Boston's Alternative Source! image!
   
Feedback

Goodbye to all that (continued)


Baron arrived at the Miami Herald in January 2000 ó and, almost immediately, young Elián González washed up on the shores, his mother dead, and was taken in by his relatives. An unflattering story in the New Republic portrayed the Herald as having consistently fallen behind on the story because of its servile desire not to offend Miamiís notoriously outspoken community of anti-Castro Cuban exiles. At one point, Baron berated a Herald columnist for participating in a prayer vigil organized by anti-Castro forces, telling the American Journalism Review that the vigil " appeared to be making a statement about this case.

But Baron and the Herald won plenty of respect ó and a Pulitzer ó for their coverage of the final assault by federal agents on the Miami relativesí home. Baron also won kudos for refusing to cooperate with a consortium of media ó including the Times and the Washington Post ó in recounting the Florida ballots after last Novemberís presidential election. Under Baronís direction, the Herald conducted its own recount of the " undervote " ó that is, of the ballots that appeared to contain no presidential vote ó and determined that George W. Bush was, indeed, the winner by a narrow margin.

Jim Mullin, editor of the alternative Miami New Times, says the Heraldís coverage of the Elián raid was " just stunning, " although he adds that the Herald had excelled at covering big breaking news stories long before Baronís arrival. As for the recount, he says, " I have to give him credit with regard to recognizing with the presidential election that it was an enormous story taking place in the Heraldís own back yard. If they didnít step up and take the initiative, somebody was going to eat their lunch. "

Baronís time at the Herald couldnít have been entirely happy. Two staff members who asked not to be identified say his penchant for micromanaging people and his aloofness were points of contention in the newsroom; some took his style as a sign that he didnít like them, or was belittling them. Then, too, the Herald was going through wrenching cutbacks ordered by its corporate owner, Knight Ridder. And Herald publisher Alberto Ibargüen is seen in some circles as being all too willing to pander to the Cuban exiles. Though Baron, in his limited public comments, has insisted that he decided to come to the Globe for no reason other than to move to a bigger paper, thereís little question that heís getting out of Miami while the getting is good.

Jim Savage, the respected, semi-retired associate editor for investigations at the Herald (not to mention a Jamaica Plain native), says this of Baronís unpopularity with some staff members: " Martyís personality is certainly not outgoing. No one would ever accuse Marty Baron of being the life of a party and putting a lampshade on his head. If you were going to go into Marty Baronís office and talk to him about something, you would want to have something serious to talk about. You wouldnít go in there to talk office gossip. " But, adds Savage, " Heís a good editor. I would say all in all he was very well received at the Herald and well thought of. "

Ann Louise Bardach, a contributing editor to Talk magazine and a long-time Miami-watcher, believes that Baron left the Herald just in time. " Iím happy to say that Marty is an outstanding journalist, " she says. " I was talking with one of their best reporters a few days ago, and she was saying that without Marty, itís like the death knell. She said that this could be the worst paper in America now, in terms of a major newspaper. Marty was holding back the barbarians. "

ITíS SAFE to say that the Boston Globe is neither as strife-filled nor as barbarian-infested as the Miami Herald. Yet Marty Baron needs to move quickly to establish good relations with the Globeís top editors, especially the folks who wanted the job he got. David Shribman and Ben Bradlee declined to comment, and Helen Donovan did not return a request for comment. But Greg Moore speaks of a process ó a lack of process might be a better way to describe it ó by which the internal candidates were never given a formal opportunity to make their interest known or to interview for the job. No doubt Baron will encounter some bruised egos he needs to massage.

Moore says heíd already known Baron a little bit from events organized by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, and he expresses no qualms about working with him. But he also says he doesnít " think itís any secret " that heíd like to be a newspaper editor in his own right, and that at some point he might leave to do that. Thereís even a possibility that Moore might go into the electronic media: his wife, Nina Henderson Moore, is an executive with Black Entertainment Television.

Several sources, including Matt Storin himself, suggest that one of Baronís first priorities should be forging a good working relationship with Helen Donovan, who, according to insiders, appeared shaken over not receiving the nod. Though intensely shy in her dealings with people, she is widely considered to be the smartest editor in the building. " Sheís the whole package, " Storin says. " And sheís developed a lot of leadership skills over the years. "

Earlier this year, Baron described his style in an interview with Editor & Publisher. " You have to create conditions for reporters to do their best work and bring their best ideas forward, " he said. " The most important ones in the newsroom are those who are out on the street listening to the people rather than the editor who directs the paper. "

Baron inherits a paper that has shrunk in recent months: the Globe has folded its New Hampshire Weekly supplement, slashed the Sunday Focus and Books sections, and accepted the early retirement of 185 people, about one-fourth of them in the newsroom. Yet the paper continues to grow, too. Just this week, the Globe announced it would soon unveil a new, expanded Travel section on Sundays (a joint venture with the Times CompanyĖowned Worcester Telegram & Gazette), and transform the South Weekly supplement into the twice-a-week Globe South.

As for Baronís priorities, logic suggests that he will turn his attention to local-news coverage ó the heart of the paper ó and business coverage, an area in which he has considerable expertise.

Neither metro editor Peter Canellos nor business editor Peter Mancusi would comment. The Globeís local coverage sometimes tends toward the soft, but Canellosís troops ó largely young, smart, and talented ó have done a good job of producing the sort of deep analytical pieces that Canellos has long advocated. And though the tabloid Herald regularly breaks news, the Globe, all things considered, breaks more. For instance, during the same week that the Herald was getting way out in front on the arrest of alleged white supremacist and wanna-be terrorist Leo Felton, the Globe reported that Pulitzer-winning historian Joseph Ellis had falsely told his students at Mount Holyoke College that he had served in Vietnam, and that state senator and congressional candidate Stephen Lynch was beset by debt woes. The best guess: Baron will push Canellos to chase breaking news harder, much as Storin did with Canellosís predecessors when he returned to the Globe in 1992 ó but that Baron wonít order any major changes in focus or emphasis, at least at first.

The business section, under Mancusi, has grown considerably during the past several years, expanding into such areas as technology, biotech, and careers, and winning recognition by the American Business Editors and Writers as one of the best in the country three years in a row. Mancusi is also said to enjoy good relationships with both Gilman and Storin. Now, however, he must build a new relationship with someone who spent his formative years directing business coverage at a much larger newspaper.

In a sense, the retirement of Matt Storin places the final capstone on the Taylor-Winship era; it marks the end of a several-year period in which the last of a generation moved off to retirement, some willingly, some not. On the business side, the departees include publisher and chairman William Taylor, publisher Ben Taylor, executive vice-president Stephen Taylor, vice-president for circulation Godfrey Kauffman, vice-president for promotions Jeff Flanders (a Times Company pick who fell out of favor), vice-president and assistant to the chairman Timothy Leland, vice-president and corporate counsel Catherine Henn, treasurer Mary Marty, assistant treasurer Alexander " Sandy " Hawes, and director of community relations Leslie " Skip " Griffin. Departing from the news side have been such familiar names as editorial-page editor H.D.S. " David " Greenway, managing editor for operations Tom Mulvoy, Spotlight Team editor Gerry OíNeill, political columnist David Nyhan, editorial-page editor Martin Nolan, and, of course, Storin himself.

" Obviously the most significant thing is that the chain that went back to Tom Winshipís father is now broken, " says the Globeís Washington editor, Jack Farrell, who recounts quite a bit of Globe history in his recent book Tip OíNeill and the Democratic Century (see " How Tip Saved the Globe, " News and Features, February 9). " Iím sure it was inevitable at the time that the Times bought the paper, and itís part of the globalization of Boston-owned businesses that happened over the past 20 years, with national and particularly New York businesses coming in. " Referring to the ethnic tenor of the staff a generation ago, Farrell adds, " I donít hear anybody at the Globe anymore talk about the Yankee-Irish wars, much less fight one. "

Marty Nolan, who continues to write a weekly op-ed column from San Francisco, where heís been based for the past decade, notes that when Tom Winship took over the Globe, department stores such as Jordan Marsh and Fileneís, as well as most of the cityís major banks, were all locally owned. Today, not only are most of Bostonís major businesses controlled by outsiders, but the city itself is home to new residents of all backgrounds and ethnicities. " Mr. Baron is not the only newcomer, " Nolan says.

As for the departure of people such as Storin, Nyhan, OíNeill, and Mulvoy, Nolan says, " If you took away the years of experience and just subtracted it from the intellectual database, youíve got a couple of centuries there. Thereís going to be a sharp learning curve. Itís an enormous gap. But Bostonís a changing city, and itís got a changing newspaper to go along with it. Thatís the way itís been for 300 years. Iím not pessimistic. Maybe I should be, but Iím not. "

Marty Baronís track record gives reason for optimism. But the Globe is, as he will soon discover, an unusual newspaper in an unusual city, where history and relationships and revenge often count for as much as ó or more than ó intelligence and hard work.

Heís been given charge of one of the best regional papers in the country and the most important media organization in New England, an institution that not only covers the news but has a large say in shaping political and business agendas. Heíll have time to put his own imprint on it.

But not much.

Dan Kennedy can be reached at dkennedy@phx.com.

 

page 1  page 2  page3

Issue Date: July 19-26, 2001