Marty Baron Will 'Boston Globe-ify' the Washington Post

What’s that actually mean? More local.

By | Boston Daily |

Paul Starobin, writing for The New Republic, says recently departed Globe editor Marty Baron could conduct a “Boston Globe-ization” of the Washington Post. Baron spoke to The New Republic about his new job as editor of the Post, where he begins in January. His thoughts are inherently interesting to anyone with who follows the Post or the national media landscape. They are perhaps more interesting to us Boston-dwellers for what they say about how Baron views his past 11 years at the Globe. What does it mean to “Boston Globe-ify” a newspaper? Chiefly, it means investing more in deeply reported, investigative, local coverage:

Baron’s past successes suggest a specific rescue plan. In our conversation, Baron was for the most part unforthcoming as to his vision for the newspaper, with one telling exception—Metro coverage. Baron believes passionately in hard-hitting coverage of local communities, as exemplified by the Globe’s Pulitzer-Prize winning expose of the Catholic Church’s cover up of sexual abuse by Boston-area priests. At the budget-crunched Globe, he shuttered all foreign bureaus to devote greater focus and energy to the “central” mission of covering Greater Boston.

The tension between the Post’s roles as a national paper and a local one are not new. When Vanity Fair published a long piece on the problems at the Post last April, several people were quoted addressing it. Warren Buffett told reporter Sarah Ellison, “One of the things that’s existed over time which I’m sure you’re aware of is that the newsroom, kindled by what happened in Watergate, liked to think of themselves as national. And they are national in an important respect, but they’re not national as a business. And they don’t have a business model that works nationally. What they do have as a business asset is a large and prosperous local market.”

Part of the tension, as many noted when the last Post editor Marcus Brauchli left and Baron was announced as a successor, was that the former editors didn’t care enough about the local side of the paper for management’s taste. “One of our biggest problems is we have three people at the top of the paper, none of whom give a shit about Sports, Metro, or Style,” publisher Katharine Weymouth reportedly told people in the newsroom, according to Ellison.

From this Baron interview, it sounds like management picked someone with more ardor for Metro section. Baron tells The New Republic, “Does the Post have a mission for covering those kind of stories? Absolutely. I think it does. Can more be done? I hope so.”

You just have to look to the resources — human, digital, spacial, whatever — the Globe is putting into a series running this week on Boston’s Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood to see Baron’s priorities on display. What he does at the Post will only serve to confirm what we already know about the direction Baron likes to take his newspapers.