Friday, March 23, 2007

Who is the Next Globe Marquee Writer?

The Boston Globe buyouts this week had my world of politics, media and government all abuzz. For the most part, I actually thought it was a non-event. A couple major losses for the Globe are Steve Kurkjian, a true investigative bulldog, and restaurant critic Alison Arnett. I wasn’t surprised to see Eileen McNamara take the buyout but her departure opens up the most serious question for Globe editor Marty Baron.

Will he replace McNamara? If not, what does that mean to Brian McGrory and Adrian Walker? And, if so, does it have to be a woman? And, if so, with woman?

[Another, slightly smaller question than 'who' is 'when'? Do you give the newbie the marquee Sunday/Wednesday slot that McNamara has or switch around McGrory, who currently has Tuesday and Friday, and Walker, who has Monday and Thursday]

I think the answers are pretty easy on a number of fronts. Yes, he should replace her. McGrory and Walker do good work but the Globe needs another face on its Metro page.

And, yes, it has to be a woman.

That may rub some people the wrong way but get over it. This isn’t a woman’s slot, per say. But, in this day and age, for the Globe to have more than one Metro columnist and not have one of them be a woman would be wrong. I don’t think McNamara or even Patricia Smith got their jobs just because they were women but, after Bella English, I think they had to reserve at least one slot for a non-man, it’s just life, it’s just right and it's just about the best way to truly give your paper some diversity.

Now, the question comes, who?

I happen to be of the belief that the job of Metro columnist, arguably the most high-profile at the paper, must be promoted from within.

You can’t draw a good person from out of town for that slot because learning the oddities, quirks and craziness of this small town while in that kind of slot would be just painful.

And I don’t think they should pull somebody from the cross-town Herald, even though I love them all dearly, because there isn’t truly a voice there strong enough to pull it off and bring in new readers (which, remember, is the goal here).

One oddball thought I'd consider if I were Baron is a TV personality, if any of them can truly write, which I suspect some can. Consider the sorry state of newspaper circulation. Not that TV is doing a heck of a lot better at drawing in young news viewers, but news writing needs to change with the times and there's a chance - longshot, I admit - that a TV journalist could do something special with a column. Think Emily Rooney, Maria Stephanos or Lisa Hughes. Again, if they can write well.

I think really you have to look first within the Globe. And, from the reporters/editors I know, there are some pretty good choices. Now I’ll admit bias on some fronts because these are people I have worked with and like. But here are some nominations:

· Carolyn Ryan. A name few outside the business know right now but who currently wields enormous influence at the Globe. I believe her title is now Assistant Managing Editor but she’s basically Metro editor and her hands are in everything of any consequence at the Globe for good reason – she’s very good. She hasn’t had much of a chance to write since she left the Herald but, at the Herald and, before that, at the Patriot Ledger, she was one of the best reporters I’ve seen. Neither of those slots allowed her to do much of the true writing she’d have to do as a columnist but I have no reason to think she couldn’t pull it off credibly. She has impeccable sources, is very well connected around town and, one of the most important aspects of the job, she knows the city and state. It might be seen as a demotion of sorts because she could be editor someday. But I think this might be a chance of a lifetime for her and the Globe.

· Yvonne Abraham. A great writer and reporter. I first ran into her on the Straight Talk Express with Sen. John McCain in the 2000 campaign and, though I was a lowly competitor, she was nice, fun and actually helpful. She is a great source reporter because everyone genuinely likes her. She was good in the State House but, I think, underutilized. Now she’s doing immigration stories and has been breaking news and writing true enterprise pieces on the single biggest topic facing the nation these days. She’s an Aussie with the accent but, at heart, a great Bostonian.

· Beth Healy. A good reporter and writer on the Business desk, she’s now working on the Spotlight team and played a key role in the “Debtors Hell” series that, while I didn’t think it was all that, has at least caught the attention of the Pulitzer committee so that shows what I know.

· Other longer-shots could be: Stephanie Ebbert (great reporter I competed against in City Hall Bureau and would be a new, young face for an ever-changing Boston); Bev Beckham, formerly of the Herald and currently a once-a-weeker for the Sunday regional sections; And Haley Kaufman from the Living page.

Ok, now let the complaints flood in. But if you think I’m way off – tell me, who do you think deserves the job?


Jason said...

Um, what about fantastic reporters from the regional weeklies? You know who I mean, and she's right to be insulted to not be on the list.

DAve said...

The finest metro writer at the Globe is Steve Bailey. Of course, he may not have any interest in leaving the business beat but he'd gain a much more prominent spot in the paper.

Too bad Steve ain't a woman.

Anonymous said...

Sam Allis has been doing a great job on Sunday A3 for years. He has the eye to see the issue, maybe the passion as an advocate can emerge.

Tony said...

Who would that be Jason?

Yvonne Abraham would be my bet. She is great. However, I don't agree with the gender issue per se. It will probably end up being a woman but I think it is more important to look at someone who will get the good stories and has the pulse of the communities, if you will. It would also be good to get a young buck in there too.

Heidi said...

Megan Tench would be another person to consider. She covers city stories right now and is a fabulous writer. She's young, so it would be a little risky, but she's got an excellent voice and I think could do a great job.