Stat is up and Design New England is out: A message from the Globe’s president

A source sent this to me a little while ago. It’s a message from Vinay Mehra, the president and chief financial officer of Boston Globe Media. Not a lot of news here. For my money, the most interesting revelations are that Stat, the company’s health and life-sciences vertical, continues to grow, and that Design New England magazine has been discontinued. (Confession: I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an issue.)

For more on the Arc content-management system and the latest on the Globe’s digital subscriptions, see the email interview I did with publisher John Henry last week for WGBH News.

The full text of Mehra’s message follows.

Team,

Happy summer! As we go into the second half of the year, the Senior Leadership Team and I would like to share with you where things stand midpoint of this year. Here are some highlights:

  • The newsroom continues to hit it out of the park. The Spotlight Team was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for a series on race that spurred an unprecedented conversation in this region. Our recent TSA piece has made waves nationally. Day in, day out, there is uniquely compelling journalism on our site and print pages, including the launch of the latest reader advocacy initiative, the Help Desk.
  • We continue to invest in the future of the Globe. Our latest investment in our digital future is ARC, our new publishing platform that will result in the redesign of our Globe.com website, and the launch of an ioS and Android Boston Globe app in August. There has been great collaborative work across the company to get to this point, and I am grateful for everyone’s help.
  • We have been disciplined on reducing costs, from ensuring we establish a robust contract management process to more tightly managing expenses, and continue to push ourselves on creating new revenue opportunities and exploring new ways to meet readers where they are, leveraged by our entrepreneurial spirit.
  • While advertising sales continues to experience industry disruption, we are excited about the potential of BG BrandLabs and sponsored content — we have completed 21 customer campaigns since the beginning of the year and have 14 more in our pipeline. Leading companies across the region appreciate and seek out partnerships with us and we will continue to build on that momentum.
  • Subscription revenues are on budget with our digital subscriber base over 94,000, putting us #1 among U.S. major metros in terms of total digital subscription revenue. With Pete [Doucette]’s departure, I have made the decision to conduct a search for a new head of consumer revenues, and I am pleased with the initial results of the search and the caliber of candidates who are interested in the role.
  • After months of negotiation, we have an agreement with the Pressman, Mailers and the Drivers unions. We appreciated the partnership with the bargaining committees and these new contracts give us the flexibility we need to continue to meet the needs of the market and industry.
  • We made the difficult but necessary decision to discontinue publishing Design New England magazine in order to redirect resources into our growth.  This was hard news for our colleagues affected by the change, but we were transparent with the decision making process and explored all options before coming to this decision.
  • STAT, our bold life sciences initiative, continues to see impressive growth – year over year growth in advertising by 59% and growth in subscribers by 308%.

The constant change we are experiencing is what it feels like to be in transformation, and frankly, it will continue. While it is no doubt challenging to navigate in a business as dynamic as ours, I can tell you that we are not alone in this challenge and I believe that our organization will be positioned for success. Since starting at the Globe, I have spent a lot of time out in the field speaking with CEOs in the greater Boston area, familiarizing myself with the unique perspectives within the region and forging relationships that will ultimately allow our organization to help tell the incredible stories of growth, disruption and innovation in our backyard. The good (and bad) news is that I hear the exact same set of challenges in all of these discussions. Everyone, in every industry, is experiencing the very real ups and downs of transformation. The key for us is to stay focused on why we do the work we do, because what I also hear in these conversations is that we, the Globe, are critical to this city.

Success will require that all of us — and particularly the Senior Leadership Team — work across boundaries as one Boston Globe and in harmony with our partners. In the coming month, the Senior Leadership Team and I will be engaging in a strategic planning process to determine our plans for long-term growth.  Expect to hear more from us after some of that work is done.

Finally, I truly believe that each of us must find meaning in our work. The best work happens when you know that it’s not just work, but something that will inform and improve other people’s lives. This is the opportunity that drives each of us at this company.

Thank you for your ongoing support and hard work. I recognize we wouldn’t be where we are without the contributions made by each and every one of you.

Vinay

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Stat, Trump and the ethics of speculating about a president’s health

Click on image for Stat article and playable video.

Is President Trump quite literally losing his mind?

That’s the explosive question that reporter Sharon Begley asked in a recent article published by Stat, a Boston Globe Media-owned website covering health and life sciences. In comparing Trump’s speech patterns today with how he spoke 25 to 30 years ago, Begley and the experts she consulted found a notable slide in his linguistic abilities.

Read the rest at WGBHNews.org. And talk about this post on Facebook.

Stat marks first anniversary by unveiling paid ‘Plus’ service

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Also published at WGBHNews.org.

When Boston Globe Media unveiled Stat a year ago, it struck many observers—including me—as wildly ambitious. With more than 50 employees, it was hard to imagine how the health and life-sciences site was going to make money. Gideon Gil, the co-managing editor, told me that Stat would probably start charging for some of its content, but at the time there was no plan beyond gathering data to see how that might work.

Now we’re seeing the next phase. Stat editor Rick Berke, in a letter posted online, has announced a redesign and, far more important, a premium service called Stat Plus, which will cost about $300 a year. According to Lucia Moses of Digiday, the target audience comprises “professionals working in and around the pharma and biotech industries.” The goal is to sign up 10,000 subscribers.

My first thought is: Why so little? As Moses points out, the model for this sort of thing is Politico, whose pro edition starts at $5,000 a year. Individuals aren’t likely to pay for Stat Plus; rather, it’s a business expense. On the other hand, it might make more sense to start at $300 and then add, say, an ultra-premium service later on (Stat Plus Plus?) than to start high and have to cut the price.

The purpose of Stat is two-fold: to offer high-quality journalism in a field in which Boston is a leader, and to make money that can help fund not just Stat but the Boston Globe itself. Stat‘s first year showed that it could accomplish the former. Today’s announcement is an important step toward meeting the second goal.

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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

Globe union files grievance over non-union status of Stat

The Boston Newspaper Guild, the union that represents Boston Globe employees in the newsroom, advertising, and other areas, has filed a grievance with management over the status of Stat as a non-union shop.

Stat, a standalone website covering health and life sciences, was launched last fall by Boston Globe Media Partners. The Boston Business Journal recently reported on some of the union rumblings emanating from 135 Morrissey Boulevard.

I obtained a copy of the union’s message to members a little while ago:

Dear members,

We are writing to let you know that the Boston Newspaper Guild has filed a grievance challenging STAT’s status as a new initiative.

We are concerned about the loss of Guild work and we are trying to bring these jobs into the Guild.

We will keep you informed when there are updates to share.

Yours in solidarity,
BNG Executive Committee

Globe watch: A lawyer’s lament, and Stat’s discontents

Two items of note regarding The Boston Globe.

1. Eric MacLeish, a prominent lawyer who represented numerous victims of pedophile priests, is objecting to his portrayal in the movie “Spotlight.” An item in the Globe’s “Names” column notes, “Curiously, MacLeish hasn’t seen the movie.” Yet someone must have given MacLeish a good briefing, as the bill of particulars he posted on Facebook is pretty accurate in summarizing his character in the film: a lawyer who reached confidential settlements with the Catholic Church on behalf of his clients, thus helping to delay the truth from coming out.

Also of note is that Stephen Kurkjian, a legendary Globe investigative reporter who also does not come off well in “Spotlight,” has posted a comment saying in part: “I can attest to how committed you [MacLeish] were — within the confines of attorney-client relationships — to assisting The Globe in getting the story out.”

Of course, such complaints are to be expected when a fictional movie is made about a real-life story and actual people. I experienced this first-hand when the movie about the Woburn toxic-waste story, “A Civil Action,” came out. (I covered the story for The Daily Times Chronicle of Woburn.) I was so incensed by some of what I saw that I wrote about it for The New Republic.

“Spotlight” is a far better — and truer — movie than “A Civil Action.” But it’s not a documentary.

2. Craig Douglas of The Boston Business Journal reports that the Newspaper Guild has some issues with Stat, a website covering health, medicine and life sciences that is part of John Henry’s Boston Globe Media holdings.

As I wrote last week for WGBHNews.org, Stat launched with about 40 journalists just weeks after the Globe eliminated about 40 newsroom positions through buyouts and layoffs. The two developments are said to be unrelated in the sense that Henry is not funding Stat through cuts at the Globe. As Gideon Gil, Stat’s managing editor for enterprise and partnerships, told me, each property has to pursue its own business plan.

Still, Douglas reports, it has not gone unnoticed that union jobs at the Globe have been eliminated while positions at Stat are non-union. Douglas quotes an anonymous union official as saying: “The feeling is, those weren’t the last layoffs we’re going to see. It feels like they are trying to expand by killing us from inside.”

Surely Henry can’t be blamed for making cuts in a shrinking business while trying to find innovative ideas that could lead to growth and profitability. But it’s not hard to sympathize with the fears voiced in Douglas’ article.

The Globe’s mobile-first Stat seeks profits in life sciences

Stats top editors, from left, are Stephanie Simon, managing editor for news; Rick Berke, executive editor; and Gideon Gil, managing editor for enterprise and partnerships. Photo by Dan Kennedy.
Stat’s top editors, from left, are Stephanie Simon, managing editor for news; Rick Berke, executive editor; and Gideon Gil, managing editor for enterprise and partnerships. Photo by Dan Kennedy.

Previously published at WGBHNews.org.

Nearly three weeks ago The Boston Globe said goodbye to about 40 full- and part-time staff members as the paper’s executives struggle to keep up with declining revenues and a shrinking ad market.

Today a sister project, Stat, makes its bright and shiny debut. The site covers medicine, health and life sciences with a staff of nearly 40 journalists recruited from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post as well as smaller news organizations. There are another 10 or so employees on the business side.

The two developments shouldn’t be linked except for the timing, according to Stat’s editors. The Globe isn’t being cut in order to fund Stat. Rather, Globe owner John Henry’s decision to launch an ambitious new project shows that he’s willing to experiment with new models of journalism even as the newspaper business contracts. (Henry explains his reasoning in a letter to readers.)

“I see great potential in what we’re doing for the Globe,” says Stat executive editor Rick Berke, a former top editor with The New York Times and, more recently, Politico. “If we can have a sustainable business model here and pull in revenues, that could ultimately help the whole Globe Media organization across the board.”

Adds Gideon Gil, a longtime Globe editor who is now Stat’s managing editor for enterprise and partnerships: “I’m sad about people losing their jobs in the Globe newsroom. Some are longtime colleagues of mine. I feel fortunate that I’m working at Stat, because we have great ambition and a vision to really cover this area. I understand why you and others try to make a connection between them, but we’re separate businesses. We each have our own business plans and have to succeed on our own.”

Stat’s website formally debuted at midnight today, though since August the staff has been producing stories that have run in the Globe. On Tuesday afternoon, the atmosphere in Stat’s interconnected newsrooms on the third floor of the Globe’s Dorchester headquarters was busy but surprisingly non-chaotic given that the launch was less than 10 hours away.

Berke, Gil and Stephanie Simon, another former Politico editor who is the site’s managing editor for news, checked out a promotional video that was near completion. Afterward, the four of us gathered in Berke’s office, dominated by a large, heavily used whiteboard. A bottle of champagne stood unopened on his desk; a gray Stat fleece hung from a hook on his door.

The business model is clearly the most important question facing Stat. If you look at other, smaller verticals the Globe has launched — Crux, which covers the Catholic Church, and BetaBoston, which follows the local innovation economy — you find quality journalism but just a smattering of ads. Indeed, free, advertiser-supported websites are currently out of favor in some circles, since it is thought that you need scale on the order of megasites like The Huffington Post or BuzzFeed to make money.

Gil, though, offers some intriguing ideas. For one thing, he says, Stat is being launched as a free website in part so that its audience can become familiar with the content and so that the staff can collect data on what’s working and what isn’t. Later, he says, Stat will start charging for some of the site’s more specialized content. In addition, a print component — perhaps a monthly or every-other-month magazine — is being considered as a way of reaching a different audience and appealing to print advertisers. (Stat’s chief revenue officer, Angus Macaulay, expands on those ideas in this article by Joseph Lichterman of the Nieman Journalism Lab.)

As for who comprises Stat’s potential audience, Simon has an optimistic answer: pretty much everyone. “We’re looking for ordinary readers who are interested in anything related to health or medicine,” she says. “And we’re for professionals, too. It’s not at all a trade publication or a niche publication. It’s really meant to appeal to a broad audience.”

The lead article in Stat right now — as well as the top story in today’s Globe — is an investigation by Ike Swetlitz into a dubious vitamin company promoted by Donald Trump that later failed. Another feature, by Bob Tedeschi, focuses on the emotional toll for cancer patients who are repeatedly brought back from the brink of death through the use of cutting-edge targeted therapies. Coverage ranges from local to national; Stat has three reporters in Washington and one each in New York and San Francisco, and there are plans for international outposts as well. There’s a daily 6 a.m. email newsletter by Megan Thielking called “Morning Rounds” and a number of other regular features, the full panoply of which is described in this press release.

The site itself is mobile-first, which Gil says is a necessity given that people increasingly do most of their reading on their phones. “People spend so much time focused on what their home page looks like on a desktop,” he says. “And fewer and fewer people actually go to the home page.” As a result, Stat is attractive but a bit random on a desktop computer or a phone. And reading it horizontally on my iPad, which is how I consume a lot of news, is a fairly miserable experience, as tiny rows of type stretch from one margin to the other.

There’s also a lot of video, the better to share on social media — indeed, the editors say about a quarter of the staff consists of multimedia producers.

Unlike Crux or BetaBoston (but like Boston.com), Stat is a separate entity within Boston Globe Media Partners and is more or less independent from the Globe, though the Globe is free to run Stat stories and vice-versa. There are also joint meetings and shared story budgets. In his letter to readers, John Henry writes that he and other Globe executives believe that “a news organization can be most nimble when it is built organically for the digital age.”

At its heart, Stat isn’t really an experiment in providing quality journalism. A large, talented, experienced staff shouldn’t have any trouble doing that. Rather, it’s an experiment in finding a way out of the crisis facing professional news organizations — a crisis defined by the technology-fueled collapse of revenue sources.

“My dream,” says Berke, “is not only to deliver head-turning journalism that you can’t find anywhere else but to find a sustainable business model. And my dream would be to prove that people will pay for important, vital, ambitious journalism.”

Boston Globe Media’s life-sciences site, Stat, makes its debut

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Stat, a long-in-the-making website covering health and life sciences, debuts today. The site, which employs nearly 40 journalists, is part of The Boston Globe’s media properties and is based mainly at the paper’s headquarters at 135 Morrissey Blvd.

The news was embargoed until midnight.

On Tuesday afternoon I had a chance to interview Stat’s executive editor, Rick Berke, and two of his top deputies. Look for my report around mid-morning Wednesday at WGBHNews.org. Below is a press release from Boston Globe Media Partners.

John Henry and Rick Berke Launch Stat

A Publication Dedicated to Health, Medicine and Life Sciences

November 4, 2015 — Boston — John W. Henry, owner of The Boston Globe and principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, and longtime reporter and editor Rick Berke today launched Stat, a national publication reporting from the frontiers of health, medicine and life sciences. The publication has assembled a news team of nearly 40 top journalists, as well as an engineering team, an advertising team, and a marketing team.

Delivering fast, deep and tough-minded journalism, Stat will take readers inside science labs and hospitals, biotech boardrooms and political backrooms. It will publish breaking news, richly reported feature stories, investigative projects and multimedia presentations throughout the day at Statnews.com.

“Over the next 20 years, some of the most important stories in the world are going to emerge in the life sciences arena. Stat has a tremendous opportunity to uncover vital issues that touch the lives of every human being,” Henry said. “We realized that there was no one doing what we aim to do: be the country’s go-to news source for the life sciences.”

Stat is headquartered in Boston, with additional reporters in New York, San Francisco and Washington, and more to follow in other cities around the world.

“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to hire dozens of the most talented reporters, writers and multimedia phenoms in the country to join our quest to create a news site with stories you won’t find anywhere else,” said Berke, a former assistant managing editor at The New York Times and executive editor at Politico. “We will take readers behind the scenes of the worlds of science and medicine and introduce them to patients and personalities who are driving a revolution in human health.”

Stat reporters have wasted no time breaking news even before today’s launch. Initial stories, published through its sister publication, The Boston Globe, included an exclusive on Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders rejecting a campaign donation from price-hiking pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli; a scoop on President Obama’s nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration pulling his name off several scientific papers that were critical of the agency; a fascinating deep dive into clinical trials in the age of social media; and an important examination of the shortcomings of precision medicine. Stat has also launched a fast-paced email newsletter, “Morning Rounds,” which has quickly become a must-read.

The Stat editing team is led by three accomplished journalists: The managing editor for news, Stephanie Simon, has been a national reporter for The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and, most recently, Politico. The managing editor for enterprise, Gideon Gil, was the Boston Globe’s health and science editor. Jason Ukman, the senior news editor, was an editor at the Washington Post for 14 years. Gil and Ukman played important roles in editing Pulitzer Prize-winning stories for their organizations.

Stat has developed a sleek website with an emphasis on its mobile version. It has also built out an extensive multimedia unit including animators, a data visualization editor and videographers. Led by New York Times veterans Jeffery DelViscio and Matthew Orr, the team will bring stories to visual life, creating everything from short, social-media-focused video explainers to mini-documentaries to interactive reader experiences.

A strong lineup of regular features is also in the works:

  • Carl Zimmer, Stat national correspondent and a New York Times columnist, will host a monthly video feature called “Science Happens” that will take viewers inside laboratories conducting cutting-edge biomedical research.
  • Veteran pharmaceutical industry reporter Ed Silverman will revive his blog Pharmalot, last at The Wall Street Journal, and will write a weekly column.
  • Sharon Begley, a nationally renowned science writer and formerly an editor at Newsweek, will puncture myths and question conventional wisdom in her column “Gut Check.”
  • Stat will conduct monthly nationwide polling on health and medicine issues in partnership with Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
  • In a new biweekly podcast, “Signal,” leading biotech reporters Meg Tirrell of CNBC and Luke Timmerman of the Timmerman Report will deliver a high-energy mix of news analysis, feature stories and interviews with movers and shakers in the biotech industry.
  • A section called “First Opinion,” overseen by Patrick Skerrett, previously executive editor for Harvard Health Publications, will feature science, medical and financial experts weighing in on the news of the day.
  • Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus, of the popular site “Retraction Watch,” will write “The Watchdogs,” focusing on issues of misconduct, fraud and scientific integrity.

In addition, the reporting staff includes former Politico reporter David Nather, a health policy expert who will lead the Stat Washington bureau; Helen Branswell, a renowned global health reporter who comes from The Canadian Press; enterprise reporter David Armstrong, who covered health care on the projects team for Bloomberg News and The Wall Street Journal; senior writer Bob Tedeschi, a longtime New York Times columnist who will write about patients and clinicians; Charles Piller, an award-winning investigative reporter for The Sacramento Bee and The Los Angeles Times; and Seth Mnookin, a contributing writer and prominent author.

Other editors include Elie Dolgin, PhD in evolutionary genetics who was previously an associate editor at The Scientist and senior news editor at Nature Medicine; Lisa Raffensperger, a former web editor at Discover Magazine; and Tony Fong, previously a senior editor at GenomeWeb.

Chief Revenue Officer Angus Macaulay, a veteran executive of publishing companies including Rodale, Hearst Magazines and Time, Inc., leads the business team. Michele Staats, the former head of integrated marketing at Massachusetts General Hospital, is the marketing director at Stat. Peter Bless, a 16-year veteran of scientific and healthcare advertising, is sales director.

For more information please go to Statnews.com, or visit us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Statnews, or Twitter: https://twitter.com/Statnews.

The Globe’s Saturday shrinkage and its digital future

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Previously published at WGBHNews.org.

If you’d asked me 10 years ago if I thought The Boston Globe and other metropolitan dailies would still be printing news on dead trees in 2015, I’d have replied, “Probably not.” Even five years ago, by which time it was clear that print had more resilience than many of us previously assumed, I still believed we were on the verge of drastic change — say, a mostly digital news operation supplemented by a weekend print edition.

Seen in that light, the Globe’s redesigned Saturday edition should be regarded as a cautious, incremental step. Unveiled this past weekend, the paper is thinner (42 pages compared to 52 the previous Saturday) and more magazine-like, with the Metro section starting on A2 rather than coming after the national, international and opinion pages. That’s followed by a lifestyle section called Good Life.

The larger context for these changes is that the existential crisis threatening the newspaper business hasn’t gone away. Revenue from print advertising — still the economic engine that powers virtually all daily newspapers — continues to fall, even as digital ads have proved to be a disappointment. Fewer ads mean fewer pages. This isn’t the first time the Globe has dropped pages, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. (The paper is also cutting staff in some areas, even as it continues to hire for new digital initiatives.)

How bad is it? According to the Pew Research Center’s “State of the Media 2015” report, revenue from print advertising at U.S. newspapers fell from $17.3 billion in 2013 to $16.4 billion in 2014. Digital advertising, meanwhile, rose from just $3.4 billion to $3.5 billion. And for some horrifying perspective on how steep the decline has been, print advertising revenue was $47.4 billion just 10 years ago.

The Globe’s response to this ugly drop has been two-fold. First, it’s asked its print and digital readers to pick up more of the cost through higher subscription fees. Second, even as the print edition shrinks, it has expanded what’s offered online — not just at BostonGlobe.com, but via its free verticals covering the local innovation economy (BetaBoston), the Catholic Church (Crux) and, soon, life sciences and health (Stat). Stories from those sites find their way into the Globe, while readers who are interested in going deeper can visit the sites themselves. (An exception to this strategy is Boston.com, the former online home of the Globe, which has been run as a separate operation since its relaunch in 2014.)

“I don’t quite think of it as the demise of print,” says Globe editor Brian McGrory of the Saturday redesign. He notes that over the past year-plus the print paper has added the weekly political section Capital as well as expanded business and Sunday arts coverage and daily full-size feature sections in place of the former tabloid “g” section.

“There are areas where we do well where we’re enhancing in print and there are areas where we’re looking to cut in print,” McGrory adds. “It’s a very fine and delicate balancing act.”

Some of those cuts in print are offset by more digital content. Consider the opinion pages, which underwent a redesign this past spring. (I should point out that McGrory does not run the opinion pages. Editorial-page editor Ellen Clegg, like McGrory, reports directly to publisher John Henry.) The online opinion section is simply more robust than what’s in print, offering some content a day or two earlier as well as online exclusives. This past Saturday, the print section was cut from two pages to one. Yet last week also marked the debut of a significant online-only feature: Opinion Reel, nine short videos submitted by members of the public on a wide variety of topics.

All are well-produced, ranging from an evocative look at a family raising a son with autism (told from his sister’s point of view) to a video op-ed on dangerous bicycle crossings along the Charles River. There’s even a claymation-like look at a man living with blindness. But perhaps the most gripping piece is about a man who was seriously beaten outside a bar in South Boston. It begins with a photo of him in his hospital bed, two middle fingers defiantly outstretched. It ends with him matter-of-factly explaining what led to the beating. “It was because I stepped on the guy’s shoe and he didn’t think I was from Southie,” he says before adding: “It was my godmother’s brother.”

Globe columnist and editorial board member Joanna Weiss, who is curating the project, says the paper received more than 50 submissions for this first round. “It has very much been a group effort,” Weiss told me by email. “The development team built the websites and Nicole Hernandez, digital producer for the editorial page, shepherded that process through; Linda Henry, who is very interested in promoting the local documentary filmmaking community, gave us feedback and advice in the early rounds; David Skok and Jason Tuohey from BostonGlobe.com gave indispensable advice in the final rounds, and of course the entire editorial board helped to screen and select the films.”

But all of this is far afield from the changes to the Saturday paper and what those might portend. McGrory told me he’s received several hundred emails about the redesign, some from readers who liked it, some who hated it and some who suggested tweaks — a few of which will be implemented.

Traditionally, a newspaper’s Saturday edition is its weakest both in terms of circulation and advertising. In the Globe’s case, though, the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday papers sell a few thousand fewer copies than Saturday’s 160,377, according to a 2014 report from the Alliance for Audited Media. No doubt that’s a reflection of a Thursday-through-Sunday subscription deal the Globe offers — though it does raise the question of whether other days might get the Saturday treatment.

“We have no plans right now to change the design or the general format of those papers,” McGrory responds. “But look, everything is always under discussion.” (The Globe’s Sunday print circulation is 282,440, according to the same AAM report. Its paid digital circulation is about 95,000 a day, the highest of any regional newspaper.)

One question many papers are dealing with is whether to continue offering print seven days a week. Advance Newspapers has experimented with cutting back on print at some of its titles, including the storied Times-Picayune of New Orleans. My Northeastern colleague Bill Mitchell’s reaction to the Globe’s Saturday changes was to predict that, eventually, American dailies would emulate European and Canadian papers by shifting their Sunday papers to Saturdays to create a big weekend paper — and eliminating the Sunday paper altogether.

The Globe and Mail of Toronto is one paper that has taken that route, and McGrory says it’s the sort of idea that he and others are keeping an eye on. But he stresses that the Globeisn’t going to follow in that path any time soon.

“Right now we have no plans to touch our Sunday paper,” he says. “It’s a really strong paper journalistically, it’s a strong paper circulation-wise, it’s a strong paper advertising-wise. We’re constantly thinking and rethinking this stuff. But as of this conversation, Sunday is Sunday and we don’t plan to change that at all.”

He adds: “We’re trying to mesh the new world with the printing press, and I think we’re coming out in an OK place. Better than an OK place. A good place.”

Will the media call out Trump on his anti-vaxxer nonsense?

Donald Trump in 2011. Photo (cc) by Gage Skidmore. Some rights reserved.
Donald Trump in 2011. Photo (cc) by Gage Skidmore. Some rights reserved.

By any reasonable standard of what constitutes acceptable public discourse, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign should have ended on Wednesday at about 10:50 p.m.

That’s when he set his extravagantly sprayed hair on fire by indulging in some truly dangerous myths about vaccines. It was, by any measure, a deeply irresponsible exercise. I’d call it pandering, except that it’s possible he believes his own foolishness.

It began when CNN debate moderator Jake Tapper invited candidate Ben Carson, a physician, to lambaste Trump for repeating the false claims of the anti-vaxxer movement linking vaccines to autism. Carson responded mildly — too mildly. And that gave Trump an opportunity to pounce.

“I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time,” Trump began. A few seconds later came this: “Just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”

Sadly, neither Carson nor the other physician-candidate, Rand Paul, wanted to rile the conspiracy theorists they’re hoping to win over. So both men oh-so-respectfully disagreed with Trump while actually endorsing his statement that parents ought to be able to spread out the timetable for their children to get vaccinated.

“It is true that we are probably giving way too many in too short a period of time,” Carson said. Added Paul, who’s traveled down this road before: “I’m all for vaccines. But I’m also for freedom.”

In case you’re not up on all the details, Julia Belluz of Vox offers an overview of the “elaborate fraud” behind the thoroughly debunked link between vaccines and autism. As for Trump’s spread-them-out advice and Carson’s and Paul’s weasely responses, science journalist Tara Haelle wrote in Forbes:

Vaccines are very precisely manufactured to include only what is absolutely necessary to induce enough of an immune response that the body can protect itself against those diseases. So a smaller dose wouldn’t protect a child. It would stick a child with a needle for no reason at all. And spreading out vaccines? That just increases the risks to the children, including leaving them more susceptible to the diseases for a longer period of time.

So what was CNN’s responsibility in promoting Trump’s life-threatening views? Some, such as Dartmouth College political scientist Brendan Nyhan, took to Twitter to argue that Tapper shouldn’t have asked the question in the first place.

I disagree. If, God help us, Trump actually got elected president, he’s going to be besieged by anti-vaxxers demanding that he translate his rhetoric into policy. Then, too, Michele Bachmann in 2011 and Chris Christie earlier this year did enormous damage to themselves by embracing the anti-vaccine movement. Why should it be any different this time?

Still, Wednesday night felt like a botched opportunity to educate viewers about the importance of vaccines.

Media reaction to Wednesday night’s anti-vaxxer moment was slow out of the gate, but by later Thursday and on Friday it had picked up. A particularly intriguing tidbit comes from Stat, a life-sciences vertical that’s part of The Boston Globe. According to reporters Eric Boodman and Ike Swetlitz, Trump is both a donor to and supporter of Autism Speaks, which emphatically rejects the anti-vaxxer myth.

In the immediate aftermath of the debate, the most addled take was offered by The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes (God love him), who wrote that Trump “surprised everyone, including Dr. Ben Carson, by being well-informed on the use of vaccines. As usual, he was a powerful presence.” You can’t make this stuff up.

The New York Times Tuesday morning had little except for a line in Gail Collins’ column and an item by Margot Sanger-Katz in its liveblog; later in the day it posted a strong article by Sabrina Tavernise and Catherine Saint Louis. The Washington Post published a long post by Michael E. Miller headlined “The GOP’s dangerous ‘debate’ on vaccines and autism.” Here’s how Miller described Carson blowing the big moment Tapper handed to him:

For months, Carson has touted his medical expertise while on the campaign trail. And in the weeks since the first debate, the famed surgeon has risen in the polls as a milder-mannered, more rational alternative to Trump.

Now was his chance for a home run; a big hit as swift and incisive as any surgical operation.

Instead, Carson bunted.

In Politico, Ben Schreckinger speculated that Trump’s “weak command” of the issues — including vaccines — may be the prelude to his long-anticipated decline. “The conversation has moved beyond Donald Trump,” he wrote. Added Jamelle Bouie of Slate: “The good news is that this debate might mark the beginning of the end for Trump, who struggled to tackle substantive questions on foreign policy, his advisers, and what he’d actually do as president of the United States.”

We’ll see. Some 51 percent of respondents to a survey posted at the Drudge Report thought Trump won; Fiorina came in second with just 19 percent. It was totally unscientific, of course, but more than 680,000 people took the time to register their views.

Overall it was a dispiriting night. It was somehow appropriate that it ended with the news that right-wing hatemonger Ann Coulter was ranting on Twitter about the “f—ing Jews.” I mean, really. What else?

The vaccine issue, though, deserves to linger — and fester, and grow, until all but Trump’s most unhinged supporters understand that this man has no business being anywhere near the White House.

Published previously at WGBHNews.org and The Huffington Post.