The End of the Globe?
Some of Us Have Strong Ties
By Edward Shanahan
While the threatened closing of the Boston Globe is not totally unimaginable, given the rapid pace of change in the newspaper business, I take it very, very personally.
As a boy, I delivered great numbers of daily and Sunday Globes, along with other Boston newspapers, and with my father as an example, I became a dedicated reader of the newspaper, spending hours focused on the sports pages, especially the agate type box scores. By the way, have you seen a young boy reading a newspaper these days?
Later, this interest in newspapers got out of control and I actually went to work as a reporter for a succession of papers, starting with the Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield. In the late 1960s, when I was toiling for a newspaper in Winston-Salem, N. C., I got it in my mind it might be fun to return to New England and work for the Globe.
During a brief vacation, I knocked on the door of the Globe, got into the newsroom and was interviewed by a couple of sub-editors, but the Top Guy, Tom Winship, the paper’s legendary editor, was not in the office, so I could not make my case directly to him.
Alas, I had to make other plans, which took me elsewhere, and then eventually to the Daily Hampshire Gazette where I was able to view the Globe newsroom operation from an even closer vantage point.
The 1970s and 80s were the glory days of Winship’s Globe, its Spotlight team series of investigations, its brilliant use of public documents to uncover and unearth wrongdoing by public and private interests, high and low. It was also the home of great sports writing, feisty columnists, broad and deep cultural reporting, and always a steady eye on politics and government. It expanded its reach abroad when it opened overseas bureaus. Resources seemed to be limitless and they were spent freely.
Yet there was the feeling among some readers and other newspaper people that the Globe was too full of itself, arrogant even, and maybe there was a touch of that, but why not, the newspaper was a major factor influencing the public discourse for much of New England, certainly in Massachusetts, and especially in Boston.
At professional meetings of New England editors, it was energizing to spend time with Globe editors and reporters, because they had lofty goals for themselves and their paper. These same editors were mostly down to earth and helpful to those of us operating in their shadow.
After I left the Gazette and was working for the Quincy Patriot Ledger, one of my best friends at the Globe, Tom Mulvoy, was trying to fashion a job there that would suit my particular interests and skills. With my nose once more pressed up against the Morrissey Boulevard window, I reluctantly had to move on to another paper before anything opened up at the Globe for me.
But, alas my personal involvement with the mighty Boston Globe did not come to an end, because it just so happened that our youngest son, Mark, had got bitten by the newspaper bug, too.
It started with free-lance written reports for family consumption based on television coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings, scraps of which we still have saved in notebooks. He was only 8, but he had fire in his small belly when describing the cast of characters – John Dean, H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman – who appeared before Sen. Sam Ervin’s investigating committee.
From that journalistic beginning, Mark naturally moved on to the paperboy level, delivering Gazettes to scores of old folks living in apartments at Meadowbrook.
His journalism career went into hiatus for some years, while he dabbled in high school, college, theater, rock music, tennis and more elevated forms of writing, even moving to Iowa City to ponder entering the fabled writing program at the university. That did not work out and he had a succession of low-energy, low-pay jobs, until one day he called to say: “Dad I have a job.” He’d signed on as a stringer or free-lancer for the Lewiston (Maine) Sun.
He and his companion, Michelle, long since his wife, were living in rural Maine, and Mark’s job was to cover a couple of regional school districts and other small municipal entities. During the next few years he moved to the Sun’s city room in Lewiston, on to the Portland Press Herald’s Sanford bureau and finally, doing good very work and having fun all the time, to the Press Herald’s city room.
But then came an opening at the Globe. First an interview, then a tryout, then more interviews, then submitting samples of a column he would write, there was more waiting, and then finally, a job offer. Now this was the big time, Boston, the Globe, and best of all for a child of popular culture, there was the assignment, reporting and writing the ‘Names’ column. You know the names - Ben Affleck, Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady and Bridget Moynahan, David Ortiz, Ellen Pompeo – not great minds but those who pass for celebrities in Boston.
And he’s continued to have fun over the last five or so years—also covering the social whirl in other cities when Boston teams made it to the Super bowl, or the World Series, or with the inauguration of Barack Obama.
Somewhere along the line over the last several years, in addition to the celebrity beat, Mark tapped into the pleasures and rewards of writing news stories and having them published almost as soon as he’d finished writing them. What a rush, what an experience, what a life. Frustrations, there are, too, but it is all worth it. The people you meet, the challenge of getting the story, and getting it right and telling it in an arresting way.
So, at age 44, he, like all of the pros at the Globe, has to wonder what happened not so suddenly, but abruptly enough to threaten the very work they have learned to do and to do so well. Why can’t they continue doing work they enjoy that provides so much pleasure, information, even outrage and payoff to their readers?
I wonder that, too, and ask myself the same questions?
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