McGrory promises details about the Globe’s reinvention ‘in a few days’

Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory has outdone himself with a 1,550-word New Year’s message to his staff, a copy of which a kind newsroom soul sent me on Sunday. McGrory is full of praise for the accomplishments of the past year while cognizant of the problems caused by continued budget cuts.

There is news here, too: He promises some details about the paper’s ongoing reinvention effort “in a few days.”

The full text of McGrory’s message follows.

Hey all,

It’s odd, the things you remember about a given year. It was raining out, not a warm, soothing rain, but freezing little icicles that prick your skin again and again and again. The sun hadn’t come up. I’m not sure it ever did. The sidewalks were a hockey rink. And Ellen Clegg, the wheelwoman on our two-person delivery route that Sunday morning last January, apparently had just about enough of my methodical pace. So she slammed her SUV into park and began running down a Wellesley street tossing papers on subscribers’ driveways.

We were but two delivery people in a vast newsroom army, one that had been organized a week earlier by Beth Healy. Person after person answered the call, reporters, editors, designers, photographers, graphic artists, technologists, owners—you name it. And for those who couldn’t deliver, they worked the phone banks or created daily delivery spreadsheets. It felt like the ground was cracking under our feet, but this newsroom would do everything it could to preserve the integrity of the Globe.

While many of us remember delivering the papers those subsequent Sundays, it’s what was in the papers themselves that matters most. In those issues, it was a pair of important stories on questionable influence in City Hall. It was a brilliantly written feature on the development boom leading to obstructed views. It was an essay on Donald Trump’s unfiltered style, a gripping enterprise story on a high-level drug trafficking informant, and a fresh look at the ballooning pricetag for the Green Line extension. In sum and as usual, it was vital and interesting Boston Globe journalism, well worth whatever effort it took to get it in the hands of our readers.

The year may have begun in crisis. It ends, however, with a crucial dose of introspection—an unsparing review, part of a broad reinvention initiative, of what works and what doesn’t at the Globe, what we need to change, and how we will change it. This is among the most important work we’ve done this year, and I’ll be back to you in a few days with more details on the road ahead.

For now, though, let’s be grateful that we had such a quiet year, news-wise, to devote ourselves to this important work.

Yeah, right.

Somewhere between helping to save the Globe and then reinventing it, you produced some of the finest journalism in the industry, and some of the best I’ve seen in my time here—in a year unlike any other. Take the Washington Bureau. Have five people—seriously, just five people—ever produced such an extraordinary body of riveting and vital work, from the stories on Trump’s business dealings, to the internal workings of Clinton’s orbit, to a nation’s anger, and so much more? It just kept coming, fresh enterprise, news stories with exceptional voice and context, pieces that larger, national news organizations had no choice but to follow. I honestly don’t believe that Matt Viser and Annie Linskey, with Chris Rowland’s guiding hand, wrote a story all year that I wasn’t eager to read—and then delighted that I did. And Vicki McGrane has only added to it all.

Take our Business department. If 2015 was the year it established its own section, 2016 was when it made it an utterly must-read part of the Globe. You start naming names, you start getting into trouble, but how do you not cite Shirley Leung’s work on Ed Ansin, General Electric, and anything else she touched? Does Jon Chesto ever sleep? Does Tim Logan have the entire development community wired? Does Beth Healy ever back down? I could go on and on, beat after beat, but suffice it to say that the entire department brought urgency and freshness to the report virtually every day.

If anyone thought that Jess Rinaldi’s Pulitzer Prize for her incredible Strider Wolf portfolio would cause the Photo Department to kick back a bit, well, you don’t know the Photo Department. Who will ever forget Keith Bedford’s arresting images from Methadone Mile in July, or Suzanne Kreiter’s chilling work on Spotlight’s mental health series, or the daily offerings of just about everyone else, from the veterans with elaborate morning rituals to the guy from Denver, to our great sports shooters, all of it so good that it helped change the look and tone of our print front page.

Sports chronicled the early endings to a pair of otherwise incredible seasons—the Patriots last January and the Red Sox in October. Seriously, there’s no regional news organization in the country that has four pro sports teams staffed with more authority and insight than the Globe, with our stable of expert beat reporters, supported by a best-in-show editing operation and production desk. Celtics, Bruins, Patriots, Red Sox, there’s nobody better. Throw Shaughnessy and Gasper into the mix and we can’t be beat.

Metro had another banner year, with strong accountability reporting on government influence, more groundbreaking coverage of the opioid crisis, political reporting that drove key ballot questions on marijuana legalization and charter schools, Kay Lazar’s continued watchdog reporting on abuses in the state’s nursing homes—stories that have pretty much defined our daily goal of giving voice to those who wouldn’t otherwise have one. The beat reporting, whether on transportation, higher ed, hospitals, casino gambling, and so much more, has been stellar. And the in-depth work has been some of the most fascinating and important that I can recall, whether Nestor Ramos and Evan Allen on Methadone Mile, or Eric Moskowitz on the election night trolley crash, or Maria Sacchetti on ICE and the secret release of dangerous immigrants, or Billy Baker on Will Lacey. Yvonne Abraham had a breakout year with her powerful commentary, and Josh Miller might produce the most engaging political newsletter in the industry.

Living/Arts helped drive us further into the realm of a digital first enterprise. Our extraordinary stable of critics, let by Matthew Gilbert, was a force of nature online. Ty was must reading across the year on movies and all things culture, and Sebastian is what he is, which is the best visual arts critic in the nation. But really, theater, classical music, photography, we owned it with an insightful voice, and our Sunday Arts section remains one of the absolute best of any news organization, national or regional, in the country. Our feature writers, too, have regularly splashed color on the homepage and front page—clever, smart, fresh stories. Dugan buying marijuana was worth the price of a month’s subscription all by itself.

Spotlight had a year for the ages, producing powerful reports on multiple fronts while only enhancing the quality and impact that is its trademark. The mental health series, big, bold, and beautifully told, again gave voice to those who wouldn’t otherwise have one. The team’s urgent but exhaustive work on predatory sexual behavior at elite private schools, which began with Bella English back in Features, has been life-changing for victims. And imagine being a partner at the Thornton Law Firm?

The list keeps going on and on. Our copy editing team is in a class of its own, uniformly respected across the enterprise for every good reason. Our Globe.com team has been pivotal in orchestrating another record year of viewership and, if it’s a word, subscribership. Their collective news judgment, urgency, and knowledge of the digital habitat are all flat-out impeccable. Graphics and design has made us bolder and more confident with pitch-perfect graphics, extraordinary digital presentations, and fresh front pages and section fronts. Our magazine remains at the very top of every reader survey, understandably so, and is the envy of the industry. While we’re talking popular, our Address, Travel, Food, and Good Life sections give our readers knowledge wrapped in style and flair week after week. Finally, a special hand to the editors and reporters of boston.com, who have miraculously preserved traffic in the face of substantial cuts. How? By working like crazy to produce a smart site.

On the issue of cuts, let’s be honest about it: we’ve lost a lot of people again this year and it doesn’t get any easier. These aren’t so much good people as great people, experienced journalists who have helped build the foundation for our success. But it’s testament to our extraordinary depth, resilience, and character that we have done this well in the face of the relentless pressures of a profoundly changing industry.

I wish we could glide on our accomplishments for a while—but that’s not possible, and the truth is, you’d get bored. You would, right? We’ve got too much to do in 2017. We’ll reinvent how we produce our journalism. We’ll move to innovative space in downtown Boston. We’ll be relentlessly interesting. We’ll drive the civic conversation in Greater Boston and beyond. We’ll hold the powerful accountable and give voice to those who need to be heard.

We should all be incredibly proud of where we’ve just been. We should be even more excited about where we’re about to go. Me, I’m also honored to be part of the smart, engaging, deeply committed group that is the Globe newsroom. Really, it’s something special, and every person reading this has a vital role.

Have a healthy, happy, and safe New Year. My sincere thanks to you all.

Brian

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