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

McGrory to return to column-writing

Brian McGrory

Brian McGrory

Boston Globe veteran Brian McGrory is giving up his post as metro editor and returning to writing his column, according to an e-mail sent to the staff by editor Marty Baron, a copy of which was obtained by Media Nation a little while ago.

McGrory will be replaced by Jennifer Peter, currently the city editor. The switch will take place in January.

Baron’s e-mail is full of praise for McGrory, who, he says, asked for a promise to return to his column when he agreed to take the metro editor’s job in May 2007. And, indeed, Baron should be happy with McGrory. The Globe’s local coverage has been excellent this year despite internal turmoil caused by the New York Times Co.’s wrangling with the Globe’s unions and its subsequent attempt to sell the paper — an attempt that ended in management announcing it had decided to hold on to the Globe.

When McGrory gave up his column, he was replaced by Kevin Cullen. But, based on Baron’s e-mail, it sounds like McGrory’s column will be in-addition-to rather than instead-of: “To his fellow columnists: We’ll be working out a new schedule.”

More from the Boston Phoenix’s Adam Reilly and the Globe’s MetroDesk blog.

The full text of Baron’s e-mail follows:

To all:

When Brian McGrory became Metro editor, he set a clear and ambitious course. Stories would be unique and enterprising. They would not only be important; they would be interesting and entertaining. There would be humanity and no lack of humor. The quality of writing would be top-notch.

Those were goals in May, 2007. Today, we can honestly say he has accomplished them all, brilliantly so. This is a Metro staff that day after day sets the state and local news agenda. Under Brian’s strong and skilled leadership, the staff routinely beats the competition on major stories. Investigative moxie has been built into its DNA. We’ve dramatically improved our hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute presence online.

And this is a staff with a wide-ranging repertoire. We have stuff that hits hard when called for. We also have reportorial gems that surface the personality — and the characters — of the community. These are stories of emotion and empathy, of sorrow, joy, and laughter. Whatever the story, one thing is for sure: The writing matters. And it sparkles, often because Brian himself applied the polish.

Now I have to let you in on something Brian told me when he graciously and enthusiastically took on the job of Deputy Managing Editor/Local News: He wanted advance permission to return to his column after two years. I gave it, of course. If Brian was going to lend his talents to the entire newsroom, this was a loan term I could scarcely refuse.

We’re well past two years, and we’re nearing three. Brian has reminded me of my commitment, and I’m going to honor it. He’ll be returning as a columnist in early January. (To his fellow columnists: We’ll be working out a new schedule.) I’m sad to have one of America’s best journalists step out of a position that is central to our success. I know, though, what we gain: The return of a superb columnist, also one of America’s best, and just the sort of eloquent and forceful voice for the Globe in the community that is also critical to our success.

So much of what our newsroom has achieved in recent years is a product of Brian’s ferocious work ethic, deep contacts in the community, his dedication to craft, boundless creative thinking, and a leadership style that is both inspired and inspirational. Think back on a remarkable run of coverage: revelations about corruption at the highest level on Beacon Hill; investigations into abuse of disability pensions; magnificently comprehensive, vivid, and sensitive coverage of Senator Kennedy’s illness, death and funeral; the inner workings of City Hall, and the circles of influence, revealed as never before; and scoops and works of distinctive enterprise that are truly too lengthy to list here. He has set a high standard for us all.

Another accomplishment — a huge one — is that he has constructed a remarkable team of reporters and editors. From that talented team comes his successor, Jennifer Peter, who as City Editor has been a marvelous leader in her own right: committed, driven, versatile, deeply knowledgeable. You have to wonder at her seemingly limitless capacity for work and her infinite patience. You have to admire her comfortable manner and how easily she listens, drawing out the best in others. I know for a fact that Brian leaned constantly on Jen for some of the soundest judgment in the newsroom.

Jen knows the Globe well, having led the staff on some of our biggest stories. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone with her range and experience, and her appointment is a good reminder that the Globe newsroom has a remarkably deep reservoir of talent.

Jen’s professional career in Boston began in 2002, when she was hired by the Associated Press as a general assignment reporter and then quickly moved to the State House. She became the AP’s lead reporter on the legalization of gay marriage and its local reporter assigned to John Kerry’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Jen has built an impressive career at the Globe in the last five years. She became co-editor of the Globe North section in 2004, the Globe’s state political editor in January 2007 and then city editor later that year. She has coordinated the local news report and directly overseen coverage of schools, police, transportation, and Boston’s neighborhoods.

As political editor, she directed coverage of the tumultuous early days of the Patrick administration and the final gay marriage vote, with all the drama that preceded and followed it. As city editor, she played a central role in coverage of the Tai Ho fire, which killed two firefighters, and the controversies it ignited; the so-called Craigslist killing; and Senator Kennedy’s brain cancer diagnosis and death. She has worked powerfully well with reporters on some of our most memorable enterprise.

A New England native — born and raised in rural New Hampshire (Gilsum, population 500) — Jen majored in English and Fine Arts at Amherst and then received her master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication. South Boston is her home today.

Before coming to Boston for the Associated Press, Jen covered a lot of ground in her early reporting career. She started at a two-reporter newspaper in Sun Valley, Idaho, and then moved on to The Day in New London, Conn., where she covered state politics, the explosive expansion of gambling in southeastern Connecticut, and the region’s troubled nuclear power plants. After taking a position at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., she covered municipal government and the state legislature. She also served on the paper’s investigative reporting team, collaborating on stories about patronage within the state sheriff’s department, routine violations of a law designed to protect the Chesapeake Bay, and Capital One’s role in directly writing a law that allowed it to charge higher interest rates.

So we’re in for a smooth transition in Metro when it takes effect with the New Year. We’re also in for another period of strong leadership.

Please congratulate Jen on her appointment as Deputy Managing Editor/Local News. And, Brian, many thanks for your enormous and enduring contributions to a great news organization.


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  1. Patrick

    Bad news for Hingham!

  2. mike from norwell

    Patrick, my thoughts exactly. Weymouth will finally find its voice again.

  3. Mark

    Great! Some more columns with McGrory’s putting his own ultra-liberal words into the mouths of Republican politicians. Here’s what Scott Brown should have said….

  4. Joey

    McGrory really needs to get a better headshot photo. Do we have none of this Peter person?

  5. Bob Gardner

    After that memo from Marty, anything that Brian McGrory writes is bound to look punchy.

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