Tag Archives: Boston Globe

More details on the Globe’s tweaked-up opinion section

The Boston Globe’s interim editorial-page editor, Ellen Clegg, wasn’t ready to go public about this when we spoke last week. But this week the paper announced a project called “Opinion Reel,” which will run “short documentaries with a point of view” submitted by “local professionals, students, and smartphone auteurs.”

“You could even be Ken Burns and we’ll take a look,” Clegg says.

It’s an intriguing idea, and it will be interesting to see what gets posted. I’ve already made sure our journalism students at Northeastern know about it.

• As I wrote last week, the redesign of the opinion pages in print can’t be looked at in isolation. Instead, the two-page print spread should be seen as kind of a “best of” taken from the larger online opinion section. I’ve heard several people say they were afraid the pages were being dumbed down, a concern that makes sense only if you’re still focused on print. (People: It’s 2015.)

Case in point: On Wednesday, as the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev death-penalty case was being turned over to the jury, the Globe posted a commentary by Boston College Law School professor Kari Hong arguing that the time has come to bring back firing squads. Her piece does not appear in the print edition.

As Mark Twain said of Wagner’s music, Hong’s essay is better than it sounds. Hong, an opponent of capital punishment who’s represented clients on death row, makes a strong case that the firing squad would be more humane than lethal injection.

“If jurors had to choose between giving someone life in prison — without the possibility of parole — or putting them in front of a firing squad,” she concludes, “I have no doubt that many would opt for the former.”

The Globe gets ready to unveil its life-sciences vertical

A couple of news briefs about The Boston Globe:

  • Benjamin Mullin has an interesting story at Poynter about the Globe’s life-sciences vertical, which is scheduled to begin a slow-roll launch this fall. The project already has a high-profile editor, Rick Berke, formerly of Politico and The New York Times. Berke tells Mullin that he expects the unnamed website will also have a “print component” — unlike (so far) Crux, the Globe’s vertical covering the Catholic Church. Like Crux and BetaBoston, which covers tech and innovation, it sounds like life-sciences stories of broad interest will also appear in the Globe itself.
  • Globe Magazine editor Susanne Althoff is leaving the paper to become an assistant professor in Emerson College’s Writing, Literature, and Publishing Department at Emerson College. In a characteristically effusive email to the staff, editor Brian McGrory writes, “Her team consistently produces some of the highest quality journalism to come out of the Globe, beautifully portrayed in print. And the magazine’s creativity and savvy in story selection, execution, and packaging have routinely led to massive readership online. Look no further than the feature on being poor at an Ivy League school, guaranteed to be one of the most read Globe stories of 2015.”

The Globe drags its opinion pages into the 21st century

Of all the hoary traditions of 20th-century newspapering, few seem quite so hoary as the editorial and op-ed pages. Mixing editorials (unsigned because they represent the institutional views of the newspaper), cartoons, columns by staff members and outside contributors, and letters from readers, the opinion pages often seem anachronistic in the digital age — a bit too formal, more than a bit too predictable and way too slow off the mark.

Starting today, The Boston Globe is attempting to bring that nearly half-century-old construct up to date. No longer is the left-hand page labeled “Editorial” and the right “Opinion.” Instead, both pages are unified under “Opinion.” Content — some of it new, some familiar — is free-floating.

Much of it is what you’d expect: a pro-Olympics editorial (sigh) as well as staff columns by Joan Vennochi and Dante Ramos. Some is new: a roundup of opinion from elsewhere called “What They’re Saying,” a very short take by staff columnist Joanna Weiss on a much-delayed skate park, and an amalgamation of letters, tweets and online comments rebranded as “Inbox.” (The changes are outlined here.)

“You could look at this as a meal where you want snackable content and meatier content and the occasional dessert,” says interim editorial-page editor Ellen Clegg. Some of the ideas, she adds, were developed by experimenting with the opinion content of Capital, the Globe’s Friday political section.

Globe Opinion pages

Regular columns have been cut from 700 to 600 words. But op-ed-page editor Marjorie Pritchard says that the new Opinion section will also be more flexible, with pieces running from 400 to 1,200 or more words. (Coincidentally, this article in Digiday, in which Kevin Delaney of Quartz calls for the demise of the standard 800-word article, is the talk of Twitter this week.)

The Globe’s opinion operation has been on a roll under Clegg and her predecessor, Peter Canellos (now executive editor of Politico), with Kathleen Kingsbury winning a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing last month and Ramos being named a finalist in 2014. But the look and feel of the pages haven’t changed much since the 1970s.

And then there’s the whole matter of print in the digital age. Globe editor Brian McGrory recently told his staff that a print-first mentality still prevails, writing that “too many of us — editors, reporters, photographers, graphic artists — think of just print too often.”

McGrory does not run the opinion pages, as both he and Clegg report directly to publisher John Henry. But the redesigned print section, with its careful attention to art and graphics, has the look and feel of a print-first play. In fact, Clegg is pursuing a two-track strategy — an improved but tightly curated print section and a larger online Opinion site. “Brian as usual captured it beautifully,” Clegg says. “I think that captured the ethos of where we’re all going, where we’re all headed.”

For some time now Clegg herself has been writing an online-only “Morning Opinion Digest” with summaries and links to provocative content elsewhere. Opinion pieces often run online before they appear in print. And some pieces are Web exclusives, such as this commentary by editorial writer Marcela García on the cultural stereotypes surrounding Cinco de Mayo.

Says Pritchard: “We’ve run a lot of online exclusives in the past, and we’re trying to beef that up.” Clegg adds that “we certainly don’t want to shortchange the print reader, but we want to enhance the digital experience. There has to be a balance.”

It was a half-century ago that The New York Times developed the modern op-ed page. Times editorial board member John Oakes, the Ochs-Sulzberger family member who was largely responsible for the idea, once called it “one of the great newspaper innovations of the century,” according to this Jack Shafer piece.

By contrast, the Globe’s new Opinion section should be seen as a modest improvement. But at a time when newspapers, both in print and online, are fighting to maintain their relevance, the Globe deserves credit for trying something new.

Also posted at WGBHNews.org.

Globe’s Pulitzer-winning editorials target income inequality

Over the past few years The Boston Globe has been quietly nurturing some talented editorial writers. Last year, Dante Ramos — now an op-ed columnist — was a Pulitzer finalist for a series of editorials on revitalizing Boston’s night life. On Monday, Kathleen Kingsbury won a Pulitzer that is especially timely given rising concerns over income inequality: eight editorials on the harsh realities of restaurant work, particularly in the fast-food industry.

Like Ramos, Kingsbury has moved on — she’s now the editor of the Sunday Ideas section. Still, Kingsbury and Ramos have showed that there’s life in those unsigned voice-of-the-institution editorials, derided by some critics (including me on occasion) as obsolete.

The Globe came close in two other Pulitzer categories, including the prestigious public service award. Its “Shadow Campus” series on shamefully inadequate and dangerous housing for the city’s thousands of college students was a finalist, coming in behind the surprise winner of the 2015 awards: the smallish Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, which shone a light on the state’s high death rate from domestic abuse. The Globe last won the public service award in 2003, for its reporting on the sexual-abuse scandal within the Catholic Church.

In addition, the Globe’s Sarah Schweitzer was a finalist in the feature-writing category for her story on a scientist’s quest to save a rare North Atlantic right whale. I thought it was notable that the Pulitzer judges specifically cited the article’s “disciplined use of multimedia,” an acknowledgment that the full experience is available only online.

Finally, I can’t avoid noting that restaurant workers are not the only people facing harsh realities. Kevin Roderick of LA Observed reports that Rob Kuznia, who shared a Pulitzer on Monday for his work with the Daily Breeze of Torrance, California, had left the paper a while ago to take a job in public relations.

“I spoke with him this afternoon,” Roderick writes, “and he admitted to a twinge of regret at no longer being a journalist, but he said it was too difficult to make ends meet on his newspaper salary while renting in the LA area.”

Also online at WGBHNews.org.

Survivor couple joins Richards in opposing death penalty

Boston Marathon bombing survivors Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes have joined Bill and Denise Richard in calling on the Justice Department to drop its quest for the death penalty. Kensky and Downes were newlyweds who each lost their left legs in the attack; Kensky later lost her right leg as well. They write:

In our darkest moments and deepest sadness, we think of inflicting the same types of harm on him. We wish that he could feel the searing pain and terror that four beautiful souls felt before their death, as well as the harsh reality of discovering mutilated or missing legs. If there is anyone who deserves the ultimate punishment, it is the defendant. However, we must overcome the impulse for vengeance.

In January, the couple was the subject of an in-depth story by The Boston Globe’s Eric Moskowitz on Kensky’s decision to have her badly damaged right leg amputated. I find it meaningful that neither the Richards nor Kensky and Downes indulge in any dubious reasoning that life in prison would somehow be “worse” for the bomber. They just want it over. Who is anyone else to judge?

Henry Santoro joins WGBH Radio as a news anchor

Henry Santoro

Henry Santoro

Big news from my other employer, WGBH: Henry Santoro will be joining WGBH Radio (89.7 FM) as a news anchor. Henry announced the move this morning on The Boston Globe’s online radio station, RadioBDC, where he had worked since 2012.

Henry and I worked together for years at The Boston Phoenix, where he was the morning news guy on WFNX Radio. His then-future wife, Thea Singer, showed me the ropes when I started as a copy editor at the Phoenix in 1991. When ’FNX closed three years ago, the Globe responded by creating RadioBDC — and hired Henry, Julie Kramer and other longtime ’FNX people. I enjoyed my occasional appearances with Henry on ’FNX, and it would be fun if we could do it at ’GBH as well.

WGBH has proved to be a magnet for members of the Phoenix diaspora. Henry joins WGBHNews.org senior editor Peter Kadzis, staff reporter Adam Reilly, political commentator David Bernstein and me. Congratulations to Henry, for whom I have one piece of advice: in public broadcasting, we spell it D-E-A-D.

Here’s the memo to the staff from WGBH Radio general manager Phil Redo:

Hi all:

I am very happy to announce that Henry Santoro will be joining our daytime line-up of news anchors.

Since Jordan [Weinstein]’s departure both Cristina Quinn and Lynne Ashminov have been handling anchor responsibilities — I thank them both for their excellent work and I’m pleased they will each continue to be part of our on-air news team.

Henry joins us from The Boston Globe’s radio property “RadioBDC” where he has been news director since 2012….

Before The Globe, from 1983 until 2012, Henry was a fixture on the morning radio dial, serving as the award winning news director and morning news anchor for WFNX-FM, owned by the Boston Phoenix. He worked very closely with several of our current WGBH News staff and contributors, including Peter Kadzis, Adam Reilly, David Bernstein and Dan Kennedy.

During the more than 30 years he has been a morning anchor, Henry has brought to audiences many of the most significant stories of our era beginning with the AIDS crisis in the early 1980’s to 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan, the first election of Mayor Menino to the election if the first African American President. Along the way he has interviewed cultural and political personalities as wide ranging as Andy Warhol, Mitt Romney, Allen Ginsberg and Yoko Ono. And, so important to us, he is extremely plugged in to the local scene and should help us continue to deepen our commitment to being Boston’s LOCAL NPR. We may even consider bringing to WGBH his popular feature about community happenings called “Henry in the Hub.”

A strong communicator with a very conversational delivery, Henry has done both long and short form content and is a big proponent of the team approach within newsrooms, critical to our continuing development.

For ten years Henry was an Adjunct professor at Emerson College where he taught radio and journalism courses. He is himself a graduate of Emerson [see correction below], and also an Associate of Arts in Communication and Journalism from Northeast College of Communications.

He is an art collector ( he lectures on Andy Warhol 2-3 times a year), loves cooking ( he owns more than 5-thousand cookbooks!) and music.

Please join me in welcoming Henry Santoro to WGBH News. His first day will most likely be Tuesday, April 21st.

P

Correction. Henry posted this on Facebook: “Just for the record, I am not a graduate of Emerson College. I did teach there for over ten years, and I am an honorary member of their Phi Alpha Tau fraternity. I am a graduate of the now defunct Northeast College of Communications. That is all.”

Photo via LinkedIn.

The Globe ratchets up its native advertising efforts

The Boston Globe is joining other news organizations, including The New York Times, in pursuing native advertising — content that consists of editorial-like material but is bought and paid for. And the executive who’ll be in charge of it is Andrew Gully, a former longtime Boston Herald staffer who rose to managing editor for news in the late 1990s. He left the Herald and went into public relations about a dozen years ago.

Romenesko has the memo from Boston Globe Media Partners chief executive Mike Sheehan, who writes that his goal was to hire “someone trained as a journalist who at some point sold his or her soul and made the glorious leap over to The Dark Side — marketing communications.”

Gully, whose title will be director of sponsored content, is a smart guy who during his Herald days was an aggressive newsman. Sheehan says such content “will play a very important part of our growth” and will appear across “all our properties.”

Some native advertising already appears at Globe Media sites — such as the one below, currently on Boston.com. In addition to the tagline reading “SPONSORED BY REAL Estate Talk Boston,” you can click on the little question mark in the upper right and get a fuller disclosure.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 8.45.39 AM

Native advertising has become a growth industry because digital advertising has proved disappointing for news organizations. Standard online ads — especially those served up by off-site servers such as Google — are so ubiquitous that their value keeps dropping.

At the same time, native ads are controversial because, when they’re not presented or labeled properly, they can be confused with editorial content. But though they’re often talked about as the mutant spawn of the Internet, there’s nothing new about them. People my age can remember special sections in Time magazine on the glories of various third-world hellholes; you’d do a double-take, then see the disclaimer that the section was paid for by said hellhole.

For many years, so-called advertorials by Mobil were published on the op-ed page of The New York Times — more than 800 of them between 1985 and 2000, according to this analysis.

Ironically, on the same day that Sheehan announced Gully’s appointment, the American Society of Magazine Editors released a set of guidelines for native advertising. Benjamin Mullin reports at Poynter Online that the guidelines call for such content to be “clearly labeled as advertising by the use of terms such as ‘Sponsor Content’ or ‘Paid Post’ and visually distinguished from editorial content and that collections of sponsored links should be clearly labeled as advertising and visually separated from editorial content.”

That seems like solid advice. And it’s a standard we can all use as a measuring stick once native advertising starts to become more visible on the Globe’s various websites.

Also published at WGBHNews.org.