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Michael C. Janeway, 73; former Globe editor

Author, academic was top editor at paper in mid-1980s

Mr. Janeway was challenged by Boston’s rapidly changing media landscape.

Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff/File 1984

Mr. Janeway was challenged by Boston’s rapidly changing media landscape.

Michael C. Janeway, an editor, author, journalist, and academic who spent eight years at The Boston Globe in the 1970s and ’80s, the last 14 months as the paper’s top editor in what became an abbreviated stewardship, died early Thursday at his home in Lakeville, Conn.

Mr. Janeway, who was 73, died of complications from cancer, his family said.

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Todd Gitlin, an author, sociologist, and faculty colleague of his at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, said Mr. Janeway “brought a razor-sharp intellectual integrity” to journalism over his long, multifaceted career.

“When Mike saw journalism slipping off the edge into inconsequence or superficiality, he was on the case,” Gitlin said. “He recognized it was a matter of moment to the political life of democracy. I see him as a standard-bearer for professional journalism, a connoisseur of the nobility of intellectual life and journalism’s responsibility to honor it.”

Mr. Janeway had already built an impressive resume when he joined the Globe staff in 1978. For the previous 11 years he had worked for The Atlantic Monthly, where he became managing editor and then executive editor. He had also served as special assistant to US Secretary of State Cyrus Vance for 18 months during the Carter administration.

Mr. Janeway’s early tenure at the Globe, when his duties included running the Sunday Magazine and serving as Sunday managing editor, was marked by several significant achievements. He was credited with revitalizing the weekly Focus section, a precursor to today’s Ideas section, and the Globe magazine. In 1983, a team led by Mr. Janeway won a Pulitzer Prize for “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age,” a special section devoted to the nuclear arms race.

By 1984, he was rumored to be a favorite of publisher William O. Taylor to succeed Thomas Winship, the long-serving and popular editor. Under Winship, the Globe was awarded 11 Pulitzer Prizes and earned national recognition for its reporting and writing.

Succeeding Winship would have been difficult for anyone. For Mr. Janeway, often described as aloof and cerebral, an “outsider” in an old-school newsroom culture, the challenge proved formidable.

It did not help that he admitted to seldom reading his own paper’s sports section. His focus on national and international news also put him at odds with colleagues favoring more regional and local coverage. Rumblings of staff dissatisfaction surfaced long before he assumed the job of editor, in January 1985.

As Mr. Janeway reorganized his editorial team, and as some veteran staffers opted to leave, divisions sharpened, according to many who worked at the paper then. Then-editorial page editor Martin F. Nolan, for one, recalls Mr. Janeway being a “very good line-by-line editor” who seemed ill-suited to run a sprawling big-city newsroom.

Boston’s media landscape was rapidly changing, too, adding to the challenges Mr. Janeway faced. In 1982, Rupert Murdoch bought The Boston Herald, signaling a combative new chapter in the city’s daily newspaper wars. Relationships between journalists and the subjects they covered were being questioned. Women were joining the profession in unprecedented numbers, another cultural shift.

Eileen McNamara, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Globe columnist who now teaches at Brandeis University, was assigned to the paper’s Washington bureau when Mr. Janeway became editor.

“It was not the most hospitable place for women at the time,” she said, noting that while she was paying to fly home to Boston on weekends, a male colleague was having his airfare paid by the Globe. When McNamara complained, Mr. Janeway quickly supported her.

“It certainly didn’t endear me to my colleague, but it underscored Mike’s decency and commitment to fair play,” McNamara said.

By late 1985, whatever support Mr. Janeway had enjoyed was crumbling. In March of the next year, he announced to the newsroom that he was resigning. The following day, Taylor spoke to the Globe’s newsroom and said that “in the end, despite all his best efforts, the differences in style were too great, and led to his resignation.”

Executive editor John S. Driscoll, whom many had thought would succeed Winship, became the top editor.

“I’ve given this job my very best shot,” Mr. Janeway told colleagues. “It’s been an honor to serve in it.”

Raised among the intellectual elite

Michael Charles Janeway was born May 31, 1940, the son of Eliot Janeway, an economist, journalist, author, and White House adviser, and Elizabeth (Hall) Janeway, a novelist and social critic. The Manhattan circles they inhabited were filled with artists, writers, politicians, academics, and other members of the social and intellectual elite.

His mother was a gifted storyteller, Mr. Janeway would later write, and his parents’ lives gave her rich material with which to work.

“Their tales were for me the stuff of glowing legends from the great world brought home,” he wrote in “The Fall of the House of Roosevelt: Brokers of Ideas and Power from FDR to LBJ,” his 2004 book about the New Deal era, “initiation into that world by hearing, again and again, stories of their intimacy with it.’’

After graduating from Harvard in 1962, Mr. Janeway traveled abroad on a fellowship, then briefly worked for Newsday, on Long Island, N.Y., before joining the Army Reserves. He also held editorial jobs at Newsweek and The New Leader magazine.

In 1965, he met and married Mary Pinkham (known as Penny), with whom he had a son, Samuel, who now lives in San Francisco, and a daughter, Daisy Janeway Bowe, now of Park Ridge, Ill.

The couple divorced in 1992. In 1994, Mr. Janeway married Barbara Maltby, a film producer, who had two children from a previous marriage, Nicholas Maltby of New Hartford, Conn., and David Maltby of New York City. Mr. Janeway leaves his wife, children, stepchildren, three grandchildren, seven step-grandchildren, and a brother, William H. Janeway of New York City, an economist and venture capitalist.

In 1967, Mr. Janeway was hired by The Atlantic Monthly, then housed in Boston’s Back Bay. According to Richard Todd, a magazine colleague, he seemingly knew everyone of political and journalistic importance from Boston to Washington, contacts that helped shape The Atlantic’s coverage of important issues such as the Vietnam War and brought writers such as Frances FitzGerald, Ward Just, and Harry McPherson into the fold.

“One day he brought Dean Acheson into the office. That was the sort of person Mike knew,” said Todd. Later, in his teaching capacity, Mr. Janeway proved himself “a trenchant, thoughtful critic of journalism and a real scholar of politics,” Todd noted.

In addition to his editing and teaching, Mr. Janeway produced several books about politics, government, and the media. Two titles he co-edited were “Who We Are: An Atlantic Chronicle of the United States and Vietnam” (1968) and “A Story of Our Time: American Politics and the Press in an Era of Loss” (1999). Along with “The Fall of the House of Roosevelt,” he wrote “Republic of Denial: Press, Politics, and Public Life” (1999).

After leaving the Globe, Mr. Janeway worked at Harvard’s Institute of Politics and later served as executive editor for publisher Houghton Mifflin’s trade and reference division. In 1989, he was named dean of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. There he taught courses, oversaw a 40-person faculty, forged a partnership with the university’s Kellogg School of Management, and launched several research projects, including one on voter alienation.

“I arrived as the last typewriter left the building,” he told the Chicago Tribune, reflecting on his years there and the technological changes rapidly affecting the news business.

In 1997, Mr. Janeway went to Columbia University to teach graduate courses and run the National Arts Journalism Program, a mid-career program designed to improve cultural and arts reporting. He retired to emeritus status in 2011.

As Mr. Janeway struggled in recent years with a variety of medical issues, friends and family say, he became more emotionally accessible to loved ones and more at peace with himself.

During that time, his daughter, Daisy, reflected, he was “a wonderful father and friend to me.” Two years ago, while she was writing a master’s thesis, Mr. Janeway helped edit the paper, bringing all his professional skills to bear on what was clearly a labor of love. “It was wonderful to see how skilled and smart and funny” he was in that capacity, Daisy observed.

Mr. Janeway’s family plans to hold a memorial service later this year.

In his 50th anniversary Harvard class report, Mr. Janeway looked back, somewhat sardonically, upon his career in journalism and academe. Regarding “big-time journalism,” he wrote, “roughly 90 percent of that business has cannibalized itself; entrails on display.” Journalism education wasn’t exactly spawning “a field of happy prospects” either, he continued, and in politics and government, two other areas that had long engaged his interest, “the serpents took over what garden there was.”

“Along the way, a hell of a lot of believe-it-or-not moments of fun, and lessons learned,” Mr. Janeway concluded. “Not all is lost: some news-smart hearties in magazine and book publishing, vineyards in which I also toiled, soldier on.”

Joseph P. Kahn can be reached at joseph.kahn@globe.com.
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