Philip Bennett, the managing editor of FRONTLINE, the landmark, high quality
PBS newsmagazine produced from WGBH's Allston headquarters, is said to be a
"stealth candidate" for the job of replacing outgoing Boston Globe editor
Bennett was hired to cover local news when he first came to the Globe and eventually became Foreign News
Bennett moved on to the Washington Post where he served as Managing Editor
from 2005 to 2009. The Post garnered
10 Pulitzer Prizes during those years. Bennett served as number two to Leonard
Downie, who had himself succeeded Ben Bradlee.
Bennett left the Post when the new publisher Katharine Weymouth decided to
define herself by breaking with Post tradition and going outside of the assumed
chain of internal succession to appoint an outsider, Marcus Brauchli, as the
top news dog.
Brauchli, former headman at the Wall Street Journal, had just been squeezed
out of management by the Journal's new owner, NewsCorp, controlled by media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
Weymouth's brainstorm degenerated into a series of editorial and management migraines.
Brauchli, who is supposed to stay at the Post advising on acquisitions, steps
down the last day of 2012.
How serious a candidate is Bennett? In truth it is hard to say. A cone of
silence envelops the search. Bennett has the chops, there is little doubt about
that. The Globe he knew has changed. At the Post he played on a gritty fast
track. At Frontline the fast track is paved, but the stakes are equally high.
Among the various subtexts I think I discern is this: who will have the
final say in picking the next Globe editor? The New York editorial mandarins and their
corporate overlords? Or current Globe publisher Chris Mayer?
Even my usually reliable Times sources say they don't have a clue. They
wonder if the paper's new chief executive officer Mark Thompson, former BBC
chief, will play a role along with publisher Arthur Sulzberger and vice chairman
Michael Golden, Sulzberger's cousin.
Today is Baron's last day at Morrissey Boulevard. For the past 11 years,
Baron led the news room during episodes of considerable turbulence: staff cuts,
financial pressures, and a disquieting round of contract negotiations that
resulted in significant employee givebacks.
Sometime dour, always hard charging, and often inspirational, during Baron's
tenure the Globe pocketed four Pulitzer Prizes. More important, under Baron's
strategic influence and tactical guidance the Globe shrewdly focused its
resources. The result is that as big-city dailies and regional papers flirted
with mediocrity - or worse - standards at the Globe remained high.
It's a given that Baron will be a tough act to follow. A new round of
buyouts sees the exits of old hands, among them: Alex Beam (lifestyle columnist
with a distinctive voice), Brian Mooney (a grizzled veteran out of central
casting who has probably forgotten more about politics than many young staffers
remember), and Dan Wasserman (an editorial cartoonist with a strong point of
view whose already-skewered subjects remain skewered). And there are revived rumors
that the Globe, owned by the New York Times, could be sold within 18 to 24
If it is, how might that fact affect the choice of a new editor?
Without answering those questions, it seems reasonably clear, according to the
accounts of various Globe brass, that Mayer favors an in-house solution.
But here's where it gets tricky. Would a former Globe editor, such as
Bennett, qualify as in-house by dint of his previous service?
Or would in-house pertain only to the trio of current Globe editors now thought
to be in contention for the job?
Two days ago, I took an informed but wild shot and suggested that Caleb
Solomon, the managing editor and Baron's number two, would seem like the most
logical choice. That guess was based on many conversations with people on the
business and circulation side of the paper, as well as mid-level editors.
After I posted that online, I received substantial feed back from working
reporters and lower-level editors who clearly favored former metro editor and
current metro columnist Brian McGrory.
If the next editor were chosen by
news room vote, McGrory might emerge the winner. If more management and
operational types from Boston.com, the newsroom, and the sales side were
voting, Solomon would be their man.
Editorial page editor Peter Canellos, by this populist but only metaphorical
means of measurement, would be left to remain in charge of the editorial pages,
a high-profile and desirable job that reports to the publisher, not the editor.
In addition to Bennett, the stealth candidate, and the openly-considered trio
of Solomon, McGrory, and Canellos, the names of three other Globe veterans are
frequently floated by the "great mentioner": Carolyn Ryan, the former Globe
metro editor who is now the New York Times metropolitan editor; former Globe
managing editor Gregory Moore, who edits the Denver Post; and former Globe
Washington bureau chief David Shribman, who helms the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Bennet, Moore, Shribman, and Ryan have pedigrees in addition to their
respective talents. McGrory has fire in the belly. Solomon would have virtually
no learning curve. Canellos enjoys a sense of just how the Globe sits in the
larger political firmament. And then there may be candidates that busybodies
like me just don't know about.
So even at this late date, surveying the field is an exercise in discerning
guesswork, not unlike trying to divine the identity of a new pope.
Will an announcement be forthcoming circa 10 AM Monday in order to catch the
maximum media bump? Stay tuned.