From AJR, September 1999 issue
Globe Gets a New Publisher
Boston Globe staffers suddenly found themselves with a new publisher July 12 when the New York Times Co. fired Benjamin B. Taylor, replacing him with a Times vice president, Richard H. Gilman.
By Kathryn S. Wenner
Kathryn S. Wenner, a former AJR associate editor, is a copy editor at
the Washington Post.
Summertime and the newsroom is reeling--again. A year after the Patricia Smith/Mike Barnicle debacles, Boston Globe staffers suddenly found themselves with a new publisher on July 12 when the New York Times Co. fired Benjamin B. Taylor, ending his family's 126-year reign. Taylor's replacement, Richard H. Gilman, had overseen the Times' recent increase in circulation, an area in which the Globe has suffered.
The Globe quoted Gilman, the Times' former senior vice president of operations, as saying " 'differences in approaches to management' " prompted the change. Staffers were left wondering who would be next, says veteran Globe-watcher Dan Kennedy of the Boston Phoenix. Specifically, would Editor Matthew V. Storin be the other shoe to drop?
Gilman has insisted there are no more shoes. Another Globe-watcher and a fan of Storin thinks there might be. Marvin Kalb, executive director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, says that at some point, Storin could well "be asked to walk the plank" for editorial controversies such as Smith and Barnicle's fabrications. Storin says that while "there are no guarantees," he's been more than assured that he's wanted.
Kennedy and Kalb agree that the executive suite shuffle was primarily prompted by the bottom line. Since 1993, the year the Times bought it from the Taylor family, the Globe's daily circulation has fallen from 504,869 to 469,311; Sundays have dropped from 811,409 to 730,420. Ad revenues had been down as well, although they were up 1.8 percent for the quarter ending June 27, according to the Times.
Talk of financial concerns led to speculation that Gilman might cut back on the Globe's national and international coverage, using Times stories instead. Gilman says such a change wasn't even on his radar until others, such as Kennedy, raised the question. "What's important here is maintaining the quality of our journalism," he says.
In what could be read as a not-so-subtle message to Gilman and the Times, Globe columnist Brian McGrory wrote fondly of the Taylors: "For them, journalism was more than a means to make a dollar. It was a way to make their mark in the community they have always loved and lived in."
Gilman isn't a stranger to Boston, having earned his M.B.A. at Harvard in 1983, the year he joined the Times. His newspaper career started in Tucson, where he got top grades at the University of Arizona while reporting for the Arizona Daily Star. He later became the Star's assistant managing editor.
A college roommate of Gilman's who is a former journalist thinks his friend has the people skills to ease what will surely be a tough transition. Although Gilman is "sometimes too serious," says David Carter, "he has a measured, thoughtful way of handling ticklish situations, which really helps all concerned."