Brian McGrory, editor of The Boston Globe, plans to step down by the end of the year, wrapping up a pivotal 10-year run in which the paper reclaimed its independence, won three newsroom Pulitzer Prizes, and expanded the Globe’s digital reach even as the viability of daily print journalism was in doubt.
McGrory, who started at the Globe in 1989 and worked as a reporter, editor, and columnist before being named to the top newsroom job, said on Wednesday that he will become chair of Boston University’s journalism department. He will also write an opinion column for the Globe.
“This is one of the best jobs in the city and in all of journalism,” McGrory, 60, said. “I was born in Boston, raised here, weirdly spent my childhood striving to write for the Globe. For me, this was an honor on top of an honor. But 10 years is enough. I’m proud of what our newsroom accomplished, and the Globe will benefit greatly from the fresh perspectives of a new editor.”
McGrory, who had a Globe paper route as a child, was tapped as editor in December 2012, a period of existential uncertainty. The Globe’s owner at the time, The New York Times Co., was selling assets and had threatened to shut down the paper if it couldn’t find a buyer. He replaced Martin Baron after Baron left to run The Washington Post.
Eight months later, John and Linda Henry purchased the Globe and kept McGrory in the job, much to the delight of the newsroom, where McGrory’s deep local roots and extensive Globe experience made him a popular leader.
McGrory worked closely with John Henry, the publisher and also principal owner of the Red Sox, Linda Henry, who is the Globe’s chief executive, and other senior leaders to enhance the paper’s online coverage despite the financial constraints imposed by evaporating print advertising sales, the main source of the Globe’s revenues.
“We couldn’t have better owners — committed, creative, and smart. With journalism under siege at a time when we need it most, it all starts with the people who own it,” McGrory said.
Bostonglobe.com has about 235,000 paid subscribers, making it one of the most successful regional news sites in the country. Even with a decline in print readers — an industrywide trend — the Globe reaches more subscribers than it has in 15 years.
“Brian has been a vital part of the leadership of this organization as we embarked on a radical transformation,” Linda Henry said in a staff memo. “He gave the Globe the greatest advantage that a media organization can have — unrelentingly high journalistic standards, an innovative mindset, and a deep commitment to the communities that we proudly serve.”
Henry said the Globe would look inside and outside the Globe for its next editor. McGrory will stay on through the end of the year unless his successor is in place sooner, she said.
McGrory said he didn’t have much of a digital background when he became editor.
“I didn’t need one. I understood that it was our future, and the challenge was to bring the rest of the staff in that direction,” he said.
While he had previously served as deputy managing editor of local and regional news, the bulk of McGrory’s experience was as a writer: He covered local beats, worked in the paper’s Washington bureau, was a national correspondent, and did two stints as a Metro columnist, where he combined captivating storytelling with a passion for holding public officials and business leaders accountable.
That blend guided his work as editor.
“My biggest goal was somewhat subtle, to change the tone of our coverage from the paper of record to being a paper of interest,” McGrory said. “In this era, when there are so many competing entities for everyone’s time and subscription dollars, you have to give a reason for people to subscribe. We have the best newsroom in the country, and people jumped on this change with enormous enthusiasm.”
Four months after McGrory took the helm, two brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, set off homemade bombs at the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 260. They later fatally shot an MIT police officer before Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with law enforcement. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured and found guilty of murder, and is on death row.
The Globe’s coverage of the bombings and the aftermath won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting, which was followed by a Pulitzer for feature photography in 2016 and one for investigative reporting in 2021.
At BU’s College of Communication, McGrory will oversee a journalism department with 460 graduate and undergraduate students, and a faculty with many former Globe journalists.
“I’ve watched with admiration as Brian has brought great innovation to the Globe,” said Mariette DiChristina, dean of the College of Communication. “His passion for truth and the industry we work in” was clear the first time they met in 2019, she said.
William McKeen, who has chaired the journalism department since 2010, is returning to teaching, according to DiChristina.
McGrory said his move to academia is “an extraordinary opportunity to have an impact on the profession at a gold-standard institution.” But he also is looking forward to writing a column.
“I’m beyond excited about regaining a voice, and elated to remain a part of this place,” McGrory said in a memo to staff.