The Globe hits a digital benchmark — and finds a new art critic in Toronto

Murray Whyte (via LinkedIn)

A couple of good-news items from The Boston Globe.

First, the paper is reporting that it has passed the 100,000 level for digital-only subscriptions, a benchmark the paper’s executives had originally hoped to reach by the end of June. Don Seiffert of the Boston Business Journal has the details.

When I interviewed Globe editor Brian McGrory for “The Return of the Moguls” nearly two years ago, he said the paper would start to look like a sustainable business if it could hit 200,000. My mother always told me that the first 100,000 is the hardest. But the Globe’s digital presence is in the midst of getting an upgrade as it adopts The Washington Post’s Arc content-management system this fall. If the Arc transition goes smoothly, then perhaps another circulation boost will follow.

Second, the Globe is announcing today that it has finally replaced Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Sebastian Smee, who left for the Post nearly a year ago. The Globe’s new critic is Murray Whyte, currently at The Star of Toronto, whose arrival in Boston, I’m told, was delayed because of immigration issues.

In an email to the Globe’s staff, deputy managing editor for arts and newsroom innovation Janice Page and arts editor Rebecca Ostriker call Whyte “a truly extraordinary writer” who “brings a unique combination of keen insight, wide-ranging expertise, superb judgment, and an ability to recognize and write about what really matters.” The full text of their message follows.

We are delighted to announce that Murray Whyte is joining the Globe as art critic, starting next month.

Murray was born in Winnipeg and grew up partly in Calgary, and he will completely understand if you have no idea where those places are (directly north — way north — of Minnesota and Montana, respectively). He’s spent the better part of two decades in Toronto, and the last 10 of those as the art critic at the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest daily newspaper, where he is a recent winner of Canada’s National Newspaper Award, the country’s highest journalistic honor.

As Globe readers will soon learn, Murray is a truly extraordinary writer. He brings a unique combination of keen insight, wide-ranging expertise, superb judgment, and an ability to recognize and write about what really matters. He does not focus on art for art’s sake, but rather connects art to what can make a difference to people living in the world — to society, to ideas, to our culture as a whole.

Murray’s eclectic background also extends beyond arts journalism, including a stint as a producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In fact, he may be the only journalist in North America who has reported from the oil sands in northern Alberta and Uranium City in Saskatchewan as well as the Venice Biennale.

But the visual arts have always been in his bones. As a journalism graduate student at New York University, his refuge was the Museum of Modern Art, where he could exult in the stillness of Mark Rothko or the luminescence of Claude Monet. Art museums, he says, are his version of a walk in the woods — a rejuvenating, almost transcendent communion with the sublime.

He’s also a huge hockey fan — another kind of sublime — and would appreciate any spare tickets when the Calgary Flames come to town, because surely, he says, there can’t be anyone else here as interested in the progress of Dillon Dube on left wing this year. Can there?

Murray will be making his home in the Boston area with his wife, photographer Sian Richards, and their two children. He’ll arrive at the Globe in mid-November. Please join us in giving him a very warm welcome.

Janice and Rebecca

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Post on downsizing was misleading, says Globe arts editor

Boston Globe arts editor Rebecca Ostriker has sent the following response to my Tuesday post regarding cutbacks in the Globe‘s arts coverage. Ostriker makes some good points, and in retrospect I wish I had done more than simply link to other blogs.

Some misunderstandings regarding the Boston Globe’s arts coverage have been spreading online—including in your recent post—and I would welcome an opportunity to clarify our plans.

The Globe is dedicated to bringing our readers the best possible arts coverage, every single day, both in print and online. With an outstanding Sunday Arts section and a Friday Weekend section packed with arts and entertainment coverage, we will continue to showcase the superb work of our staff critics in every area of the arts, including Pulitzer Prize winners Sebastian Smee and Mark Feeney, Ty Burr, Jeremy Eichler, Don Aucoin, Matthew Gilbert, and Steve Smith. With the help of powerhouse arts reporter Malcolm Gay, we will continue to vigorously report on broader issues relating to the arts, often on the Globe’s front page. Few newspapers in the country can boast such a sparkling roster of staff writers exploring the arts, or more commitment to covering the arts in every form, from theater to art, music, movies, television, and dance.

Meanwhile, as we weigh our priorities when it comes to freelance coverage, we are shifting our focus to emphasize reported feature stories (the Jon Garelick piece you cited was an example; see others below, along with a couple of recent freelance reviews). There will certainly be exceptions to this, but our overall goal is simple: We’re looking to tell the most compelling stories that will appeal to readers in every area of the arts. We are encouraging artists, performers, and arts organizations of all kinds to share their best ideas for feature stories with us. And we will be counting on all of our terrific freelance writers to help us tell those stories.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/theater-art/2016/06/23/aspen-santa-ballet-looks-sharp-jacob-pillow/kPvtu0HzsbN1qMyLg8FqbO/story.html

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/movies/2016/06/23/star-director-put-some-teeth-into-shark-movie-the-shallows/eScusIuCy9dRZZqSKukkaM/story.html

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/2016/06/19/when-political-campaigning-meets-conceptual-art/wypDm1w65pHel9BjnkKRwJ/story.html

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/theater-art/2016/06/21/louie-anderson-connects-with-his-inner-mom/EHPZZAUMgGyeSmknmWpLEK/story.html

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/theater-art/2016/06/22/civil-discourse-divided-country-true-story/kj5nRBQXA8IkIS3zft1ozL/story.html

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2016/06/23/ten-classic-bob-dylan-performances-you-probably-never-heard-but-should/03DXS6S5nttP4Ypm3KtlxK/story.html

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2016/06/23/air-guitar-from-elaborate-lark-utopian-gesture/eopfkYUwQM4EowQkCYLJPI/story.html

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2016/06/22/best-known-jazz-trumpeter-nicholas-payton-out-break-molds/aA6vJxvIJyRtGXX25Shq1I/story.html

http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/music/2016/06/15/british-singer-songwriter-ben-watt-finds-drama-midlife-experiences/ufc92eXc6sFhghI9DmISiM/story.html

https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/2016/06/15/sicpp-revisits-disparate-musical-masterpieces-from/CPnHREgUk3u7E02c0QQDcL/story.html

Geoff Edgers leaving Globe for Washington Post

Geoff Edgers
Geoff Edgers

A big loss for The Boston Globe: Geoff Edgers, the paper’s arts and culture reporter since 2002, is leaving for The Washington Post. Edgers is a talented and versatile journalist — a filmmaker as well as a traditional reporter — and he will be hard to replace. The move will reunite Edgers with Post executive editor Marty Baron, who hired Edgers when he was editor of the Globe.

Geoff was a colleague at The Boston Phoenix in the mid-1990s, and his wife, Carlene Hempel, is now a colleague at Northeastern. Yes, Boston is a small town.

The following is a memo to the Globe staff from arts editor Rebecca Ostriker and  Janice Page, deputy managing editor for features. As always, Globies, keep those memos coming.

When Geoff Edgers arrived at the Globe in 2002, he carved out a new beat: covering the region’s key arts institutions and individuals with the drive and focus of a hard-news reporter. Smart, enterprising, energetic, and resourceful, Geoff has simply excelled. He’s written nearly 200 page 1 stories on everything from Boston Symphony Orchestra maestro James Levine’s health woes to the Institute of Contemporary Art’s gleaming new waterfront home, plus scores of other pieces that brim with life and make even the most complex subjects accessible. One of our favorites was when Geoff captured the debacle of a Mass MoCA exhibition that involved installing a 35-foot oil tanker, a two-story house, a carousel of bombs, and an old movie theater — all of which never opened to the public. Then there was Christian Marclay’s 24-hour video “The Clock’’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, which our department covered tag-team-style. Of course Geoff signed up for the toughest, most yawn-inducing stretch — midnight to 4 a.m. — and came up swinging, with some sharp insights on video licensing and a filmmaking crew “big enough to work the Indy 500.”

On the subject of film, Geoff knew what he was talking about: In his spare time, he’s produced a full-length documentary, “Do It Again,” which captured his quixotic quest to reunite the rock band the Kinks (and gave him a chance to duet with Sting), and hosted the Travel Channel series “Edge of America,” crossing the country to try such stunts as tackling alligators and competing in a haggis-eating contest. And Geoff has brought his impressive filmmaking knowhow to the Globe, teaming with the talented Darren Durlach to earn a New England Emmy Award for a video about the soprano Barbara Quintiliani, and to create the Boston Marathon documentary “5 Runners,” which recently premiered at the JFK Library and aired on NESN.

When there’s a story, Geoff wants to be — and almost invariably makes sure he is — the guy who gets it. Which makes it all the harder to announce that he’ll be getting those stories somewhere else in the future. Geoff has accepted a job as national arts reporter for the Washington Post. He’ll be covering cultural stories across the country, from museum and opera controversies to the latest trends in pop music and web culture. Geoff says he relishes the opportunity to take what he’s learned at the Globe and apply it on a broader stage. This is a new position, he notes, as the Post aims to compete with The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. (He’s assured us that any competition with the Globe should not be taken personally.)

Happily, Geoff will be doing all of this from a base in Boston. So although his last day at the Globe is Sept. 12, and we’ll toast him before he goes (details to come), he’s not really leaving us. And if the Kinks someday reunite in a Boston venue, we’ll celebrate with him there.

Rebecca and Janice