In one of his early coups, Storin persuaded Boston-area native David Shribman to leave the Wall Street Journal and take over the Globeís Washington bureau ó something Shribman had pointedly declined to do when Driscoll was the editor. And the nonpartisan Shribman indicated the direction of political coverage during the Storin era. The Globe ceased to be a house organ for the Kennedys, tormenting Ted Kennedy in his 1994 re-election battle, Joe Kennedy in his abortive 1998 gubernatorial campaign, and, most recently, Max Kennedy, who decided not to run for Joe Moakleyís congressional seat after the Globe (and the rest of the local media) mocked a fumbling stump speech. Storin also boosted coverage of such non-political issues as religion, education, and transportation. A memorable Charles Sennott story on a dysfunctional welfare family costing taxpayers some $1 million a year may well have bolstered then-governor Bill Weldís punitive welfare-reform law ó a sharp departure from the Globeís liberal crusading of the past. Hiring was professionalized and decronyized; the paper today, especially the local-news team, is populated by a diverse, young group of talented reporters. And under Storin the Globe won four Pulitzers, the first since the Winship era, for beat reporting (Shribman), commentary (columnist Eileen McNamara), and criticism (architecture critic Robert Campbell and book critic Gail Caldwell).
Yet the Storin era also saw more than the usual amount of strife and angst. Storin is usually a good listener and a quiet, thoughtful talker, but his occasional volcanic outbursts helped create a newsroom environment in which few wanted to bring bad news to the corner office. In 1998 he and the Globe suffered through one of the most hellish years imaginable. That June, columnist Patricia Smith left after she was caught fabricating characters and quotes. In turned out that Smith had been suspected of fabricating several years earlier, and that Storin had ordered her columns to be subjected to extra scrutiny ó a fact that did not stop him from nominating her columns for a Pulitzer. Fortunately for the Globe, she didnít win.
The departure of Smith, an African-American, reignited long-simmering issues of fabrication and plagiarism committed by Barnicle, a white Irish Catholic. In early August, after the Boston Herald caught Barnicle plagiarizing from a George Carlin book, Storin ó on vacation in Italy ó demanded that Barnicle resign. Incredibly, Barnicle refused, relying on his long-standing friendship with then-publisher Ben Taylor and his connections in the national media. Storin should have stuck to his guns, but instead he acquiesced to a two-month suspension. That earned the Globe a public spanking by New York Times editorial-page editor Howell Raines, who wrote an op-ed piece accusing the Globe of practicing a double standard. (Raines, who becomes editor of the Times this fall, is said to have an interest in improving the Globe, though that task obviously falls well outside his portfolio.) It only looked that much worse when, within days, Barnicle was finally forced out after the Phoenix reported that he had once cribbed large chunks of a column from an A.J. Liebling book, and an internal Globe investigation revealed that a Barnicle column on two kids with cancer was largely fiction.
Earlier this year came another embarrassment: the Globe published a page-one retraction of a story reporting that the murders of Dartmouth College professors Half and Susanna Zantop had probably been tied to an extramarital affair.
Along the way Storin made his share of enemies ó perhaps none more prestigious than Eileen McNamara. Storinís decision earlier this year to kill a column of hers critical of Globe management was only the most recent of a number of run-ins theyíve had (see " Hush, Hush, " News and Features, March 29). When the staff gave Storin a standing ovation on July 2, the Heraldís " Inside Track " reported that McNamara stayed seated ó an account verified for the Phoenix by an eyewitness, although McNamara herself would not comment. " I thought we were okay, " says Storin with a note of regret. " I had no idea. "
Even at his low points, however, Storinís candor and willingness to take the heat have served him well. Of the Smith affair, Storin now says he regrets having submitted her work for a Pulitzer, although he hastens to add that none of those columns ever came under suspicion. Of Barnicle, he says, " We were trying to be fair to a 25-year employee, and a lot of things happened on the fly. At every point, taking all things into consideration, I tried to make the decision that I thought was morally and professionally right. " Give Storin his due: messy as it was, he dealt with Barnicle, something none of his predecessors had done. Of the Zantop retraction, he says, " I got more compliments for that than almost anything Iíve ever done. "
Robert Phelps, who worked at the New York Times before becoming Tom Winshipís executive editor (he later retired as editor of Nieman Reports), says Storinís mission was to tone down the liberal crusading of the Winship-era Globe and to establish a sense of " discipline on what I considered high ethical standards. " As far as Phelps is concerned, Storin succeeded. " I think he had an enormously difficult job, and I think he did it with great skill, " he says. " He made some hard decisions, and it wasnít easy. And in each case I thought he did well. "
THOUGH THERE are those who long for the brash, flashy Globe of Tom Winship, there is little doubt that Matt Storin made it a better, straighter, more visually appealing newspaper. But the Globe is hardly perfect, and itís long seemed that its internal culture holds it back from being as good as it could. It is among the best regional papers in the country ó in a class with the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Chicago Tribune, and the Dallas Morning News ó and less damaged, at least until recently, by corporate cost-cutting. Yet, at least to those of us who read it every day, the Globe has always exuded an aura of underachievement.
Thus the Globe that Marty Baron inherits is a paper in flux. It is a challenge for which, by most accounts, he is well suited. Former co-workers describe him as dauntingly intelligent, a workaholic, well-organized, quiet, and thoughtful. Heís also said to be polite but all business, somewhat cool and aloof ó a style that some like better than others. He has been compared to the Timesí Joe Lelyveld and Bill Keller, who are about to step down as executive editor and managing editor, respectively, in that he leads by intellectual example rather than rah-rah cheerleading.
Anyone looking for a sign of how he intends to lead the Globe would have been disappointed by his performance at the July 2 news conference. " Being selected to lead the Globe is one of the highest honors of our profession, " he said. " This really is one of Americaís finest newspapers, and it is my hope that we can build on the accomplishments of the past to create a better Globe. " That wasnít all he said, but it didnít get any more specific than that. Asked how he, an outsider, intended to introduce himself to what can be an unfriendly, insular city, he replied, " Well, I hope itís not unfriendly to this outsider. I certainly plan to meet with the community in all walks of life ... and I expect that people will be gracious. "
But though Baron is new to Boston, his past experience suggests that he is someone who adapts and learns quickly. Born and raised in Tampa, Florida, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Lehigh University in 1976 with both a bachelorís degree and an MBA. He worked as a state reporter and business writer for the Miami Herald, starting the year of his graduation. But it was at the Los Angeles Times, which he joined in 1979, where he first began to show his ability to take othersí work and mold it into a coherent whole. After covering business from New York, he returned to LA in 1983 to become the business editor, and moved steadily up the ranks, rising to editor of the paperís Orange County edition in 1993. There he distinguished himself in a time of crisis, shepherding the Timesí coverage of the local county governmentís bankruptcy, which blew up into a national story.
LA Times business reporter Mike Hiltzik, a Pulitzer winner, was drafted to help with the bankruptcy coverage, and he was impressed by what he saw. " Iíve been in this business for 25 years, " he says, " and Iíve always found that good editors are like good professors: if you get one or two of them in your lifetime, youíre lucky. And Marty is one of them. " Every day, Hiltzik says, Baron pulled together an eight-to-10-story package and made the pieces fit together so that they said something new and important about what was, at root, an arcane story of fiscal mismanagement. " Heís the kind of editor who enhances everybodyís work, " Hiltzik says, calling Baron " just a relentless, energetic worker " with " a huge attention capability. "
Wall Street Journal managing editor Paul Steiger, who preceded Baron as business editor of the LA Times, says of his successor, " I saw how competitive the LA Times was. In those days we often paid more attention to the LA Times business coverage than to the New York Times business operation, because Martyís operation broke news. "
In 1996 Baron moved to the New York Times, and the following year he was made the night editor ó an associate managing editorís position rarely granted to an outsider and one that carries enormous responsibility, given that its duties are executed after the top editors have left for the day. LA Times managing editor Dean Baquet, who was national editor at the NY Times when Baron was night editor, says he did a " great job, " not only in handling the news, but also in managing the enormous egos of reporters whose stories he ruled on. " Martyís strongest attribute is that heís so straight and fair and smart, " Baquet says. " You can get mad at him, but you know that thereís no agenda. "
Baquet adds: " At the New York Times you cannot emphasize how difficult it is to come in to a senior editorís job from the outside. The department heads at the New York Times are like princelings, and this is a guy who had the power to blow us off. And he did it. There were lots of debates and a handful of disagreements. But I always came in the next morning feeling just fine about the discussion. " Baquet also considers himself a " close friend " of Baronís, and says of his aloofness: " Heís shy, but heís a good guy. Heís a very good guy. "
While at the Times, Baron also conducted an internal review of the paperís early coverage of the Monica Lewinsky story at the behest of executive editor Joe Lelyveld ó and found said coverage to have been plagued by bad sourcing and sloppy editing. " Only an insider could have produced such a critique, " writes the Shorenstein Centerís Marvin Kalb in his forthcoming book, One Scandalous Story: Clinton, Lewinsky, and Thirteen Days That Tarnished American Journalism (Free Press), " and only a proud newspaper like the Times could have tolerated its stinging candor. " From Lelyveld himself, Baron earned nothing but praise: when Baron left for Miami, Lelyveld was quoted as saying, " We are happy for the Herald, for American journalism, and for Marty, but we hate to see this exceptionally strong and focused leader leave our newsroom. "
If his Los Angeles experience taught Baron how to ride herd on a big story and his New York experience taught him how to manage a newsroom full of ticklish egos, his stint in Miami taught him how to run his own newspaper, and to excel despite a plethora of problems.
Issue Date: July 19-26, 2001