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Shirley Leung

A final column, but not the last opinion

Shirley Leung.
Shirley Leung.(KEITH BEDFORD/GLOBE STAFF)

After two decades of covering business news, I’m taking a break.

This is my last column in the Business section — for a while. Some of you may already know this after a story in these pages last week: I’m leaving the Globe’s news division to run the editorial page for six months.

It’s a big change for me, given that I have spent my entire career in news. Some of you may be utterly confused by this move. Wait, as an opinion columnist aren’t you already on the editorial board?

Yes, it is true some Globe columnists serve on the board, including Scot Lehigh, Jeff Jacoby, Renee Graham, and Joan Vennochi. But other columnists on the news side — including Yvonne Abraham, Kevin Cullen, Nestor Ramos, and Adrian Walker — have not.

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The distinction between the two sides used to be more apparent when you read our pieces only in the print version of the newspaper. In the daily, the editorial and opinion pages take over the back of the A section. On Sunday, the section can be found in Ideas, which is also part of the editorial page and opinion operation.

But today on BostonGlobe.com, we often appear side by side, and the distinction may get lost.

Trust me on this one: I am doing something new and different. The fact is that opinion pages remain separate from the news operation, and my primary voice in the paper will now come through editorials and direction of the opinion pages.

I am following in the footsteps of Ellen Clegg, who retired earlier this month after having held the post since 2014. She modernized the pages and made the staff more nimble online. Under her leadership, the staff developed a knack for drawing national attention with memorable projects such as the 2016 mock Donald Trump presidency front page, the “Make It Stop” gun control package, and most recently a #freepress campaign that rallied more than 400 newspapers to publish editorials on the same day to defend the role of the free press.

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I am both humbled — and daunted — by the opportunity to join the editorial board and add my perspective to help shape the official view of the Globe as a community institution. I’ve gotten a sense of that responsibility as we head into the Sept. 4 primary and the editorial board deliberates candidate endorsements that can make a difference in tight races.

I will bring along my penchant for all things business, but also relish the chance to delve more deeply into politics, both locally and nationally, and into regional issues such as transportation, education, and health care. Don’t even get me started on the Catholic Church and its handling of clergy accused of sexual abuse.

To think, when I launched my column five years ago, my biggest worry was that I would run out of something to say. I’m sure some of you wish I had by now. Remember Boston 2024?

I never aspired to be a columnist, but in 2012, newly minted Globe editor Brian McGrory made hiring another business columnist one of his top priorities. Having been a longtime Metro columnist himself, McGrory experienced firsthand the power of opinion writing and how the paper can never have enough of columnists.

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McGrory also really missed Steve Bailey, the Globe’s sharp-tongued, must-read business columnist who took a buyout in 2008. Could we find someone like that?

I was the business editor at the time, so I headed the search committee. After several months of studying the work of columnists, near and far, I could not find anyone.

Then I pulled a Dick Cheney. I nominated myself for the job. I liked managing and editing, but if the new boss wanted another Bailey, I was going to deliver one. I know the town, I know the players, I know the issues. I could do this. Why not me?

But more than the Globe adding a business columnist, I knew my greatest contribution, if I could pull this off, would be offering a fresh perspective. You can probably count the number of Asian-American, female business columnists in this country on one hand.

I am grateful to McGrory and Globe owners John and Linda Henry for giving me a platform to express viewpoints not often published in these pages or elsewhere. I knew from the get-go I wanted to use my column to shine a spotlight on the lack of women on corporate boards. That quickly grew into a recurring theme in my pieces — some may call obsession — about the inequities women face everywhere from the workplace to politics.

As I like to tell my critics, I’ll stop writing about women’s issues when there’s nothing more to complain about.

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This is hardly a goodbye. I intend on coming back. Writing this column has been the highlight of my professional career. More than one person has told me I have the best job in the city. And it’s true, no matter how much Marty Walsh will tell you otherwise. (The mayor did get a chance to fill in for me once when I lost a bet with him.)

I imagine I’ll get to write under my own byline from time to time on the editorial page, but it won’t be the same.

Thank you for reading, and I will miss every keystroke it’s taken to fill this space.


Shirley Leung can be reached at shirley.leung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @leung.