Sunday night memo dump I: McGrory on Trump coverage

Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory sent out his latest message to the staff late Friday afternoon. Among other things, he addresses the question of whether the Globe will “normalize” Donald Trump (answer: no, but) and how the paper will proceed now that Trump is the president-elect. Plus his customary fulsome praise all around. The full text follows:

Hey all,

So the earth shook under us last week with Donald Trump’s stunning victory, raising all the questions you’ve heard and even asked about the inability of the news media to see this coming. These are good questions, with no clear or clean answers, but what absolutely can’t be lost in our self-reflection is that we’re in a moment, an utterly pivotal moment, in which we matter more than ever to our region and our loyal readership. It is not an overstatement to say that this is why we exist. And I don’t have even the slightest doubt that we will meet the challenge.

To that end, I should say more publicly what I’ve told a lot of people in here privately over the past ten days: I’m intensely proud of our national and campaign coverage going back not just weeks and months, but years. You should be, too.

Beginning in 2013, with the award-winning Broken City series, we explored in a way that no news organization ever had the incredible dysfunction in Washington that so obviously played a role in the outcome of this campaign. In 2015, we were back again with Michael Kranish’s Divided Nation series, which gave voice to people on all sides of massive issues, from inequality to race and so much more.

Also in 2015, editors and reporters made the very conscious decision to not have our coverage driven by Trump’s outrage of the day. Certainly, we wouldn’t hide his bombastic and too often bigoted remarks from our readers, but we made a commitment to run him through the filter that all serious presidential contenders must endure. Matt Viser wrote of his bankruptcies in Atlantic City, his time at Wharton, his ownership of a beauty pageant during which he made unwanted physical moves on contestants. We wrote of crime figures employed in his business. All of these stories attracted a huge number of readers. Most were followed by other outlets.

This past summer, we launched the America on Edge series, designed to show the anxiety, uncertainty, and even anger that were leading so many voters to Trump. Again, these were some of the most read stories of the year, for every good reason, as we took our readers from a small town in Pennsylvania to portray the economic uncertainty of retirees, to a community in Georgia riven by resentment toward immigrants, to voters in Florida who protested using a mosque as a polling place, to millennials in North Carolina repelled by the toxicity of this campaign. You want answers about what just happened, reread this series.

Let’s not forget our intense, exhaustive, and excellent coverage of New Hampshire, Iowa, and beyond, and the consistently excellent Ground Game newsletter each morning. In the hours after the election, we were in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, with colorful, insightful dispatches explaining what had just occurred. Metro and Business have done great work exploring the potential impacts of a Trump presidency from here. And a shout-out to our editorial and op-ed pages, which have been stacked with particularly provocative work, and to our own news-side columnists, particularly Yvonne [Abraham], who have been required reading.

Going forward, covering Donald Trump as the president-elect, a Trump Administration, and America in the Trump era, there’s no need for us to recalibrate our approach, except, hopefully, to redeploy some people to Washington. We’ll be fair, we’ll be tough, and we’ll be ready to pounce on the most interesting and thoughtful stories possible. We will not for a moment normalize bigotry and misogyny, if he continues down the path of the campaign and with some early appointments. But we will also be wide open to the idea that his may be a novel and perhaps effective presidency, a non-ideologue in the age of hyper-partisanship. In short, we don’t know what the hell is about to happen. Nobody does. But, again, it’s why we matter.

Take this as an open solicitation. We need your input. If you have concerns, ideas, general concepts, or just a desire to download thoughts, reach out. We are already planning some creative approaches to cover an unconventional presidency. Your ideas are more than welcome. We are also in dire — and I do mean dire — need of excellent stories that are not Trump related. As interested as readers are in the situation, and the numbers on our site show they are fascinated, there is also a thirst for great reads that are far off the political path.

Some staffers have asked worthwhile questions about whether they are allowed to contribute to activist organizations, and participate in marches and vigils and the like. The answer is that we encourage everyone to live a full, meaningful life outside of the Globe. Our journalism is actually the better for it. But we can’t allow our staffers to take part in activity that calls into question the essential fairness and neutrality of the Globe — more important now than ever. Our ethics policy is clear on this, in terms of forbidding contributions or other involvement in organizations or campaigns that push candidates, ballot questions, or legislation. You’ll ask about causes. We’ll fold most of those into the group as well.

Here’s all I ask: Use your very sizable brains and your best judgment, which I trust. If there’s any question, go to Chris Chinlund, Katie Kingsbury, or me. Think of our reputation and think of this vital moment. And please, be cautious on social media.

Finally, get some rest. This has been extraordinary in too many ways to mention here. We’ve done incredible journalism. And we have a lot of vital work ahead.

Brian

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