From the Globe, a tremendous work of narrative journalism

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-9-41-46-amToday the Boston Globe publishes its final chapter of “The Power of Will,” the story of a little boy with a rare form of cancer that had been considered incurable until recently. (I’m trying to stay away from any spoilers in case you haven’t read it.)

Reported and written by Billy Baker and illlustrated by Tonia Cowan, it is a tremendous work of narrative journalism. It’s not just a story about a desperately sick child—there are important public policy implications, too. Online it’s got some great add-ons, such an audio version of the story that clocks in at nearly an hour and a half as well as photos.

I read the whole thing over the weekend, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It takes a team, and so I’ll list them all. Steven Wilmsen edited the stories and Lloyd Young the photos. Digital producers were Elaina Natario, Russell Goldenberg, Greg Opperman, Lauren Shea, and Laura Amico. In addition to family photos, the online version includes pictures by Globe photographers Suzanne Kreiter, Aram Boghosian, and Dina Rudick.

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Memo Monday: Globe promotes Pete Doucette

A source just passed this along from Mike Sheehan, the chief executive officer of Boston Globe Media Partners:

In a quiet corner of the third floor, Pete Doucette has spent the past ten years managing every conceivable aspect of our circulation. To say the least, it’s been a challenging task during challenging times. Balancing the science of market data with the art of consumer engagement—and doing so with limited resources—the job he’s done is nothing short of remarkable: we have essentially the same number of paid subscribers as we had five years ago.

Pete helped create the two-site strategy for and, and in doing so set us on a path to charge a premium price for premium journalism. We now have over 72,000 digital-only subscribers, which is the No. 1 digital subscription business of any metro daily publisher, and behind only two national publications, the New York Times and the Washington Post. He’s also overseen successful efforts to retain and attract print subscribers who remain an important cornerstone of our business.

Pete will be the first to say that he’s fortunate to have the increasingly relevant and interesting journalism of the Boston Globe to attract subscribers. Thanks to Brian [McGrory], Ellen [Clegg], and everyone in the newsroom for their tireless efforts to create such important work. To demonstrate the relationship between our journalism and our business, digital subscriptions rose 66% in the 10 days following the Presidential election compared with the 10 days prior to the election.

Starting today, Pete will be our Chief Consumer Revenue Officer. While he’ll still oversee our circulation efforts, the product and development teams, led by Anthony Bonfiglio, will report to him. In his new role, he will weave together business strategy, digital strategy, and operations which is a critical step as we continue to aggressively attract new digital subscribers.

If you see Pete, be sure to congratulate him. Or pay him a visit on the third floor. It’s time he got accustomed to it being a little less quiet up there.


Sunday night memo dump I: McGrory on Trump coverage

Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory sent out his latest message to the staff late Friday afternoon. Among other things, he addresses the question of whether the Globe will “normalize” Donald Trump (answer: no, but) and how the paper will proceed now that Trump is the president-elect. Plus his customary fulsome praise all around. The full text follows:

Hey all,

So the earth shook under us last week with Donald Trump’s stunning victory, raising all the questions you’ve heard and even asked about the inability of the news media to see this coming. These are good questions, with no clear or clean answers, but what absolutely can’t be lost in our self-reflection is that we’re in a moment, an utterly pivotal moment, in which we matter more than ever to our region and our loyal readership. It is not an overstatement to say that this is why we exist. And I don’t have even the slightest doubt that we will meet the challenge.

To that end, I should say more publicly what I’ve told a lot of people in here privately over the past ten days: I’m intensely proud of our national and campaign coverage going back not just weeks and months, but years. You should be, too.

Beginning in 2013, with the award-winning Broken City series, we explored in a way that no news organization ever had the incredible dysfunction in Washington that so obviously played a role in the outcome of this campaign. In 2015, we were back again with Michael Kranish’s Divided Nation series, which gave voice to people on all sides of massive issues, from inequality to race and so much more.

Also in 2015, editors and reporters made the very conscious decision to not have our coverage driven by Trump’s outrage of the day. Certainly, we wouldn’t hide his bombastic and too often bigoted remarks from our readers, but we made a commitment to run him through the filter that all serious presidential contenders must endure. Matt Viser wrote of his bankruptcies in Atlantic City, his time at Wharton, his ownership of a beauty pageant during which he made unwanted physical moves on contestants. We wrote of crime figures employed in his business. All of these stories attracted a huge number of readers. Most were followed by other outlets.

This past summer, we launched the America on Edge series, designed to show the anxiety, uncertainty, and even anger that were leading so many voters to Trump. Again, these were some of the most read stories of the year, for every good reason, as we took our readers from a small town in Pennsylvania to portray the economic uncertainty of retirees, to a community in Georgia riven by resentment toward immigrants, to voters in Florida who protested using a mosque as a polling place, to millennials in North Carolina repelled by the toxicity of this campaign. You want answers about what just happened, reread this series.

Let’s not forget our intense, exhaustive, and excellent coverage of New Hampshire, Iowa, and beyond, and the consistently excellent Ground Game newsletter each morning. In the hours after the election, we were in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, with colorful, insightful dispatches explaining what had just occurred. Metro and Business have done great work exploring the potential impacts of a Trump presidency from here. And a shout-out to our editorial and op-ed pages, which have been stacked with particularly provocative work, and to our own news-side columnists, particularly Yvonne [Abraham], who have been required reading.

Going forward, covering Donald Trump as the president-elect, a Trump Administration, and America in the Trump era, there’s no need for us to recalibrate our approach, except, hopefully, to redeploy some people to Washington. We’ll be fair, we’ll be tough, and we’ll be ready to pounce on the most interesting and thoughtful stories possible. We will not for a moment normalize bigotry and misogyny, if he continues down the path of the campaign and with some early appointments. But we will also be wide open to the idea that his may be a novel and perhaps effective presidency, a non-ideologue in the age of hyper-partisanship. In short, we don’t know what the hell is about to happen. Nobody does. But, again, it’s why we matter.

Take this as an open solicitation. We need your input. If you have concerns, ideas, general concepts, or just a desire to download thoughts, reach out. We are already planning some creative approaches to cover an unconventional presidency. Your ideas are more than welcome. We are also in dire — and I do mean dire — need of excellent stories that are not Trump related. As interested as readers are in the situation, and the numbers on our site show they are fascinated, there is also a thirst for great reads that are far off the political path.

Some staffers have asked worthwhile questions about whether they are allowed to contribute to activist organizations, and participate in marches and vigils and the like. The answer is that we encourage everyone to live a full, meaningful life outside of the Globe. Our journalism is actually the better for it. But we can’t allow our staffers to take part in activity that calls into question the essential fairness and neutrality of the Globe — more important now than ever. Our ethics policy is clear on this, in terms of forbidding contributions or other involvement in organizations or campaigns that push candidates, ballot questions, or legislation. You’ll ask about causes. We’ll fold most of those into the group as well.

Here’s all I ask: Use your very sizable brains and your best judgment, which I trust. If there’s any question, go to Chris Chinlund, Katie Kingsbury, or me. Think of our reputation and think of this vital moment. And please, be cautious on social media.

Finally, get some rest. This has been extraordinary in too many ways to mention here. We’ve done incredible journalism. And we have a lot of vital work ahead.


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Globe editor McGrory thanks staff for Election Night effort

I swear that Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory does not send me these messages. But people do, and I thought this message to the Globe staff was worth sharing after what was a pretty amazing experience for all of us—let alone those who were trying to cover it as it unfolded.

From: McGrory, Brian
Date: Wed, Nov 9, 2016 at 4:09 AM
Subject: Thank you

Well, that didn’t exactly follow the script.

Which is what made your collective performance all the more extraordinary tonight. At 7 o’clock, people were exchanging notes about exit polls that indicated an early bedtime. At 3 a.m., we were redrawing the site and the print edition to allow for Trump’s victory speech. Charlie Mansbach, who has seen quite a bit in his half century, said he’s never seen anything like this.

It actually began a couple of months ago when a team of technologists and designers began the work of creating the elections pages and interactive graphics, which were nothing short of breathtaking. For a good chunk of the night, we had well over 20,000 concurrents, peaking at over 25,000. We were a destination for a huge number of readers.

It’s easy to understand why. Not only did we have some of the best graphics in the industry, but the work from the field was beyond impressive, whether it was NY, DC, or in and around Boston. The Washington bureau turned on a dime to allow for Matt [Viser] to write his extraordinary analysis in what seemed like 20 minutes. The mainbar read like a breeze. Locally, the Metro crew wrote the hell out of the ballot questions and so much more.

Photo was what photo always is, which is wildly creative and ambitious. Our graphics team covered us all in glory. It was nothing short of great to have the world-class technologists sitting among us, keeping the site purring along. Ditto for the social media crew.

As these things always happen, the pressure ratcheted up through the night. What was different here was that it kept going through the morning. Chris Chinlund was like a maestro at her page 1 perch, bringing everything together for print, with David Dahl playing an equally impressive role. I’m told we caught 33,000 papers with the final news. On the digital front, we’ve grown to accept how great the team is, but you see it more clearly than ever on a night like this. Katie [Kingsbury] was effectively everywhere—and always deeply effective. Jason [Tuohey] is simply a rock and a rock star. There are so many others, too, up and down the chain. Give credit, too, to the talented team at for keeping their site filled with energy while also playing a key role steering readers to Globe journalism.

It literally took the work of over 100 people to accomplish what we did tonight, from eagle-eyed copy editors to systems managers who arm-wrestled with Methode [the Globe’s content-management system] when things got hairy at exactly the time they couldn’t. History was made, and you responded as you always do, with some of the highest quality journalism in the nation. Thank you, sincerely.

And now we’ll do it again.


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Nonprofits will fund the Globe’s newest music critic

If newspapers are going to survive and thrive, then various types of nonprofit/for-profit partnerships will almost certainly be part of the mix.

At the extreme end is the Philadelphia Inquirer, which, along with its sister paper, the Daily News, and their joint website,, were donated earlier this year to the nonprofit Philadelphia Foundation. The media properties still need to find a way to break even, but it does save them from the pressure of cutting their way to profits in order to satisfy a corporate owner.

image_galleryA more modest step was announced in today’s Boston Globe. Zoë Madonna, a young prize-winning critic, will be paid through a nonprofit grant to write about classical music for the next 10 months while Globe critic Jeremy Eichler is on leave at Harvard. The money will come from the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

According to a press release from the Rubin Institute, which awarded her its 2014 prize in music criticism, the benefactors “will consider an ongoing strategy to support this endeavor on a national scale” once Madonna’s stint at the Globe has been completed. Globe editor Brian McGrory is quoted as saying:

We could not be more delighted to participate in this novel experiment with such worthy partners. We are excited about the benefit to our industry, to some of the great cultural institutions of Boston, and most especially to our readership, which will very much appreciate the proven talents of this young critic.

Talking with Bob Schieffer about the future of news


Recently I had the opportunity to record a podcast about my Shorenstein paper on the Washington Post under Jeff Bezos with CBS News legend Bob Schieffer and Andrew Schwartz of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Our conversation was posted on Thursday.

Schieffer and I met last spring at the Harvard Kennedy School, where I was a Joan Shorenstein Fellow and he was the Walter Shorenstein Media and Democracy Fellow. Schieffer was a friendly, gregarious presence, and my fellow fellows and I enjoyed his company immensely.

My Shorenstein paper is part of a book project with a working title of The Return of the Moguls, which will be about the Post under Bezos, the Boston Globe under Red Sox principal owner John Henry, and the Orange County Register under entrepreneur Aaron Kushner, to be published by ForeEdge in 2017.

Schieffer and Schwartz’s podcast, “About the News,” offers regular updates about various media topics. It’s available at iTunes.

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Four Globe personnel moves are aimed at bolstering digital

Katie Kingsbury. Photo via. Twitter.
Katie Kingsbury. Photo via Twitter.
Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory this afternoon announced some major moves, and all of them are aimed at bolstering the Globe‘s digital presence. The big news is that Katie Kingsbury will replace David Skok as managing editor for digital. Skok, who’s also vice president for digital, is heading back to his native Canada.

Kingsbury, as McGrory notes below, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and has more recently been editing the Ideas section. I think it’s significant that what she can bring to digital is seen as more urgent than her more traditional work as a writer and editor. Globe print subscribers might also remember that last winter, during the paper’s home-delivery fiasco, Kingsbury was a constant presence on Twitter, where she helped to solve problems and in a few cases delivered papers to customers’ doorsteps.

As always, these memos don’t just magically appear in my inbox. I depend on leaks—and leakers. That means you.

The text of McGrory’s email to the staff follows.

I’m delighted to announce some key personnel moves in the newsroom.

First, Katie Kingsbury will take the role of managing editor, digital.

You know we’re a great news organization when a transformative figure like David Skok can leave and we’re able to fill the void from our own midst with a Pulitzer Prize winning editor of uncommon intellect and unparalleled commitment. Katie is her own weather system, someone who isn’t only a learned digital journalist, but also an entirely natural one. Digital isn’t an added element with Katie; it’s what she does—and always has done. Look no further than her work on Ideas, and her role propelling opinion journalism to the forefront of Linger, especially, on some of the projects she’s helped oversee, particularly our exquisite Make It Stop wraparound and digital presentation that owned the web for the better part of a week. That project would never have happened as it did without Katie driving it forward.

Katie is, at her core, a storyteller, though with a digital soul and spine. She’s spent the better part of her career as a reporter—with Metro in Boston, then with Time in Asia and New York. She arrived in our room in 2013, another smart Peter Canellos hire, as a freelance editorial writer. It took her, what, less that two years to pen that utterly extraordinary series on the plight of fast food workers that earned her the previously mentioned Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing in 2015. Katie became the Sunday op-ed editor in 2014, and then Ideas editor in 2015. There’s been nothing but unabashed success at every turn.

There’s also a book contract, and a whole lot more, making for a schedule that is virtually unimaginable, and yet it doesn’t seem to matter. Katie is a relentlessly cheerful presence, a world-class colleague who treasures ideas and creativity and seems to have been put on this earth to challenge the status quo.

Katie will start in her new role very soon, and by that I mean whenever she can work out a smooth transition from Ideas with Ellen [Clegg] and her successor.

Second, Jason Tuohey will become the deputy managing editor for audience engagement.

At one level, it’s accurate to say that Jason may be the steadiest human being on the planet, quietly driving forward for years such that it’s the single most successful aspect of our entire enterprise, up 20 percent in uniques year over year, topping the 70,000 paid subscriber mark earlier this month, an uncommonly accessible site that always seems to strike just the right note at just the right time.

But even that somehow sells Jason short, because he’s far more than steady. Behind that unflappable demeanor is a brilliant editor and beloved manager who knows the exact levers to push and pull with staff to keep the site humming with readers. There’s nobody in the industry I’ve looked to more for counsel on all things digital, and Jason is always dead on the mark.

In this new role, Jason will continue to have oversight of In addition, he’ll be charged with connecting our journalism with the community and larger world in ways that we currently don’t do enough of. He will do outreach. He will also guide the room, with an appropriate emphasis on metrics, as to what works and what doesn’t—topics, tones, times of day, platforms, and so much more. Ideally, sooner rather than later, Jason will have his own team of audience development specialists, and will work with a larger team across the building.

Jason will start in his new role on October 17.

Third, Heather Hopp-Bruce will become design director. Heather is the outrageously talented designer of editorial and Ideas, constantly pushing industry boundaries with provocative sections fronts and projects that have earned her a stunning 11 SND [Society for News Design] awards in the past two years. Think of Heather as an activist designer, not only there at the inception of a piece or project, but immediately helping to shape it, probing and prodding it, and thinking across all platforms. Design, in her view, is a partner, something that comes through week after week, time and again, in her work in Ideas. Her sprawling intellect and boundless energy leads her in many directions. Surfing? She’s rabid, as well as talented. Marksmanship? A champion back in grade school—really. Heather swam across Boston Harbor a couple of years ago and still talks about all the little jelly fish that made it feel like pudding.

None of it got in the way of what has been an extraordinary career as a designer and writer, one that has brought Heather from Montana to San Francisco to Santa Cruz to Seattle, and then to Newsday. She was another brilliant Dan Zedek hire in 2010. She took some time away from journalism to work at a web design firm in Santa Cruz, though in her words, “I realized I could never be happy outside of a newsroom.”

Heather, too, checks off the box of world class colleague. She’ll start in her new role in early November.

Fourth, Lauren Shea has become a dedicated product manager for the newsroom, working hand in hand with our entire editorial team.

Lauren joined the Globe in June of 2014 and she has left an indelible mark on everything that you read and experience on ever since. As the head of product for the Globe, Lauren was a driving force in modernizing the look and feel of our website, along with building out new digital advertising products and refining our meter to improve our efforts at more subscriptions. This was on top of her work launching Crux, BetaBoston, and Sports 2.0. Put another way: Lauren gets stuff done.

She now brings her talent solely into the storytelling realm. Along with elevating our special projects, Lauren will identify and build new products that allow us to tell everyday stories in new ways on all platforms. In her prior roles, including at Arnold Worldwide, Lauren has managed digital strategy, user experience/site architecture, visual design, end-to-end software development, and quality assurance testing. And yes, she’s a generous colleague beloved by everyone fortunate enough to work with her.

Again, the very fact that we have a roster like this ready to lead the newsroom ever more into the digital era is a tribute to us all.

Many thanks,