The Washington Post faced a lot of questions after Ezra Klein packed up and took his talents to Vox Media. Were Jeff Bezos and company making a Politico-level mistake in not finding a way to keep Klein, the founder of Wonkblog, under its own roof? Or was Klein making unreasonable demands — reportedly a $10 million investment for a much bigger staff?
My own view is that the two sides should have found a way to keep Klein loosely affiliated with the Post, although I have no way of knowing whether that was a realistic option.
In any event, I’m burying the lede. On Wednesday the Post went a long way toward answering those questions by announcing a significant investment in its news operations. Wonkblog will continue. And according to a memo to the staff from executive editor Marty Baron, a considerable amount of hiring and expansion is under way, including more blogs, a breaking-news desk and an expanded Sunday magazine.
“With these initiatives, we can all look forward to a future of great promise,” Baron wrote. (Thanks to Jim Romenesko, who also links to a Washingtonian story in which Post publisher Katharine Weymouth offers further insight into Klein’s departure.)
In an interview with Ravi Somaiya of The New York Times, Baron says of Bezos: “He hasn’t been passive. He’s heavily engaged, keenly interested in what our ideas are. He offered his own thoughts and expressed a willingness to invest.”
These are very good signs at a time when the news about the news is more favorable than anything we’ve heard in years (Patch’s latest near-death experience notwithstanding). Whether such optimism is warranted will be the media story of 2014 and beyond.
Photo is a screen grab from an appearance then-Boston Globe editor Baron made on WGBH-TV’s “Greater Boston with Emily Rooney” in 2009.
Based on recent statements they’ve made, I’m wondering if Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron may have a more sophisticated view of what the Internet has done to newspapers than the Post’s incoming owner, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos.
Bezos, who visited the Post’s newsroom earlier this month, seemed to endorse a classic paywall model, arguing that he was convinced people were willing to pay for the “daily ritual bundle” that The Washington Post represents. That brought a retort from Post blogger Timothy B. Lee, who wrote:
That daily ritual got blown up for good reason. Trying to recreate the “bundle” experience in Web or tablet form means working against the grain of how readers, especially younger readers, consume the news today. In the long run, it’s a recipe for an aging readership and slow growth.
Indeed, many news observers have been arguing for years that one of the Internet’s most profound effects on journalism is “disaggregation” — that in a post-industrial environment, with news no longer tied to the enormous costs of printing and distribution, it makes no sense for international and local news, obituaries and comics, grocery store coupons and the crossword puzzle all to appear in the same place.
Baron, the editor of The Boston Globe until late last year, comes up with another metaphor, not original to him but nevertheless key to understanding what has happened — the decline of geographic communities and the rise of communities built around shared interests. In an interview with fellows from the Joan Shorenstein Center for the Press, Politics and Public Policy, at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Baron talks about the difficulty of putting together (to cite one example) a newspaper sports section for Red Sox fans when there are speciality media devoted to nothing but sports.
This development, Baron says, was furthered by the rise of Twitter and other social media, which bring readers in to a news site to read just one article. How can news organizations make money from that? Baron puts it this way:
My sense is that people are going to their passions. Their passions aren’t always based on geography. Newspapers have traditionally been based on geography. We have a community here. We have a community in Miami, a community in Boston, a community in Los Angeles. The assumption was that people were members of that community actually would want to have a product that covered the full range of things in that community. What I observed over time was that, in fact, the sense of community wasn’t nearly as strong as the other passions that people had. In fact, community wasn’t necessarily such a strong passion. It was much more important to them that they were an aficionado of a particular type of music, or that they were a member of a particular religious denomination or that they were obsessed with a particular sports team, than the fact that they lived in Los Angeles.
Unlike some journalists, Baron thinks it was perfectly logical to give away news for free in the early years of the Internet, both because of the need to get big online in a hurry and because there was every reason to believe that advertising would pay the bills. It was only after ad revenues failed to materialize (and even began to drop because of the ubiquity of online ads), he says, that news organizations reluctantly moved to paywalls.
The transcript of Baron’s full interview is here, and it is well worth reading — or watching, as there is a video version of the interview as well.
Baron was one of 61 people interviewed for “Riptide,” a project carried out by Shorenstein fellows John Huey, Martin Nisenholtz and Paul Sagan. (The site was designed by the Nieman Journalism Lab, which also hosts it — but which played no role in the editorial content, as Lab director Joshua Benton explains.) “Riptide” is a comprehensive, valuable resource — but it has proved to be controversial since its release because it’s not comprehensive enough.
As Kira Goldenberg writes for the Columbia Journalism Review, all but five of the 61 interview subjects are men, and only two of the subjects are non-white. Goldenberg says that efforts have begun to produce a counter-report that will be more diverse. In offering a few nominations of her own, Northeastern University graduate student Meg Heckman adds:
It’s unfortunate that, in telling the latest chapter of journalism history in a fresh, narrative format, the authors of Riptide make an old mistake by continuing to devalue the contributions of women.
My own view is that “Riptide” represents a good start — but that there’s no reason for Huey, Nisenholtz and Sagan not to keep going so that it eventually grows into a truly comprehensive, diverse history of how the Internet disrupted journalism.
(Disclosures, of which there are several: I am an unpaid contributing writer for the Nieman Journalism Lab. I have long had a friendly relationship with folks at the Nieman Foundation and at the Shorenstein Center. Heckman is a student of mine, and I am a student of hers.)
Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory announced several changes to the masthead earlier today. The most significant: managing editor Caleb Solomon will become managing editor for digital to “oversee our rapidly evolving websites and portable platforms,” as McGrory put it in a memo to the newsroom.
Solomon was thought by some to be in the mix as a possible successor to Marty Baron when Baron left the paper late last year to take charge of the Washington Post. The position went to McGrory instead.
With Solomon shifting to the online side, Christine Chinlund will move up from deputy managing editor for news operations to managing editor for news. McGrory writes that Chinlund was his editor when he was the Globe’s national reporter — “though I don’t think she remembers, which, admittedly, sort of hurts.”
Getting a title enhancement is Mark Morrow, deputy managing editor for Sunday and projects, who will become senior deputy managing editor.
Combined with McGrory’s recent changes at Boston.com and BostonGlobe.com, it seems pretty clear that he’s determined to make his mark even as the New York Times Co. shops the paper around to prospective buyers. It calls to mind Baron’s steady hand during the tumult of 2009, when the Times Co. threatened to close the Globe, demanded $20 million in concessions from the paper’s unions, and then put it up for sale only to pull it back.
The full text of McGrory’s memo, a copy of which was sent to Media Nation earlier today, is below.
I’m excited to share some changes in the newsroom leadership.
I’ve asked Caleb Solomon, the managing editor for the past five years, to switch his focus to our digital operation and oversee our rapidly evolving websites and portable platforms as managing editor/digital. He has enthusiastically agreed.
This is an important role, vital actually, to the way our work is read and viewed by the region and the world, and key to our future in every imaginable way. The Globe has for years been at the vanguard of the digital news revolution, first with boston.com in 1995, and then with the introduction of Bostonglobe.com and the two brands web strategy in 2011. Now we’re in the process of sorting out the sites, untangling the content, and creating stronger identities that can mutually thrive with different revenue models. Caleb will shepherd this from the newsroom perspective. He’ll be our eyes and ears in the Nieman and MIT media labs, as well as in our own, and search high and low for what works and what doesn’t. Caleb, having arrived here from the Wall Street Journal in 2003, had an extraordinarily successful run as the Globe’s business editor. We worked together when he was the deputy managing editor for enterprise, and I worked for him when he ascended to be managing editor. My admiration has grown with every passing year and job. Caleb possesses the talent to see long distances and the innate ability to get things done. To that end, he has always viewed digital as the future, evidenced when he created a digital-first philosophy in business that served as a model for the rest of the paper. As managing editor, he was the hands-on editorial force behind the advent of Bostonglobe.com, which has won every accolade under the sun, as well as our highly decorated video operation. He’s already been more indispensable than merely valuable in my short time in this role, and that will flourish in his new position.
I’ve asked Chris Chinlund, the deputy managing editor for news operations, to assume the role of managing editor/news. There’s no one I could imagine more up to this critical job, with impeccable news judgment, journalism values of the highest order, and hands-on editing skills that are on sharp display night in, night out. There’s also the matter of her experience. Investigative background? Chris was part of the Spotlight Team that exposed Whitey Bulger as an FBI informant. National politics? She covered the 1988 presidential campaign as a reporter and was the editor overseeing the 1992 race. World news? She served as foreign editor after the September 11 attacks. She’s also been a New England reporter, suburban reporter and editor, and assistant health science editor in her 30 years at the Globe. She worked a memorable stint as our final ombudsman, and was the editor of the dearly departed Focus section. She was my editor when I was a national reporter way back when, though I don’t think she remembers, which, admittedly, sort of hurts. Chris worked in my shop when I was Metro editor, we worked alongside each other when she became deputy managing editor, and she was my editor again during a second stint as a columnist. All of this gives me pretty good perspective on what we’ll be getting as she ascends to the position of managing editor, and what we’ll be getting is nothing shy of great. She’s also, as each and every person in here well knows, a world class colleague.
I’ve asked Mark Morrow, the deputy managing editor for Sunday and projects, to become a senior deputy managing editor, keeping a similar portfolio. With this new status, Mark has fresh license to interject his trademark creativity across an even broader spectrum of Globe work. As we all know and appreciate, Mark has been the senior editor on just about every distinctive Globe project for the past decade, including the fallout to our Pulitzer Prize winning Catholic Church series, the Partners Health Care Spotlight series, the Probation Department series, and most recently, the 68 Blocks narrative and the Immigration series. He has also overseen and edited two major Globe books, on Mitt Romney and Whitey Bulger, both to critical acclaim. Name it, Mark has delved deeply into it, with wordsmithing skills and perspective that are unrivaled in my time at the Globe. Add to this the fact that week after week, Mark oversees the critical Sunday paper, the showcase for some of our best work. I have already sought Mark’s wise counsel on a constant basis and tapped into his steady stream of ideas, and that will only increase in this enhanced position.
It’s a real tribute to the breadth and depth of this newsroom that journalists of this caliber are ready-made for the task ahead. I’m excited about these changes, very much so. You should be as well. They are effective immediately. Now let’s continue the great and important work of the Globe.
One morning in February 2000, I was killing time at a conference center in South Carolina, where I had showed up at a campaign event for George W. Bush. Sitting on the carpeted floor, banging away at his laptop, was Glen Johnson, then with the Associated Press.
I was covering the media campaign. The press that year was in love with the insurgent Republican, John McCain, whose caravan I had connected with earlier in the week. Johnson and I talked.
“The Bush people really feel that McCain has gotten a free ride, or an easier ride than Bush has,” he told me. It was a telling quote, and it made its way into the story I was writing for The Boston Phoenix.
Johnson, who worked two stints each at the AP and The Boston Globe, got his start in Massachusetts at The Sun of Lowell and The Salem News. On Thursday, he announced that he was leaving the Globe, where he was politics editor of Boston.com, in order to take a senior position with incoming Secretary of State John Kerry.
“It is a humbling opportunity, especially in these turbulent times,” Johnson wrote, “but one that I embrace with relish.”
And thus departs another piece of the Globe’s institutional memory.
The big departure during the past year, of course, was that of Globe editor Marty Baron, now executive editor of The Washington Post. But other veterans have continued to trickle out as well, with Johnson being only the latest.
Two more who will be missed:
• Brian Mooney, a longtime political reporter who covered the national, state and local scenes with aplomb. Mooney is as accomplished a writer as he is a reporter.
I still remember a piece he wrote on former Boston mayor Ray Flynn’s frenzied Primary Day sprint in his failed 1998 congressional campaign, and I wish it were freely available online. Mooney was also an outspoken union advocate when, in 2009, the New York Times Co. threatened to shut down the Globe unless it could use Garcinia Cambogia extract for some $20 million in union givebacks. (The Times Co. eventually got its way.) I still consider this to be a legendary moment in Media Nation history.
• Alex Beam, a veteran lifestyle columnist who was among the Globe’s very few writers who could make you laugh. Beam took a book leave last year and decided during a round of downsizing that he’d rather retire than go back.
In 2003 Beam wrote a column about three writers named Dan Kennedy. I’m DK1, and he describes the dilemma I faced launching a book alongside a get-rich-quick artist (DK3) and a humorist with a McSweeney’s connection (DK2).
“I planned to stay on the deck ’til the ship went down, but managers apparently wanted the budget cut more,” he recently told me via Facebook. “We were all ‘targeted’ for ‘voluntary’ buyouts, and many were happy to have them.”
• Finally, the paper’s terrific editorial cartoonist, Dan Wasserman, has sort of left, but not in a way that will affect readers. He has retired from the Globe, but continues to work out of 135 Morrissey Blvd. as a contract contributor.
“More freedom for me, less overhead for the paper,” Wasserman told me, also via Facebook. “I do a Sunday local cartoon and continue to draw syndicated cartoons that the Globe picks up several times a week.”
More: I’m a political junkie, not a movie buff. But I shouldn’t let pass the opportunity to note that Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Wesley Morris departed for Grantland recently.
McGrory drew praise inside and outside the Globe for his performance as metro editor several years ago. Although he returned to his slot as a metro columnist following three years on the job, that may have been the last ticket he needed punched given his previous experience as a local reporter, White House correspondent and roving national reporter.
McGrory is just the sixth Globe editor of the modern era, dating back to the 1960s. He follows, in chronological order, Tom Winship, Michael Janeway, Jack Driscoll, Matt Storin and Baron.
McGrory takes over the newsroom at a time when the future of the Globe is unclear. Although the Baron era was a journalistic success highlighted by six Pulitzer Prizes, the Globe, like all newspapers, is unsteady financially. The Globe’s owner, the New York Times Co., is thought to be almost certain to sell the paper at some point, though it is not believed to be actively shopping it at the moment.
Here is the press release the Globe sent out a little while ago:
Brian McGrory, a 23-year veteran of The Boston Globe who led groundbreaking coverage of corruption as an editor, and writes with depth and texture about the region as a columnist, has been named the next editor of The Boston Globe, effective immediately.
Mr. McGrory, 51, will report to Christopher M. Mayer, Globe Publisher. A Boston native, he will be charged with running the newsroom for The Boston Globe and BostonGlobe.com and the newsroom’s contribution to Boston.com.
“Brian has distinguished himself throughout his career at the Globe as a reporter, editor and columnist and as a native of Boston, he is the ideal candidate to lead the Globe’s newsroom,” said Mr. Mayer. “Brian will continue to emphasize the accountability reporting that has been the Globe’s trademark, combined with narrative storytelling that gives readers a strong sense of our unique community.”
“This is a great honor to guide the Boston Globe news operations, since I grew up delivering the Globe, then reading the Globe, and later writing for the Globe,” said Mr. McGrory. “It is also a great honor to work with my colleagues and build on what I believe is the best metro newspaper in America.”
Mr. McGrory joined the Globe in 1989 as one of the first reporters hired into the South Weekly section. Since then, he has covered the city of Boston as a general assignment reporter, served as White House correspondent, and as a roving national correspondent. In 1998, he became a metro columnist, and quickly made his mark as a must read. He was named associate editor in 2004.
In 2007, he was named deputy managing editor for local news. He led the metro staff in a comprehensive investigation of corruption and cronyism on Beacon Hill that eventually led to resignations and indictments.
Governor Deval Patrick and the State Legislature passed a pension reform bill after an investigation by the Globe revealed public pension abuses, coverage that brought Sean Murphy recognition as a finalist for the Goldsmith Investigative Reporting Prize by the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University. Under McGrory, the newsroom also reported extensively on a city system that bestowed benefits on favored developers.
He directed wide-ranging, sensitive coverage of Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s struggle with brain cancer, his death, and his funeral.
McGrory steered the metro staff to new levels of narrative journalism, stressing the value of vivid and detailed storytelling in an era when consumers have many media choices. An 8,000-word narrative about a pair of sisters who died in an arson fire in South Boston after years of neglect won the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism and led to widespread reforms in government services for children.
After nearly three years as metro editor, he resumed his twice-a-week metro front column, where he has regularly enlightened readers about the quirks and character of the community and held public officials and business leaders accountable. He is the author of a memoir and four novels.
“During his tenure as metro editor, Brian built a strong team of reporters and editors and imbued the newsroom with a competitive spirit. Day after day, Brian and his team delivered award-winning journalism, in print and online,” Mayer added.
McGrory was raised in Roslindale and Weymouth. He received a B.A. from Bates College in Maine, and worked early in his career at the New Haven Register and The Patriot Ledger in Quincy.
Former Globe managing editor Greg Moore has been named the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year by the National Press Foundation for his leadership of the Denver Post. Moore was recently seen in the vicinity of the Globe, according to several people I’ve spoken with, although there’s also talk that he has no desire to return to Boston.
This is a very smart move for the Post and for Baron, who’ll have the opportunity to rebuild a faded brand. Not that long ago, the New York Times and the Post were invariably mentioned in the same breath. There’s still a lot of great journalism in the Post, but the paper these days lags well behind the Times.
Brauchli, a former editor of the Wall Street Journal, got off to a rocky start at the Post. In 2009 he and then-new publisher Weymouth got embroiled in very bad idea: to put together paid “salons” featuring Post journalists, corporate executives and White House officials. As I wrote in the Guardian, there was evidence that Brauchli knew more about the salons than he was letting on.
I take Weymouth’s decision to replace Brauchli with Baron — and Baron’s decision to accept the offer — as a sign that she’s grown in the job and was able to assure Baron of it.
Baron arrived at the Globe in July 2001 to replace the retiring Matt Storin. (Here’s what I wrote about the transition for the Boston Phoenix.) Baron was executive editor of the Miami Herald before coming to the Globe, but he also had extensive experience at the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. Many observers believed his stint in Boston would be relatively short, and indeed he was considered for a top job at the Times less than two years later.
Instead, Baron ended up staying in Boston for more than 11 years, winning six Pulitzers, including the public service award in 2003 for the Globe’s coverage of the Catholic pedophile-priest scandal. He has been a solid, steady presence — a journalist with high standards who made his mark at a time when the newspaper business, including the Globe, was steadily shrinking. He also gets digital.
Last February, at an event honoring him as the recipient of the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award, Baron told journalists they should stand up against the fear and intimidation to which they have been subjected. You’ll find the full text of his speech here, but here’s an excerpt:
In this environment, too many news organizations are holding back, out of fear — fear that we will be saddled with an uncomfortable political label, fear that we will be accused of bias, fear that we will be portrayed as negative, fear that we will lose customers, fear that advertisers will run from us, fear that we will be assailed as anti-this or anti-that, fear that we will offend someone, anyone. Fear, in short, that our weakened financial condition will be made weaker because we did something strong and right, because we simply told the truth and told it straight.
What’s good news for the Post is less than good news for the Globe. A new editor after 11 years of Baron would not necessarily be a bad thing, as every institution can benefit from change. But at this point it’s unclear who the candidates might be, and whether the next editor will come from inside or outside the Globe. And whoever gets picked will have a tough act to follow.
Baron will be a successor to the legendary Ben Bradlee and all that represents — the Pentagon Papers, Watergate and a boatload of Pulitzers. I think he was an inspired choice, and I wish him the best.
More: Peter Kadzis of The Phoenix has a must-read blog post on Baron’s departure. Great quote from an unnamed source: “On an existential level, I wonder if Marty gives a shit. He’s like a character out of Camus.”
This is potentially a big story, and not a good one for the Boston Globe. Forbes media reporter Jeff Bercovici writes that Globe editor Marty Baron is among several people being wooed to replace Washington Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli. (Bercovici notes that Baron’s name had already come up in a gossip item in the Washingtonian.)
The combination of publisher Katharine Weymouth, granddaughter of the legendary Katharine Graham, and Brauchli, a former top editor at the Wall Street Journal, has not been a happy one, as I wrote in the Guardian in 2009. Despite continuing to produce great journalism, in recent years the Post has seemed lost at the top, and its status as a serious competitor to the New York Times is but a distant memory.
Baron, who has been editor of the Globe for more than 11 years, would, in my view, be a significant upgrade for the Post. He’s done a great job at the Globe, and has emerged as something of a conscience of the industry on the strength of speeches like this and this. Before coming to the Globe he’d been the top editor at the Miami Herald. But he’s also got significant experience at the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, so he shouldn’t have any trouble adjusting to having more resources at his disposal.
Unfortunately, Baron’s departure would not be good at all for the Globe and those of us who read it every day. And it doesn’t help that it comes at a time when questions are swirling about how long the New York Times Co. intends to hang onto the paper.
Following the Globe’s crisis summer of 2009, when the Times Co. threatened to shut it down if the paper’s unions wouldn’t agree to $20 million in concessions, and when the paper was put on the market and then pulled back, it has enjoyed a period of calm and stability, especially compared to other large regional dailies.
Clicking led to a blog post by Globe political reporter Matt Viser, who had covered an event by Mitt Romney in Washington at the Newseum, a museum about journalism and the importance of the First Amendment. Toward the end, as Baron noted, came this rather startling paragraph:
Romney stayed to take questions. But following his 28-minute address — held at the Newseum, which is situated between the US Capitol and the White House — reporters were escorted out of the room and weren’t allowed to listen to the questions.
In the Newseum? The irony couldn’t have been any thicker. (And not just Romney. See update below.) As Huffington Post media reporter Michael Calderone put it a short time later:
Media blogger Jim Romenesko wrote that he contacted Newseum spokesman Jonathan Thompson and “suggested … that the Newseum put a clause in its room-rental contracts requiring journalists be respected in the House of Journalism — for example, not be marched out of a room when it’s time for politicians to face questions.” Please click to read Thompson’s response, but the short version is that Rosen’s prediction was on the mark. You’ll also see my suggestion for how Thompson should have responded.
So those are the facts. What are we to make of this?
First, I’m inclined to give the Romney campaign half a pass here. It is hardly unusual for presidential candidates to hold events from which the media are excluded. You may recall that one of the worst moments of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign was when he complained to supporters at a no-media event about Pennsylvanians who “cling to guns or religion.” In that case, a supporter named Mayhill Fowler, who also blogged for the Huffington Post, decided to write it up.
But Romney only gets half a pass because he and his handlers should have known that excluding reporters from an event in the “House of Journalism,” as Romenesko called it, would create unwanted controversy in a way that excluding them from a fundraiser in a hotel banquet hall wouldn’t.
Second, and more important, the Newseum’s response was reprehensible. I’m reasonably sure officials there didn’t know Romney was going to lower the cone of silence. Maybe it’s never happened before. But the proper response would have been to express chagrin and promise that steps would be taken to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Reporters should never be kicked out of an event at the Newseum, whether it’s private or public. But as of this writing there’s been nothing from the Newseum other than Thompson’s statement and this tweet from Thursday:
No doubt the Newseum needs the rent money. According to its tax filings for 2010, the most recent that’s publicly available at GuideStar, the museum took in $73.4 million and spent $78.8 million, for a deficit of $5.4 million.
On Thursday, though, Newseum officials stepped in it in a way that could end up costing them a lot more in future donations than they’ve ever made in private rentals. My guess is the proverbial high-level conversations are taking place right now.
Update: Politico media reporter Dylan Byers takes a swipe at Calderone, his predecessor in the job, saying that Obama “did the exact same thing” at the Newseum back in March. Yes, it should have been news then. And it only underscores that it’s long past time for the Newseum to prohibit private groups that rent its facilities from banning reporters from their events.
Photo (cc) by David Monack and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.