The Boston Globe takes to the TV airwaves.
We're not going to scoop ourselves," says Lincoln Millstein, the Globe's deputy managing editor who is overseeing the new project.
The partnership is one of several made recently between newspapers and television. The Orange County Register has joined in a similar deal with a local cable channel, while the Chicago Tribune started its own, ChicagoLand TV (see "The High-Tech Trib," April). In Philadelphia, the Inquirer announced plans for an independently staffed 10 p.m. newscast based on the paper's reporting.
The New England agreement, which was scheduled to begin April 25 and will be reviewed after the first year, is a low-cost, mutual self-promotion. The cable channel gains the status of being associated with New Englands most powerful newspaper, along with free ads promoting the venture. The Globe gets to dabble in emerging technologies such as fiber optic transmission. No money is changing hands.
"We're going to learn a lot about how to use another medium," says Millstein of the Globe, admitting he's not a "tetchie' but is aware that the paper needs to expand its influence. While a number of staffers in Boston and Washington are familiar faces on local talk shows, Millstein sees the trial as a chance to get others on the 450-member newsroom staff comfortable with the medium. He hopes 60 percent will have on-air experience by the end of the first year.
New England Cable News, a two-year-old, 24-hour channel modeled after CNN and co-owned by the Hearst Corp. and Continental Cablevision, reaches more than a million households in six New England states. However, the majority of viewers live in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and most of the reports generated by its 85 staffers originate from the greater Boston area.
The arrangement between the channel and the Globe is simple. A small studio was constructed at the edge of the Globe newsroom, complete with a robotic camera linked to New England Cable News. At a set time each hour, a channel anchor interviews a Globe reporter, editor or columnist for three to five minutes. On occasion, a newsmaker visiting the daily also may appear.
The Globe segments will be superivised newsroom by the director of television, a position yet to be filled. One of the directors duties will be reminding reporters not to end their careers in 30 seconds by making ill-advised comments on camera. The director will also try to maintain the paper's competitive edge. "I don't think we want a single instance where we're giving news ahead of the paper," Millstein says.
Philip Balboni, president of New England Cable News and a former Boston TV news director, says he knew Globe staffers weren't going to be giving away any secrets. "In this context, news is ... providing further depth, background analysis and flavor to the stories of the day."
The day before a story appears in the paper, he explains, a Globe reporter may appear on the channel to provide the barest details of its contents. The next day, "we might do additional interviews with that reporter. There's so much that never goes into the printed paper that is interesting and important."
And his anchors aren't going to press Globe staffers with any probing questions. "It's more like when Ted Koppel talks to Brit Hume or Peter Jennings talks to Garrick Utley," Balboni says. "We're colleagues. We're not competitors."