It’s fun to hear different people describe the same event. Little kids argue over a shattered lamp— “My brother broke it!” “No, she broke it!” Court battles center around clashing versions of who did what to whom. Grown-up historians make a living trashing one another’s interpretations.
Or compare the self-serving accounts contrived by self-important editors and reporters who actually believe they’re in the business of telling the tru… the tru… the… t… t… I can’t write the word with a straight face.
Consider this week’s news that The New York Times finally gave up and sold The Boston Globe for a staggering loss. What happened? Let the story be told!
First, Reuters—the wire service that gathers, packages, and sells news to subscribing outlets. According to the Reuters story, the sale price was “less than a tenth” of what the Times paid for the Globe 20 years ago. Ouch! Less than a tenth? This writer gives no quarter.
Next, The Boston Globe itself, reporting on its own ignominious change of hands and fall in value.
In the Globe’s second paragraph, the price is stated… but not given comparative context.
The impending purchase for $70 million in cash marks [the new owner] Henry’s first foray into the financially unsettled world of the news media.
Following this are many paragraphs of delight and celebration — The Globe’s award-winning journalism, its rich history, how “excited” the publisher is, how “thriving” and “dynamic” the region is, how great it is having “someone with strong business credentials” at the helm, how this is a “winning combination,” and on and on.
But what about that price-tag? Waaaaay down in the Globe’s account, paragraphs from the first mention of $70 million, is this wonderful spin-job:
The Times Co. is selling the Globe for far less than the $1.1 billion it paid for the paper in 1993, when the business was highly profitable and the Globe fetched a record price. The Times Co., like other business owners, withdrew a large stream of cash from the Globe during its ownership — a sum at least equal to the purchase price, according to several former high-ranking Globe executives.
So not only was the Globe once “highly profitable” and “fetched a record price,” but those Times guys took out cash. Sounds like the Times owners ran the Globe into the ground after skimming off the profits.
And now let’s check out the hapless New York Times itself. How does the Times characterize its own disastrous strategy? Surely the editors can spin this… and do:
So, in this version, the Globe was bought and then "began to lose readers and advertisers.” In the Times’ account of its own failed strategy, it is implied that the Globe lost those readers. Those boobs up in Boston were incompetent.
Stated another way: “My brother broke it!”