Brave new Globe?

By ADAM REILLY  |  January 29, 2010

The new publisher's mien could also be a valuable asset. During a recent sit-down with the Phoenix, Mayer — a burly Yale grad who speaks of his paper's challenges as if he's dissecting an especially intriguing intellectual puzzle — evinces an almost evangelical faith in the Globe's prospects. Because the paper's work is crucial, he argues, a viable business model simply has to exist; it's just a matter of finding it.

"The journalistic mission that we have at the Globe — and I believe this is true for the industry, as well — if we're true to that mission, there's a huge amount of societal benefit, and a value that gets created as a byproduct of that," explains Mayer. "The size of the stories, whether there's full-motion video, how it gets presented — all that goes back to what the right medium is at that point in time.

"You're in the Greater Boston market," he continues. "You've got the largest readership base; it's the second-most-wired market out there; there's a whole set of different communities of passion [to serve], as well as a bunch of industries where we're national and international leaders. Why wouldn't this be the greatest business to get into right now?"

Spoken by another executive, or read on the printed page, this commentary might seem like a corporate attempt to put the best possible face on a bad situation. Infused with Mayer's combination of wonkiness and kid-in-a-candy-shop enthusiasm, though, it can actually leave you thinking that the Globe's best days are yet to come.

Last year, when it looked like the Boston Globe would get new owners, Globe watchers speculated about what the paper's sale would mean for editor Marty Baron, whose eight-year tenure includes four Pulitzer Prizes. Now, however, new publisher Christopher Mayer suggests that the editor's job is Baron's indefinitely.

"Marty's fabulous," Mayer tells the Phoenix. "I would say he's one of the best editors in the country, and I'm not the only one who shares that opinion. His understanding of the opportunities that exist to take our content and reach our audience through a variety of different mediums is terrific. I'm very happy with him."

Swagger like us
After the stresses of last year, the Globe's journalists are sure to welcome Mayer's optimism. That said, the day-to-day tone of the newsroom is set not by the publisher but by the editors. And this is one reason that Peter's nascent tenure as metro editor (like Mayer, she started on January 1) will be especially interesting to watch.

Brian McGrory, Peter's predecessor, boasted some impressive hard-news triumphs during his two-plus years in that job — including a series of stories that effectively drove Massachusetts House Speaker Sal DiMasi from office — and had a knack for capturing the essence of contemporary Boston. His biggest achievement, though, may have been changing the mood in the newsroom.

"He took over the metro desk at a time of horrible uncertainty, when people were feeling really down and dispirited," one reporter says of McGrory. "He always tried to keep people's spirits up — and at the same time to light a fire under us, to remind us why we do what we do. Basically, he wanted us to walk around with a bit more swagger — to hold our heads up and swagger through this town."

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