Inside the upcoming life sciences newsroom from Boston Globe Media

May 6, 2015
Category: Uncategorized

Shortly after Rick Berke resigned from his post as executive editor of Politico in September, he was contacted by Boston Globe Media, which made him a compelling offer: Did he want to build a newsroom from the ground up?

“How often do you have an opportunity to pursue important, high-end journalism as well as create a new publication, a new news organization, from nothing?” Berke asked. “I couldn’t not do it.”

He talked to Boston Globe Media for months before he finally accepted the opportunity, becoming executive editor for an as-yet unnamed news organization focused on the life sciences. Since then, he’s been busy honing the vision and hiring for a newsroom he projects will have “dozens” of staffers and a presence in both Boston and Washington, D.C.

“We hope to become an indispensable and absorbing guide to the fascinating world of life sciences,” Berke told Poynter in an email interview. “In an insightful and provocative way, we’ll cover the discovery and inventions that could transform human health, and the personalities, money, politics and culture behind the research.”

The forthcoming publication is the latest initiative from Boston Globe Media, the parent company of The Boston Globe, which has spun off a few publications focused on specific coverage areas since the paper was bought by Boston businessman John Henry in 2013. Last March, the company launched BetaBoston, a free website dedicated to covering the startup scene in Beantown, followed several months later by Crux, a standalone site devoted to Catholicism.

Boston Globe Media decided to invest in life science coverage because Boston sits at a major nexus of bio technology innovation, Berke said. Kendall Square in the nearby city of Cambridge is a major hub for investment and research, and the Globe is a short distance away from major hospitals and prestigious research universities like MIT and Harvard.

“This really all stems from John Henry taking over the Globe and feeling passionate about the fact that there’s this amazing story in the backyard of the Globe of worldwide interest,” Berke said.

Although the publication isn’t slated to launch for many months, Berke has already begun building a team of editors, reporters and executives. So far, he’s recruited Politico alums Stephanie Simon and David Nather (who will run the D.C. bureau) in addition to New York Times alum Jeff DelViscio and former Harvard Crimson managing editor Rebecca Robbins. Gideon Gil, the health and science editor of the Globe who is currently finishing a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship, will be the publication’s enterprise editor. Angus Macaulay, formerly vice president of marketing and sales at Pace Communications, has already begun as chief revenue officer. Future hires will include a head of product, in addition to reporters, editors and multimedia staffers.

The publication will be headquartered in The Boston Globe building, but on a different floor from the Globe’s newsroom, with its own business staff. In addition to a Web presence, Berke and Boston Globe Media envision the publication having some kind of “print component,” but that product and its publication frequency hasn’t been finalized yet.

Smaller scooplets and step-back enterprise pieces will be a part of the publication’s news diet, which will consist of “urgent daily journalism” and “memorable stories that make a difference,” Berke said.

Berke says the publication hopes to begin by publishing a few stories in The Boston Globe by this fall. He and his team hope to debut a separate site sometime after that, but he did not want to peg the launch to a specific date.

“There’s a lot of major big questions that have to be answered,” Berke said. “And these things take time.”