The Boston Globe Reveals Details of Its Reinvention
A memo from Brian McGrory outlines expected changes.
After discussing its reinvention for a year, The Boston Globe is ready to move on its plans for a major transformation. On Monday, Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory outlined the company’s review and evaluation process and detailed some of the changes staff could anticipate.
“We’re ready to begin putting the pieces in place for a restructured newsroom. None of the changes detailed here will come as any surprise, though in total, they represent significant change. The basic goals are familiar as well: to be more nimble, more innovative, and more inclined to take worthwhile risk; to get our best journalism in front of readers when and where they want to read it, throughout the day and across all our platforms; to be relentlessly interesting, jettisoning any sense of obligation in our report; to once and for all break the stubborn rhythms of a print operation, allowing us to unabashedly pursue digital subscriptions even while honoring the many loyal readers who subscribe to the physical paper,” McGrory said.
“Easy, right? Well, given the spectacularly talented roster of journalists here, it won’t be as hard as some might fear,” he added.
He explained that they started the planning last year with skepticism from about a dozen editors, but after hiring three consultants, having 60 staff members work on detailed reports, and 15 senior staffers working out the details, McGrory was upbeat and enthusiastic about The Globe’s future. He also acknowledged the newspaper’s recent successes, including record traffic on BG.com and four Pulitzer prizes in the last four years.
McGrory outlined the changes in his memo:
- Chris Chinlund will remain managing editor for news for now, but she has been planning to leave for some time. She may leave as early as the summer, but her exact departure date was not shared. Katie Kingsbury will remain the managing editor for digital.
- The Globe will create an “express desk” to handle breaking news and trending news on social media. “Through this desk, we will produce the in-the-moment important, quirky and just plain fascinating stories that metrics show our readership craves, all in a web-first environment that will have the benefits of copy-editing, photo-editing and graphics,” McGrory wrote.
- The Globe will add an audience engagement team, managed by Jason Tuohey, deputy managing editor, to spot trending news, oversee alerts and newsletters, write “provocative and delightful headlines,” know the major social platforms to identify opportunities and more.
- Led by Larry Edelman, a new “super department” will be formed to revamp The Globe’s news beats and include Metro, Business and the Living side of Living/Arts.
- Mark Morrow and David Dahl will manage The Globe’s print desk to help shape the newspaper’s coverage.
- An enhanced projects team will represent The Globe’s signature journalism, including longform and investigative stories. The enhanced projects team will include the paper’s Spotlight team.
- Senior deputy managing editor Jen Peter will serve as an air traffic controller/traffic cop to make sure the newsroom runs smoothly and that enterprise work is properly balanced with “quicker hits” to support the audience engagement team.
- Janice Page will become innovations editor for the newsroom to identify opportunities and drive them to completion.
- The Globe will rebuild its digital storytelling team, quickly, to include staff from product, development and design.
McGrory touched on other changes, including a change in business hours for some departments, more training opportunities, better collaboration across departments, possibly staff reassignments and more while maintaining the organization’s core values.
“We will maintain the values that have guided this organization for a century and a half, giving voice to those who need one, holding powerful people and institutions accountable, and revealing essential truths. This will not change one bit,” McGrory said.
He also outlined an ambitious timetable for making changes, starting May 2, so that all of the changes will be in place approximately a month before a planned move to 53 State (downtown Boston) during the first three weeks of June.
“It’s been hard work, and will get harder still, but it’s some of the most worthwhile work that any of us will undertake in our time here. Please know, and I hope you already do, that you have my most sincere gratitude for what you do every day, what you’ve done on this, and what we’re about to do together,” concluded McGrory.
The Boston Globe originally announced the need for a major reinvention in April 2016 when McGrory told staff that change was necessary to stop “irreversible revenue declines.” Rather than cut staff to reduce costs, McGrory said The Globe would transform itself, looking at every aspect of their operation to see what sorts of changes could help the organization remain sustainable and grow in a tumultuous time for the newspaper industry.
After taking a full year to rethink how it does business and what changes it needs to make to reverse revenue decreases, The Globe has set an ambitious goal to complete its transition by the end of May, particularly in terms of staff reassignments. However, The Globe also has a lot of positives on its side, including McGrory’s enthusiasm, support from current company leaders, the newspaper’s reputation as a strong journalism organization, growing digital traffic, and a detailed plan for change. If The Globe can pull this off in its proposed timeframe, it could well set a new standard for newspaper transformations in a digital world.