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11-year Globe editor Martin Baron to depart

Will take reins at Washington Post

Martin Baron , the editor of The Boston Globe who led the news organization as it won six Pulitzer Prizes over the past decade, will become executive editor of The Washington Post in January, both papers said Tuesday.

The Globe will launch a search to fill Baron’s job, said publisher Christopher M. Mayer. While citing the talent within the newsroom, he said he would also consider outside candidates. Mayer said his aim is to fill the position as quickly as possible.

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“We’re looking for the right person at the right time to really carry on the quality journalism that’s the embodiment of everything we are doing today,” Mayer said in an interview.

Mayer said Baron built a versatile staff and leaves a strong legacy at the newspaper and in the online journalism that has expanded during his tenure. “Marty is a terrific editor who led the newspaper in a tremendous and creative fashion in a challenging time,” he said.

In an emotional gathering in the Globe newsroom shortly before noon on Tuesday, Baron, 58, said the move was “bittersweet” for him. He cited the opportunity at the Post, but said he would miss his Globe colleagues after 11 and half years in Boston in what he described as “the most fulfilling chapter of my professional life.”

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Baron said in an interview that he was proud of what the Globe staff had accomplished. He cited its investigative reporting, arts coverage, narrative journalism, and war reporting in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as its push into digital and multimedia formats.

“I am especially proud that we have consistently held powerful institutions and individuals accountable,” he said.

YOON S. BYUN/GLOBE STAFF

Globe editor Martin Baron told the staff Tuesday he is leaving for The Washington Post.

Noting that he navigated through difficult times for the news business, Baron said New England’s largest newspaper has emerged as a sound institution. “We’re on solid footing here at the Globe,” he said. “The Globe has a good future ahead of it. And for me, it’s a good time for a change.”

Baron said he was excited to join the Post — the legendary newspaper that covers the nation’s capital and broke the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon.

“The Post has played a distinctive and defining role in American politics, American policy, world affairs, and its own community, as well as an inspiring role in journalism,” Baron said.

Baron said it was premature to discuss his plans for the Post until he has talked with its leaders and staff. But he said his goal was to maintain the organization’s journalistic integrity as it moves into a new print and digital era. “We have to prepare ourselves for the future,” he said. “We are facing a digital future. It holds great promise for us but also great challenges.”

In an interview, Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth cited Baron’s track record running the Globe. “I think Marty is one of the finest editors, arguably, in the world, and we’re lucky to have him,” she said. “He has really outstanding instincts as a journalist.”

Weymouth said the economic strains that have dogged her four years as publisher are likely to continue, but said the Post will try to protect its newsroom.

“Do we have to cut costs across the board?” she asked rhetorically. “Of course. But we have to do it in a way that doesn’t hurt our ability to continue the tradition of world-class journalism.”

Baron succeeds Marcus Brauchli, who will step down as executive editor, effective Dec. 31, after a four-year tenure during which he was under pressure to cut costs to offset a downturn in advertising. There had been speculation for weeks that Brauchli was on his way out and that Baron was on a short list to replace him. Brauchli will remain at The Washington Post Co., taking on a new role as a vice president evaluating new media opportunities.

At the Globe, where there were similar cost pressures, Baron succeeded as an editor and a manager despite arriving in 2001 as “an outsider in a city that has a reputation of being somewhat incestuous,” said Lou Ureneck, professor of journalism and director of the business and economic journalism program at Boston University.

“Marty is one of the great editors of his generation,” Ureneck said. “He has distinguished himself in Boston and will be sadly missed. I’m impressed with how he kept the Globe focused on really hard-hitting investigative journalism and a really strong regional report during a period of economic turmoil. The paper has been a must read in the city of Boston.”

Under Baron, the Globe’s six Pulitzers have included public service, explanatory journalism, national reporting, and criticism. Most notably, the Globe received in 2003 the Pulitzer’s highest honor, the public service award, for a Globe Spotlight Team investigation into the cover-up of clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Church.

On his first day at the Globe, Baron asked why the Archdiocese of Boston’s papers on clergy sex abuse were under court seal, said Walter V. Robinson, former editor of the Globe’s Spotlight team. Baron then asked the Globe’s lawyers to take steps to get the documents unsealed, and asked the Spotlight Team to move forward with an investigation, Robinson recalled.

“There wouldn’t have been a church story if it wasn’t for Marty,” said Robinson.

The disclosures that rocked the Catholic Church in Boston have reverberated nationally and internationally for over a decade now, emboldening thousands of Catholics to come forward with allegations of molestation by priests.

Baron also oversaw the Globe newsroom during an extraordinary period of transformation for the newspaper industry, as readers and advertisers flocked to the Internet for news. The shift has forced the Globe and media organizations around the country to build a robust Web presence and integrate digital and print operations in the newsroom.

Baron helped build Boston.com into the region’s leading news website and among the nation’s largest newspaper websites with more than 6 million monthly unique visitors. Last year Baron also oversaw the launch of BostonGlobe.com, a subscription-only news website.

Just this year, the Globe and Boston.com won numerous multimedia awards including six national Edward R. Murrow Awards in the competition sponsored by the Radio Television Digital News Association, and three EPPY awards in the competition sponsored by Editor & Publisher magazine.

Baron’s tenure also was marked by deep cuts that plagued the entire newspaper industry. Steep losses in print advertising, aggravated by the global financial crisis that began in 2008, prompted the Globe’s parent, The New York Times Co., to threaten in 2009 to shut down the Boston paper unless its labor unions agreed to $20 million in concessions. The paper survived and regained its financial footing, but has endured several rounds of buyouts and layoffs in recent years.

“From what I can see, the Globe has been kind of an island of journalistic stability through a lot of storms,” said Ken Doctor, media analyst for research firm Outsell Inc. in Burlingame, Calif. “The Globe has kept its eye on the ball with what it does with its longstanding commitment to quality journalism and the cooperation with its digital side. Those two things, which would seem to be standard operating procedure, are not what we’re seeing at other metro dailies around the country.”

Prior to the Globe, Baron served as executive editor of The Miami Herald, and under his leadership, the paper won the Pulitzer for breaking news coverage in 2001 for its coverage of the return of Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy at the center of an immigration custody battle.

A native of Tampa and a Lehigh University graduate who speaks fluent Spanish, Baron has also held high-level jobs at The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. In 2001, Baron was named “Editor of the Year” by Editor & Publisher magazine.

Under Brauchli, the Post won four Pulitzer Prizes — for international reporting, feature writing, criticism, and breaking news photography.

The Post has a daily circulation of nearly 500,000 and Sunday circulation of 675,000. The Globe has a daily circulation of about 230,000, and a Sunday circulation of about 372,000.

Robert Weisman can be reached at weisman@globe.com.
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