Tag Archives: Boston Globe

Iran, nukes, and fear: A potent op-ed combo platter

Compare and contrast. In the New York Times, Senator Ted Cruz whips up the fear regarding the nuclear deal between the United States and Iran:

The mullahs’ policy is, by their own admission, unchanged. It is the same one that inspired the so-called revolutionaries of 1979 to take 52 Americans as hostages for 444 days, and motivated murderous attacks on Israelis and Americans from Buenos Aires to Beirut to Baghdad over the subsequent decades. The only thing that is changing now is the potential scale of this violence, as they seek to replace truck bombs and roadside explosive devices with the most destructive weapons on the planet and the means to deliver them.

In the Boston Globe, Stephen Kinzer writes that what hardliners in both countries really fear is that the nuclear deal might actually work:

Extremists in the United States and Iran have joined to derail this 10-month-old deal. They share a horror scenario: an Iran that is successfully integrated into the Middle East and the wider world, increasingly free at home and responsible in its neighborhood. Militants in Washington fear that this would give Iran a regional role commensurate with its history, size, and power, while they wish to see it tied down forever. Militants in Tehran fear that cooperating with the outside world will erode their authority and possibly lead to collapse of the Islamic Republic. These are reasonable fears.

The Globe takes on a new pedophile scandal

On Sunday, more than 14 years after the Boston Globe launched its Pulitzer Prize-winning series of articles on the pedophile-priest crisis in the Catholic Church, the paper’s Spotlight Team produced a harrowing account of sexual abuse in New England’s private schools.

The new story, as with the earlier coverage, may prove to be the tip of a very large iceberg. The Globe is soliciting tips for follow-ups, conjuring up images of the way the movie Spotlight ends, with reporters overwhelmed with phone calls from victims.

Sadly, we’ve become so accustomed to the notion that predators will sexually prey on children that the details sometimes seem to blend together. But I found this paragraph to be absolutely riveting in its evocation of a dystopian alternate universe:

One winter day around 1964, Hooper said, he wet his bed, infuriating his dorm master, Claude Hasbrouck, who was also the school’s glee club and drama director. Children feared Hasbrouck, who was known for squeezing the flesh under boys’ chins—“chinnies,” he called them—and for his Nazi memorabilia collection, including a Nazi flag on his apartment wall.

It gets worse. But can you imagine being 13 years old, as one of his victims was, and to have your entire world defined by that horrifying environment?

The Boston Globe is headed for another round of buyouts

The Boston Globe is once again downsizing its newsroom, according to an email sent to the staff from editor Brian McGrory earlier this morning and obtained by Media Nation.

We’ll have to see how this plays out. But one intriguing theme is the idea that this comes at what McGrory calls “an inflection point.” The newsroom and business operations will be moving downtown early next year, a new printing plant is coming online in Taunton, and the “reinvention effort” McGrory announced a few weeks ago will soon yield results.

The optimistic spin would seem to be that the Globe of the future will soon be in place, and that if everything works according to plan, there should be no further need for cuts. A pessimist might observe that the newspaper business continues to shrink. But let’s hope owner John Henry and company can overcome the prevailing trend.

McGrory’s email:

Hey all,

Yet again in the world’s worst-kept secret category, we plan to put another buyout on the table, probably by the end of this week. These things aren’t really meant to be a secret. They just take a while to come together, despite our vast experience with them.

There’s no complicated math involved. There’ll be two weeks for every year of service, with the package capped at a year’s pay. Everyone in the newsroom will get an offer. The company reserves the right, as with all prior buyouts, to reject anyone who puts in for it.

To the obvious question of why, as in, why again, why so soon after the prior buyout of last autumn, the answer is pretty straightforward: The Globe’s numbers aren’t as good as our words (or photos, videos, and graphics). So we need to take down costs across the company, an exercise that virtually all other news organizations in the nation, legacy and digital-only, are focused on right now. Other parts of this building are doing this as well.

This particular buyout is being offered as the Globe arrives at an inflection point, which is why I’m hopeful that it will work well for a portion of our room.

First, we’re moving downtown come January 1. While this is great for the organization, on a personal level, commutes will be different, rituals disrupted, and parking will no longer be free and easy. Second, we’re undertaking a reinvention initiative that will in all likelihood lead to a profoundly different approach to a good part of our work. Everybody in this room should be prepared for their jobs to change in ways that may be significant. Change is as exhausting as it is exhilarating, and some people have had enough. We respect that, and are offering this enticement now so we can all be prepared going forward. To be very clear here: This will be the last buyout before the move downtown.

For those who plan to stay, please know this: There are fascinating times ahead. We can curse the economic problems that have beset the entire industry, and guilty as charged: I’ve done more than enough of that myself. But at the same time, we can and should feel privileged to be part of any solutions. Between a new printing facility in Taunton that will produce papers far sharper than anything in our history, to new offices downtown that will put us in the flow of this city, to the surge in readership on bg.com, the success in digital subscriptions, and the consistently amazing journalism that you produce day after day in the face of ferocious industry forces, there’s not a newsroom in this nation better positioned to succeed than ours. None of it is easy. All of it is vital – and noble. We, meaning you, can do this. You already are.

I’ll be in the Winship Room today at 11, 2, and 6 to talk a bit more, take your questions, and hear what’s on your mind.


Millionaires, billionaires, and the future of newspapers

tumblr_static_policycast_logoHard to believe, but my time as a Joan Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School will be ending soon. Recently I recorded an HKS PolicyCast podcast under the expert guidance of host Matt Cadwallader. We talked about my research regarding wealthy newspaper owners and whether the innovations they’ve introduced may show the way for others. I hope you’ll give it a listen.

As I’ve written before, I’m working on a book that will largely be about three such owners—Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who bought the Washington Post in 2013; Red Sox principal owner John Henry, who announced he would purchase the Boston Globe just three days before Bezos made his move; and greeting-card executive Aaron Kushner, whose time as publisher of the Orange County Register ended in 2015, but whose print-centric approach made him perhaps the most closely watched newspaper owner of 2012-’13.

Bezos and the Post will be the subject of the paper I’m writing for Shorenstein, so—in case any of you folks at the Globe were wondering—I’ve suspended my reporting on the Globe for the time being. I’ll be back.

A few thoughts on the 2016 Pulitzers

Congratulations to my former Beat the Press colleague Farah Stockman and to Jessica Rinaldi, both of whom won Pulitzer Prizes earlier today for their work for the Boston Globe.

Rinaldi won the Feature Photography award for her photo series of Strider Wolf, a boy in rural Maine trying to overcome a harrowingly dysfunctional upbringing. Amazingly, Rinaldi was also one of two runners-up in the same category for her photos of a Massachusetts drug addict caught up in the opioid epidemic.

Stockman, who is now a reporter with the New York Times, won in Commentary for a series on the legacy of Boston’s school-desegregation turmoil in the 1970s and ’80s. Stockman’s award is the third fourth Pulitzer recognition in a row for the Globe‘s editorial pages: last year Katie Kingsbury won for editorials that shed light on the harsh world of restaurant work; in 2014 Dante Ramos was a runner-up for writing about how to revive Boston’s less-than-vibrant nightlife; and in 2013 Juliette Kayyem was a finalist in Commentary.

The Globe covers its Pulitzer wins here.

Among the other Pulitzer winners, I was especially pleased to see the Washington Post win the National Reporting award for its deep investigation of fatal shootings of civilians by police. Not only is it an important topic, but it was based on a meticulously detailed database that the Post built in-house.

Last October, FBI director James Comey lamented that the Post and the Guardian, which assembled a similar database, had better data on police-involved shootings than law-enforcement agencies. “It is unacceptable that the Washington Post and the Guardian newspaper from the UK are becoming the lead source of information about violent encounters between police and civilians,” Comey said. “That is not good for anybody.”

The Post‘s coverage of its Pulitzer victory is here.

The Globe’s Trump parody: Genius, juvenile—or both?

Previously published at WGBHNews.org.

So what are we to make of the Boston Globe’s parody of a possible Donald Trump presidency? Is it inspired or sophomoric? A responsible exercise of a newspaper’s role in shaping public opinion or self-indulgent clickbait? And does the form that it takes—the entire front of the Sunday Ideas section, designed to look like page one of the Globe—deceive readers and thus undermine public trust in the paper?

I’m posing these questions because as I write this on late Sunday afternoon, a day after the Globe’s anti-Trump package was unveiled, I’m still not sure what to make of it. Not to wimp out, but I think both the defenders and the detractors have good arguments.

Jim Roberts, formerly of the New York Times, recently laid off from his job as Mashable’s top editor, tweeted on Sunday, “Boston Globe front page brilliantly envisions a Trump presidency.” To which Politico media columnist Jack Shafer replied, “This is the first time you’ve ever been wrong, Jim.”

Now, take a look at Roberts’s wording. Because, in fact, he inadvertently puts his finger on one legitimate complaint about the parody—he refers to it as the Globe’s “front page.” It wasn’t, and folks who saw the Sunday edition in print understood that it was the front of the Ideas section, produced by the paper’s opinion operation. Yet not only was that distinction unclear as the story unfolded on social media Saturday, but the Globe itself did little to alleviate that lack of clarity.

The Globe’s official Twitter feed referred to the parody as “the front page we hope we never have to print.” (Sorry, but “Via @GlobeOpinion” is insufficient.) In a promotional video, Ideas editor Katie Kingsbury said, “We listened to Donald Trump’s speeches, we scoured his website, we read his position papers, we considered who his advisers are, and we did what the Globe does best: we reported it out and put it on the front page for our readers to see.”

One seemingly annoyed Globe news reporter, Todd Wallack, was moved to tweet, “The satirical @bostonglobe page about Trump is the cover of today’s Ideas/Opinion section (which is overseen by the editorial board).” He followed up with a photo of the actual front page, which was nearly Trump-free. And John Robinson, the retired editor of the News & Observer in Greensboro, North Carolina,told me he had to check “Today’s Front Pages” at the Newseum before he could be sure the parody wasn’t the real page one.

So yes, the folks at the Globe could have done a better job of making sure everyone realized the parody was part of the paper’s opinion section and not the front page of the paper. Not to be a party-pooper, but I would have insisted that the Ideas header appear in its usual location at the top of the page. That would have lessened the impact a bit, it also would have lessened the confusion.

As for the content itself, I’d say it is simultaneously inspired and a bit juvenile, which is unavoidable when you’re writing fake news stories based on Trump’s ridiculous and offensive pledges to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, kill the families of ISIS terrorists, and rewrite libel laws in ways that contradict more than 50 years’ worth of First Amendment jurisprudence.

The page also includes gems like this: “Heavy spring snow closed Trump National Park for the first time since it dropped its loser name, Yellowstone, in January.” Comedic genius? Well, no. But I laughed.

The parody was accompanied by a serious editorial making the case that if Trump fails to win a majority of the delegates at the Republican National Convention this summer, then the delegates should turn to a respectable alternative like House Speaker Paul Ryan or former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. And therein lies the most significant problem with the whole exercise.

Liberal media outlets (and a few conservative ones) have been outspoken about stopping Trump. The Daily News of New York has run a wide array of entertaining front pages. Late last year, the New Yorker’s Amy Davidson tried her hand at parody well in advance of the Globe with a piece titled “Five Supreme Court Cases from the Second Trump Administration.”

The trouble, of course, is that Republicans are not seeking advice from the likes of the Daily News, the New Yorker, or the Boston Globe in how to deal with their Trump problem. And, of course, many Republicans don’t think they have a Trump problem.

In the current media environment it can be almost impossible to be heard above the noise. So the Globe deserves some credit in finding a way to draw attention to its principled if oddly presented case against Trump’s racist demagoguery and rhetorical indulgence of violence, torture, and murder.

But now the crowd will move on, the stunt will soon be forgotten—and nothing will change.

Tweeting the McGrory memo: How to reinvent the Globe

Everybody’s talking about Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory’s memo about an initiative to reinvent the newsroom. I’ve been tweeting up a storm. These ideas aren’t fully formed, but I thought I’d preserve them on Storify as a quick reaction. Click here to read.

We’re also having a great conversation about this on Facebook.