Doug Franklin is out as CEO of Boston Globe Media; Vinay Mehra named president

Also published at WGBH News.

Update II: The Globe’s own story cites problems at the Taunton printing plant, so it looks like my speculation may have been on target: “But his [Franklin’s] tenure also saw continued press problems at the newspaper’s new Taunton printing facility, which has been a vexing and expensive headache for a media organization fighting to become financially self-sufficient in an era of declining print advertising. The printing problems pre-date Franklin, who started on Jan. 1.” Pre-date? It was only recently that the Globe began using the Taunton facility exclusively.

Updating: Vinay Mehra, the chief financial officer of Politico and a former executive at WGBH, will become the president and chief financial officer of Boston Globe Media, according to a memo to the staff from publisher and owner John Henry. Henry also says that he and his wife, managing partner Linda Pizzuti Henry, plan to take a more active role. No word on whether a new CEO will be named. The full text:

You’ve seen Doug’s note that he plans to leave the Globe. First, I’m very grateful for Doug’s hard work on behalf of this organization at an especially complex and sensitive time — as we moved from our decades-long home in Dorchester to Exchange Place and Taunton. These are not easy jobs in this industry, and Doug did his with passion, impact, and commitment. We wish Doug well in what will undoubtedly be successful endeavors in the future.

Second, effective immediately, Vinay Mehra will become the president and chief financial officer of the Globe. Vinay has distinguished himself at every stop along his career, most recently at Politico, where he was an active CFO with a strong grasp of the entire business and a commitment to a journalism enterprise supported by novel revenue streams. His prior work at WGBH gave him important insights into the Boston region, where he has always lived while commuting to Washington, and an understanding of the Globe’s vital role in New England.

Third, I will be a more active publisher and Linda will take on more responsibility as we push for financial sustainability in an environment that is extraordinarily challenging for news organizations dedicated to communities where facts and context matter.

This is a great and important news organization, one that is positioned for many more decades of success.

Best,
John

Doug Franklin (via LinkedIn)

Doug we hardly knew ye. Last December, Boston Globe Media named veteran newspaper executive Doug Franklin as chief executive officer to replace Mike Sheehan, who was leaving after three years in charge. Now Franklin is leaving, citing “differences” with owner John Henry over “how to strategically achieve our financial sustainability.”

At this early stage I have no idea what went wrong. I will point out that the Globe has been sending out frequent emails apologizing for late delivery of the print edition since shifting from its old Morrissey Boulevard headquarters to a new plant in Taunton — but I can’t say I know whether that has anything to do with Franklin’s departure.

Here is Franklin’s memo to the staff, two copies of which arrived in my inbox from my sources within the past few minutes.

Globe Team,

You are part of a very special institution in New England, and everyone here should be honored to serve our readers, advertisers, and broader community through our journalism and business offerings. While John Henry and I share similar passion and vision for the Globe, we have our differences how to strategically achieve our financial sustainability. With disappointment, I am resigning from the Globe, effective immediately, and will not be part of your work shaping the Globe’s future.

There are many great things about the Globe and equally many challenges in the industry. Our business will continue to reshape itself, with some areas getting smaller and more efficient while we invest in new technology and products for our future.

I hope that over the past six months I have provided some clarity, honesty and realistic optimism of what you are capable of accomplishing in the coming years. I have truly appreciated the support and our partnership during the brief period in which I was privileged in getting to know you and your work.

I took on this role because I love the newspaper industry, cherish our First Amendment obligations, and value the role of the Globe in the Boston region. It was a big challenge, but I also believed it was a good fit, given my record of successfully turning around newspapers. The Globe is one of the best brands, best newsrooms and most loyal reader subscription businesses in the country. Hard work is ahead for all of you and I know you will successfully navigate the challenges. I wish you the best and thank you.

Doug Franklin
CEO

Correction: This post has been updated to clarify Vinay Mehra’s new position at the Globe.

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Two stories in Sunday’s Globe show why local and regional journalism matters

In case you missed it, The Boston Globe published two tremendous pieces of accountability journalism on Sunday:

  • Jenna Russell and Jessica Rinaldi reported on the Hingham Police Department’s massive — and questionable — response to the home of a suicidal young man whose distraught parents had said was suicidal. Despite the parents’ pleas to back off, the police went all-in. And Austin Reeves, 26, ended up dead, most likely by his own hand.
  • The Spotlight Team found that the Veterans Administration hospital in Manchester, New Hampshire, was providing terrible care, with flies in an operating room, blood or rust on surgical instruments, and such poor treatment of veterans with spinal injuries that they ended up permanently disabled even though their conditions could have been corrected by surgery. Two officials have already been removed because of the Globe’s reporting.

I point these out because this is important work that simply wouldn’t otherwise be done at the regional level. The national media — especially The Washington Post and The New York Times — are doing an outstanding job of holding President Trump to account and digging into the Republicans’ various proposal to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. In such an environment, it’s vital that we not overlook what’s happening in our backyard.

Advertising will never pay the bills for journalism to the same extent that it did before rise of the internet. If we’re not willing to pay, we’re going to lose the watchdog function that journalism plays in a democracy. We pay for a number of local and national news sources, including the Globe and the Boston Herald, and I hope that you do, too.

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Katie Kingsbury is leaving the Globe for a position at The New York Times

Kathleen Kingsbury, The Boston Globe’s managing editor for digital, is leaving the paper to accept a position as deputy editorial-page editor of The New York Times. This is a big one. Kingsbury is a Pulitzer-winning editorial writer, and she stepped into her current role last fall just as the Globe’s reinvention effort was heating up. She replaced David Skok, who was returning to his native Canada.

Ben Mullin of Poynter has editor Brian McGrory’s farewell note:

I interviewed Kingsbury for my forthcoming book last fall, and I found her to be smart in all the right ways. When we talked, she told me she was testing out various smartphone apps for possible adoption by the Globe — an effort that we long-suffering mobile readers certainly hope pays off soon.

Kingsbury announced her departure just as the Globe is settling in at its new headquarters at 53 State St. On Saturday, the Globe’s entire print run took place at its new Taunton facility for the first time, according to a message to employees from  Rich Masotta, the Globe’s vice president for operations.

Kingsbury proved to be a good internal candidate for the top digital position. It will be interesting to see if the Globe goes outside or inside for her successor. Globe owner John Henry has bet the farm on paid digital. If anything, the Globe needs to accelerate its efforts on improving its digital products.

Stat, Trump and the ethics of speculating about a president’s health

Click on image for Stat article and playable video.

Is President Trump quite literally losing his mind?

That’s the explosive question that reporter Sharon Begley asked in a recent article published by Stat, a Boston Globe Media-owned website covering health and life sciences. In comparing Trump’s speech patterns today with how he spoke 25 to 30 years ago, Begley and the experts she consulted found a notable slide in his linguistic abilities.

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The Globe moves ahead with restructured beats

As the staff prepares to move to its new headquarters on State Street, The Boston Globe is rolling out its new beat structure. Here’s a list of what many of the reporters, editors and columnists are up to.

It doesn’t strike me as hugely different from what the Globe was doing before (and that’s a good thing), but it is built more around the idea of clusters that cover different topics, such as “Business, Technology, and Consumers.” Others: “Education,” “Healthcare, Science, and Medicine,” “Living and Working in Greater Boston,” “Arts and Books,” and “Politics, Government, and Accountability.”

In keeping with editor Brian McGrory’s reinvention memos, the beats comprise areas of interest rather than institutions that need to be covered, whether anyone wants to read about them or not. There’s also a greater emphasis on publishing stories online when they’re ready rather than waiting for the print edition. According to a memo from McGrory, last week — the first for the restructured beats — was a good one for digital subscriptions.

Some kind soul sent me a copy of McGrory’s memo, sent out late Friday afternoon. (The “Super Department,” by the way, combines much of the paper’s metro, business and lifestyle coverage.) Here’s the full text:

So to be clear, nobody should be ready to declare victory after our first full week of reinvention. We all know there are many wrinkles to iron out, and we’re already identifying changes that need to be changed.

But, damn, I’m having a tough time containing my enthusiasm over how well it’s gone and the massive potential that it holds. The truth is, I’m more excited about it now than at any time before.

It’s worth noting that we started from a dead stop. There was no lineup of clever stories ready to roll out. Spotlight didn’t have anything on the runway. Reporters hadn’t been quietly prepping on their new beats. No, 10 days ago, just after a long holiday weekend, we launched from scratch — with, by my count, at least 87 people in substantially different positions than they held the week before.

What’s happened? The metabolism has quickened considerably. People are here earlier in the day. Our higher profile enterprise stories are receiving a final edit through the day, and introduced online at peak readership times. There are fewer logjams in the evening — reporters waiting for that last read on a story. Copy-edits are happening far more frequently across the day.

Because we’re factoring in the needs of digital more effectively, the print front is holding fewer stories back, which means we’re popping more enterprise on the site, much of which is rippling back to the Business and Metro fronts in print. The paper, as we hoped, has been the stronger for it. Calls for A1 and the Metro and Business print fronts are getting made sooner, allowing us to better plan for the next day’s site.

All of which is to say that things, in general, are going as planned — not always, but often enough. And Pete Doucette [the Globe’s chief consumer revenue officer] says it’s the best week we’ve had for digital subscriptions in a while.

In many ways, there’s something of a symphonic quality to it all. It starts early in the morning when the Express Desk arrives and begins posting newsy and clever stories. They hold a stand-up meeting in the middle of the newsroom at 8:30, swapping ideas and mapping out the rest of the day. Then we bring in the enterprise work, pitched and scheduled at the 9:15 news meeting, which already has a newly creative tone. Beyond that, the strike team, narrative, and Spotlight will soon be adding to the mix. Beat reporters across the Super Department will be quickly gaining authority in what, for many, are new areas. Of course, sports, DC, arts, travel, and the magazine are as vital as ever. It’s a matter of time — and not a lot of it — until the full band, every aspect, is playing to its potential.

There’s much credit to go around for great stories, smart edits, beautiful photography, brilliant designs, inviting graphics, expert planning — really, too much to include here. Please know that I’m grateful beyond words. I’d like to say take the summer off, given how utterly draining this has all been, but, well, you wouldn’t want that anyway. Right?

My sincere thanks to everyone for so much hard and excellent work.

Brian

Globe CEO to staff: Full speed ahead with the move

For your weekend memo-reading pleasure, I’ve obtained an email that Boston Globe CEO Doug Franklin sent to the staff on Thursday. Note that the move out of the Globe’s Dorchester plant at 135 Morrissey Blvd. is proceeding even though a deal to sell it recently fell through.

Keep an eye on Franklin’s statement that “Our production transition is our biggest risk right now.” The translation is that if the printing operation in Taunton isn’t fully ready to handle the Globe and its customers (USA Today, The New York Times, the Boston Herald, etc.) when Morrissey shuts down, then they’re going to find themselves in a world of hurt.

The full text of Franklin’s message follows.

Colleagues,

Over the next few weeks, the Globe will see two major transitions. We’ll soon begin printing all our newspapers out of the new plant in Taunton, and we’ll move our offices to Exchange Place in downtown Boston. These moves will help us leverage our five strategic goals: digital subscriber growth, digital advertising growth, greater efficiency producing print papers, becoming the community convener, and being an employer of choice.

Our new workspaces are a big change physically, but really they’re just buildings, desks and equipment. The Globe won’t change because of the move, it will change because you change your work for our audiences and advertisers.

Every department is working aggressively on accomplishing our goals. Pressmen are running new presses, salespeople prospecting for digital/print campaigns, editors and reporters finding new ways to engage audiences for digital subscriptions, and technology teams developing new roadmaps for better user experiences. There is so much opportunity and work ahead for all of us.

Along with all this change will be the inevitable “bumps in the road.” We need to be supportive of each other, flexible, and focused on our work. Our business will continue to change dramatically and the new facilities are part of our journey.

Our strategic goals will drive the Globe’s financial sustainability and long-term success. Your efforts every day are the building blocks of our performance. There are many things happening in our company, much of it good. Among them:

  • Digital subscriptions have passed 83,000 on the way to 100,000. We are confident we have the right tactics to achieve our goal. We are the leader nationally in regional newspaper digital subscriptions.
  • Globe.com audience performance was at all time highs the first quarter of this year.
  • Consumer/subscriber revenue is performing very well, our bright spot financially.
  • Print subscriptions, while down over last year, is ahead of our plan.
  • Advertising is ahead of plan slightly through the first four months of this year but digital advertising needs to be stronger.
  • Commercial print revenues are slightly off due to our printing transitions.
  • Costs are declining but still heavy until we exit Morrissey completely and fully ramp up Taunton efficiencies. Our production transition is our biggest risk right now.
  • We announced our newsroom reinvention, continuing the transformation to a more audience and digital centric content approach to our journalism.
  • We’re rebuilding a cohesive product and technology roadmap focused on digital subscription and advertising to improve user experiences.
  • STAT audience growth continues to set new records, hitting 2 million unique visitors in March.

All of you contribute greatly to our success, here are a few that represent the important work each of you do every day:

  • Our Globe newsroom was a two-time Pulitzer finalist this year, in Local Reporting and in Criticism, reflecting our best in class journalism. Congrats to The Spotlight Team, for its riveting look at the failures of the state’s mental health care system. This was the second time in three years that Spotlight has been a Pulitzer finalist. Congratulations as well to Ty Burr, the Globe’s star movie critic and culture columnist, who was a finalist for a collection of his best work.
  • Katie O’Brien, Director of Classified Advertising, led a redesign of our obituary pages driving a 20% increase in revenues.
  • As part of our facility moves, Kelly Mallenbranche and Chris Mayotte’s teams in IT burned lots of late night hours successfully moving our digital systems to our new offsite server location.
  • Tom Brown and Mollie Toomey’s analysis and management of our digital and print subscribers is driving us towards our 100,000 digital subs and an incremental $6 million in revenue this year.

We have a great story to tell our audiences, clients and community as we transform. Communication and marketing will get more attention in the coming months.

All of this means we are improving financially but not out of the woods yet. Overall, I feel we have made better progress to date than where I thought we would be at this point. Thank you for your work and commitment to the Globe!

Doug

The Boston Globe’s storytelling event reinforces community ties

The other day I was talking with a colleague about how our news-consumption habits had changed during the early months of the Trump presidency. The endless torrent of shocking developments from Washington had tied both of us to The Washington Post and The New York Times from the moment we got up and through much of the day. Local news, by comparison, had faded into the background.

Yet it’s local news that is essential to the civic glue that binds us together. Ultimately none of us as individuals can do much about what’s taking place nationally. We live in communities, and it’s at that level where each of us can have an effect, for better or for worse.

Last Friday evening The Boston Globe provided a vibrant reminder of that, packaging its local journalism not in print or on the web but, rather, through two and a half hours of live storytelling. Dubbed Globe Live, the event — held before nearly 600 people at the Emerson Paramount Center — featured nonfiction monologues, video, photography, music, and even some comedy.

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