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

Walter Robinson to return to the Globe

Walter Robinson

Walter Robinson

The legendary Walter Robinson is returning to The Boston Globe after seven years as a distinguished professor of journalism at Northeastern University.

All of us in the School of Journalism were saddened when he told us recently that he planned to leave for an undisclosed new position. Today we learned that he’s been called back to the Mothership.

While at Northeastern, Robby led a pioneering class in investigative journalism that regularly produced front-page stories for the Globe. He is going to be difficult to replace. What follows is Globe editor Brian McGrory’s memo to the staff.

I am delighted to share the news that Walter Robinson, the highly decorated former Globe editor and reporter, is returning to our newsroom for what he describes as a “third act,” and what I say is a great development for our organization.

Robby, fresh from seven years of teaching investigative reporting at Northeastern University, will assume the position of part-time editor at-large. In practical terms, this means we’ll get his services about 20 hours a week, more often, I suspect, in shoulder seasons, and perhaps less when the fairways or his two grandsons beckon. We’ll work all that out.

Robby will apply his monumental talents to his own projects, meaning the town’s power brokers will again live in dread of his strangely low voice on the other end of the line. I’ve also asked Robby to help reporters and editors across the enterprise think in more investigative terms. This work will be in addition to the Spotlight Team and our Metro-based investigative squad, not any part of either. Robby will report to [managing editor for news] Chris Chinlund and me.

I feel a bit foolish reciting the accomplishments of someone so well-known and pivotal to the Globe across so many decades. But Robby has won virtually every major reporting award to be had, most notably the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2003 when he led the Spotlight series on pedophilic priests and the efforts by the Boston archdiocese to protect them. Robby has been the Spotlight editor, the Metro editor, City editor, White House correspondent, Middle East bureau chief, a lead reporter on four presidential campaigns, and as a pup, a City Hall and State House reporter. In truth, Robby, who is 68, never entirely left the Globe fold, having been a consultant to the newsroom for the past seven years, and a very valuable one. Over that time, he worked with more than 100 Northeastern students to produce a steady stream of page one stories. Indeed, one more is in the writing stages now.

Our investigative reporting is quite simply the most vital work we do; look no further than last week’s extraordinary Spotlight series on off-campus student housing, or Maria Sacchetti’s stunning story this week on the FBI agent who shot Ibragim Todashev, for proof of that. We need more, and Robby’s return will help guarantee we get it.

Look for a restart date on June 15.


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1 Comment

  1. Welcome back to the Boston Globe, Walter Robinson. If the rehiring of Walter Robinson means that John Henry is committed to making the Boston Globe an enterprising and stimulating journalistic institution again with teams of investigative reporters and editors committed to publishing stories that challenge the dubious decisions of our local, state, and federal government officials, then I proclaim, “Hooray, it’s long overdue!”

    I would respectfully suggest to Mr. Robinson that one of his first investigative assignments should be to manage a team of Boston Globe reporters to discover the highly dubious decision of Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and/or U.S. Attorney General Holder to demand prison time for a brilliant, progressive, and troubled young man, Aaron Swartz, whose politically provocative actions amounted to legally dubious “crimes,” which the principal victim, M.I.T., now asserts it never wanted prosecuted in the first place.

    I still maintain that the Swartz prosecution was nothing short a vindictive criminal prosecution by the U.S. Justice Department because Aaron previously had discovered and exposed a gaping security flaw in the federal courts’ PACER database information system in order to make a progressive political statement about the public’s right to access federal court documents at a reasonable cost . Aaron was simply prosecuted for the M.I.T. matter because AG Holder and/or U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz felt they had to make their own authoritarian political statement to Aaron and other ” cyber provocateurs” that restricting public access to the federal courts through charging excessive rates for purportedly “open” court documents is just one tool the government has at its disposal to make the Constitutional guarantee of due process increasingly more meaningless in post-9/11 America.

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