Tag Archives: Brian McGrory

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.

Globe editor McGrory: It’s time to rethink everything we do

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Brian McGrory. Photo (cc) by the Newton Free Library.

A copy of Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory’s latest newsroom memo just wafted through an open window here at Media Nation. And it’s a doozy—an invitation to rethink how the Globe newsroom does just about everything, from the way beats are structured, to how many days the paper should appear in print, to how best to use technology.

“To help shape the discussion,” McGrory writes, “consider this question: If a wealthy individual was to give us funding to launch a news organization designed to take on The Boston Globe, what would it look like?” Needless to say, the Globe itself is already owned by a wealthy individual—John Henry, a financier who is the principal owner of the Red Sox.

Last fall I asked McGrory if the redesigned, thinner Saturday print edition was a prelude to cutting back on the number of print days. At that time he said no, but added, “We’re constantly thinking and rethinking this stuff.” Many newspaper industry observers believe it’s inevitable that daily papers will eventually move to a weekend print edition—where most of the advertising appears—supplemented by digital the rest of the week.

The conversation is being facilitated by three outside consultants, Tom Rosenstiel and Jeff Sonderman of the American Press Institute and Marty Kaiser, the former editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

So let’s get right to it:

Hey all,

It’s time to bring everyone up to date on a series of conversations I’ve initiated among senior editors over the past couple of months, conversations intended to lay the groundwork for a no-sacred-cows analysis of our newsroom and what the Globe should look like in the future. It’s also time to get the room fully involved in the process.

You know it as I know it: The Globe, like every other major legacy news organization, has faced what have proven to be irreversible revenue declines. The revenue funds our journalism. The declines have mandated significant cuts over the past dozen years.

There’s far too much good that goes on at this organization on a moment-by-moment basis to allow ourselves to be consumed by what’s wrong with the industry. But we can’t ignore hard realities, either, or simply wish them away. My own strong preference is to somehow shed the annual reduction exercise that seems increasingly inevitable here and everywhere. So I’ve asked senior editors to think about how we, at the very least, might get ahead of the declines, and in the best case, work to slow or even halt them. To help shape the discussion, consider this question: If a wealthy individual was to give us funding to launch a news organization designed to take on The Boston Globe, what would it look like?

There are important issues to raise and explore in what I’ll call a reinvention initiative: Do we have the right technology? Do we train staff in the right way? Should we remain in the current print format that we have now, same size, same sections? Do we have the right departments? Is our beat structure outdated? How can our work flows improve? Do we have too many of XX and not enough Ys? Should we publish seven days a week? Do print and digital relate in the right ways?

The questions could go on and on. They could become bolder still.

Easy answers, as you well know, are elusive. The good news is that we’ve got an absurdly smart, dedicated collection of journalists, many of the best in the nation, that has embraced profound and meaningful change over the years, always while maintaining our values. We’ve built two of the most successful websites in the industry, first boston.com, and now bostonglobe.com. The latter site is not only thriving, but growing rapidly, up more than 15 percent in uniques and page views this year over last, and leading the league in digital-only subscribers—the most important metric. We successfully overhauled key parts of the site last year. We’re about to launch a major sports redesign this spring, all while we confidently spread our wings with a broader array of stories and topics geared first to our web audience.

At the same time, we haven’t just maintained print, but enhanced it over the past few years, with a great new standalone business section through the week, a Sunday Arts section that showcases some of the best critics in the industry, Address, premium magazines, broadsheet feature sections. I’m missing things, I’m sure. We saw quite clearly in January just how much the physical paper means to an enormous swath of our readership.

The journalism, through it all, has been consistently exceptional. We drove the Olympics debate. We launched a national debate on concurrent surgery. We’ve been one of the smartest, freshest voices on the national political scene. We’ve chronicled poverty in rural Maine and economic segregation in greater Boston in deeply memorable ways. Day in, day out, we are one of the most thoughtful metropolitan news organizations in the land.

All of which is to say: We’re very good at change. We’re committed to high standards. We are well-positioned to go even further.

So I’ll frame the discussion one more way: Is it possible to build something bold rather than shrink what we have?

It’s perfectly reasonable to ask whether this reinvention initiative is an excuse for more cutting. The glib answer is that we don’t really need an excuse to cut. The revenue declines require it. The more involved answer is that even without declining revenue, we should still be exploring reinvention, given the massive advances in technology and massive changes in reader habits. And even without a reinvention initiative, we’d still have to cut. So the honest answer is that a reinvention would naturally take into account the realities of declining revenues.

I’ve sought some outside counsel to help facilitate the process, people who have thought long and hard about these issues and are deeply knowledgeable about what’s been tried at other news organizations and how it’s worked. Tom Rosenstiel and Jeff Sonderman, the executive director and deputy director respectively of the American Press Institute, plan to be in the newsroom on Friday—tomorrow—to meet in small groups with some staff. They’ll be joined by Marty Kaiser, the highly respected former editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who has worked with Tom on these exact issues. After Tom, Jeff, and Marty get an initial sense of our newsroom, we’ll discuss a path forward and how they might help. The key is to create a process that involves as many people as possible, at all levels, tapping into the wealth of creativity that is this newsroom’s trademark.

This is a significant and important undertaking. It’s also an exciting one. We’re in a moment in this industry and at this organization that requires us to be bold (have I used that word enough yet?) and imaginative, always in our journalism, but also in determining how we best fulfill our civic responsibilities. There’s not the tiniest bit of doubt that we’re up to the challenge.

I’ll be reaching out to some of you about meeting with Tom, Jeff, and Marty tomorrow, and then I’ll report back soon in a series of Winship Room gatherings about the road ahead. We’re committed to a process in which everyone can effectively share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns. In the meantime, feel more than free to reach out to me directly.

Brian

The Globe will shutter Crux and reposition BetaBoston

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 12.49.00 PMCrux, a standalone website “Covering all things Catholic” that was launched by the Boston Globe in the fall of 2014 (see my WGBHNews.org piece from that time), is shutting down, according to a memo I obtained a little while ago that was written by Globe editor Brian McGrory and managing editor/vice president for digital David Skok. BetaBoston, a vertical that covers the local innovation economy, will be incorporated into the Globe‘s regular offerings and will no longer be a free, standalone site.

I can’t say I’ve been a regular reader of Crux, but as a lifelong non-Catholic I’ve found it to offer interesting insights into the Catholic Church—especially John Allen’s column. (Allen will acquire the site, as McGrory and Skok explain below.) My WGBH News colleague Margery Eagan recently won an award for her spirituality column. Overall, the quality—under the direction of editor Teresa Hanafin, who’ll return to the Globe newsroom—has struck me as consistently excellent.

Although you might think the problem was a lack of readers, I’ve been told that Globe executives were not unhappy with the size of the audience. (You could look up the numbers on Compete.com, but they’re probably not very accurate.) Rather, as McGrory and Skok note, the real problem has been finding advertisers.

In any case, it’s a shame that the Globe couldn’t find a way to make Crux work. It was a noble effort. I hope Stat, a far more ambitious Globe-affiliated vertical covering life sciences, is able to avoid a similar fate.

We’ll be talking about this tonight on Beat the Press. And below is the full text of McGrory and Skok’s memo.

We want to bring everyone up to date on a couple of digital fronts.

First, Crux. We’ve made the deeply difficult decision to shut it down as of April 1—difficult because we’re beyond proud of the journalism and the journalists who have produced it, day after day, month over month, for the past year and a half. At any given moment on the site, you’ll find textured analysis by John Allen, the foremost reporter of Catholicism in the world. You’ll find an entertaining advice column, near Margery Eagan’s provocative insights on spirituality. You’ll find Ines San Martin’s dispatches from the Vatican, alongside Michael O’Loughlin’s sophisticated coverage of theology across America, as well as the intelligent work of ace freelancer Kathleen Hirsch. All of it is overseen, morning to night, by editor Teresa Hanafin, who poured herself into the site, developed and edited consistently fascinating stories, and created a mix of journalism that was at once enlightening and enjoyable. Readers and industry colleagues have certainly taken note with strong traffic and awards.

The problem is the business. We simply haven’t been able to develop the financial model of big-ticket, Catholic-based advertisers that was envisioned when we launched Crux back in September 2014.

Let’s be clear that this absolutely can’t and won’t inhibit any future innovations. We in this newsroom and all around the building need to be ever more creative and willing to take risks. We also need to be able to cut our losses when we’ve reached the conclusion that specific projects won’t pay off.

There will be several layoffs involved in the closing of Crux, which is our biggest regret. To the good, we plan to turn the site over to John Allen, who is exploring the possibility of continuing it in some modified form, absent any contribution from the Globe. Teresa will be redeployed in the newsroom, most likely in an exciting new position as an early morning writer for Bostonglobe.com, setting up the day with a look at what’s going on around the region and the web.

The second front is BetaBoston. We’re planning to bring it behind the Globe paywall, making it part of bostonglobe.com, in what amounts to the next logical step in the natural evolution of the site. It began as a standalone destination, and with this move, it will become a fully integrated part of the Globe’s business coverage in practice and presentation.

Beta’s been a key part of our vastly more comprehensive business report. It has allowed us to dramatically expand our reporting on the region’s burgeoning tech scene, with a fresh team of reporters devoted to the news and culture of Kendall Square, the Seaport, and elsewhere. None of that will change. The only thing that will be different is their material will appear on the Globe site, with clicks working against the meter. And we’ll save more than a few dollars on the maintenance of the external URL. We’ll set a date soon.

The reality is, we can’t merely be accepting of change in this environment, we have to seek it out. As always, we’re available for questions, insights, and ideas.

Brian and David

McGrory to staff: Please come to Newton (and Peabody)

The Boston Globe‘s previous home-delivery vendor, Publishers Circulation Fulfillment, was not supposed to be back on the job until today or Monday. So there was not much reason to expect a dramatic improvement—and there wasn’t. I received a copy of this email from editor Brian McGrory to the staff earlier this evening. It was sent out a few minutes after 5 a.m.

Subject: Help needed ASAP

Just got a call that there are thousands of undelivered papers sitting in the Newton distribution center. We need help. Anyone who wants to show up between now and, say, 9 — the earlier the better for obvious reasons — will be very welcomed.

It’s 15 Riverdale Avenue in Newton.

Am told there’s help also needed in Peabody, but not as much. Probably about 8 routes.

That’s 200 Corporate Place, Peabody.

If you’re going, hit reply all. Partners can be found and paired up on site. Sorry and thanks.

Brian

I’m guessing that things will be a lot better around mid-week. That’s when PCF is supposed to be fully geared up, splitting the delivery territory with the new vendor, ACI Media Group.

Meanwhile, the Globe ran an excellent front-page story today on the hard lot of delivery drivers..

Michael Kranish leaves Boston Globe for Washington Post

Michael Kranish. Photo via Twitter.

Michael Kranish. Photo via Twitter.

Longtime Boston Globe reporter Michael Kranish is leaving for The Washington Post, where he will be reunited with former Globe editor Marty Baron, now the Post’s executive editor. Kranish is currently deputy chief of the Globe’s Washington bureau. Here’s the Post’s announcement:

We’re thrilled to announce that Michael Kranish will join The Washington Post as an investigative political reporter, bringing his formidable reporting and writing talents to what is already the best politics staff in American journalism.

Michael is known for anchoring the Boston Globe’s peerless in-depth biographical explorations of presidential candidates and for an impressive body of work that combines a strong focus on accountability with a gift for narrative writing. Currently deputy chief of the Globe’s Washington bureau, he has covered Congress, the White House and national politics for more than 25 years.

He was a co-winner of the 2013 Dirksen award for a series on Washington dysfunction for which he was a project leader, writing many of the stories and editing others, and has been the main writer of the Globe’s excellent 2015 series, “Divided Nation,” which has explored income inequality, racial disharmony and other areas of American discord.

His definitive piece this year on Jeb Bush’s colorful time at Andover drew a wide readership and was all the more remarkable because Michael produced it under a tight, self-imposed deadline, driven by concern that The Post might scoop him on an important political story in the Globe’s backyard. “Let’s just say I needed every one of the eight days I had,” he says.

Michael is a co-author of books that Globe reporters produced on John Kerry and Mitt Romney. He’s also the author of a work of history, “Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War,” published by Oxford University Press in 2010.

Before moving to Washington in 1988, Michael covered New England from a bureau in Concord, N.H. and business from the Boston newsroom. His run at the Globe was preceded by jobs at the Miami Herald, where his reporting helped prompt Miami Beach to abandon its plan to tear down part of what is now known as the historic Art Deco district in South Beach, and the Lakeland Ledger in Lakeland, FL.

A DC-area native and a devoted cyclist, Michael enjoys rolling with the peloton up MacArthur Boulevard early on weekend mornings. He and his wife, Sylvia, are the parents of two daughters and live in Silver Spring.

Michael will start Jan. 4. Please join us in welcoming him to our new newsroom.

Update: And here is Globe editor Brian McGrory’s memo to the staff:

The Globe makes some headway on digital subscriptions

Photo (cc) by Tom Cole.

Photo (cc) by Tom Cole.

Also published at WGBHNews.org.

Newspaper analyst Ken Doctor takes a look at The Boston Globe’s strategy of charging 99 cents a day for digital access and pronounces it promising. Indeed, at a time when advertising in print newspapers is on the decline and digital advertising seems unlikely ever to make up the difference, it seems clear that large regional newspapers like the Globe have got to persuade their audience to pick up a bigger share of the tab if they’re going to survive.

The article is well worth reading in full. Here are a few takeaways.

1. As Doctor notes, The New York Times now has more than 1 million digital-only subscribers. The Globe has just 65,000. That’s not a gap — it’s a chasm. Yet the Globe has proved to be the most successful regional paper in the country at selling digital subscriptions. Doctor attributes the difference to dramatically less interest in local and regional news than in national and international news.

Doctor adds: “The Globe, under editor Brian McGrory’s direction, produces a high volume of high-quality content each day.” True. Unfortunately, you can pick up the regional paper in nearly any city and find a lot less than what you’ll find in the Globe, which would make the dollar-a-day strategy a dubious proposition in most places.

2. Who exactly is paying 99 cents a day for the digital Globe? Not me. We’ve been subscribers since the 1980s. We currently receive the Sunday print edition, which gives us seven-day digital access. The price has crept up gradually, but we’re still paying just $19.96 a month. That works out to a little less than 66 cents a day.

My point is that the Globe does not have 65,000 readers paying 99 cents a day for digital access. Some percentage of them are paying less than that. Doctor does make it clear that there’s a transition in the works, but he doesn’t break down the numbers. Eventually, he adds, the Globe needs to hit 200,000 digital subscribers in order to claim success.

3. The big question, which Doctor doesn’t broach, is whether anyone under 40 is even interested in an aggregated news package, or if instead they’re content to get news from a variety of different sources such as Facebook or Apple News. By far the biggest challenge faced by the news business as we used to know it is not the shift from print to digital, but from reliance on a few branded news organizations to a cacophony mediated by tech companies.

In other words, what the Globe is doing may well work for older subscribers like me. But what happens when people in their 20s and 30s, whose main exposure to the Globe is through social sharing, enter their 40s and 50s? Are they going to change their news consumption habits? Probably not.