The Globe’s deliverance

If a tree falls in the forest but it doesn’t get home-delivered, does it still make news?

Though the vast majority of people get their news through (not from, just to be clear on the source) the Internet these days, there’s still a hard-core corps of readers who prefer the dead-tree edition, especially on Sundays when they play the crossword puzzle, read long-form pieces, and soak in the week’s biggest Sports section.

And advertisers still like it as well, paying a higher premium for ad space on paper pages rather than fleeting screens and a little extra to stuff circulars in the Sunday delivery as well. And the cost of home delivery continues to provide a solid source of revenue for papers, even though the circulation numbers, in the case of the Boston Globe, have dropped to one-fifth of their highest point.

But armed with that knowledge, why then would Globe owner John Henry mess with the delivery service, causing disruptions to the paper’s most loyal readers and threatening to evaporate what little base of ink-stained readers remain? Good question but, apparently, even the Globe‘s own reporters, who were out in force delivering their own stories Sunday morning, have been unable to answer it.

A story in Monday’s Globe has a back and forth between the paper’s executives and officials from the new distributor, ACI Media Group, which last week took over from the longtime distributor, Publishers Circulation Fulfillment. Globe CEO Mike Sheehan, who picked up a paper route on the North Shore on Sunday, says the move was made to cut down on the number of complaints as well as stanch the bleeding from the subscriber base. And, oh yeah, there was a “material” savings involved.

Sheehan says ACI mentioned the potential of disruptions but not to the 10 percent level that has been seen, meaning about 10,000 subscribers on weekdays and 20,000 on Sunday were not getting their papers. But ACI president Jack Klunder insists his firm told the Globe to expect widespread chaos and to be prepared for the blowback and social media flaming.

And in one of the more eye-opening statements, Klunder says he expects to have normal operations back in four to six months. With this kind of outrage after four to six days, will there be anyone left to assuage at that time?

Amid the din of outrage – not to mention their stories weren’t being read by everyone, the biggest sin of all – reporters, editors, mailroom employees, office staff, and sales and circulation representatives hit the Globe‘s three distribution offices around midnight Saturday to stuff Sunday papers and circulars in bags and take off for uncovered delivery routes across eastern Massachusetts. The story went national – reporters delivering the stories they had written just several hours earlier – and while it was a mixed public relations bag, it brought on a new appreciation for the last mile by those ink-stained wretches.

“They gave us 273 papers and handed us a delivery route that appeared to have been prepared by someone under the influence of methamphetamine,” wrote Kevin Cullen, who took a route in Hingham joined by columnist Bella English and Crux editor Teresa Hanafin. “The route wasn’t circuitous. It was circus. If you handed an Etch-a-Sketch to a really drunk guy and told him to turn the knobs, that’s what our route would look like.”

The Twitterverse lit up over the stunt but since it was a one-time play, with ACI still about 150 drivers short, what happens this week? Or next Sunday? Will the people who write the news still deliver it?

Many millennials, having long ago forsaken print, if indeed they ever truly embraced it, are showing little sympathy for those who remain loyal to the tactile need for news. Many of those subscribers are averse to digital, mostly because they’re older and either shun technology or just want the paper because that’s how they always read it.

But therein lies the Globe‘s dilemma. That group of readers will not be replaced like they replaced their parents and their grandparents. So the trick is trying to balance their needs with the transition to online. And trying to save some money.

And John Henry’s other ownership stake where the bottom line isn’t as rigid – the Boston Red Sox – is not being let off in the midst of the fiasco. Political consultant Scott Ferson, who had issues getting issues delivered to his house over the holidays, hoped Henry would put the savings to good use.

“This new home delivery system sure saves John Henry money!” Ferson tweeted. “Hope he uses it for better pitching!”

— JACK SULLIVAN

 

BEACON HILL

Reinforcing the message sent last month by his top budget lieutenant, Speaker Robert DeLeo says the House will not consider any new taxes or fees as it wrestles with the 2017 state budget. (Boston Globe)

Sen. Jennifer Flanagan says Gov. Charlie Baker’s 72-hour hold on addicts at hospitals was left out of a bill approved by a legislative committee because the hospitals aren’t equipped for involuntary addiction admissions. (State House News Service) A Herald editorial criticizes a Senate effort backed by Flanagan to require schools to screen students as young as 12 years old about their drug use.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation offers free long-term leases to anyone willing to fix up two historic buildings in the Upton State Forest. (Telegram & Gazette)

A Herald editorial pans efforts by an abortion-rights group to get Baker to lobby the US Department of Justice to begin labelling attacks on clinics providing abortion services “domestic terrorism.”

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Sean O’Donovan, a one-time Somerville alderman and former law partner of city corporation counsel Eugene O’Flaherty, has rocketed from complete unknown to go-to guy on a number of contracts with Boston City Hall under Mayor Marty Walsh. (Boston Globe)

Outgoing Fall River Mayor Sam Sutter looks back at his one year and five days in office after winning the post in a recall election and calls his brief but chaotic term like “drinking from a fire hose.” (Herald News)

The new owner of an historic home in New Bedford who wants to turn it into a “sober house” has to show city officials the prospective residents are entitled to an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Fair Housing law in order to receive approval. (Standard-Times)

Barnstable officials are looking to raise money to restore and preserve records at Town Hall dating back to the town’s founding in the middle of the 17th century. (Cape Cod Times)

CASINOS

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office says the Massachusetts Gaming Commission violated the state’s Open Meeting Law, but not in its deliberations over casino license awards. (CommonWealth)

WBUR tallies up where the state stands on its casino gambling venture as of the end of 2015.

A Globe editorial says operators of the Plainridge slots parlor, which is performing way below projections, shouldn’t even think of asking state officials to reconsider the 49 percent tax the facility must pay.

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

A band of armed gunmen takes over a wildlife refuge in Oregon, insisting they are defending the Constitution. (Governing)

The Heritage Foundation offers its (conservative) take on the 10 worst government regulations of 2015. (Eagle-Tribune)

The Herald dubs as “the new normal” worries among young people about terrorism.

The IRS is scouring data and surveys to figure out how to convince people not to cheat on their taxes. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

Donald Trump prepares to launch his first TV ad, which appeals to the fears of voters. (Washington Post) Trump is dismissive of reports that jihadi extremists are using videos of his harsh words for Muslims as recruiting tools. (Boston Globe) The Globe‘s Jim O’Sullivan and WBZ’s Joe Matthieu say a visit to New Hampshire shows Trump’s support is no mirage. (Keller@Large)

Campaigning yesterday in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton gets questioned about what she’ll do to address the opioid addiction crisis. (Boston Globe)

A Globe editorial decries the frequency with which Massachusetts voters are faced with special elections to fill seats vacated midterm.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Raytheon has stumbled badly in its project designed to upgrade the equipment that drives the Global Positioning System. (Boston Globe)

Big donations from wealthy benefactors decreased in 2015, excluding the pledge from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, to donate 99 percent of their wealth to charity which has yet to be committed. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

Uber’s take-no-prisoners approach to markets didn’t fare well in Germany, where the uber ridesharing app has pulled out after resistance from drivers and riders. (New York Times)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Health care premiums are rising because of drug costs and the cost of implementing the Affordable Care Act, reports the Globe.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments on Friday in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups accusing the state of failing to keep pace with the requirements of a 2008 law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent of 1990 levels by 2020. (Boston Globe)

Chelmsford pursues bulk buying of electricity on behalf of its residents, with expectations that participating homeowners will save at least $100 a year. (The Sun)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

State Police investigated 64 homicides alongside local police in 2015 but the number of fatal drug overdoses they investigated skyrocketed to 755, according to year-end statistics. (Patriot Ledger)

An Item editorial praises the behavioral health unit at the Lynn Police Department for treating addicts as people with health problems rather than as criminals.

High suicide rates plague Massachusetts correctional officers. (Masslive)

The FCC is capping how much prison inmates can be charged for phone calls, but jail officials say the new rule may end up eliminating phone service all together. (Salem News)

West Bridgewater police are investigating the sixth incidence of vandalism in the last four years at a historic cemetery that dates back to the mid-18th century. (The Enterprise)

MEDIA

The National Society of Film Critics names Spotlight the best picture of 2105. (Time)