Within moments of the announcement that The Boston Globe had won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting, Martine Powers tweeted from the newsroom. “This was a story none of us wanted to cover,” she quoted editor Brian McGrory as saying. The staff, she said, then observed a moment of silence at McGrory’s request for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.
The Globe easily could have won two or three Pulitzers for its coverage of the bombings and their aftermath. The breaking-news award, of course, was well-deserved, and frankly it was unimaginable that it would go to anyone else. But the paper also had worthy marathon-related finalists in Breaking News Photography (John Tlumacki and David L. Ryan) as well as Commentary (Kevin Cullen, who emerged as the voice and conscience of the city after the attack).
McGrory’s classy response to winning underscores the sad reality that the Globe’s excellent coverage was driven by a terrible tragedy — the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001. (The Globe was also a finalist in Editorial Writing, as Dante Ramos was honored for a non-marathon-related topic: improving the city’s night life.)
The Pulitzer also caps what has been a remarkable year for the Globe. On Marathon Monday 2013, McGrory was relatively untested as editor and the paper’s prospects were uncertain, as the New York Times Co. was trying to unload it for the second time in four years.
The Globe’s marathon coverage — widely praised long before today’s Pulitzers were announced — have defined McGrory’s brief term as editor as surely as the paper’s pedophile-priest coverage (which earned a Pulitzer for Public Service) defined Marty Baron’s. Moreover, the Globe now has a local, deep-pockets owner in John Henry who’s willing to invest in journalism.
But the focus should be on Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu and Sean Collier, as well as their families and all the other survivors. Good for McGrory for reminding everyone of that.
A couple of other Pulitzer notes:
• A lot of observers were waiting to see whether the judges would honor the stories based on the Edward Snowden leaks. They did, as the Pulitzer for Public Service went to The Guardian and The Washington Post.
Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, then affiliated with The Guardian and now with the start-up First Look Media, as well as Barton Gellman of the Post, were the recipients of the Snowden leaks, which revealed a vast U.S. spying apparatus keeping track of ordinary citizens and world leaders both in the United States and abroad.
The choice is bound to be controversial in some circles. U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., has already called the award “a disgrace.” But it was the ultimate example of journalism speaking truth to power, and thus was a worthy choice.
The Pulitzer process can be mysterious. But it would be interesting to see if someone can pry some information out of the judges to find out why they believed there wasn’t a single feature story in 2013 worthy of journalism’s highest honor.
Later today the Pulitzer Prizes will be announced. And it seems likely that The Boston Globe will win at least one — maybe more — for its coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing and its aftermath.
So it seems fitting that, on Sunday and today, the Globe published a two-part feature that may be a contender for a 2015 Pulitzer. Written by David Abel and photographed by Jessica Rinaldi, with a video produced by Abel and Scott LaPierre, the package tells the story of the Richards, the Dorchester family that more than any other has come to symbolize the region’s heart-breaking loss and resilience.
In reading the first part, I noticed that Abel offered little in the way of the Richards’ experience when the bombs went off and took the lives of three people, including 8-year-old Martin Richard. (Martin’s sister, Jane, lost part of her left leg. Their parents, Bill and Denise, were injured as well. Their brother, Henry, was not injured physically.)
Toward the end of part two, Abel tells the story — and does it with great sensitivity and craftsmanship.
The phrase “Boston Strong” has been misappropriated by many. Last fall I actually saw it flash on a sign outside a liquor store, followed by that day’s specials. Good grief.
Later this year the Banyan Project is scheduled to roll out its first cooperatively owned news site in the city of Haverhill, to be called Haverhill Matters. Banyan founder Tom Stites’ vision is to serve what he calls “news deserts” — low- and moderate-income communities, mainly urban, that are underserved by traditional media. What follows is the first of several blog posts in which I will attempt to assess the media landscape in Haverhill as it exists today.
The Eagle-Tribune, whose headquarters are in North Andover but which is historically associated with Lawrence, publishes seven days a week, including a separate Haverhill edition every day except Monday and Saturday. The Gazette, founded in 1821, was an independent daily for much of its history. A newspaper strike in 1957 led to a debilitating battle with the notoriously right-wing publisher William Loeb, who launched a rival daily, the Haverhill Journal. As described in a recent essay by Tim Coco, president and general manager of the nonprofit radio station WHAV, by the mid-’60s the Journal had ceased to publish and the Gazette was left in a diminished state. The Eagle-Tribune acquired the Gazette in 1998 and converted it to a weekly.
According to the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM), The Eagle-Tribune’s average paid circulation for the six-month period ending March 31 of this year was 33,296 on Sundays and 32,101 on weekdays. As with many papers, circulation has been dropping in recent years; for the same six-month period ending on March 31, 2010, circulation was 40,800 on Sundays and 39,947 on weekdays. It is worth noting that all or most of The Eagle-Tribune’s content is available for free at its website, www.eagletribune.com.
No paid circulation figures are available from the AAM for either the Haverhill edition of The Eagle-Tribune or for The Haverhill Gazette. Currently, though the Eagle-Tribune Publishing Co. is telling prospective advertisers that the Gazette has a circulation of 3,900 (pdf) — down from 6,350 in 2007 (pdf). Eagle-Tribune editor Al White declined my request for an interview. But according to a knowledgeable source, The Eagle-Tribune’s circulation in Haverhill is somewhere around 5,000, perhaps a bit less.
Despite its relatively modest size, The Eagle-Tribune has a distinguished history, having won Pulitzer Prizes in 1988 and 2003. Both of those awards predated CNHI’s 2005 acquisition of the paper and its affiliated newspapers, which include three other dailies — The Daily News of Newburyport, The Salem News and the Gloucester Daily Times. In recent years, those papers — like many newspapers nationally — have undergone several rounds of layoffs and budget cuts. Since 2009, editorial staff members have been required to take unpaid furloughs for one week each quarter, according to several sources inside the company.
In Haverhill, CNHI’s cuts hit home in March 2012 when the downtown office was closed. “It has always been my goal to put as many people under as few roofs as possible while maintaining the quality of our newspapers,” then-publisher Al Getler wrote in a message to readers, adding: “With today’s technology, our reporters no longer need to sit behind a desk in an office to get their job accomplished.”
The loss of a downtown presence, though, meant that residents could not drop by with news items or story tips. Some newspaper owners hold a different view regarding the desirability of a downtown presence. For instance, the New Haven Register, which no longer needs its office-park location after outsourcing its printing to the Hartford Courant in 2012, is looking to relocate to a downtown office so that it would be more accessible to the public, according to an article by Paul Bass of the New Haven Independent.
With very few exceptions, virtually all Haverhill articles in both The Eagle-Tribune and the Gazette are produced by two staff reporters, itself a diminution from years past. An editor at The Eagle-Tribune spends most of his time overseeing Haverhill coverage.
In most communities served by a daily and a weekly, the papers compete for stories. But in Haverhill, common ownership has led to a different approach — mostly hard news in The Eagle-Tribune and soft features in the Gazette. Thus Haverhill readers must buy both papers if they wish to be fully informed.
In my experience, content analyses are of limited value since qualities such as accuracy, context and thoroughness are difficult to assess without deep knowledge of a community. Nevertheless, I examined the two papers’ Haverhill coverage for April of this year. What follows are a few observations about each.
Daily coverage focused heavily on governmental sources of news. I counted 55 bylined stories that were entirely about or mostly about Haverhill. Of these, 20 emanated from city hall; 10 involved public safety or the courts; and six involved the school committee or other school authorities. Enterprise stories — that is, stories generated solely by journalists and not tied to any particular event — were virtually non-existent.
April, of course, was the month when the Boston Marathon bombings took place. The Haverhill edition ran several related articles, including one on a vigil and another on six Haverhill police officers who assisted with operations in Watertown, where bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was ultimately taken into custody.
Routine police news and press releases are published inside the Haverhill edition. “Haverhill in a Minute,” a round-up of such items, lets people know what’s going on in the community, with announcements from organizations such as Northern Essex Community College, churches and various civic organizations.
Also during April there were three unsigned editorials that touched on Haverhill topics and several letters to the editor from Haverhill residents.
The Haverhill Gazette
The Gazette each week comprises 14 pages that are geared toward light features and photo essays. Characteristic features during April included a story on how reduced fees were leading more Haverhill High School students to play sports; the rise of outdoor dining at downtown restaurants, attributed to an initiative by Mayor James Fiorentini; and a volunteer effort to repair 15 homes owned by low-income or disabled residents.
Every week the front page includes an anonymously written column called The Lamp Post, a breezy compilation of observations, shoutouts and mild gossip. An example: “Drivers waiting at red lights at the intersection of Ginty and Bailey boulevards are getting frustrated, and who can blame them?” Another example: “Sacred Hearts School had a celebration to kick off the Red Sox home opener on Monday. The school’s kindergarten classes had a special lunch and activities, including a parade.”
The Gazette also includes a much longer, more complete version of the police log, parts of which also appear in the daily Haverhill edition; editorials; historical photos; a column by a retired local journalist; listings from the local council on aging and Haverhill Community Television; and large photo essays on youth sports and other activities.
In terms of quantity, types of stories covered and general approach, the two papers offer local journalism that — based on my experience as a longtime observer of local journalism — is no better and no worse than what is available in many communities.
What comes across is a certain comprehensiveness to the coverage, especially involving city government, but a lack of voices from the community and from the city’s neighborhoods. The bifurcated nature of the coverage is a problem, as it essentially requires residents to read both papers. The Gazette, by highlighting positive news in the community, fulfills some of the civic engagement functions of journalism better than The Eagle-Tribune. But that advantage is undermined by the absence of hard news.
Because Haverhill Matters is likely to take a different, more hyperlocal approach to coverage than either The Eagle-Tribune or the Gazette, there’s an opportunity for cooperation. For instance, it would not be hard to imagine the two papers’ repurposing some of Haverhill Matters’ neighborhood news on their websites.
For the moment, though, there do not appear to be any plans to form such a relationship. Eagle-Tribune editor White, as I mentioned earlier, declined to be interviewed. But Mike LaBonte, co-chair of the organizing committee for Haverhill Matters, told me in an email that the fledgling site’s expected reliance on paid advertising might preclude a partnership.
“Even though we plan to focus on the news areas they don’t cover well, collaboration may be tough since we are competing for the same ad dollars,” LaBonte said. “Personally I think it will just have to wait until we see what our strengths and weakness are a year or two from now.”
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.”
The Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning exposé of the Catholic pedophile-priest scandal and Cardinal Bernard Law’s role in covering it up could be coming to a multiplex near you.
According to Variety, among those involved are director Tom McCarthy, whose credits include “The Station Agent” and “Win Win,” and writer Josh Singer, known for his work on “The West Wing.” McCarthy reportedly has been working on the project in secret for the past year.
“This is a story that feels like it has to be told,” McCarthy said in an interview with the Globe’s Doug Most. “It’s such a great reminder of how essential investigative journalism is today.”
The news prompted a few tweets from the Globe newsroom and beyond yesterday as staffers and former staffers speculated over which actors will play the editors and reporters who produced the ground-breaking stories.
And here’s your almost completely irrelevant link of the day: In 2003 I interviewed McCarthy (and actor Peter Dinklage) about “The Station Agent,” a romantic comedy whose leading man is a dwarf.
I will confess that I do not usually read film criticism. But after Morris won, I went back and re-read the appreciation he wrote of Steve Jobs’ legacy shortly after the Apple chief executive died. It was smart in all the right ways, expressing the mixed feelings we all have about the overarching place in our lives that we have devoted to our digital devices.
Though I haven’t seen “The Help,” I was interested to see what Morris, an African-American, would make of a film that seems to have sparked ambivalence, especially among black movie-goers. Morris’ review is a meditation on well-meaning whites and the sting of liberal condescension. And the last sentence is a killer.
Boston, fortunately, is still a place where intelligent, literate criticism is read and appreciated. My former professional home, the Boston Phoenix, has long thrived on the strength of its outstanding arts commentary. It matters here, which is one of the reasons that this is such a great place to live and work.
As we all know, professional, informed criticism has ceded substantial ground to bloggers, commenters on Amazon and Yelp, and other unpaid reviewers. There’s a place for such amateur voices, and some of them are quite good. But gifted, deeply informed critics like Morris, Smee and Feeney show why crowdsourced reviews are a valuable supplement — not a substitute.
Jim Romenesko has posted a letter from my friend Susan Ryan-Vollmar on the Boston Phoenix’s groundbreaking work in exposing the pedophile-priest story, and on the Boston Globe’s ongoing silence about the Phoenix’s coverage, which predated the Globe’s by nearly a year.
Susan, Kristen (currently a Nieman Fellow) and I all worked at the Phoenix together and remain friends. I consider Kristen to be the finest reporter I ever worked with. Susan is a first-rate editor who did much to shape and focus Kristen’s stories. Walter Robinson, who was the Globe Spotlight team editor that covered the priest scandal, is now a valued colleague at Northeastern.
But Susan has laid down the gauntlet, and Romenesko has asked Globe editor Marty Baron to respond. This bears watching.
While the Boston Globe’s visual-arts critic, Sebastian Smee, continues to receive well-deserved accolades for his Pulitzer Prize, it is less well-known that another of yesterday’s Pulitzer winners has strong Boston ties, too.
Ellen Barry of the New York Times, who shared the award for international reporting with her Times colleague Clifford Levy, is a former reporter for the Globe and the Boston Phoenix. Ellen and I worked together at the Phoenix in the mid-1990s.
In 1996, she reported from Russia for the Phoenix on Boris Yeltsin’s re-election campaign — and wrote a classic story headlined “Generation Nyet.” The folks at the Phoenix have dug the story of their archives and linked to it anew. It is well worth your time, as is Phoenix editor Carly Carioli’s tribute.
The Boston Globe has won its first Pulitzer in three years. Sebastian Smee, the paper’s visual-arts critic, takes home the prize for criticism. Here is the story the Globe ran when Smee was hired in 2008. Here are links to his reviews.
Another winner with local ties is Ellen Barry of the New York Times, who shares the award for international reporting with her colleague Clifford Levy. Barry worked at both the Boston Phoenix and the Globe before moving to the Times.
The big surprise: no winner in breaking-news reporting.
If you are a weekend Romenesko reader, then you already know that Boston Globe city editor Michael Paulson is leaving for the New York Times, where he’ll edit stories about local politics and religion for metro editor Carolyn Ryan — herself a former Globe reporter and editor. (Both are alumni of the Patriot Ledger in Quincy as well.)
It still seems strange to refer to Paulson as the Globe’s city editor because, before that, he was a very good religion reporter — among the best working for a general-interest publication, in my opinion. He shared in the Globe’s Pulitzer-winning coverage of the sexual-abuse scandals within the Catholic Church, but he also excelled at covering religion-as-religion.
You can read the memo from Globe metro editor Jen Peter at Romenesko. Below is another memo, from Ryan at the Times:
I am very happy to tell you that Michael Paulson, city editor at The Boston Globe, will be joining us as Political Editor in Metro.
Michael has a dazzling array of journalistic gifts: he is imaginative, endlessly energetic, insightful and intelligent.
He was an outstanding reporter, who covered local politics, city hall, Washington, and religion — and helped lead the Globe’s coverage of clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Church, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
But Michael is also a natural editor, of expansive curiosity, sly humor and engaging manner. On the Globe’s metro desk, he has overseen a range of subjects, including transportation, the mayoral election and higher education.
Patrick Healy, a colleague of Michael’s at the Globe, described him as “a rare breed — both tenacious and thoughtful, competitive and determined.”
Michael began his reporting career at the age of 21 amid the cranberry bogs and jaywalking wild turkeys of Halifax, Massachusetts, covering a town of 6,000 people and one traffic light for The Patriot Ledger. He then went to the San Antonio Light in Texas, where he covered politics, and from there moved to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, serving as city hall reporter, state house bureau chief, and, ultimately, as the paper’s correspondent in Washington, D.C.
He joined the Globe in 2000 to cover religion, and wrote with nuance and depth about the intersection of faith, culture and politics. He spent several weeks in France researching Mitt Romney’s experience there as a Mormon missionary and traveled to Dearborn to write about Muslims and Arab Christians in the 2008 election. He also captured the complicated role of the Catholic Church during the same-sex marriage debate in Massachusetts. Michael will oversee our religion coverage, in addition to New York politics.
Michael has many ties to New York. His paternal grandparents were born and raised in Brooklyn; the Paulsons moved to Boston in the 1930s when his grandfather, a hosiery salesman, got a job there.
Michael already has a fair number of fans here at the Times.
Diego Ribadeneira, another Globe alumnus, praised Michael’s “wonderful combination of keen intellect, intense curiosity and reassuring temperament.”
He inspires confidence, respect, and affection among his colleagues. I am thrilled we will be partners again.
Michael will join us in April. He can be reached at xxx.Please join me in welcoming him.