Brave new Globe?

By ADAM REILLY  |  January 29, 2010

The editorial operation, too, has been significantly reshuffled. In less than a year, the paper acquired a new metro editor (former city editor Jennifer Peter), a new editorial-page editor (Peter Canellos; see "Difference of Opinion," November 9), a new features czar (former Globe Magazine editor Doug Most), a new Washington, DC, bureau chief (Christopher Rowland, who replaced Canellos), a new metro political editor (Scott Helman, replacing Rowland), and a new city editor (former religion writer Michael Paulson).

Not enough fodder for a Globe equivalent of The Kingdom and the Power, perhaps, but still plenty of intriguing subplots for Boston-media junkies to track in the coming months. The aggregate meaning of all these changes is still unclear, however. Given the abidingly bleak economic realities of the newspaper business — and the Globe's recent brush with extinction — do they leave the paper substantially stronger than it was a year ago? Or, rather, are they the journalistic equivalent of deck-shuffling on the Titanic?

Better days?
The answer will depend, in large part, on how Mayer fares as publisher. And despite the fact that his career as a publisher is just beginning — he's never done the job before taking over for Ainsley on January 1 — close Globe watchers are bullish on what he brings to the role.

"If the New York Times Company was going to pick yet another publisher," notes one long-time Globe veteran, "they finally found someone who understands both the Globe and the local community. Chris worked his way up — he's been at the Globe 22 years — so he knows everybody, and he's very well liked and respected. The last two publishers parachuted in; nobody knew who the hell they were. With Mayer, there's no learning curve — and there's no issue of, 'How do we get the employees behind this guy?' "

"The fact that he's somebody who knew the Globe before it was sold to the Times Co. is a huge plus," adds a Globe alumnus. "Mayer seems willing to play the traditional role of a publisher — to handle certain issues on the business side, but also to be the connective tissue that binds the paper to the business community. Ainsley tried to do that — I think his heart was in the right place — but he wasn't here long enough for it to take."

The optimism surrounding Mayer's ascent isn't just based on his deep ties to Boston (he's lived in South Boston since 1989) and to the Globe. It stems, too, from his role as architect of last spring's price-increase regimen — which saw the Globe's newsstand and home-delivery costs raised substantially. (In Peabody, for example, a seven-day subscriber now pays $12.25 weekly, $3 more than a year ago.)

Coming as they did at a time when the Globe was hemorrhaging print readership — and when, according to multiple reports, the paper was losing more than $1 million a week — these price hikes seemed like a riskily counterintuitive move. But apparently they worked: Mayer's program was cited as a key reason the paper was back on the "path to profitability" by Times Co. management during a visit they made to the Globe late last year. Inside the newsroom, meanwhile, there's a belief that these increased prices create an implicit argument against future cuts in coverage: how, the argument goes, can you whittle down the paper when you've just convinced readers to pay more for it?

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Related: Fourth-estate follies, 2009 edition, The Globe's biggest union expels its head, Through a glass darkly, More more >
  Topics: Media -- Dont Quote Me , Michael Paulson, Michael Paulson, Peter Canellos,  More more >
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