April 17, 2017

The Boston Globe’s much-awaited plan for digital reinvention came out Monday in a 3,000-plus word memo from Editor Brian McGrory. The changes, which result from a year of rethinking what they do and how they do it, are similar in many ways to others at newsrooms across the country.

The newsroom’s day will begin earlier. They’ll get more regular training. They’re focusing more than ever on what matters to their audience. They’ll stick to their core values. And, here’s one most legacy newsrooms haven’t articulated yet: They’ll be funnier.

We’re going to be more humorous, god dammit, and absolutely more humane. Boston is a big and fascinating place filled with savvy, often funny, and occasionally brilliant people. We need to reflect this even more, tap into it, and be part of it.

McGrory notes in the memo that making the long list of changes happen will be hard. Journalists must send a note to him by May 2 with the two or three roles they think they’ll be best in.

Let’s accept upfront that this will be a disruptive stretch, pretty much starting right now, despite all good efforts to prevent it. I don’t know any way around it. Transitions are inevitably rocky, but let’s put our heads down and collectively get to the other side.

Here’s a quick look at what’s coming (quickly) to Boston:

– An Express Desk

The Express Desk will report news as it happens, but they’ll also report the “quirky and just plain fascinating stories that metrics show our readership craves, all in a web-first environment that will have the benefits of copy-editing, photo-editing, and graphics.”

– An audience engagement team made up of reporters, editors and producers

This team will be “the rigorous stewards of provocative and delightful headlines, push training opportunities to the broader room, and know the ins and outs of the major social platforms where huge readership – and revenue opportunities – await.”

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– A Super Department and “refreshed” beats

This department will make collaboration easier and beats smarter, the memo notes, “to better serve readers.”

– A separate print desk

Print’s not being put in a corner here, according to the memo:

These are not people who wander into the room late in the day and curate the best of online for tomorrow’s print edition. No, they are helping shape our coverage across the day and through the week, editing for digital and print, always demanding that our physical paper be fresh if not outright surprising. Our goal is not to have a “digital first” enterprise. That phrase is as exhausted as it is trite. Our goal is to be great on all platforms, and to not trip over one platform to get to another.

– An “enhanced” projects team

The paper’s famed Spotlight team will stay staffed as is, but a deputy projects editor and a technologist will help make that work digital. The Globe will also have a team to work on shorter projects.

– Reviving the digital storytelling team

We have such a team already, but it’s been hammered by attrition. We need to rebuild it, fast, and in the reconstruction, we need to devote ever more of our design and graphics firepower to the digital side…

You can read the entire memo here.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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