Tag Archives: Brian McGrory

Globe wins Pulitzer for ‘story none of us wanted to cover’

Brian McGrory during the Pulitzer announcement.

Brian McGrory during the Pulitzer announcement. (Photo courtesy of The Boston Globe.)

This article was published earlier at WGBH News.

Within moments of the announcement that The Boston Globe had won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting, Martine Powers tweeted from the newsroom. “This was a story none of us wanted to cover,” she quoted editor Brian McGrory as saying. The staff, she said, then observed a moment of silence at McGrory’s request for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.

The Globe easily could have won two or three Pulitzers for its coverage of the bombings and their aftermath. The breaking-news award, of course, was well-deserved, and frankly it was unimaginable that it would go to anyone else. But the paper also had worthy marathon-related finalists in Breaking News Photography (John Tlumacki and David L. Ryan) as well as Commentary (Kevin Cullen, who emerged as the voice and conscience of the city after the attack).

McGrory’s classy response to winning underscores the sad reality that the Globe’s excellent coverage was driven by a terrible tragedy — the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001. (The Globe was also a finalist in Editorial Writing, as Dante Ramos was honored for a non-marathon-related topic: improving the city’s night life.)

The Pulitzer also caps what has been a remarkable year for the Globe. On Marathon Monday 2013, McGrory was relatively untested as editor and the paper’s prospects were uncertain, as the New York Times Co. was trying to unload it for the second time in four years.

The Globe’s marathon coverage — widely praised long before today’s Pulitzers were announced — have defined McGrory’s brief term as editor as surely as the paper’s pedophile-priest coverage (which earned a Pulitzer for Public Service) defined Marty Baron’s. Moreover, the Globe now has a local, deep-pockets owner in John Henry who’s willing to invest in journalism.

But the focus should be on Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu and Sean Collier, as well as their families and all the other survivors. Good for McGrory for reminding everyone of that.

A couple of other Pulitzer notes:

• A lot of observers were waiting to see whether the judges would honor the stories based on the Edward Snowden leaks. They did, as the Pulitzer for Public Service went to The Guardian and The Washington Post.

Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, then affiliated with The Guardian and now with the start-up First Look Media, as well as Barton Gellman of the Post, were the recipients of the Snowden leaks, which revealed a vast U.S. spying apparatus keeping track of ordinary citizens and world leaders both in the United States and abroad.

The choice is bound to be controversial in some circles. U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., has already called the award “a disgrace.” But it was the ultimate example of journalism speaking truth to power, and thus was a worthy choice.

• The oddest move was the Pulitzer judges’ decision not to award a prize in Feature Writing. I thought it might go to the New York Times’ series “Invisible Child: Dasani’s Homeless Life,” or possibly to the Globe’s “The Fall of the House of Tsarnaev.” (I should note that neither of those stories was listed as a finalist.)

The Pulitzer process can be mysterious. But it would be interesting to see if someone can pry some information out of the judges to find out why they believed there wasn’t a single feature story in 2013 worthy of journalism’s highest honor.

Globe makes move into TV with ’5 Runners’

This story was previously published at WGBH News.

When Boston Globe arts reporter Geoff Edgers and multimedia producer Darren Durlach proposed making a documentary about five runners who were crossing the Boston Marathon finish line at the moment that the bombings took place, editor Brian McGrory’s reaction was: Why not?

“What do you need? Two weeks?” McGrory recalled asking them.

As it turned out, it took Edgers and Durlach eight months, thousands of miles on the road and, as McGrory put it, “God knows how many dollars” to make “5 Runners,” which premiered before a crowd of several hundred people at the JFK Library Thursday evening.

The 25-minute film, which McGrory called “the first full-fledged documentary that theBoston Globe has ever produced,” will debut on NESN on Monday. It’s an early sign that a strategy to move into television, which Globe owner John Henry announced earlier this year, is beginning to take shape — although Edgers and Durlach began working on the film before Henry bought the paper. (Henry is also the principal owner of the Red Sox, which controls a chunk of NESN.)

The film, which grew out of a story Edgers wrote last April 21, follows the runners’ quest to return to the starting line of the 2014 marathon. I won’t give away how many make it. But “5 Runners” is deeply felt and unusual in its focus on how athletes — ordinary men and women who were well off the pace of the elite runners — were affected by the terrorist attack.

In a panel discussion after the film moderated by Globe deputy managing editor for features Janice Page, Edgers talked about the difficulties he and Durlach faced in staying in touch with their subjects. One of the runners, Volker Fischer, simply stopped responding, so Edgers sent him a card that read: “Volker — call me.”

When Edgers finally was able to connect with Fischer and visit his home in Illinois, he saw the card, unopened, on the refrigerator. “‘I liked the stamp,’” Edgers recalled Fischer telling him, explaining: “It was a Johnny Cash stamp.” (Disclosure: Edgers and I worked together at The Boston Phoenix in the mid-1990s. His wife, journalist Carlene Hempel, and I are colleagues at Northeastern University.)

Durlach said that the runners were “hesitant” about putting themselves forward when so many others had died or were wounded. “People were killed. Why do you want to spend time on my story?” is the way Durlach characterized their reaction.

Also joining the panelists was one of the five runners, Mary Jenkins of Ohio (spoiler alert: she’ll be running this year’s marathon), who said she will “probably be a basket case” during the race.

“It’s going to be hard, I think, Marathon Day, but I think it’s going to be exciting, too,” she said.

Edgers and Durlach plan to be at this year’s marathon as well. Their goal, they said, is to keep covering the story, and to expand “5 Runners” into an hour-long film.

Brian McGrory on the future of The Boston Globe

The day job prevented me from covering Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory’s appearance on Tuesday at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.

Shorenstein’s Janell Sims reports that McGrory said he has “absolutely no idea” of what the future of newspapers will be, and that “anyone who tells you they know is either lying to themselves or lying to you.” She adds:

In finding a business model that works, McGrory warned against running “from one end of spectrum to other” between digital and print. “We need a balance,” he said, and added that while digital models are an important part of the future, “more than three-quarters of our revenue still comes from print.”

Note: This item has been updated, as I cannot vouch for the accuracy of one of the accounts I linked to earlier.

Boston Globe, Boston.com moving farther apart

There’s a bit of non-baseball news at the end of Boston Globe baseball reporter Peter Abraham’s latest:

Finally, a programming note. All our written content will be exclusively in the Globe and on BostonGlobe.com from now on. That includes Nick Cafardo, Dan Shaughnessy, Chris Gasper, Julian Benbow and me. The Extra Bases blog on Boston.com will not have contributions from Globe baseball reporters.

The move is in accord with an announcement recently made by Globe editor Brian McGrory, so it’s not really a surprise — more of a confirmation. With the Globe’s online paywall a lot leakier than it used to be, there’s really no need for cross-platform sharing anymore.

Boston.com’s anonymous sports blogger to be unmasked

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 7.41.18 PMOn Sunday at 5:11 p.m., The Boston Globe’s free Boston.com site published a toughly worded blog post about Jerry Remy’s future with New England Sports Network.

Headlined “Case closed: Red Sox fans not obligated to pay for Jared Remy’s defense,” the writer argued that NESN had a public-relations problem on its hands following a Globe investigation into Jerry Remy’s son Jared, accused of murdering his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel. The writer also found it ironic that NESN would remove Jenny Dell from Red Sox coverage because of her relationship with third baseman Will Middlebrooks while Jerry Remy stays in the broadcast booth.

And, oh yes, there was this: the writer was anonymous, identified only as the Obnoxious Boston Fan.

I’d never seen an anonymous blog on Boston.com before. And though I agreed with some of the sentiments he expressed in his post about Remy, it struck me as journalistically and ethically inappropriate for the Globe to be giving a platform to any anonymous writers — let alone one who was casting aspersions on others.

In response to my inquiry, David Skok, the digital adviser to Globe editor Brian McGrory, told me by email that Mr. OBF will henceforth be writing under his name. Skok said:

We are in the midst of reviewing all of the content being posted on Boston.com and BostonGlobe.com as we continue to move forward with the relaunch and the separation of the two properties.

During this review process, we discovered that one of our community voice bloggers was posting anonymously on the site. We don’t believe that this adequately meets our journalistic principles and practices for all of our Boston Globe Media Partners properties. As a result, the blogger known as the, ‘Obnoxious Boston Sports Fan’ will be identifying himself in all future posts.

We are also excited to announce that we are bringing several of our best ‘community voices’ on as freelance writers who will go through the standard copy editing process required for all of our freelancers. We believe that these voices are valued contributors to Boston.com and we look forward to giving their work the exposure and amplification that it deserves.

As a result of these changes, we have notified all of our contributors that the community voices program will be ending at the end of the month. We want to thank all of our bloggers for their contributions through the years and we hope that they will continue to be a part of our digital community.

And yes, according to Skok, Mr. OBF made the cut.

Here, by the way, is Boston.com’s Community Voices page. Other than Mr. OBF, Skok did not say who will be staying and who will be leaving.

On Twitter earlier today, Mr. OBF claimed he has won “multiple APSE awards” (and perhaps he has) as well as “a staff Pulitzer.” I have asked Mr. OBF for a response to the news that he will now have to identify himself, and I’ll post it if I hear from him. Regardless, it sounds like we’ll know who he is soon enough.

Update: And here is Mr. OBF’s response (drum roll, please): “Looking forward to it.”

Update II: Originally I wrote that Skok had told me Mr. OBF’s anonymous status had simply fallen through the cracks. I’ve removed it because it was my characterization of what he said, and it seems too close to a direct quote.

Update III: In case you’re clicking to this post directly, I want to let you know about this.

Is Jerry Remy’s broadcasting career finally over?

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Instant update: I am gobsmacked that Remy is in the booth with Don Orsillo right now, Sunday at 1 p.m. That means the NESN announcement did not pertain to today and had nothing to do with the Globe story. Are NESN and the Red Sox really prepared to brazen this out? I guess we’ll find out a week from tomorrow.

It began on Friday with a seemingly trivial item in The Boston Globe’s sports section: Red Sox announcer Jerry Remy would be missing from New England Sports Network for the team’s last two spring-training games, but would be back for Opening Day on March 31.

On Saturday night, we learned the likely reason for Remy’s disappearance from the NESN broadcast booth — a massive, devastating report on Remy’s son Jared, slated for the front page of the Sunday Globe. Although the younger Remy’s notoriety was already well-established because of charges that he murdered his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel, last August, Globe reporter Eric Moskowitz cast the Jared Remy story in a new, horrifying light.

The Globe’s 8,000-word story is fascinating not only because of what’s in it, but because it’s the first time since John Henry bought the paper last fall that its journalism has intersected with Henry’s ownership stake in the Red Sox and NESN. Needless to say, it also has serious implications for Jerry Remy’s career.

Among other things, we learn from Moskowitz that court documents show Jared Remy “terrorized five different girlfriends starting when he was 17” (he’s now 35); that he’s been credibly accused of instigating and taking part in an assault on a high school classmate that left the victim seriously brain-damaged (he later committed suicide); and that he was a longtime abuser of steroids, alcohol and other drugs. (OK, that last part we already knew.)

Worst of all, we learn that Jared Remy was never held accountable — that he was repeatedly given probation and granted chance after chance to turn his life around. And the reason for that, according to Moskowitz’s reporting, was his high-priced legal help, paid for by his enabling parents, Jerry and Phoebe Remy. Moskowitz writes:

Often he benefited from victims who did not want to testify, whether from fear or forgiveness, leading prosecutors to drop the case. But even when cases seemed airtight, judges often rewarded Remy with a nearly free pass — temporary probation without the stain of a guilty finding. Most offenders are lucky to get two such reprieves. He got six.

And on more than 10 occasions while already serving probation or waiting for an earlier case to be resolved, Remy was arrested again on new charges or otherwise ran afoul of the law — a pattern of incorrigibility that would ordinarily get a person locked up.

Former prosecutor Joshua Friedman is quoted as saying Jared Remy benefited more from good lawyering than from having a celebrity father. “You get a high-priced attorney, you get better justice,” Friedman told Moskowitz. “If he had been Jared Smith from a well-off family, he may have gotten the same result.” But Moskowitz’s story leaves little room for doubt that Jerry and Phoebe Remy always erred on the side of leniency with their troubled son, possibly missing opportunities to break the cycle of violence long before Jennifer Martel was killed.

As Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham writes: “Remy wasn’t worthy of one chance, let alone the countless breaks his victims, parents, and judges gave him.”

So what is the likely fallout of Moskowitz’s reporting? Here are three quick thoughts, subject to revision as we find out more in the days ahead.

1. Jerry Remy’s career as a Red Sox broadcaster may have ended today. Remy disappeared from Red Sox games right after Jennifer Martel’s death last August. It wasn’t clear that he would return until January. At that time, Remy said all the right things. But that was hardly enough to inoculate him from stories like the Globe’s.

Remy is a Red Sox legend, both as a broadcaster and as a player before that. He has always been portrayed as a good guy. He’s also a sympathetic character, having overcome lung cancer, depression and other ills. But even though he is not responsible for his son’s actions, the Globe story makes it pretty obvious that his continued presence during Red Sox broadcasts will be an ongoing distraction. It’s time for Remy to go — and to hope that, with the passage of time, he might be able to find some other role.

2. The Globe has definitively staked out its independence from John Henry. Last August, shortly after Henry announced that he intended to purchase the Globe and its related properties from the New York Times Co. for $70 million, Globe editor Brian McGrory took his regular turn on “Boston Public Radio,” on WGBH Radio (89.7 FM). When the subject of how the Globe would cover the Red Sox came up, McGrory told hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, “John Henry would be out-of-his-mind nuts, and I don’t think he is, if he tried to affect our sports coverage. I get the concern. I understand it fully, [but] I’m not going to be asked to change our coverage.”

The Jared Remy story clearly isn’t a sports story, but I take McGrory’s remarks to be all-inclusive. And, yes, Moskowitz’s article did contain some embarrassing details for the Red Sox, which at one point employed him as a security guard — and let him drive the 2004 World Series trophy to an event in the Berkshires. Naturally, Remy got bagged for driving 92 mph on the Mass Pike.

3. But wait. Maybe the Globe is serving John Henry’s interests after all. See Point No. 1. You’d have to be a conspiracy theorist to think the Globe timed this in order to solve one of Henry’s problems just before the baseball season starts. Still, if NESN made a mistake in letting Remy come back, this gives station officials a chance for a do-over.

More: Several people, including John Carroll in the comments, have told me they think the Globe should disclose the John Henry connection every time it reports on the Red Sox or NESN (excluding baseball games) — and there was no such disclosure today. I’ll admit I’ve reached the point where I assume that only the most clueless don’t already know that. But still — it’s a good policy, and it only takes a line.

Photo (cc) by Eric F. Savage and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Thinking through the Globe’s multi-site strategy

BG frontThis post has also been published at WGBH News.

After I posted an item yesterday speculating that The Boston Globe’s lower paywall might eventually lead to the end of the paper’s two-site strategy, Jack Gately tweeted at me that the Globe actually seems to be going in the opposite direction. With the addition of its BetaBoston site, unveiled on Monday, the paper now has three.

And that’s just the beginning. Soon the Globe will launch a separate site for all things Catholic, in part so that it can showcase its prized new religion reporter, John Allen. Incumbent religion reporter Lisa Wangsness will continue. And yesterday editor Brian McGrory announced that Boston.com community engagement editor and former metro editor Teresa Hanafin will edit the new venture.

So is this a splintering of the Globe’s identity? I don’t think so. And today’s front page may serve as a good indication of how the different sites will work together. The lead story, on private repo companies that are using license-plate scanners, is from BetaBoston, and was written by Shawn Musgrave. He, in turn, is the editor of MuckRock, an independent public-records project that is affiliated with the Globe. (Here’s a 2012 interview I did with MuckRock founder Michael Morisy for the Nieman Journalism Lab. Morisy is also the editor of BetaBoston.)

What the Globe seems to be embracing is a hub-and-spoke model. The Globe, in print and online, is the hub. Spokes reach out to specialty projects such as BetaBoston, the entertainment site BDCWire (part of the Globe’s Radio BDC project), the religion site and whatever else may be in the works. It’s similar to how The New York Times handles Dealbook, or how The Washington Post interacts with Wonkblog, both before and after the departure of Ezra Klein. The idea is to foster semi-free-standing projects that generate a lot of content, some of which migrates along the spokes and into the hub.

That’s quite different from the business strategy of offering the paid BostonGlobe.com site and the free Boston.com. Those are intended as two entirely different ventures, and McGrory’s memo yesterday made it clear that they are going to be separated even more going forward.

Beginning of the end for the Globe’s two-site strategy?

320px-Twenty_dollar_billsBoston Globe editor Brian McGrory made a series of announcements earlier today about changes and appointments inside the Globe newsroom. His memo is online at Poynter. The most important news is that the Globe’s digital paywall is being lowered to allow access to 10 free articles a month before non-subscribers are asked to pay.

The spin on McGrory’s announcement is that this represents some sort of 180-degree turn. It doesn’t. It is a significant adjustment, but the Globe has been tweaking the paywall ever since its debut in the fall of 2011. About a year ago, for instance, I wrote a story for the Nieman Journalism Lab that the Globe was tightening up on social sharing in the hopes of persuading more people to pay. Now it’s moving in the other direction. But mid-course corrections have been part of the strategy from the beginning.

Not to get ahead of the story, but I wonder if the Globe’s move toward a much looser paywall might lead to the eventual abandonment of its two-site strategy — the paid BostonGlobe.com site and the free Boston.com. Yes, McGrory also announced some new appointments for Boston.com. But what’s now Boston.com content could be folded into BostonGlobe.com as free, online-only content that supplements the paid material. Newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post have large amounts of online-only content but only one site.

A number of people I’ve talked with find the two-site strategy confusing. I have a more basic complaint: as a paying subscriber, I don’t think I should have to go to Boston.com for anything, whether it be Red Sox items or lottery numbers. It should all be on the site that I’m paying for.

McGrory’s announcement signals not a revolution but an evolution. It will be interesting to see what comes next.

Update: Gin Dumcius points out that McGrory’s memo says the two sites will remain separate and may even compete with each other. I want to emphasize that I don’t think the end of the two-site strategy is coming any time soon. I just think the machinery has been set in motion so that it might eventually make sense.

Six takeaways from BoMag’s big John Henry profile

John Henry

John Henry

This article was posted earlier at WGBH News.

The local media community has been buzzing since Tuesday, when Jason Schwartz’s 5,000-word Boston magazine article on the state of The Boston Globe under John Henry went live. The piece is chock-full of goodies, and you should read the whole thing. As you do, here are six takeaways for you to ponder.

1. It could have been a lot worse. Although we knew that Douglas Manchester, the right-wing hotel magnate who bought the San Diego Union-Tribune and unforgivably renamed it U-T San Diego, was interested in buying the Globe (he even threatened legal action after it was sold to Henry instead of him), it is nevertheless chilling to read Schwartz’s account of Manchester’s coming in and kicking the tires after the New York Times Co. put the Globe up for sale.

As I wrote in my book about online community journalism, “The Wired City,” Manchester has been described as “a minor-league Donald Trump” who uses his newspaper to promote his business interests as well as conservative causes such as his opposition to same-sex marriage.

In the Boston magazine article, Globe editor Brian McGrory tells Schwartz that “some potential bidders” — and by “some,” it’s clear that he’s including Manchester — would have “cut the living bejesus out of the place.” And Schwartz includes this delicious anecdote: “During the U-T San Diego presentation, people who were in the room attest, Manchester at one point instructed McGrory to call him ‘Papa Doug.’ McGrory did not call him Papa Doug.”

2. It’s official: The Globe is moving. Even before Henry won the Globe sweepstakes, it was clear that the next owner was likely to sell the paper’s 1950s-era Dorchester headquarters for redevelopment — a move that would presumably recoup virtually all of the $70 million Henry paid to purchase the Globe, the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester and related properties.

Henry has now made it official, telling Schwartz his goal is to move the paper to a smaller space with better access “in the heart of the city.”

Of course, the Globe still needs a printing press, not only for its own use but for other publications it prints under contract — including its tabloid rival, the Boston Herald. One likely possibility: the Telegram & Gazette’s printing facility in Millbury, which Henry said he was keeping when he announced recently that he was putting the T&G up for sale.

3. The two-website strategy needs an overhaul. Since the fall of 2011, the Globe has offered two websites: BostonGlobe.com, a paid-subscription site offering Globe content and a few extras; and Boston.com, a free site that’s been around since the mid-1990s.

The problem, Schwartz tells us, is that Boston.com, stripped of most Globe content, has been struggling, while BostonGlobe.com hasn’t produced as much revenue as Globe executives would like. The next step: a looser paywall for BostonGlobe.com to encourage more social sharing and a mobile-first Boston.com that’s still in development. (Joshua Benton has more at the Nieman Journalism Lab.)

4. Henry wants to reinvent the newspaper business. This week’s New Yorker includes a rather dispiriting account by George Packer of how Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com took over the book business. Anyone looking for signs that Bezos has a clear idea of what to do with The Washington Post, which he agreed to buy just days after Henry’s purchase of the Globe was announced, will come away disappointed — although he is, to his credit, spending money on the Post.

By contrast, Henry comes across as energized, bristling with ideas — peppering Brian McGrory with emails at all hours of the night — and getting ready to unveil new products, such as standalone websites that cover religion, innovation and other topics.

“I wanted to be a part of finding the solution for the Globe and newspapers in general,” Henry tells Schwartz. “I feel my mortality. I don’t want to waste any of the time I have left, and I felt this was a cause worth fighting for.”

5. Mike Barnicle is lurking off stage. If you were worried when you spotted Barnicle with Henry during the World Series, well, you were right to be. Barnicle, who left the Globe in 1998 after a career full of ethical missteps finally caught up with him, really does have Henry’s ear — and even supplied him with the email address of John Allen, the National Catholic Reporter journalist whom Henry successfully talked into coming to the Globe.

The old reprobate hasn’t changed, either, supplying Schwartz with a great quote that artfully combines religion with an F-bomb.

6. The executive team is now in place. By accepting publisher Christopher Mayer’s resignation, naming himself publisher and bringing in former Hill Holliday president Mike Sheehan as his chief executive officer, Henry has completed a series of moves that have remade the top layer of Globe leadership. McGrory is staying. Andrew Perlmutter, who made his bones at Atlantic Media and The Daily Beast, has replaced Jeff Moriarty, who left for a job in Britain, as the Globe’s chief digital strategist.

That’s not to rule out further change, especially if Henry’s goals aren’t met. But the sense you get is that Henry — to use a Red Sox analogy — now has his Larry Lucchino/Ben Cherington/John Farrell triumvirate in place. No doubt they all realize that winning a world championship is a lot easier than finding a profitable way forward for the beleaguered newspaper business.