City Journal: The Globe’s Campaign Crunch

Shorter on resources and manpower, the paper will have trouble covering the ’08 race with its usual swagger.

The Globe is known for its uncommon love of presidential campaigns, reporting on them with an intensity exceeded by only a handful of national news outlets. “It was far and away more involved than papers of a similar size,” says Thomas Fitzgerald of the 2004 race, which he followed for Knight Ridder. “They spent at Washington Post and almost at New York Times levels. They were huge.” The paper covered the whole field of competitive candidates more or less full time, and gave special attention to John Kerry, turning out a seven-part series on the senator that took four top reporters six months to assemble. The package was so fresh and definitive, it became a book that today stands as the indispensable Kerry biography.

Since then, a lot has changed on Morrissey Boulevard. The paper is streamlining its newsroom, wrapping up its second buyout since the ’04 campaign. It just shuttered all its foreign bureaus, and dozens of other jobs are being outsourced to India.

And yet editors insist that even though the Globe can no longer afford a man in Berlin, Germany, it still will have boots on the ground in Berlin, New Hampshire, come primary time. “We’re not going to relent in presidential campaign coverage, I’ll tell you that,” says outgoing deputy managing editor Carolyn Ryan (who recently joined the New York Times). “We’re invested. We’re not going to cede that ground.”

The first test of that pledge may come when the paper runs an in-depth bio series on Mitt Romney, which insiders expect as early as this month. The project will require even more manpower than the Kerry profiles on which it is modeled. “Romney has not been in the public eye for 30 years, so it’s a more difficult task,” says Washington bureau chief Peter Canellos, who notes that financial reporters are being used to examine the former governor’s business career. “There have been cutbacks, but we’re going to make a big effort on the campaign. It’s something we consider a core part of our coverage.”

Beyond Romney, canvassing the candidates as the paper did in 2004 will not be cheap, especially with six serious contenders and a year-and-a-half primary season. Over one typical five-day stretch, the Kerry campaign billed reporters $6,387 each for jet travel and $1,010 in hotels—and that’s on top of assorted other food, transportation, and wireless-access bills. That’s a week of expenses that well exceeds what the Globe pays the average reporter in a month.