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

Marty Baron leaves Globe for Washington Post

Marty Baron

Weeks of rumors and speculation came to an end a little while ago with the announcement that Boston Globe editor Marty Baron will replace Marcus Brauchli as executive editor of the Washington Post. The Huffington Post has memos from Baron, Brauchli and Post publisher Katharine Weymouth.

This is a very smart move for the Post and for Baron, who’ll have the opportunity to rebuild a faded brand. Not that long ago, the New York Times and the Post were invariably mentioned in the same breath. There’s still a lot of great journalism in the Post, but the paper these days lags well behind the Times.

Brauchli, a former editor of the Wall Street Journal, got off to a rocky start at the Post. In 2009 he and then-new publisher Weymouth got embroiled in very bad idea: to put together paid “salons” featuring Post journalists, corporate executives and White House officials. As I wrote in the Guardian, there was evidence that Brauchli knew more about the salons than he was letting on.

I take Weymouth’s decision to replace Brauchli with Baron — and Baron’s decision to accept the offer — as a sign that she’s grown in the job and was able to assure Baron of it.

Baron arrived at the Globe in July 2001 to replace the retiring Matt Storin. (Here’s what I wrote about the transition for the Boston Phoenix.) Baron was executive editor of the Miami Herald before coming to the Globe, but he also had extensive experience at the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. Many observers believed his stint in Boston would be relatively short, and indeed he was considered for a top job at the Times less than two years later.

Instead, Baron ended up staying in Boston for more than 11 years, winning six Pulitzers, including the public service award in 2003 for the Globe’s coverage of the Catholic pedophile-priest scandal. He has been a solid, steady presence — a journalist with high standards who made his mark at a time when the newspaper business, including the Globe, was steadily shrinking. He also gets digital.

Last February, at an event honoring him as the recipient of the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award, Baron told journalists they should stand up against the fear and intimidation to which they have been subjected. You’ll find the full text of his speech here, but here’s an excerpt:

In this environment, too many news organizations are holding back, out of fear — fear that we will be saddled with an uncomfortable political label, fear that we will be accused of bias, fear that we will be portrayed as negative, fear that we will lose customers, fear that advertisers will run from us, fear that we will be assailed as anti-this or anti-that, fear that we will offend someone, anyone. Fear, in short, that our weakened financial condition will be made weaker because we did something strong and right, because we simply told the truth and told it straight.

What’s good news for the Post is less than good news for the Globe. A new editor after 11 years of Baron would not necessarily be a bad thing, as every institution can benefit from change. But at this point it’s unclear who the candidates might be, and whether the next editor will come from inside or outside the Globe. And whoever gets picked will have a tough act to follow.

Baron will be a successor to the legendary Ben Bradlee and all that represents — the Pentagon Papers, Watergate and a boatload of Pulitzers. I think he was an inspired choice, and I wish him the best.

More: Peter Kadzis of The Phoenix has a must-read blog post on Baron’s departure. Great quote from an unnamed source: “On an existential level, I wonder if Marty gives a shit. He’s like a character out of Camus.”

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  1. Jeff Schiffman

    Real need for The Post. Real opportunity for Baron. Real loss for The Globe.

  2. Wilson Tisdale

    As one with Swamp Yankee heritage, I enjoyed Kadzis’s reference to Winship. But didn’t he marry a Coolidge? Also, was Kadzis previously with the Globe?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Wilson: Peter Kadzis was at the Globe for a relatively brief time in the 1980s.

  3. Sorry if I’m repeating myself from a previous comment, but here’s one issue that I’d really like to see Marty Baron address.

    Currently, news/analysis and feature stories that are scheduled to be published in the Sunday print edition of the Post appear on on Saturday, or even Friday (or maybe sometimes even Thursday night — I don’t track articles meticulously). I’m not talking about breaking news stories, but longer enterprise pieces, Outlook section articles, and so forth.

    The result? The Sunday print edition looks dated to someone like me who checks every day. The hard news isn’t what seems old … I just go to the Outlook section or the Business section or page A1, and it seems as if I’ve read half the stuff already. If it makes ME, a diehard newspaper junkie, wonder why I’m spending a couple of bucks on the print edition, think about the effect on someone who is much less sentimentally attached to dead trees than I am.

    I would like to see the Post hold off on posting Sunday-paper stories until it’s actually Sunday. Maybe the extra sales of print copies would pay for some extra local coverage (see “The Post forgets to be local,” Nov. 11).

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