The Globe will shutter Crux and reposition BetaBoston

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 12.49.00 PMCrux, a standalone website “Covering all things Catholic” that was launched by the Boston Globe in the fall of 2014 (see my WGBHNews.org piece from that time), is shutting down, according to a memo I obtained a little while ago that was written by Globe editor Brian McGrory and managing editor/vice president for digital David Skok. BetaBoston, a vertical that covers the local innovation economy, will be incorporated into the Globe‘s regular offerings and will no longer be a free, standalone site.

I can’t say I’ve been a regular reader of Crux, but as a lifelong non-Catholic I’ve found it to offer interesting insights into the Catholic Church—especially John Allen’s column. (Allen will acquire the site, as McGrory and Skok explain below.) My WGBH News colleague Margery Eagan recently won an award for her spirituality column. Overall, the quality—under the direction of editor Teresa Hanafin, who’ll return to the Globe newsroom—has struck me as consistently excellent.

Although you might think the problem was a lack of readers, I’ve been told that Globe executives were not unhappy with the size of the audience. (You could look up the numbers on Compete.com, but they’re probably not very accurate.) Rather, as McGrory and Skok note, the real problem has been finding advertisers.

In any case, it’s a shame that the Globe couldn’t find a way to make Crux work. It was a noble effort. I hope Stat, a far more ambitious Globe-affiliated vertical covering life sciences, is able to avoid a similar fate.

We’ll be talking about this tonight on Beat the Press. And below is the full text of McGrory and Skok’s memo.

We want to bring everyone up to date on a couple of digital fronts.

First, Crux. We’ve made the deeply difficult decision to shut it down as of April 1—difficult because we’re beyond proud of the journalism and the journalists who have produced it, day after day, month over month, for the past year and a half. At any given moment on the site, you’ll find textured analysis by John Allen, the foremost reporter of Catholicism in the world. You’ll find an entertaining advice column, near Margery Eagan’s provocative insights on spirituality. You’ll find Ines San Martin’s dispatches from the Vatican, alongside Michael O’Loughlin’s sophisticated coverage of theology across America, as well as the intelligent work of ace freelancer Kathleen Hirsch. All of it is overseen, morning to night, by editor Teresa Hanafin, who poured herself into the site, developed and edited consistently fascinating stories, and created a mix of journalism that was at once enlightening and enjoyable. Readers and industry colleagues have certainly taken note with strong traffic and awards.

The problem is the business. We simply haven’t been able to develop the financial model of big-ticket, Catholic-based advertisers that was envisioned when we launched Crux back in September 2014.

Let’s be clear that this absolutely can’t and won’t inhibit any future innovations. We in this newsroom and all around the building need to be ever more creative and willing to take risks. We also need to be able to cut our losses when we’ve reached the conclusion that specific projects won’t pay off.

There will be several layoffs involved in the closing of Crux, which is our biggest regret. To the good, we plan to turn the site over to John Allen, who is exploring the possibility of continuing it in some modified form, absent any contribution from the Globe. Teresa will be redeployed in the newsroom, most likely in an exciting new position as an early morning writer for Bostonglobe.com, setting up the day with a look at what’s going on around the region and the web.

The second front is BetaBoston. We’re planning to bring it behind the Globe paywall, making it part of bostonglobe.com, in what amounts to the next logical step in the natural evolution of the site. It began as a standalone destination, and with this move, it will become a fully integrated part of the Globe’s business coverage in practice and presentation.

Beta’s been a key part of our vastly more comprehensive business report. It has allowed us to dramatically expand our reporting on the region’s burgeoning tech scene, with a fresh team of reporters devoted to the news and culture of Kendall Square, the Seaport, and elsewhere. None of that will change. The only thing that will be different is their material will appear on the Globe site, with clicks working against the meter. And we’ll save more than a few dollars on the maintenance of the external URL. We’ll set a date soon.

The reality is, we can’t merely be accepting of change in this environment, we have to seek it out. As always, we’re available for questions, insights, and ideas.

Brian and David

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The Globe’s Saturday shrinkage and its digital future

saturday-globe

Previously published at WGBHNews.org.

If you’d asked me 10 years ago if I thought The Boston Globe and other metropolitan dailies would still be printing news on dead trees in 2015, I’d have replied, “Probably not.” Even five years ago, by which time it was clear that print had more resilience than many of us previously assumed, I still believed we were on the verge of drastic change — say, a mostly digital news operation supplemented by a weekend print edition.

Seen in that light, the Globe’s redesigned Saturday edition should be regarded as a cautious, incremental step. Unveiled this past weekend, the paper is thinner (42 pages compared to 52 the previous Saturday) and more magazine-like, with the Metro section starting on A2 rather than coming after the national, international and opinion pages. That’s followed by a lifestyle section called Good Life.

The larger context for these changes is that the existential crisis threatening the newspaper business hasn’t gone away. Revenue from print advertising — still the economic engine that powers virtually all daily newspapers — continues to fall, even as digital ads have proved to be a disappointment. Fewer ads mean fewer pages. This isn’t the first time the Globe has dropped pages, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. (The paper is also cutting staff in some areas, even as it continues to hire for new digital initiatives.)

How bad is it? According to the Pew Research Center’s “State of the Media 2015” report, revenue from print advertising at U.S. newspapers fell from $17.3 billion in 2013 to $16.4 billion in 2014. Digital advertising, meanwhile, rose from just $3.4 billion to $3.5 billion. And for some horrifying perspective on how steep the decline has been, print advertising revenue was $47.4 billion just 10 years ago.

The Globe’s response to this ugly drop has been two-fold. First, it’s asked its print and digital readers to pick up more of the cost through higher subscription fees. Second, even as the print edition shrinks, it has expanded what’s offered online — not just at BostonGlobe.com, but via its free verticals covering the local innovation economy (BetaBoston), the Catholic Church (Crux) and, soon, life sciences and health (Stat). Stories from those sites find their way into the Globe, while readers who are interested in going deeper can visit the sites themselves. (An exception to this strategy is Boston.com, the former online home of the Globe, which has been run as a separate operation since its relaunch in 2014.)

“I don’t quite think of it as the demise of print,” says Globe editor Brian McGrory of the Saturday redesign. He notes that over the past year-plus the print paper has added the weekly political section Capital as well as expanded business and Sunday arts coverage and daily full-size feature sections in place of the former tabloid “g” section.

“There are areas where we do well where we’re enhancing in print and there are areas where we’re looking to cut in print,” McGrory adds. “It’s a very fine and delicate balancing act.”

Some of those cuts in print are offset by more digital content. Consider the opinion pages, which underwent a redesign this past spring. (I should point out that McGrory does not run the opinion pages. Editorial-page editor Ellen Clegg, like McGrory, reports directly to publisher John Henry.) The online opinion section is simply more robust than what’s in print, offering some content a day or two earlier as well as online exclusives. This past Saturday, the print section was cut from two pages to one. Yet last week also marked the debut of a significant online-only feature: Opinion Reel, nine short videos submitted by members of the public on a wide variety of topics.

All are well-produced, ranging from an evocative look at a family raising a son with autism (told from his sister’s point of view) to a video op-ed on dangerous bicycle crossings along the Charles River. There’s even a claymation-like look at a man living with blindness. But perhaps the most gripping piece is about a man who was seriously beaten outside a bar in South Boston. It begins with a photo of him in his hospital bed, two middle fingers defiantly outstretched. It ends with him matter-of-factly explaining what led to the beating. “It was because I stepped on the guy’s shoe and he didn’t think I was from Southie,” he says before adding: “It was my godmother’s brother.”

Globe columnist and editorial board member Joanna Weiss, who is curating the project, says the paper received more than 50 submissions for this first round. “It has very much been a group effort,” Weiss told me by email. “The development team built the websites and Nicole Hernandez, digital producer for the editorial page, shepherded that process through; Linda Henry, who is very interested in promoting the local documentary filmmaking community, gave us feedback and advice in the early rounds; David Skok and Jason Tuohey from BostonGlobe.com gave indispensable advice in the final rounds, and of course the entire editorial board helped to screen and select the films.”

But all of this is far afield from the changes to the Saturday paper and what those might portend. McGrory told me he’s received several hundred emails about the redesign, some from readers who liked it, some who hated it and some who suggested tweaks — a few of which will be implemented.

Traditionally, a newspaper’s Saturday edition is its weakest both in terms of circulation and advertising. In the Globe’s case, though, the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday papers sell a few thousand fewer copies than Saturday’s 160,377, according to a 2014 report from the Alliance for Audited Media. No doubt that’s a reflection of a Thursday-through-Sunday subscription deal the Globe offers — though it does raise the question of whether other days might get the Saturday treatment.

“We have no plans right now to change the design or the general format of those papers,” McGrory responds. “But look, everything is always under discussion.” (The Globe’s Sunday print circulation is 282,440, according to the same AAM report. Its paid digital circulation is about 95,000 a day, the highest of any regional newspaper.)

One question many papers are dealing with is whether to continue offering print seven days a week. Advance Newspapers has experimented with cutting back on print at some of its titles, including the storied Times-Picayune of New Orleans. My Northeastern colleague Bill Mitchell’s reaction to the Globe’s Saturday changes was to predict that, eventually, American dailies would emulate European and Canadian papers by shifting their Sunday papers to Saturdays to create a big weekend paper — and eliminating the Sunday paper altogether.

The Globe and Mail of Toronto is one paper that has taken that route, and McGrory says it’s the sort of idea that he and others are keeping an eye on. But he stresses that the Globeisn’t going to follow in that path any time soon.

“Right now we have no plans to touch our Sunday paper,” he says. “It’s a really strong paper journalistically, it’s a strong paper circulation-wise, it’s a strong paper advertising-wise. We’re constantly thinking and rethinking this stuff. But as of this conversation, Sunday is Sunday and we don’t plan to change that at all.”

He adds: “We’re trying to mesh the new world with the printing press, and I think we’re coming out in an OK place. Better than an OK place. A good place.”

Layoffs add to turmoil at Boston.com

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 2.47.15 PMNote: Updated with statement from Boston.com below. I got wind of this a little while ago — and it turns out that Garrett Quinn of Boston magazine was already working on it. A significant number of staff employees at the beleaguered Boston.com have been laid off. I hear 16; Quinn says “high teens.” [The actual number is 12, according to the Boston.com statement.] This comes after the departure of the site’s general manager and editor during the past week, and months of turmoil (punctuated by occasional calm) before that.

Boston Globe Media’s strategy of building free verticals around the Globe is, for  the most part, progressing nicely. BetaBoston, which covers the innovation economy; Crux, devoted to “all things Catholic”; and Stat, the forthcoming life-sciences site that’s already producing stories, are all quality projects.

But Boston.com has been seen as a thing apart ever since it was separated from BostonGlobe.com a year and a half ago. And the turmoil continues.

More: I just received this statement from incoming Boston.com general manager Eleanor Cleverly and outgoing general manager Corey Gottlieb:

We have spent much of the past few months rethinking an operational vision for Boston.com that both maintains our autonomy as a standalone business and reinforces our partnership with the Globe. Today, we announced a restructuring of Boston.com’s newsroom and the reduction of 12 full-time staff positions. This realignment includes changes to our leadership – Tim Molloy has chosen to step down and Kaitlyn Johnston, Boston.com’s current deputy editor, has been appointed as our site’s new editor.

This is a business decision that is part of a larger effort at Boston Globe Media Partners designed to put Boston.com in a stronger and more sustainable position for growth. That said, we would be remiss to overlook the fact that this was also a people decision, one that affects the lives of many who have worked tirelessly to support our operation. We are deeply grateful for that work.

A few thoughts on the Globe’s digital rate hike

CommonWealth Magazine editor Bruce Mohl reports that The Boston Globe is about to increase its digital-only subscription rate by 74 percent — from $3.99 to $6.93 a week, or about $1 a day.

As I told Bruce for a follow-up, it’s a bold move — maybe too bold. The Globe has had a lot of success with paid digital subscriptions, having sold around 78,000 of them as of last September, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. The AAM does a lot of double- and even triple-counting of digital (the Globe itself claims a more modest 65,000, according to Mohl’s article), but that’s still an impressive number.

I’m sure some subscribers will walk away rather than pay the higher fee, but probably not too many. If you’re paying to read the Globe, it’s most likely because you are a committed Globe reader of long standing. To invoke the old cliché, $1 is considerably less than the cost of a cup of coffee. Still, some will cancel:

Newspaper companies charge for content at their peril. News executives may chafe at giving away their journalism, but members of their audience don’t feel like they’re getting anything for free — not after paying hundreds of dollars a month for broadband, cell service and their various digital devices.

Interestingly, while the Globe itself is becoming more expensive, John Henry and company are also making some big bets on free with sites like Crux, BetaBoston, Boston.com and the forthcoming life-sciences vertical, which will be called Stat according to several employment listings I’ve seen.

I wish the Globe success as its executives try to figure out how to pay for journalism in the 21st century. But at this point I think it would be wiser to focus on building their subscriber base than trying to squeeze more out of their existing customers.

The Globe gets ready to unveil its life-sciences vertical

A couple of news briefs about The Boston Globe:

  • Benjamin Mullin has an interesting story at Poynter about the Globe’s life-sciences vertical, which is scheduled to begin a slow-roll launch this fall. The project already has a high-profile editor, Rick Berke, formerly of Politico and The New York Times. Berke tells Mullin that he expects the unnamed website will also have a “print component” — unlike (so far) Crux, the Globe’s vertical covering the Catholic Church. Like Crux and BetaBoston, which covers tech and innovation, it sounds like life-sciences stories of broad interest will also appear in the Globe itself.
  • Globe Magazine editor Susanne Althoff is leaving the paper to become an assistant professor in Emerson College’s Writing, Literature, and Publishing Department at Emerson College. In a characteristically effusive email to the staff, editor Brian McGrory writes, “Her team consistently produces some of the highest quality journalism to come out of the Globe, beautifully portrayed in print. And the magazine’s creativity and savvy in story selection, execution, and packaging have routinely led to massive readership online. Look no further than the feature on being poor at an Ivy League school, guaranteed to be one of the most read Globe stories of 2015.”

How the Globe is leveraging social to cover #FITN

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 8.22.18 AM
A recent Pindell piece in Medium.

In his recent exhortation to accelerate the transition to digital, Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory singled out — among others — James Pindell, who’s covering the New Hampshire primary (or #FITN, as they say) as a digital-first reporter, “rapidly pushing webbier (sorry) stories that allow the site to look less like a digital reflection of that morning’s and the next morning’s print paper.”

Now Mashable has a close-up look at exactly how Pindell is accomplishing that. Jason Abbruzzese writes that Pindell has embraced a wide range of social media, including Twitter, Instagram, FacebookMedium and — shades of steam-powered presses from the 19th century — an email newsletter. (Not all of this is new. Pindell’s Twitter feed has been a must-read among political junkies for years.) Pindell’s work is gathered at a Globe site called Ground Game.

The approach has allowed Pindell to cover stories that are worth telling even if they’re not quite worthy of (or suitable for) print — such as his first-person account of covering Donald Trump and his hair during Trump’s recent foray into New Hampshire.

The idea, Abbruzzese reports, is to leverage Pindell’s coverage of across a variety of platforms in order to compete with national outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post:

“We’re putting him out there deliberately in a very focused way saying, ‘This is our guy. This is the face of our coverage,'” says David Skok, digital adviser at the Globe, who helped form their strategy of pushing content out on social platforms via a single, recognizable reporter.

The strategy also fits with the Globe’s embrace of digital verticals such as Crux, which covers “all things Catholic”; BetaBoston, which follows tech and innovation; and more that I’ve heard are in the works.

Alas, as smart a move as Ground Game may be journalistically, it’s unclear, as always, how it will make money. From the Mashable piece:

The main question dogging media organizations that want to embrace this strategy of social publishing is how it affects their bottom line. Reaching more people is great, but the benefits are quickly offset if it comes at the behest of revenue.

Skok said that Pindell’s work outside of the Globe did not have direct monetization opportunities yet, but that the broader impact would hopefully attract advertisers that want to be associated with the paper’s authoritative coverage.

The folks at the Globe deserve a lot of credit for understanding the value of pushing ahead anyway.

Here’s an idea for how to fix Boston.com

Previously published at WGBHNews.org.

I have an idea for how to fix Boston.com, whose executives on Wednesday found themselves apologizing yet again — this time for some juvenile humor about House Speaker John Boehner’s alleged drinking problem following a death threat against him.

The screw-up has gotten widespread coverage from, among others, Politico, the Boston Herald (where the story landed on page one) and The Boston Globe.

First, some context on why John Henry and company find themselves in this situation.

When Boston Globe Media Partners decided to remove all Globe content from its free Boston.com site, a strategy that Justin Ellis explained at the Nieman Journalism Lab last April, they created a difficult challenge. Boston.com was one of the first and most successful newspaper websites, and had spent most of its existence primarily as a place where you could read the Globe for free. The challenge was to create a compelling news site without running anything from the Globe — and, at least based on what I’ve seen, to do it on the cheap.

The route that Boston.com has taken is a lot of aggregation, a lot of attitude and a lot of viral content — such as the phenomenon it had on its hands in December with Harvard Business School professor (and lawyer) Ben Edelman, who was revealed to have sent a series of legalistic, threatening emails to a Chinese restaurant owner because he’d been overcharged by $4 when he placed an online order.

The story went sour after the site published and then pulled a post falsely claiming that Edelman had sent a racist email. It then turned out that deputy editor Hilary Sargent, the lead reporter on all things Edelman, was selling T-shirts online making fun of him, which led to her suspension. (My former Boston Phoenix colleague David Bernstein, a WGBH News contributor, recently wrote a good summing-up of the Edelman affair, with links, for Boston magazine. We also talked about it on “Beat the Press.”)

It hasn’t helped that Boston.com has been without a top editor for most of its reincarnated existence. Globe Media chief executive Mike Sheehan told his own paper Wednesday that he hoped to have an editor in place soon, though he didn’t specify a timetable.

The deeper problem, though, is that Boston.com has a fundamentally different mission — maybe even an impossible mission — compared to the Globe’s other online verticals.

Both Crux, which covers the Catholic Church, and BetaBoston, which follows the local innovation economy, are free to excel and be the best that they can be. Stories that have broad appeal can be picked up and run in the Globe.

Boston.com, by contrast, is hampered by being a general news site that in some respects overlaps with the Globe but can’t really be allowed to compete in any serious way. There are exceptions, of course. For instance, the Globe — and news organizations around the world — picked up on the Edelman story, an entertaining morality tale about a hardworking restaurateur being harassed by an arrogant Harvard professor. And Globe editor Brian McGrory told Justin Ellis he expected to “compete like crazy” with Boston.com.

In the main, though, Boston.com has suffered by what we might think of as an imperfectly applied example of Clay Christensen’s disruption theory — by which I mean that the free Boston.com site can’t be allowed to disrupt the Globe’s business model, which is based on paid print and digital subscriptions as well as advertising. (Henry is known to be an aficionado of Christensen’s work. I wrote in some depth about disruption theory and journalism last summer for Medium.)

I disagree with critics who say Henry ought to shut down Boston.com (it still has great value, built up over nearly 20 years) or sell it (and let the Herald or another competitor grab it?). So what do I think the solution might be?

How about a first-rate arts-and-entertainment site with a truly comprehensive, searchable database of listings? It would fill a real need, and it might attract high-quality local ads. And it would be more like Crux and BetaBoston than the current Boston.com in that it could function as a Globe vertical rather than as a separate-but-not-quite-separate-enough enterprise.

I don’t know whether such an idea would work, and I would observe that the Phoenix didn’t have a lot of success with that model during the last few years of its existence. But the Henry ownership is supposed to be all about experimentation. And the Globe has two advantages the Phoenix lacked: great technology and a huge built-in audience. Some experiments will pan out; some won’t. This one strikes me as worth trying.

Boston.com 2.0 has been troubled from the start. Maybe the right editor can fix it. But maybe it’s not too soon to be thinking about version 3.0.

 

Expanded Globe Business section makes its debut

Globe Business pageThe Boston Globe has all age groups covered in its expanded Business section, which debuts today.

For younger readers, there is this story, by Stefanie Friedhoff, on a start-up that sells highly reflective paint to make bicycles more visible in the dark.

And for old folks like me, tech columnist Hiawatha Bray has advice for what to do about the blizzard of passwords you want your loved ones to be able to access after you’ve departed this vale of tears. I’m going to bookmark that one.

When it comes to newspapers, more is better. The section offers a nice mix of stories and is attractively designed. (I took a rare peek at the replica edition so that I could see what it looks like in print.) And for those who still care about such things, Business is once again a standalone section.

To its credit, the Globe has also assigned reporter Katie Johnston to cover “workplace and income inequality.” I’d like to see her reporting supplemented with a strong, opinionated voice along the lines of the way columnist Shirley Leung chronicles the local power players.

Here’s the press release:

The Boston Globe Launches New and Expanded Standalone Business Section

Tuesday through Friday section, with new staff and features, debuts December 4; launch sponsored by University of Massachusetts

Boston (Dec. 4, 2014) — The Boston Globe today launches a new and expanded business section. Tuesday through Friday, and Sunday, the print version of Business will be a standalone section, giving it a more prominent position in the newspaper.

The new section — also on BostonGlobe.com — debuts at a time when Boston and the region is at the front-end of an unprecedented period of growth. The section will cover the power players and big-thinkers helping to make the area a national hub for innovation, as well as those struggling to raise their economic standing in a state with some of the nation’s highest housing and energy costs.

Readers can also expect more personalities, more strong-voiced writing, and more dramatic design. It’s a section that reflects the fact that people work in many different ways these days, and that jobs intersect with private lives in ways that weren’t imagined not so long ago. It’s not just about what people do for work, but how they do it, where they do it, and what they do after work. It’s about business as part of life.

“When we at the Globe think about business as a subject, it encompasses so much more than stock prices and mergers, profits and losses,” said Mark Pothier, Globe business editor. “There are bold ideas and life stories behind every business and business decision. There are people leading the way and those who are left behind. We want to make the section relevant to a much broader range of readers than a traditional business section.”

New features include:

  • Bold Types: A destination for anyone interested in who’s doing what. Think of this as the Business version of the popular Names column in the Metro section, with CEOs and startup geniuses instead of movie stars.
  • Talking Points: A fast-paced summary of what the time-starved business person needs to start the day — from local to national to global
  • Agenda: What’s on tap for tomorrow and what might you want to attend? This could feature events like the next Federal Reserve meeting, a product giveaway or charity event
  • Workspace: Highlights trends and unusual workspaces, from the back of a bus to ultra-hip high tech offices
  • Build: Covers real estate, new projects and architecture
  • Double Shot: Washington-based reporter Matt Viser’s column expands from politics to focus on the coffee-drinking habits of businesspeople.
  • The Download: A brisk digital dossier of someone in the business world – their social media habits, last photo taken, most-used apps and more
  • Business Lunch: Everything from the hot spots to get business done to the eating habits of the power brokers
  • There and Back: From commuting horror stories to favorite destinations for conferences to travel tips from airport veterans
  • Shop: New stores, new trends, new products, good deals, potential scams and more
  • Number of the Day: One number can say a lot

In advance of the new section, Cynthia Needham, formerly the Globe’s political editor, joined Business.

New hires include Jon Chesto, formerly managing editor of the Boston Business Journal, and Sacha Pfeiffer, formerly senior reporter and host of WBUR’s “All Things Considered.” Prior to joining WBUR six years ago, Pfeiffer spent a decade at the Globe, most notably as part of the Spotlight Team that won the Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the clergy abuse scandal. She will cover nonprofits, venture capital, philanthropy, and the people and motivations behind them.

The new section also includes coverage from BetaBoston.com, the source for innovation and tech news, from the latest start-ups to the newest biotechnology breakthrough. BetaBoston.com will also share and link to the expanded Globe business coverage.

The University of Massachusetts (UMass) is the section launch sponsor. “As the state’s largest university, we are always following changes and trends in the regional business landscape,” said Robert P. Connolly, UMass Vice President for Communications. “We value this expanded coverage as a member of the business community and value the opportunity to support its launch.”

The new Business section is the latest example of the Globe’s commitment to providing an unparalleled depth of information and perspective on a variety of coverage areas. Its Capital (politics) and Address (real estate) sections are the most recent examples.

The Globe’s new Business section debuts Dec. 4, 2014. All content will be available at BostonGlobe.com/business and readers can also follow Business on Twitter at @BostonGlobe and @GlobeBiz.

Ellen Clegg replaces Peter Canellos at The Boston Globe

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 2.25.38 PM
Peter Canellos

Boston Globe editorial-page editor Peter Canellos, a former metro editor and Washington bureau chief for the paper, is leaving. According to a press release issued earlier today, Canellos will depart after 26 years at the Globe. He is also an alumnus of The Boston Phoenix.

Canellos will be replaced on an interim basis by Ellen Clegg, a former newsroom editor who is currently executive director of communication and president of the Boston Globe Foundation.

Here is Globe reporter Beth Healy’s story on Canellos’ departure.

The timing is especially interesting given that we are in the midst of endorsement season. Though the Globe is a staunchly liberal paper, the opinion pages have shown a penchant over the years for endorsing the occasional moderate Republican. Already I’ve heard speculation that the Globe might endorse Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker over Democrat Martha Coakley. Presumably the paper’s owner/publisher, John Henry, will have the final word.

Canellos has long had a reputation for being one of the more cerebral journalists at 135 Morrissey Blvd. He oversaw the Sunday Ideas section as well as the opinion pages. In my dealings with him over the years I have always found him to be decent and thoughtful.

According to Craig Douglas of the Boston Business Journal, Canellos took an employee-buyout offer made earlier this summer. Also leaving, Douglas reports, is Kyle Alspach, a tech reporter for the Globe’s innovation site, BetaBoston. Alspach is going to work in a national position for Streetwise Media, which publishes the local site BostInno and which shares a common owner with the BBJ.

Here is an email from Canellos to the staff, a copy of which I obtained earlier today:

It’s been more than 26 years since I walked into the Globe newsroom to meet the then-Metro editor, our own David Scharfenberg’s brilliant father, Kirk. At the time, I could barely envision the breathtaking array of adventures to come. Now, more than half my life later, I will finish my Globe career as editorial page editor. It’s a perfect time, personally and professionally, to pursue exciting new opportunities. But it’s a tribute to all of you that it took me so long to prepare for another chapter.

At a time like this, it’s natural to think of all the editors, starting with the never-forgotten Kirk, who nurtured and encouraged me. There are too many to name, but all are in my thoughts. For a long time, though, I’ve had the honor of being an editor myself. And my own strength and inspiration, day in and day out, has come from the writers and fellow editors with whom I’ve worked over the past 15 years. During that time, I’ve had the unique privilege of holding three entirely different portfolios, from Metro to the Washington bureau to the opinion pages. And I owe all my satisfaction to the stimulating interactions with colleagues in all three departments.

Over the years, I’ve urged many Globe writers to consider doing stints as editors, on these grounds: It gives you a chance to look at the journalistic endeavor with fresh eyes; and it turns what can feel like a solitary and sometimes nerve-wracking process of creating great journalism into a truly collaborative experience.

Now, looking back over the years, it’s all those collaborations that I remember. I can see the people more clearly than the stories. All those days and nights talking through ideas, matching wits behind the keyboard, and then nervously watching the product take shape were meaningful because of the sense of shared creation.

Those stories live on, but so too do the relationships. Having shifted seats a few times, I’ve learned that the great reward at the end of any editing tenure is that colleagues can finally become friends. The breaking of the professional bond is only the start of an even more rewarding personal one. So it was when I left my previous two posts. So it will be again. I can only say how grateful I have been for these opportunities, and how happy I am in knowing — without any doubt — that while the work may end, the friendships will continue to grow. Thank you,

Peter

And here is the Globe’s press release announcing Canellos’ departure and Clegg’s new responsibilities:

Boston (September 15, 2014) – Boston Globe Media Partners today announced a change in leadership of its editorial and opinion pages. Peter Canellos is leaving his job as editorial page editor after five years in the role and 26 years at the Globe.

“It’s been more than 26 years since I walked into the Globe newsroom to meet the then-Metro editor, our own David Scharfenberg’s brilliant father, Kirk. At the time, I could barely envision the breathtaking array of adventures to come,” Canellos said. “Now, more than half my life later, I will finish my Globe career as editorial page editor. It’s a perfect time, personally and professionally, to pursue exciting new opportunities.”

Canellos was responsible for the paper’s editorial and op-ed pages, and Sunday Ideas section. As the head of the editorial board, he has played the leading role in crafting the paper’s positions on local, national, and foreign issues. During his tenure as editorial page editor, two writers were named finalists for the Pulitzer Prize: in 2013, columnist Juliette Kayyem was nominated as finalist for commentary, and this year deputy managing editor Dante Ramos was named a finalist for editorial writing.

“Peter is a singular talent, and we are extraordinarily thankful for the years he devoted to the Globe,” said John Henry, Globe owner and publisher. “He is a master storyteller, deep thinker and adept communicator.”

Ellen Clegg, who spent 30 years in the Globe’s newsroom and is now executive director of communication and president of the Boston Globe Foundation, will serve as interim editorial page editor. In the newsroom, she served as deputy managing editor for news operations; deputy managing editor for the Boston Sunday Globe; assistant managing editor for regional news; city editor, and specialist editor, where she oversaw reporting on health and science, religion, education, and ideas. In between stints at the Globe, she was a science writer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. She is the author of “ChemoBrain,” which was named consumer health book of the year by the American Journal of Nursing, and co-author of “The Alzheimer’s Solution.”

Henry has pledged that the Globe will continue to challenge convention and rethink the presentation of its opinion and editorial pages for the digital age.

“Our content, whether news, sports, entertainment or editorial, must be presented in formats that engage the broadest range of readers, wherever they are in the world and however they are reading the Globe,” said Henry.

Prior to becoming editorial page editor, Canellos was chief of the Globe’s Washington bureau, where he led the Globe’s bureau in its coverage of the 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns and the insurgency in Iraq, among many other major issues. During his tenure the Globe’s bureau won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.

In 2011, Canellos won a distinguished writing award from the American Society of News Editors.

Canellos also oversaw the development of the Globe’s best-selling biography “Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy,” which reached number seven on the New York Times best-seller list.

He began working for the Globe in 1988, covering housing and urban affairs.

From 1999 to 2003, he was assistant managing editor for local news, overseeing all news coverage of the city and the region.

Bezos’ bucks may re-ignite Post-Times competition

Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos

When Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post last year for the paltry sum (especially for him) of $250 million, newspaper observers hoped that it presaged a new era for the struggling daily. For now, at least, it looks like those hopes are becoming a reality.

The Post is ramping up. Michael Calderone of The Huffington Post reported recently that the paper has hired 50 full-time staff journalists so far in 2014, and that it is making at least a partial return to its status as a national newspaper — a status it had retreated from during the final years of Graham family ownership. Executive editor Marty Baron told Calderone:

We’ve talked a lot about the need to grow. We’ve said that in order to grow, we have to look outside our own immediate region and the only opportunity for growth is digital. We are looking at growth opportunities around the country.

Richard Byrne Reilly recently wrote in VentureBeat that Bezos isn’t quite the hands-off owner that he appears to be, taking a deep interest in the paper’s digital initiatives. According to Reilly:

With chief information officer and technology vice president Shailesh Prakash at the helm, Bezos is pumping cash into the once staid company’s IT infrastructure. Lots of it. The new leadership has put 25 computer engineers into the newsroom, helping reporters craft multifaceted digital stories for mobile devices.

The Post’s expansion is a heartening development, and it’s one we’re seeing unfold in Boston as well. Red Sox principal owner John Henry, whose $75 million purchase of The Boston Globe was announced just days before Bezos said he was buying the Post, has, like Bezos, shown a willingness to try to grow his news organization out of the doldrums into which it had fallen.

The Globe is making some interesting moves into video; has redesigned its nearly two-decade-old free Boston.com site while moving all Globe content behind a flexible paywall at BostonGlobe.com; has developed new verticals for innovation and technology (BetaBoston) and arts and entertainment (RadioBDC and BDCWire); and will soon unveil a standalone site covering the Catholic Church.

As for the Post, it’s notable that its comeback coincides with a serious misstep at The New York Times — the botched firing of executive editor Jill Abramson. Combined with the loss this week of the Times’ chief digital strategist, Aron Pilhofer, to The Guardian, and the release of an internal report criticizing the Times’ own digital strategy, it may not be an exaggeration to suggest that energy and momentum have swung from the Times to the Post. (To be sure, the Times’ new executive editor, Dean Baquet, enjoys an excellent reputation.)

From the Pentagon Papers and Watergate in the early 1970s until about a decade ago, the Times and the Post were often mentioned in the same breath as our two leading newspapers. Good as the Post was during the final years of the Graham era, budget-cutting allowed the Times to open up a lead and remain in a category of its own.

It would be great for journalism and for all of us if Bezos, Baron and company are able to level the playing field once again.

Photo (cc) by Steve Jurvetson and used under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.