On April 29, 2022, during the NENPA convention in Boston, the keynote session was presented by two top Boston Globe executives. Brian McGrory, editor, and Linda Pizzuti Henry, chief executive officer, sat down for an informal discussion with convention attendees.
The pair did not prepare a formal presentation, instead they opened the session by tossing questions to each other about their experiences and views on the state of the industry, then they opened it up to the audience for discussion.
A 27-year veteran of the Globe, McGrory spoke on the state of the industry today including its challenges and potentially innovative opportunities.
McGrory started off by asking Henry what surprised her most about newspaper ownership.
“We knew going in, in 2013 that the Globe was going to take a lot of work,” said Henry. “It was a turnaround situation, and we knew it was going to be hard work. It was harder than we anticipated…we’re really looking forward to the future and investing and contemplating and preparing ourselves for what media is going to be like going forward.”
McGrory explained that, when he came in as the editor for the Globe in 2012, the paper was in a dire position with declines in advertising. He explained the most shocking part of taking on this position was the human element and having to deal with layoffs and taking on business matters more than necessary.
McGrory also discussed his goals when he became the editor at the Boston Globe.
“I had two challenges, one was to continue to produce great journalism at the Boston Globe and the other was, as we’re trying to do this, to figure out a business model that would be sustainable, and that has always been the more vexing part,” said McGrory. “The real goal was to tie the two together. To make good journalism good for business.”
McGrory and Henry also brought up the challenges of keeping the newsroom together during and after the coronavirus pandemic where Henry praised McGrory’s leadership in keeping the newsroom together during this time.
“One of the things that makes the pandemic story unique is that it’s a story in which the journalists are actually as affected as everybody else,” said McGrory “Part of the challenge for me in the newsroom, for [Linda Pizzuti Henry] company-wide, was being as empathetic as humanly possible.”
Speaking on freelance journalists versus staff reporters, McGrory explained how, over the last nine years, the Globe had cut its freelance budget by about 90% as a way to hold on to as many “Globe quality journalists” on their staff as possible and allowed them to hire more staff positions.
McGrory and Henry also spoke on future business ventures such as expanding readership across New England especially after launching “Globe Rhode Island.” They talked about the success of this initiative feeling that it was able to increase the quality of news in the state.
When asked about advice for up-and-coming publishers, Henry explained that while producing content is important, you should also focus on building a strong community.
They also talked about the transition from print to digital and how there is a balance between the two in order to appeal to those still averse to technology and noted that print subscribers are loyal to the Globe.
Lastly, McGrory gave some hopeful advice to aspiring student journalists.
“It is really challenging. It’s also a really appealing time to break into the business,” said McGrory. “The public needs us and I think there’s an inherent understanding that they need us now as much as ever.”