So as we know, the Wonderland dog racing track closed down last week, and either 85 or 150 jobs were lost as a result. I spoke to the head of MA’s Rapid Response unit, Ken Messina, on Friday, and he told me that his agency has been working directly with the displaced workers to help them find new jobs. Here’s hoping they are successful.
But here’s the thing. Did an event that led to the loss of 85-150 private-sector jobs really merit front-page articles in both daily newspapers? Let’s look at a few news reports of similar sized, or larger, private-sector job losses over 2009-2010, including Wonderland, and see whether they made the Globe’s front page (archived versions of the Herald front page are not available, as far as I can tell). These are arranged in decreasing order of jobs lost, and these are the ones I could find on a quick Google search of the Globe’s archives. (If you find more reports, drop them in the comments, and I’ll update the table.)
|Company||Jobs lost in MA||Globe front page?|
*Story was flagged in the “In the news” column which runs down the left side of the front page.
Based just on the numbers of jobs, it’s hard to see why Wonderland merited the front page. The actual fact of the business closing and 85-150 people losing their jobs seems, based on past practice at the Globe, to merit a story in the business pages, with at most maybe a little blurb in the front page’s “In the news” column. The Ames Envelope story is particularly interesting: 150 manufacturing jobs lost, and it appears that the story didn’t even make the actual Globe, since the report is on one of the Globe’s local “your town” pages.
Of the two other stories deemed front-page-worthy, Brigham’s made the front page because pretty much everyone who grew up around here remembers going to Brigham’s when they were kids. The Hyatt made the front page because Hyatt is an enormously wealthy multinational corporation that thought that saving a relatively very small amount of money (about $7 an hour plus modest benefits) was worth eliminating 100 jobs – and it made the outsourced workers train their replacements. That’s a good story (“giant evil corporation beats up on poor women”), so one can understand the editorial decision to front-page it.
Of course, what drove the Wonderland story to the front page wasn’t the number of lost jobs, nor was it factors like those that put Brigham’s or the Hyatt there. It was the reaction on Beacon Hill, which seems wildly out of proportion to the actual job losses. Did we see all the big players pointing fingers to assign blame when, for instance, Pfizer cut 300 Massachusetts jobs? Did we see the House Speaker demanding an immediate $2 million in state aid for the 150 workers at Ames Envelope who lost their jobs? Did we see state reps spluttering with anger when Sovereign Bank let 265 MA workers go? Nope. (Interestingly, though, we did see the Governor wade into the Hyatt dispute. His action was criticized by Charlie Baker, but did succeed in getting Hyatt to significantly improve their offer.)
The near-hysteria that erupted on Beacon Hill, and from Beacon Hill wannabes (both Baker and Cahill blamed Governor Patrick – surprise!), upon Wonderland’s demise tells you quite a lot about the mindset of Beacon Hill and of those who’d like to work there – none of it good. It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that it’s not about the jobs. It’s about the well-connected guys who own the tracks. And that’s profoundly depressing.