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A tale of two papers (continued)

THE CHANGES that have taken place at the Globe in recent years may be less dramatic ó make that less melodramatic ó than what is going on at the Herald. In the long run, though, they are arguably more important for readers and the community at large. The Globe is New Englandís most vital media institution. It doesnít just cover the region, it sets the agenda ó not just on its opinion pages, but through the stories it chooses to cover and how it covers them. TV news directors take their cue from the Globe. Commuters catching the radio headlines hear reports shaped in large measure by what was in that morningís Globe. Because of that, the Globe is ó and should be ó held to a different standard from the Herald and every other news outlet. Its actions reverberate in ways that others canít hope to emulate.

Long a journalistic backwater, the Globe came to national prominence in the 1960s under editor Tom Winship, who died in 2002. The son of the previous editor, Winship nevertheless set a new course, bringing in young talent and encouraging a sort of liberal activism that became the paperís glory and its bane. Winshipís standards were flexible ó it was he who brought in Barnicle, and who defended him despite his ethical lapses. But Winship also gave the paper a sense of excitement (and 12 Pulitzers, the first in the paperís history) it had never had before, and hasnít had since.

Winship retired in 1984; he was replaced by the cerebral Michael Janeway, who lasted a year, and Jack Driscoll, Winshipís long-time number-two. In 1992, the Taylor family, in one of its last acts as owners, made a bold move: Matt Storin, who had been forced out by Janeway, was brought back from the New York Daily News, where heíd been managing editor, to be Driscollís executive editor. He succeeded Driscoll the following spring. Storin toned down the Globeís liberal excesses, making it clear that the Kennedys and others favored on the editorial pages would no longer receive special treatment, and mended the paperís fractured relationship with the Catholic Church.

The Globe was a better paper when Storin retired, and it won four Pulitzers during his years as editor; but his tenure at the top of the masthead was not without controversy. The worst of it came in 1998, when he fired star columnist Patricia Smith for fabricating people and quotes. Storin admitted that he had previously suspected her of wrongdoing, but had given her another chance. As soon as Smith left, Barnicle, long accused of similar wrongdoing, came under fire. But when Storin attempted to get rid of Barnicle over the George Carlin affair, Barnicle refused to go ó and then-publisher Ben Taylor backed up Barnicle. Barnicle finally left after additional accusations of wrongdoing arose, but it took a few years for the Globe to recover from the damage. (Oddly enough, when the Jayson Blair scandal exploded last year, it turned out that Blair had also spent some time in the late í90s interning ó and fabricating ó at the Globe.)

During these years, the Times Company was taking an increasing interest in the paper for which it had spent so much. With the five-year contracts that had been granted to Globe executives finally reaching their expiration date, Times Company chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. removed Ben Taylor in 1999, replacing him with Richard Gilman, a Times executive whose expertise was in circulation and business operations. In 2001, Storin suddenly retired, after presiding over a painful round of cost-cutting that resulted in the loss of 65 newsroom jobs and the demise of the Sunday Focus section and New Hampshire Weekly. His replacement was Marty Baron, the executive editor of the Miami Herald, which had just won a Pulitzer for its coverage of Elián González, the young refugee who was taken from his Florida relatives in a federal raid and returned to his family in Cuba. Baron had also served stints as editor of the Los Angeles Timesí business section and its Orange County edition, and as the night editor of the New York Times.

Barely before heíd settled in, Baron was tested by the terrorist attacks of September 11. He proved himself to be an able newsroom chief, as the Globe produced first-rate coverage of the Logan Airport angle (it should be noted that the Herald, too, did excellent work, including some exclusives, during the first weeks after the attacks). The Globe also dispatched a rotating group of reporters, some seasoned veterans, some young and relatively inexperienced, to Afghanistan to cover the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Baronís signature moment, though, had come in July, shortly after his arrival. Itís become an oft-told tale. Metro columnist Eileen McNamara had written a piece about a civil lawsuit brought against the Archdiocese of Boston by some of the alleged victims of defrocked pedophile priest John Geoghan. The details of the suit were unknown because of a confidentiality order sought by, and granted to, the Church. Baron decided to go to court and challenge it. Up to that point, no journalist had done more than my Phoenix colleague Kristen Lombardi in exposing the truth about the Geoghan case, and about what Bernard Cardinal Law, then the archbishop, knew or should have known. But the Globe got the documents, and that broke the case wide open the following year, leading to the exposure of scores of other priests and, ultimately, the resignation of Cardinal Law and an $85 million settlement with the victims.

"Weíve really benefited at the Globe from having somebody from the outside come in," says McNamara. "This guy [Baron] just has no allegiances. Given that, heís in a really enviable position to see things with a clearer eye." She adds: "Heís not warm and fuzzy, but I donít care. I donít need my editor to be warm and fuzzy. Heís smart. And heís ethical. And heís committed to the news. Thatís what I care about. Weíve had plenty of editors with plenty of personality, and I could have lived without a few of them." Op-ed-page columnist Joan Vennochi, who reports to editorial-page editor Renée Loth rather than to Baron, says, "I think Martyís proven himself to be a great editor."

There are those who wonder whether Storin, given his desire to reverse the Globeís reputation for anti-Catholic bias, would have been willing to go to court to force the Geoghan case into the open. Storin, whoís now associate vice-president for news and information at the University of Notre Dame, his alma mater, where he is also teaching media ethics, was gracious when I put the question to him. But he insists that, yes, he would have. "It was a great thing that Baron did," Storin says, noting that Baronís previous posting was in Florida, where there is a culture of government records being public. "I am honest enough to admit that, because I was used to this phenomenon [of court records being secret], maybe it wouldnít have occurred to me. But boy, if anyone had suggested it, I would have been all for it."

Despite early fears in the newsroom that Baron would order a widespread shake-up, his personnel changes have been incremental. Rather than making wholesale changes himself, heís let people leave on their own, which is smart. Still, a considerable amount of high-ranking talent has moved on since Baron became editor. Business editor Peter Mancusi, a lawyer, took a job in a high-powered consulting and public-relations firm, and was replaced by Caleb Solomon, who had edited the now-defunct New England edition of the Wall Street Journal. The metro editor, Peter Canellos, became Washington-bureau chief after Pulitzer winner David Shribman left to become executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and was in turn replaced by Carolyn Ryan, who had been the political editor. Both Solomon and Ryan are seen as the sort of no-nonsense, hard-news editors with whom Baron is comfortable.

Greg Moore, the paperís top-ranking African-American, left his job as managing editor to become editor of the Denver Post. When Baron decided not to replace him and instead to go with a two-person team at the top of the masthead (with executive editor Helen Donovan), deputy managing editor Ben Bradlee Jr., who along with Spotlight Team editor Walter Robinson had led the Catholic Church coverage and who wanted Mooreís job, decided to leave. "Thatís something that he and I obviously talked about, and the job is still unfilled," says Bradlee, whoís writing a book about Red Sox legend Ted Williams. Bradlee adds: "I still feel very loyal to the Globe, since it was a big part of my life." (Baron points out that many papers operate with two editors at the top, and that by eliminating the managing editorís position he can spend the money he saved on something else.)

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Issue Date: April 2 - 8, 2004
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