Stayin’ Alive  | American Journalism Review
From AJR,   November 1998

Stayin’ Alive   

By Mark Lisheron
Senior Contributing Writer Mark Lisheron (mark@texaswatchdog.org) is Austin bureau chief for Texas Watchdog, a government accountability news Web site.      

Related reading:
   » As The Globe Turns
   » Taylor Made

There are journalists at the Boston Globe who divine subtle shifts in the Globe newsroom much in the manner of old-time Kremlinologists scrutinizing pictures of the Politburo. So it's no wonder that the Boston Phoenix's Dan Kennedy reached for a Soviet analogy, portraying Globe Editor Matthew V. Storin as "Mikhail Storin," a reformer in the mold of Mikhail Gorbachev, doomed as much by his system as his personal failings.

"I mean, it was so over the top," Storin says, bringing up the Phoenix story without being asked. At least two of his editors used those very words to describe the parallels Kennedy tortured himself attempting to draw. These editors directed particular attention to the story's deck head, which said of Storin: "He brought reform, but reform was not enough. What was needed was a revolution, and time proved him unable--or unwilling. Now there are whispers that his regime may be coming to an end."

Storin, 55, is thumbing his nose at the whisperers. Accused by Kennedy of being shaped and now trapped by the Globe's culture, Storin is eager to show that he has survived a public relations nightmare that some still expect will eventually cost him his job.

Storin even seems willing to confront the "temperament" issue, the short fuse that staffers say is his Achilles' heel. "I have a temper, I'll admit that, although I think more has been made of it than it should have," Storin says. "I am working on it, but I don't think anyone here has been brutalized."

In person, the tales of Storin's volcanic eruptions seem as incongruous as the Gorbachev analogy. During an interview while on daily deadline, Storin is bright, considerate of the questions asked of him and honest without urgency or unctuousness. In Storin, you have a career editor whose sound bites sound very much like an editor thinking out loud during a news meeting.

"He kind of speaks in public as he thinks," says Marvin Kalb of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. "What you see is a candid man in agony, a decent, honorable man struggling with wrenching issues."

The naming of Storin as editor on March 1, 1993, capped a circuitous return for a man who had spent much of his career in journalism at the Globe. After graduating from Notre Dame with a degree in sociology in 1964, Storin started as a general assignment reporter at the Springfield Daily News in his Massachusetts hometown. He covered New England news for the Griffin-Larrabee News Bureau in Washington, D.C., for four years, then landed a job as Globe White House correspondent in 1969. During 16 years at the paper, Storin also covered Asia and served as city editor, national editor, Living/Arts editor and managing editor.

In 1985 he took a job as deputy managing editor of U.S. News & World Report, leaving a year later to become editor and senior vice president of the Chicago Sun-Times. In 1988 he took a brief detour to the world of smaller newspapers, becoming editor of the Maine Times. Hired as the managing editor of the New York Daily News the following year, he left his position as that paper's executive editor to return to the Globe in 1992 as executive editor.

It remains to be seen how long Matt Storin will stay on as editor of the Globe. It is clear, however, that unlike the Soviet Union, the Globe is far from crumbling and neither Publisher Benjamin B. Taylor nor Storin sees any need for a revolution.

"I'm afraid I am not very radical," Storin says. "In terms of our getting to the next stage at this paper, we have got to try to make it better now. And the quickest way to get there is making the paper better every day."

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