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

Jim Smith leaves Globe for Harvard

Jim Smith

Boston Globe reporter and editor Jim Smith is leaving the paper in order to become director of communications at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, part of Harvard’s Kennedy School.

Last August, Smith won the 2009 International Perspective Award from the Associated Press Managing Editors Association.

What follows is an internal e-mail from deputy managing editor Mark Morrow, sent on behalf of himself and editor Marty Baron. Media Nation obtained a copy a little while ago.

All: Hard news today — Jim Smith, who brought his remarkable talent and humane presence to the Globe eight years ago, will be leaving us this month for a new foreign posting — in Cambridge. Jim has just been named the director of communications at the JFK School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, the school’s global policy issues hub, joining the growing Globe ex-pat community at Harvard.

Jim came to the Globe, from the LA Times Mexico City bureau, in March 2002, which meant that he started as foreign editor at a time of maximum tumult, complexity, danger and opportunity. It was one of the finest hours for our small but astonishingly gifted team of foreign correspondents, and a time when the Globe, under Jim’s leadership, extended itself to the limit to bring thoughtful, nuanced, enterprising and brave coverage of the Afghan and Iraq wars to our readers. By early 2003, 14 reporters and photographers were covering the conflict, not to mention terrorist attacks in London, Madrid and 2006 war in Lebanon.

Near disaster, and unthinkable loss also marked his tenure. Within weeks of Jim’s start as foreign editor, Anthony Shadid was shot in the shoulder in Ramallah. Two months later came one of the greatest tragedies ever suffered by the Globe staff, when Elizabeth Neuffer, one of the most brilliant, resourceful and courageous reporters ever to work here, died in Samarra, north of Baghdad. Jim’s gift of humanity and personal connection helped his staff, and helped us all, to make it through and eventually out of the darkness.

With the closure of our foreign bureaus in 2007, Jim took on another extraordinarily demanding challenge, working side-by-side with Peter Canellos in managing our standout coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign, right up through an Extra Edition on the morning of Obama’s inauguration. And then it was on to his latest endeavor, creating out of whole-cloth a new beat mining Boston’s many remarkable connections to the world, and the world to it. This meant not only penning a stream of enterprising pieces, but also mastering a newer art form, the blog.

To say Jim made a swift success in his new beat would be to understate the case. Within six months, he won the Associated Press Managing Editors award for international perspective. It was, in fact, the second time the Globe won that prize for work in which Jim played a central role. The first was for the Lives Lost project, a 16-page special section focused on the 24,000 people around the world who die every day for want of basic medical care. Searching, smart, compassionate and richly readable work — that, start to finish, was Jim’s gift to us.

We’ll find just the right way to say good-bye and make Jim blush one day — and evening — soon. But in the meantime, wish him well and book your place on his lunch schedule soon. It gets lonely on the other side of the Charles.

Mark and Marty

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1 Comment

  1. Brad Deltan

    I think this has been asked and answered before, and with apologies to our Lord of the Blog…

    …but doesn’t it seem like a lot of newspaper paper are jumping ship to colleges lately? And by “colleges” I would include public radio, of which many stations are college-owned and their employees are college employees.

    I can understand it; employment at a college…while not assured as much as it used to be…tends to be a heckuva lot more stable than at most places, especially a newspaper. But it’s also disturbing that so many quality newsmen and newswomen are jumping ship at a time when newspapers can ill-afford the loss.

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