Tag Archives: Brian McGrory

David Skok’s final day at the Globe will be this Friday

David Skok, the Boston Globe‘s managing editor and vice president for digital, will be leaving what he would probably prefer I not refer to as “the paper” this Friday. His departure was announced last July; though Friday will be his last day at the Globe‘s headquarters, he will continue to help editor Brian McGrory with the Globe‘s ongoing reinvention effort for a few more weeks. His farewell to the staff is below.

Hi all,

This Friday will be my last official day at the Boston Globe.

I have accepted a new position in my family’s hometown of Toronto that will begin in early November.

It has been the greatest privilege of my professional life to serve each and every one of you, our readers, the wider community, and of course, this wonderful institution.

You welcomed me with enthusiasm and open arms. From the hallway conversations, to the office visits, and the many meetings, you’ve always been infused with a curiosity that is the hallmark of any living, breathing newsroom.  For that, I say, thank you.

No one encapsulated this kindness better than my counterpart as managing editor, Chris Chinlund. From day one, Chris exhibited warmth, support, and respect for the new “digital guy.” I quickly came to understand that none of this was political, it’s just who she is: A graceful, brilliant editor, a generous mentor and friend, whom I will miss dearly.

Of course, I would never have been in this position had Brian [editor Brian McGrory] not plucked me from relative obscurity in Toronto. Watching and learning from Brian has been the thrill of my career. His passion and loyalty to this community and to all of you in this newsroom is an absolute joy to behold.

I only wish that you all could witness first-hand what I’ve been able to witness from the office next door to our editor. Brian’s courage, patience, tenacity, and most of all, his humanity, will continue to be an inspiration for me long after I’m gone from Morrissey Boulevard. I’ve never met anyone with better news judgment, a greater sense of fairness, humility and determination, than Brian. I count myself among the lucky ones to have worked alongside him, and we are all so lucky to have him in the corner office.

To all the others who I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the past three years, from the newsroom to the boardroom, the product team to the engineering team, thank you. A particular note of thanks to [BostonGlobe.com editor] Jason Tuohey, [product director] Lauren Shea, and [team leader/development manager] Joe George. Their leadership, dedication, and talent have made me look so good over the past few years, I’m forever grateful.

The last few months have been especially rewarding for me because I’ve gotten to sit at the helm of the reinvention project, watching, listening, and guiding, as this already talented, motivated, and sophisticated newsroom transforms itself into a newsroom of the future.  The reinvention project leaves me confident and assured that the Boston Globe newsroom has a tremendously bright future.

While I won’t be in the newsroom after Friday, Brian has asked me to remain involved in an advisory capacity on the reinvention project, through the week of October 14th.

I know that change can be hard and uncertainty can be difficult. All we can do is put one foot in front of the other until one day, we can look down from the top of the mountain and see how far we’ve come. This week, I get to do that, and the view is spectacular.

You have turned Globe.com into a powerhouse: Tripling readers and revenues all the while maintaining the fabric of this great journalism institution. Your journalism is vibrant, relevant, and interesting, on all platforms. Your reporting matters as much, if not more, than it ever has to the communities that you serve. You rightly put your readers and your users, first.

If I’ve managed to accomplish anything during my time here, it’s been to hopefully clear away the obstacles to your creativity. You get to paint a bright new future on that canvass.

It will be bittersweet to watch from afar, but I will, with enormous pride.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. What an honor it has been

Please stay in touch

—David

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Brian McGrory updates staff on Globe restructuring

I’m on the road without my laptop. But my friends at WGBH News have posted a memo I received from a source earlier today in which Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory updated the staff on issues involving downsizing, possible layoffs, and a massive reinvention effort.

What we know about the sale of the Boston Globe’s HQ

Update: I was so excited to get a copy of Sheehan’s announcement in my inbox that I didn’t check to see whether the Globe had the story. They did. Here it is.

The Boston Globe has found a buyer for its headquarters at 135 Morrissey Blvd. The announcement was made in an email to the staff Friday night from Mike Sheehan, chief executive of Boston Globe Media Partners. (Thanks, source! You are a prince or princess among men or women.) Here’s Sheehan:

Just wanted you to know that BGMP has entered into an agreement to sell our headquarters at 135 Morrissey Boulevard. We have also entered into a confidentiality agreement with the buyer, so I can offer no details about the transaction at this time. This is just the beginning of the process; I’ll keep you updated as it proceeds.

Have a great weekend.

Mike

I tweeted out the news a little while ago, but it’s raised more questions than answers among people who don’t follow this stuff obsessively. So here’s a bit of background.

1. The Globe‘s editorial and business operations are moving downtown, into rented office space at 53 State St. The target date for the move is January 1, but I’m guessing that will prove to be ambitious.

2. The printing operations are moving to a new facility in Taunton.

3. This is a true fact:

4. In 2013 John Henry bought the Globe, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and the Morrissey Boulevard headquarters from the New York Times Company for a total of $70 million. He later sold the T&G for an undisclosed amount that has been estimated at somewhere between $7 million and $19 million. In 2014, the Globe reported that the Morrissey Boulevard property might be worth somewhere between $50 million and $70 million. So it is likely that Henry will have ended up getting the Globe for free. On the other hand, he’s losing money—or, as Globe editor Brian McGrory put it recently in a memo announcing buyouts, “The Globe’s numbers aren’t as good as our words (or photos, videos, and graphics).”

5. As Sheehan wrote, the identity of the new owner of the Morrissey Boulevard property and his intentions are not being announced at this time. So here’s some speculation from me and some sharp observations from Bill Forry, editor of the Dorchester Reporter.

Linda Henry, wife of Globe owner, will oversee Boston.com

Linda Henry. Photo via Twitter.

Linda Henry. Photo via Twitter.

Well, that was fast. Just a day after Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory announced that chief digital guy David Skok would be leaving later this year, two people who will take over some of his duties have been named. One is a real eye-opener: Linda Pizzuti Henry, wife of Globe owner John Henry, who will oversee Boston.com.

The other is Anthony Bonfiglio, currently the executive director of engineering, who’ll be in charge of engineering, development, product, and design.

When I gave a “Rave” to Skok on Beat the Press Friday, host Emily Rooney asked me if Skok’s departure was related to Linda Henry’s elevation. My honest answer is that I have no idea. It’s something I would certainly like to find out.

It’s also not clear how hands-on Linda Henry intends to be. Eleanor Cleverly, the general manager of Boston.com, has gotten good reviews for stabilizing the site after a rocky transition from being the Globe‘s online home to its current incarnation as a free standalone service. And Cleverly will remain.

It’s way too early to assess what this will all mean, but I’ve heard from a number of insiders that Linda Henry is smart and generally a force for good. Still, it’s an unorthodox move.

The Globe still needs a journalist to replace Skok as managing editor for digital (he’s vice president for digital at Boston Globe Media Partners as well). But since Skok isn’t leaving right away, I suppose that can wait.

What follows is a memo from Mike Sheehan, chief executive of BGMP.

I want to let everyone know that Anthony Bonfiglio will now oversee digital operations, including engineering/development, product, and design across all of BGMP.

Anthony joined us two years ago from Visible Measures, where he was VP of Engineering. Since then, his impact has been immense. He oversaw the rollout of agile software development processes and best practices across the product and engineering teams. As a result, we’ve shortened time-to-market from weeks to multiple releases every week across all teams, creating a predictable and transparent development process. Anthony helped transition much of the business to WordPress and has overseen many of our digital redesigns. He was a key contributor in the launch of Stat.

On the business side, Anthony folded creative services developers into the overall engineering organization and greatly increased their productivity. He also successfully assumed management of our ad operations organization during a critical phase and has since transitioned it back to Advertising.

In short, Anthony has proven himself as a leader who can make a very complex organization faster, better, and more agile. He will continue to report to Wade Sendall.

Brian McGrory informed the newsroom yesterday that David Skok has decided to leave the Globe by the end of the year. Regarding David’s boston.com responsibilities, Eleanor Cleverly will continue day-to-day oversight and management of boston.com, but it will now report to Linda Henry in her current role as Managing Director.

I know I join everyone in wishing David Skok nothing but success and happiness in all his future endeavors and in expressing deep gratitude for all he’s done over the past three years. He has been a driving force in the success we’ve experienced on bostonglobe.com and, with Eleanor and her team, was key to stabilizing boston.com over the past six months. As he transitions out, the leadership of Anthony, Eleanor, and Linda will help us continue to be the region’s leading source of journalism that becomes more relevant and interesting by the hour.

Digital guy David Skok to leave the Boston Globe

David Skok. Photo via the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.

David Skok. Photo via the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.

Big news from the Boston Globe: chief digital guy David Skok is leaving later this year. I’m trying to do this on my phone. So, for now, the memo from editor Brian McGrory will have to suffice.

Friday update: Skok’s departure is especially significant given that the Globe is in the midst of a major reinvention effort as well as another round of downsizing. Skok is a huge part of solving a big problem for the Globe: although it has made strides in becoming a round-the-clock digital news organization, as McGrory notes below, most of its readers continue to view the print edition as the main event. That’s true at newspapers generally—even the Washington Post, perhaps the most digitally focused newspaper in the country.

No one is irreplaceable, but it’s not going to be easy for the Globe to find someone as knowledgeable and respected as Skok.

Here is the Nieman article co-authored by Clayton Christensen, Skok, and James Allworth that McGrory mentions below. And here is a talk Skok gave at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center in April 2015.

McGrory’s message to the newsroom follows.

When I journeyed to Toronto one summer day three years ago to meet David Skok, I brought with me no small number of demands. The Globe had a new and beautiful website, but we needed far more traffic to make it matter. The newsroom had many digital ambitions, but lacked someone to point us in the right directions. We could hear the music, but were slow to pick up the rhythm. Basically, we needed to find the most capable and disciplined digital journalist in the industry to guide us toward an entirely better place.

David’s work launching a confederation of news sites that spanned Canada was widely lauded, and his paper on disruption, co-authored with Clay Christensen during his Nieman fellowship, served as something of an instruction manual for many in the business. In a part of the industry filled with hucksters spouting jargon, it was immediately apparent to me over dinner that David stood far apart. He very much belonged at the Globe.

The rest has been nothing short of transformational. In the two-and-a-half years since David arrived on Morrissey Boulevard, globe.com readership and revenues have soared. Last year was a record year for traffic, and this year we’re already up by nearly 20 percent. We now have a fresher, bolder, more relevant, and increasingly provocative site filled with a heady mix of digital-first journalism that captures the moment and deeper enterprise presented in ways that are geared toward the web. Our social and video teams are producing visual and social journalism that rivals many digital native news sites. Most important of all, this entire room has arrived at an understanding of what it means to be a digital-first operation and why it’s vital to our future. It’s often easy to lose sight of how far we’ve come as we focus on how much work is left to do.

I’ve buried the lede here, certainly because the next line pains me so to write, but here goes: David has decided to leave the Globe. He’s seeking his next professional challenge, which he very much hopes will lead him back to Canada. I’ve asked him to continue to lend his insights to our vital reinvention initiative, and he has agreed. We’re both thinking of a departure around the end of the year, give or take.

David’s legacy here can be distilled rather easily. While self-proclaimed digital gurus are always chasing the newest new thing – More video! A landing page for newsletters! – David takes a distinctly different approach. He constantly and consistently preaches quality – quality story-telling, quality editing, quality decision-making. He wags his finger at anyone seduced by the siren song of page views – “Vanity metrics,” he calls them – and recites from memory what specific stories led to the most subscriptions. The reason behind this is very simple: David is a journalist first, a digital visionary second.

More recently, he has taken his managerial skills outside of the newsroom, imposing a rare sense of order in our digital efforts building-wide. He has had no problem whatsoever holding demanding department heads at bay because of precious resources, while holding his own team accountable for its time.

One other note that probably shouldn’t come this far in: David is a world-class colleague, smart, humane, funny in his own Canadian way, and a person of some of the highest integrity I’ve ever seen. Add to that the fact that he quite simply never lets up on himself.

There’s no need to say goodbye to David just yet; as I said, that won’t occur until later in the year. But David wanted to give me, and us, plenty of notice. The front office will make announcements imminently on who will take over the digital operations in other parts of the building, and I’ll begin putting together a plan for the newsroom. It could involve a specific person, a different structure, or some combination of the two. Please stay tuned.

Perhaps the greatest tribute to David’s work is the extraordinary digital team that he’s assembled over the past couple of years, so infused with authority and confidence that it will prosper long after he is gone. We are on the verge of even greater things, and that doesn’t change at all.

Brian

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.

Brian

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.