has served that role in Massachusetts for a long time," said Governor Deval Patrick, who had a Globe paper route while a student at Milton Academy. "It's hard to imagine starting the day or doing this current job without the Globe."
Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston said the city would lose a vital institution. "The Globe helped build Boston," Menino said last night. "The Globe holds people accountable on the issues, and that's important. We might not like it sometimes. Sometimes we don't agree. But they ask the tough questions - backed up with real data."
The Boston Globe began publishing in 1872 when a half-dozen local businessmen, led by Jordan Marsh department store founder Eben Jordan, pooled $150,000 to launch the newspaper, according to a company history. The first issue, appearing March 4, 1872, cost four cents. It was sold to The New York Times Co. on Oct. 1, 1993, for $1.1 billion. The Globe has won 20 Pulitzer Prizes, including eight under the Times Co. ownership.
In recent years, the Globe, like papers throughout the country, has cut jobs in both newsroom and business operations as print circulation and advertising have declined. Even though many papers, including the Globe, reach more readers than ever through the Internet, newspaper websites are not generating enough advertising revenues to make up for the decline in print advertising.
Union leaders said they are taking the threat seriously. In addition to pay cuts, the Times Co. is also asking to cut its contributions to healthcare and 401(k) plans, according to an employee briefed on the discussions.
The president of the Boston Newspaper Guild, said management should lead by example and take additional cuts in pay and jobs. The representative of the Teamsters Local 259, said it will be easier to sell concessions to his members if they see management sharing the burden. "I don't think we have any choice but to make these serious decisions and do our best to work through this," he said. "Hundreds of jobs are at stake, and the future of The Boston Globe."
I know of no one who reads a paper other than our 80 year old neighbor - only one left who gets a paper.
I am in my 30s and read the paper every morning, but I read it on-line only buying the paper copy if I am traveling (and now I just use my iPhone to read the website).
They need to realize that news is still valuable, but the medium of daily printed papers is costly and dying. They also need to realize that issuing threatening ultimatums doesn't win you many friends.