Why I cancelled my Boston Globe subscription after 50 years. Auld Lang Syne. The best of friends must part.
By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
I have just cancelled my subscription to the Boston Globe. I have had this subscription for over 50 years, thereby making me one of the dwindling number of people who have invested their time and money. Why did I take such an astonishing step?
In a word, I have watched the Globe tumble from the pinnacle of journalistic excellence to a dull and commonplace rag.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, whose prose has never been published hereabouts would ask the telling question. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Sadly, the list has declined and declined again so that the story of a once proud newspaper. Certainly, one of the best in the land has become warmed over-dross.
When I first came to Harvard in 1969, opening up the Boston Globe in the early morning was a thrill. For the writing was rich, exuberant, confident, and unparalleled. This was the way journalism was meant to be and my first book Insubstantial Pageant: Ceremony and Confusion in Queen Victoria’s court even received a review that heralded a new writer on the horizon who, their well-known book reviewer Herb Kenny, predicted would further grace the vibrant Boston literary scene often in the years to come.
It was fun in those days to scan the columns of the Boston Globe for in all departments intelligent, knowledgeable, expert, literary folks were there in full array. Then things began to change for the worst. The Taylor family which had overseen since 1872 its prized property left far-sighted people gloomily prognosticating that this was the thin edge of the wedge and that no-good could come of the decision to disengage. The Boston Globe was sold to the New York Times for $1.1 billion in 1993. The knowledgeable experts around the Hub joined in Jeremiad and they would write. There are certain benchmark indicating the beginning of the end.
Mike Barnacle, one of the superb writer admitted in one of his column that he was guilty of plagiarism and he was then summarily dismissed on August 6th, 1998. The incident was unfortunate, but the punishment was excessive. It was indeed throwing out the baby with the bath-water. There seemed to be a pall over the city on a hill.
Then, the eight-hundred-pound gorilla that is the internet, came along to change Bean Town. Not only the Boston Globe but the worlds. Expert opinion predicted doom and they were right. It was not merely a route, it was a catastrophe. The Globe needed top-notch commentary and reportage, but they needed to get it done on the cheap.
Columnist like Kevin Cullen, Alex Beam, and Derrick Z. Jackson put out millions of words but not one memorable phrase. Here you see, people like this going through the motions of writing, copy worth reading. Joan Vennochi gets it right more often than not, but she is a rare example in a periodical that has lost its way.
The next disastrous decision was to devote page after page to sports. More sports and more sports again. John Henry, was one of the angel of death for journalism that was important and insights into the daily events, he owned the Red Sox and bought the Boston Globe for 70 million dollars in 2013 and was a gray presence overshadowing the land. As a result, we got endless pictures of muscle men patting their posteriors.
And so, when I picked up my Boston Globe today something snapped in me. And I cancelled my subscription immediately. Enough was enough. So today, with heavy heart I kiss goodbye, my once favorite publication. I doubt, there even will be a slightest pang to mark this sad event, which has been a long time coming and richly deserved.
Sic transit gloria mundi
Dr. Jeffrey Lant, Harvard educated, started writing for publication at age 5. Since then, he has published over 1,000 articles and 63 books, and counting.