3 reasons why it matters that Linda Pizzuti Henry was named CEO of the Globe

Surprising though the news may have been, there was a certain inevitability to Linda Pizzuti Henry’s being named chief executive officer of The Boston Globe’s parent company.

Read the rest at GBH News. Comments are open. Please include your full name, first and last, and speak with a civil tongue.

Globe union rips management for using Trump law firm in contract negotiations

In a press release sent out earlier today, the Boston Newspaper Guild rips John Henry, Linda Pizzuti Henry and Boston Globe management for using the controversial law firm of Jones Day in contract negotiations.

This is not a new complaint, as Jones Day is sometimes characterized as a union-busting operation. But now the firm has been called out for representing President Trump in his efforts to overturn the election results.

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Making endorsements relevant in the digital age

The Boston Globe and The New York Times today endorse Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for president and vice president. No surprise, of course. But the two editorials — especially the Globe’s — are indications of how newspapers are trying to keep the hoary old tradition of endorsements relevant in the 21st century.

First, it’s early. Traditionally, newspapers endorse as close to Election Day as possible, partly for maximum impact, partly to reduce the number of days that their news reporters have to labor under the burden of reporting fairly on candidates whom their paper’s opinion pages had spurned.

No more. These days, Election Day is merely the last day that you can vote. Early voting and mail-in balloting are already under way. If endorsements are going to have any influence at all, they need to be published before the majority of people have voted. And that’s now.

Second, digital media often obliterate the distinction between news and opinion. At large papers like the Times and the Globe, the editorial and news operations are separate. And sure enough, the front pages of today’s print editions don’t even mention that their editorial pages are endorsing — not even in the teases at the bottom of the page.

Yet the Times home page notes that the editorial section is endorsing Biden, a function of the Times’ opinion highlights in the right-hand rail. And the Globe actually leads the home page with its endorsement (see above). Savvy news consumers, especially those who came of age during the print era, won’t be confused. But not everyone is a savvy news consumer.

Third, though the Times endorsement is pretty old-fashioned and straightforward, the Globe’s is innovative — an attempt, no doubt, to get beyond the reality that everyone knew the Globe was going to endorse Biden. They’ve given the editorial a vibrant digital treatment. More interesting still, they’ve got 12 separate mini-editorials addressing different types of voters — the “business voter,” the “disenchanted Trump voter,” the “religious voter” and the like.

I’ve always doubted that newspaper endorsements can sway voters in presidential races; they are more influential in less visible contests in which readers don’t necessarily know much about the candidates. But Globe editorial-page editor Bina Venkataraman and her crew deserve credit for breaking out of the box of the old-fashioned endorsement.

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The Boston Globe’s digital subscriptions approach the 270,000* mark

The Boston Globe’s paid digital circulation has reached the 270,000 range, according to the annual publisher’s statements that appear in Sunday’s and today’s editions.

It was only in May that the Globe passed the 200,000 mark — a long-sought goal that had been seen internally as the benchmark for financial sustainability. Nevertheless, the new figure (268,337 as of Sept. 4) comes with a caveat. Like many papers, the Globe has been signing up new subscribers at a steep discount. The challenge will be holding onto them once they are asked to re-up at the full rate of $30 a month.

How quickly has the Globe added digital subscribers? The publisher’s statement says that the average for the previous 12 months was 199,172. And editor Brian McGrory said earlier this year that the digital circulation was about 145,000 just before the COVID pandemic hit. As devastating as COVID has been to advertising revenue, it’s clearly been very good for reader revenue.

Paid print Friday circulation was down to 81,579 as of early September, lower than the 12-month average by about 1,500. A similar slide was reported in the publisher’s statement that appeared on Sunday: print circulation was 139,307 as of Sept. 6, down nearly 10,000 from the 12-month average. Sunday digital circulation was reported at 271,401. Since digital subscriptions are generally sold by the month, I’m not sure why there’s a slight discrepancy between the Friday and Sunday figures.

Even if you add digital and print together, the Globe’s numbers fall considerably short of the 1970s-’80s heyday, when the paper sold more than 800,000 copies on Sundays and 500,000 on weekdays. Still, it’s an encouraging trendline that has been matched by few other papers below the national level.

*Apples-and-oranges update: In an email to the staff, a copy of which I obtained a little while ago, McGrory said the 270,000 figure can’t be compared directly to the 205,000 number that the Globe hit in May.

“We’ve got just under 223,000 direct digital-only subscribers — people who pay for a purely digital subscription with no print component,” he wrote. The 270,000 number includes subscribers who receive digital as part of their print subscriptions.

McGrory referred to the 223,000 figure as “extraordinary,” adding: “As extraordinary: We’ve been graduating our introductory, $1-for-six-month readers to a full rate at an astounding clip from August into October. In other words, our pandemic subscribers are staying with us at at a level that exceeds anything we’ve previously seen or imagined. So when you hear, or read, that our digital subscription numbers are boosted by a bunch of basically worthless introductory readers, that’s not true. The majority of our subscribers are paying full rate, and those who aren’t are very likely to be when their offer runs out.”

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Nestor Ramos, recently promoted at the Globe, leaves for The New York Times

Nestor Ramos (via The New York Times)

Nestor Ramos, only recently promoted to the masthead at The Boston Globe, is leaving to become an assistant editor on The New York Times’ metro desk. He’ll begin next month, according to a press release from the Times.

In late August, Ramos was named the Globe’s senior assistant managing editor for local news. Although his job — city editor — remained essentially the same, the enhanced title made him the first Latino to be named to the news-side masthead. Editor Brian McGrory referred to the promotion as “a straight-up acknowledgement of his enormous impact on the room and our coverage.”

On Friday, in an email to the staff sent along by a trusted source, McGrory sounded unhappy over the steady stream of Globe reporters and editors who’ve been lured to the Times. While congratulating Ramos and calling his departure a “sizable loss,” McGrory went on to note that “the pattern of the Times grabbing our journalists is getting old, something I just pointed out to the good people of the Times. I choose to take it as a compliment and hope you do as well.”

It’s worth noting that Carolyn Ryan, herself a former Globe metro editor, is in charge of recruitment at the Times.

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The Globe’s partnership with Biogen raises potential ethical concerns

The Boston Globe has announced a partnership with Biogen in which the company’s 4,000 Massachusetts-based employees will receive digital subscriptions. “As part of the deal,” writes Globe reporter Jon Chesto, “the Globe will host two town-hall style discussions around topics of Biogen’s choosing.” In return, the Globe will be paid somewhere in range of six figures.

State House News Service’s MASSter List estimates the deal at $800,000 and warns that it is “rife with conflicts-of-interest concerns.” Indeed it is. I’m not especially worried that the Globe’s coverage of Biogen will turn squishy as a result of the deal, because it’s not really any different from the pressures news organizations are under to go easy on an advertiser — or, in the case of a nonprofit, a funder.

It all comes down to those town halls. How involved will the Globe newsroom be? Will the Globe’s promotion of those town halls cross any ethical lines?

Good for the Globe for finding another revenue stream, especially at a time when COVID is wiping out what was left of already-shrinking ad revenues. Nevertheless, this is worth keeping an eye on.

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Boston Globe employees told to work at home for the rest of the year

Boston Globe employees were told Wednesday that employees should continue to work remotely through the end of the year, although they may choose to come in to the office for no more than two days a week after Labor Day. What follows is the top of the memo from the Boston Globe Media Partners executive team, which I obtained from a trusted source.

Hello all,

On behalf of the Executive Leadership Team and Safety Committee, we want to provide some important updates and clarification on opening the Boston Exchange Place / 53 State Street office, as well as the Rhode Island and Washington, D.C. offices. We have talked before about how the Boston office would reopen after Labor Day to serve as an optional amenity for people who needed a break working from home, and that it would still be limited to not more than two days per week. We want to emphasize that while we greatly miss being together, not only are you not expected to return work in person, but we do not want or need for you to come in.

We are arranging the office to be safe for people who want to use it on a limited basis, but the preference is that you continue to work from home.  We have been monitoring the pandemic and will continue to respond based on state guidelines, but in the meantime, we are extending this phase of limited, optional-only use of the office through the end of the year.

To be clear, we want the Boston offices to be as empty as possible for the remainder of 2020. While we realize that there could be an expectation that managers may want you to show up in person, or that you may miss out on an opportunity if you are not in the office, we want to dispel that notion by emphasizing that managers do not and must not expect you to return to the office for the remainder of the year. If you have concerns or questions about this, please talk to your manager or reach out to your HR partner to discuss.

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Boston Globe promotes two minority editors to masthead positions

Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory today announced two promotions. In a memo to the staff, McGrory said that Ideas section editor Anica Butler has been named the deputy managing editor for local news, replacing Felice Belman, who recently departed for The New York Times. City editor Nestor Ramos will receive a new title — senior assistant managing editor for local news.

Both Butler’s and Ramos’ names will appear on the masthead, which represents a step forward for a paper seeking to become more diverse. Butler is the first Black woman and Ramos the first Latino to ascend to news-side* masthead positions. Years ago, Greg Moore, who’s African American, was the Globe’s managing editor (the No. 3 position in the newsroom at that time), but he left for The Denver Post in 2002.

A trusted source provided me with McGrory’s memo a little while ago. The full text follows.

Personnel

I’m beyond delighted to share a pair of key personnel announcements.

First, Anica Butler will take over as the Globe’s new deputy managing editor for local news, better known as the metro editor, among the most pivotal roles in any newsroom. She’s been preparing for this job for many years, and preparing extraordinarily well. Her nearly nine years at the Globe have been marked by seismic stories, and Anica always seems to be in the throes of them. She managed, morning to night, our coverage of the Aaron Hernandez, Tsarnaev, and Whitey Bulger trials, three epic events in this city’s history. She brought to all of them a digital, in-the-moment mindset that in many ways laid the groundwork for how we’ve approached big, unfolding stories ever since. In a somewhat gaudy display of her broad range, she then went on to edit a key installment in our 2017 series on the state’s woefully inadequate mental health system, a project that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting.

Anica served a relatively short stint as Felice Belman’s main deputy on the metro desk, and as such, was a key bridge between metro and the digital world, organizing the day in the early morning, dispatching reporters, keying in on the most important journalism that we would focus on that cycle. She was pulled away by the siren song of the Nieman fellowship at Harvard University. When she returned, Anica took over the Ideas section, making it ever more compelling as it took on newsier subjects and brought far greater diversity in voices.

I certainly don’t have to tell anyone that Anica is a wonderful colleague. She’s also the brand new mother of a ten-week-old daughter. As has often been said, when you want to get something done, ask a busy person. Anica will start in this new role when her family leave ends on September 8.

Nestor Ramos, who has proven himself invaluable in his relatively new role as deputy metro editor, better known as the city editor, will take on the enhanced title of senior assistant managing editor for local news, a masthead position. This is a straight-up acknowledgement of his enormous impact on the room and our coverage. Given the coronavirus, given the economic collapse, remote work, social justice, racial injustice, he has been a pivotal leader in what has basically been a decade’s worth of news crammed into the first seven-plus months of 2020. Back in December, when Jen, Jason, and I convinced a reluctant columnist to become an editor,  we knew we needed him at the figurative and literal center of our newsroom. We had no idea how much we needed him, or just how well Nestor would perform — with reporters, other editors, ideas, copy, hiring, you name it. On top of all this, Nestor was announced as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing this spring for his jaw-dropping story on how the climate crisis has ravaged Cape Cod. Nestor, too, is a hall-of-fame colleague in ways big and small, plus the father of two young daughters, ages 4 and 1. The promotion will take effect immediately, and Nestor will report to Anica, in what will be as formidable a duo as there is in this industry.

Please reach out and congratulate Anica and Nestor, and thank them for all they’re about to do.

Brian

*Correction: Added “news-side” to make it clear that there have been persons of color on the masthead from the opinion operation.

Correction No. 2: I’ve changed the headline to reflect the fact that Ramos does not identify as a person of color.

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Will the Globe revoke its endorsement of Jake Auchincloss?

Jake Auchincloss

Update, Aug. 7: I should note that editorial page editor Bina Venkataraman has tweeted that the Globe will stick by its endorsement of Jake Auchincloss.

***

Update, Aug. 6: In a direct shot at the editorial board, business columnist (and former interim editorial page editor) Shirley Leung has written a column endorsing one of Auchincloss’ opponents, Jesse Mermell.

***

The Boston Globe editorial board appears to be getting ready for the possibility that it might revoke its July 31 endorsement of Democratic congressional candidate Jake Auchincloss. The extremely loud hint came in the form of an announcement that editorial page editor Bina Venkataraman would sit down with Auchincloss for a Zoom one-on-one this coming Monday:

Many Globe readers have expressed concerns about the candidate’s past statements and campaign finances, some of which emerged after the editorial board’s deliberations. Readers and voters deserve to know more and hear directly from the candidate. In this conversation, Globe editorial page editor Bina Venkataraman will ask Auchincloss about his record on racial justice, free speech, and beyond.

It’s not as if concerns about Auchincloss’ track record weren’t out there. On Tuesday evening, Greg Reibman, president of the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber of Commerce, tweeted out a June 27 commentary in the Newton Tab by Bennett Walkes that begins with this rather devastating statement:

While growing up Black in Newton, I’ve dealt with all sorts of racial profiling and slurs. However, no individual has made me feel more unwelcomed, unvalued and unsafe in my hometown than Jake Auchincloss — now a candidate for Congress.

Walkes cites Auchincloss’ support, on free-speech grounds, for the right to fly the Confederate flag — and comparing it to a Black Lives Matter or Pride banner.

Also on Tuesday evening, the Globe published a story by Stephanie Ebbert reporting on a variety of controversies involving Auchincloss, from his remarks about the Confederate flag to his “no” vote on a city council resolution calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump — an inconvenient fact given Auchincloss’ outspoken opposition to Trump. The editorial board is independent of the newsroom, of course; but they read the paper, and this must have come as very bad news.

Auchincloss is one of a large field of Democrats seeking to succeed U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy, who’s running against U.S. Sen. Ed Markey. Maybe the editorial board will conclude that Auchincloss is still the best choice. But it sounds like they threw in with Auchincloss on the basis of incomplete information.

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The Globe’s early endorsement of Markey isn’t quite as early as it seems

It’s generally understood that when newspaper editorial boards endorse candidates, they do so as late as possible in order to avoid the perception that their news coverage will be slanted in favor of the endorsee. So I was surprised to see The Boston Globe endorse U.S. Sen. Ed Markey over his Democratic primary challenger, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy, a full five weeks before the primary.

What gives? According to the Globe’s editorial-page editor, Bina Venkataraman, it’s later than it seems: mail-in voting will begin soon, so the Sept. 1 primary date is merely the last day that people can cast ballots. I’d honestly forgotten that, even though I’ve applied to vote by mail.

In fact, as David Bernstein recently pointed out at WGBH News, the two campaigns are engaged in furious get-out-the-vote efforts already. Huge numbers of Massachusetts voters are expected to take advantage of the mail-in option in order to avoid exposure to COVID-19 at the polls.

There’s still a dilemma, though. Because Markey and Kennedy will be campaigning right up until Sept. 1, the Globe’s news reporters will have to fend of complaints of bias for more than a month. The editorial pages at a quality paper like the Globe do not affect news coverage (for example), but try explaining that to the general public.

Should newspapers endorse candidates at all, or is that an outmoded custom? I’ve found that my students are dubious about the merits of news organizations’ telling people whom to vote for. But I think it can be a valuable exercise, especially in situations where an endorsement might really make a difference.

In this case, the Globe endorsement might matter. Markey and Kennedy hold similar progressive views, and readers will sit up and take notice that the Globe isn’t endorsing a Kennedy, as they might have been expected to do — although, as a longtime Globe reader, I can’t say I was all that surprised that they went with Markey.

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