One morning in February 2000, I was killing time at a conference center in South Carolina, where I had showed up at a campaign event for George W. Bush. Sitting on the carpeted floor, banging away at his laptop, was Glen Johnson, then with the Associated Press.
I was covering the media campaign. The press that year was in love with the insurgent Republican, John McCain, whose caravan I had connected with earlier in the week. Johnson and I talked.
“The Bush people really feel that McCain has gotten a free ride, or an easier ride than Bush has,” he told me. It was a telling quote, and it made its way into the story I was writing for The Boston Phoenix.
Johnson, who worked two stints each at the AP and The Boston Globe, got his start in Massachusetts at The Sun of Lowell and The Salem News. On Thursday, he announced that he was leaving the Globe, where he was politics editor of Boston.com, in order to take a senior position with incoming Secretary of State John Kerry.
“It is a humbling opportunity, especially in these turbulent times,” Johnson wrote, “but one that I embrace with relish.”
And thus departs another piece of the Globe’s institutional memory.
The big departure during the past year, of course, was that of Globe editor Marty Baron, now executive editor of The Washington Post. But other veterans have continued to trickle out as well, with Johnson being only the latest.
Two more who will be missed:
• Brian Mooney, a longtime political reporter who covered the national, state and local scenes with aplomb. Mooney is as accomplished a writer as he is a reporter.
I still remember a piece he wrote on former Boston mayor Ray Flynn’s frenzied Primary Day sprint in his failed 1998 congressional campaign, and I wish it were freely available online. Mooney was also an outspoken union advocate when, in 2009, the New York Times Co. threatened to shut down the Globe unless it could extract some $20 million in union givebacks. (The Times Co. eventually got its way.) I still consider this to be a legendary moment in Media Nation history.
Mooney stuck around for one last presidential campaign and retired shortly thereafter. Several weeks later we found ourselves sitting next to each other at a Harvard event honoring the late Globe columnist David Nyhan, and Mooney clearly seemed to be enjoying himself.
• Alex Beam, a veteran lifestyle columnist who was among the Globe’s very few writers who could make you laugh. Beam took a book leave last year and decided during a round of downsizing that he’d rather retire than go back.
In 2003 Beam wrote a column about three writers named Dan Kennedy. I’m DK1, and he describes the dilemma I faced launching a book alongside a get-rich-quick artist (DK3) and a humorist with a McSweeney’s connection (DK2).
“I planned to stay on the deck ’til the ship went down, but managers apparently wanted the budget cut more,” he recently told me via Facebook. “We were all ‘targeted’ for ‘voluntary’ buyouts, and many were happy to have them.”
• Finally, the paper’s terrific editorial cartoonist, Dan Wasserman, has sort of left, but not in a way that will affect readers. He has retired from the Globe, but continues to work out of 135 Morrissey Blvd. as a contract contributor.
“More freedom for me, less overhead for the paper,” Wasserman told me, also via Facebook. “I do a Sunday local cartoon and continue to draw syndicated cartoons that the Globe picks up several times a week.”
More: I’m a political junkie, not a movie buff. But I shouldn’t let pass the opportunity to note that Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Wesley Morris departed for Grantland recently.
Photo (cc) by Dan Kennedy. Some rights reserved.