By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Fangs for the memories

Boston Magazine’s John Gonzalez writes that the Boston Globe’s three metro columnists — Adrian Walker, Kevin Cullen and Yvonne Abraham — seem more intent on writing inoffensive feature stories than in drawing blood.

Personally, I’d like to see more outrage. But I suppose the last thing the Globe needs right now is for pissed-off readers to call up and cancel their subscriptions.

Just recently I was thinking about how I’d like to see the metro columnists redeployed, and I came up with an old-fashioned idea that I think might work. (Keep in mind even having metro columnists is pretty old-fashioned.)

I’d station one at the Statehouse, one at City Hall and one at Boston Police headquarters, and instruct all three to write reported pieces with opinion, attitude and, yes, an occasional sense of outrage. Not to be too narrow — they’d be allowed to stray from their beats, but not often.

If you’re thinking that’s not the way to draw in a new generation of twentysomething readers, well, I guess I’d have to agree. But it would certainly make me happy.

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  1. Anonymous

    I just canceled my globe subscription after yet another repugnant Jacoby column on gay marriage. Look, I get it: Jeff hates gay people. Why the hell should I pay for him to write another putrid column about it?

  2. Anonymous

    EB3 here,I always liked when McGrory or Barnicle would put a jerk in his place.I haven’t seen that in awhile.

  3. Aaron Read

    I dunno. Youthful idealism loves a righteous bloodletting as long as they’re on the right side of the knife. Or the left side, as the case may be.I’m 32 and I’ve been saying “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” for well over a decade.

  4. MeTheSheeple

    I’ve been entertaining my wife with Cullen and Abraham columns ever since they got started. In fact, there’s damned little else she’ll read. She’s 36.

  5. Stella

    Outrage???WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan says in a new book that President George W. Bush “veered terribly off course” and was not “open and forthright on Iraq,” reported on Tuesday.In the memoir due out next week, McClellan also says Bush relied on “propaganda” to sell the war and says the Washington press corps was too easy on the administration during the run-up to it, according to the Web site.McClellan also takes the administration to task for its performance after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, saying the White House “spent most of the first week in a state of denial,” Politico reported.Intelligent outrage took a pass on the USA 25 years ago.

  6. Dan Kennedy

    Sheeple: Cullen and Abraham are damn good writers. I just personally enjoy more bile.

  7. MeTheSheeple

    Geesh, Dan, what the heck is your problem?You say you want bile — the classic curmudgeon, like the late, great Mike Royko.But you don’t want Mike Barnicle back, even though he has a proven ability to, er, “channel” Royko. Helllooooooo pick one. =)

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Sheeple: The best part is that Royko complained to the Washington Post that Barnicle was only writing “part-time.” Barnicle was cranking out three columns a week, one more than Globe columnists write these days. Royko was writing six!

  9. mike_b1

    Dan’s right: The columnists sure don’t work for their money like they used to. Why is that? Has the act of writing become more difficult? Are there less things to write about?I do think the papers should take a page (*ahem*) from the playbook of none other than Burger King. Instead of wasting their time trying to attract an audience that not only has tuned the Globe out but indeed never even tuned them in, the Globe should concentrate on the audience it does have, the readers who like the medium and the topics, and give them more of that. (BK turned the financial corner when it dumped its “health” menu in favor of even higher calorie, higher fat content burgers.) Know your market, and drive margins from what will likely be a smaller number of customers but whom are willing to pay more than the general masses for it.

  10. Anonymous

    Anon 5:18,If the Globe doesn’t provide you with sufficient support for gay marriage, you’re reading the wrong paper. Other than the SF Chronicle, no major paper in America spends more time on GLBT issues.(Check out the backgrounds of the editorial board). Jacoby is “Op-Ed”, near unique in his opposition to the rest of the Globe’s worldview. Admit that you’re only happy with “Bay Windows” and be done with it. Ironic indeed that someone would cancel the “progressive” Globe for being too right wing. Only in Boston!

  11. Dan Kennedy

    Mike: Not to quibble over a rare point of agreement, but I would argue that Walker, Abraham and Cullen are probably having to work harder than they would if they had beats and could skewer Menino, DiMasi, Patrick, et al. on a regular basis. Digging out those mini-features is not easy.

  12. Anonymous

    EB3 here.Good Point Dan.Look at me. It is easy to bitch and moan. I admit it. You don’t even have to leave the office.

  13. Peter Porcupine

    DK – the problem with permanent stringers is that they drink the Kool Aid. They start out fresh and brazen, and after @ 18 mo., they’re copy/pasting press releases (I’m thinking of the fifth floor revolving door of the Herald’s State House bureau in particular – Cosmo Macerdo, John Chesto, Liz Beasley, Kim Atkins, now Casey Ross – although all of them pale compared to Frank Phillips, who takes so much dictation he’s turned Kool Aid purple!).

  14. Anonymous

    anon8:23, It has nothing to do with the Globe’s support for gay marriage. The reason I canceled is Jacoby endlessly rewriting Republican talking points and presenting them as columns. The man has had nothing interesting to say in the last 5 years. The tragedy is the Globe keeping him and letting talented folks go.A friend points out that Jacoby is merely an indicator of the tragic state of conservative thought in this state. The Mass. GOP is now reduced to cartoon bleating about gays, taxes, and socialism. Even as I type, they’re debating which Ayn Rand books should be required reading for all Republicans.

  15. mike_b1

    Dan, I agree with you more often than not. It’s when I disagree that I write.One note: In the Boston piece, Gonz claims Edes left the Globe. I thought his buyout request was rejected. Did Gonz jump the gun, or did I miss something?

  16. Dan Kennedy

    Mike: Edes is cranking out a lot of copy for someone who’s not there! Seriously … reports I’ve seen are that he’s leaving to join Yahoo Sports. He was rejected for the Globe buyout, presumably because management wanted him to stay.

  17. Anonymous

    Dan, Yvonne Abraham’s columns are by far the worst things to happen to the Globe ever. For example, with today’s opus, she writes about SALEM. SALEM DAN, SALEM! That isn’t even metro! I think the point from Gonzales’s column that I agreed with the most was the lack of coverage for any of the stuff regarding Sal, Menino, or anyone on Beacon Hill. While i get that all 3 probably aren’t going to replace steve bailey, I don’t need to hear about the poor immigrant child over and over again – and the Column that Yvonne wrote…about herself…becoming a citizen was boring at best and made me want to shoot myself at worst. I give up. Royko was good because he talked to regular people and captured what it was like to be a Chicagoan. None of these people relate us to our city.

  18. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 6:31: “Metro” is a word we use. The section is called City & Region, and Salem is certainly part of the region. I live next-door to Salem and have visited the Willows a few times — especially when the kids were younger. So I enjoyed her column today. Not that a political thrashing wouldn’t have been more fun!

  19. Tony

    A few quick points: 1) I rarely read the Globe anymore so I don’t know if their Metro columns are “blah” or not. But I do know that Yvonne Abraham is a fine reporter and is capable of “gotcha” work if allowed. 2) I rarely agree with Jeff Jacoby but he has had at least one good column in the last five years: The one about expanding the U.S. House of Representatives to 1,200-plus instead of 400-plus reps. It’s a brilliant idea.3) When I did read the Globe, I really liked the hard-hitting and smart ass stuff. I mean, who can forget the classic line by Brian McGrory about not getting between Boston City Councilor Mike Ross and a Nikon? Classic stuff for a classic newspaper. Sigh. Where has it all gone?

  20. Anonymous

    The most disturbing thing about Jacoby is the townhall version of his bio is close to word for word the same as his Globe bio EXCEPT for any mention of his being Jewish.The second most disturbing thing is he plagiarized ANN LANDERS.

  21. Former Reporter

    Dan, re your suggestion that the Globe station a culumnist at the State House: it was my understanding that Scott Lehigh is stationed there already, though he runs on the op-ed page. As for the columnists, I think a problem is they do not run often enough per week to forge a real identity. Despite your well-known problems with Barnicle, he was the last Globe columnist to develop a real readership and following. He also met the true columnist test: you may love him, you may hate him, but you read him. I don’t know anyone who reads Adrian Walker. Yvonne Abraham should be given some slack, given that she just got back from maternity leave. Cullen is OK, but I’ve always thought Peter Gelzenis would be a good fit over there.

  22. Dan Kennedy

    Former Reporter: What do you mean by my “well-known problems with Barnicle”? Please explain. Peter Gelzinis is the very model of a city columnist. I’ve suggested in years past that the Globe pick him up, but, unfortunately, it’s never happened.

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