Editor’s picks for 2014
Letter from Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory
The Globe newsroom, like every newsroom, is obsessed with time. Seconds matter in posting news online. Minutes matter on deadline for the morning paper. We always crave more time – for one more interview, another splash of color, an extra day to review public records, an hour to refine the writing. But sometimes you have to hit “Send.”
Time is rarely an ally in this business, but in 2014, we made it one on several fronts. It gave us perspective on the tumultuous events of 2013. It allowed us to spend months with members of the Richard family, to explore their unimaginable loss on Marathon Day and the unyielding courage they have shown ever since. It allowed us to set the stage for the upcoming trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Apart from the bombings, it allowed us to expose the massive systemic failures that enabled a serial domestic abuser like Jared Remy to avoid any severe consequences for his acts of violence until he murdered Jennifer Martel.
Amid the urgency of the daily news, we looked for opportunities to report stories deeply and tell them right. A three-part Spotlight Team series on unsafe – and sometimes deadly – student housing conditions, nine months in the making, led to immediate vows for wholesale reform. We spent nearly a year and a half with a man named Michael Bourne and his mother, Peggy, showing the heartbreak and frustration that people feel in dealing with the state and federal mental health care systems. Separately, a year of reporting on the three deaths of patients at Bridgewater State Hospital has led to firings, outside reviews, and massive policy changes. Sometimes we lack time, though not wherewithal, which is how we came to put a team of reporters on a tense narrative reconstruction of the devastating Back Bay fire in March that killed two much-admired Boston firefighters, Michael Kennedy and Edward Walsh. And of course, this was the summer of Market Basket, and the autumn in which a city said farewell to its beloved, longtime mayor, Tom Menino.
I’ve included all of the above in a list of a dozen of the more memorable Globe stories from 2014. There are others, too: A fascinating look at Dunkin’ Donuts franchise kings; the mysterious package that arrived in the mail of a Cape Cod woman from a man she had not seen in 62 years; the Woods Hole scientist whose life’s mission is to save the endangered right whale; the unstoppable quest of a Newton father to find out how and why his son died of a heroin overdose.
As time takes us from one memorable year to what will undoubtedly be another, please be assured of something that is felt deeply by every member of this staff: We know we serve the most sophisticated readership of any major city news organization in the nation, and we aspire daily to produce websites and newspapers that reflect it. Thank you, sincerely, for all the time you give to us.
Editor of the Boston Globe
For Richard family, loss and love
They had to be in that Boylston Street crowd on Marathon Day, up against the barricade, cheering passing runners. It is part of what bound the Richard family to Boston. The horror that followed, and their quiet courage in the face of it, will bind Boston’s hearts to theirs, forever.
The secret world of the Dunkin’ Donuts franchise kings
For 60 years, owning a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise or two has been the elevator that legions of hard-working strivers have used to lift themselves up out of the ranks of factory workers and into the realm of, if not the rich, at least the pretty comfortable. But even if most regular Joes waiting in drive-through lines have no idea, the Dunkin’ franchisee landscape has been shifting dramatically. As New England’s beloved brand aggressively expands and the price of admission for franchising continues to climb, ever-growing franchisee networks are crowding out the moms and pops. More and more, the elevator is traveling only to the penthouse. Read the full story.
“Thirty meters,” Dr. Michael Moore called out.
Moore braced himself against the steel of the Zodiac’s platform tower as the boat closed in on the whale in the heaving Florida waters. Through the rangefinder, he could see the tangled mass of ropes cinched tightly around her. It was impossible to tell where the ropes began and where they ended.
This much he knew. The ropes were carving into her. Bayla was in pain.
He was tempted to look away. It was almost too much to see. Read the full story.
Michael Bourne’s battle with chronic mental illness
For 18 months, Michael Bourne and his family granted the Globe access to his battle with chronic mental illness, through recovery and relapse. Many of the events described were observed firsthand; others were reconstructed through interviews with family members, friends and neighbors, and official records. The goal was to describe the struggle of one family, coping with a challenge that is known by many. Read part one, part two, and part three
Shadow Campus: A Globe Spotlight Team investigation
The Boston Globe Spotlight Team’s investigation of off-campus housing in Boston revealed that a collision of greed, neglect, and mismanagement is endangering young people in America’s college capital, enriching some absentee landlords who maximize profits by packing students into properties, and routinely ignore the dictates of critical housing codes. The investigation concluded that Boston’s chief code enforcement agency is no match for the flood of complaints and violations that create dangerous, sometimes life-threatening conditions. Read the full story.
More than 60 years later, a love note from a familiar stranger
The mysterious package arrived on a blustery day in February from a man Cynthia Riggs had not seen in 62 years. He wrote his return address in latitude and longitude. The contents baffled her: pages of yellowed paper towels, covered in penciled code.
Then, she remembered. In 1950, when she was an 18-year-old college student, she had landed a summer job sorting plankton at a marine geology lab in California. She befriended one of her colleagues, Howard Attebery, a kind soul who stood out from the other young men more interested in teasing her or nailing shut her lab drawers. Read the full story.
His son lost to heroin, a father’s unstoppable need to know
Every time Jim Kasper watches the surveillance video, it feels like he’s jumping off a cliff. He clenches his fists and forces himself to keep his eyes open as his son’s body rolls silently through the frame. The first moments of the tape are unremarkable: flickering shots of empty hallways at the Reservoir Towers apartments on Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton. Then two men enter an elevator, one of them pushing a third man who is slumped in a wheelchair, chin on his chest, hands tucked into his lap. A rope binds his shoulders to the chair. “That’s my son,” says Jim, reaching out to touch the blurry image of Harry’s downturned face. Read the full story.
Thomas M. Menino, Boston’s longest serving mayor, dies at 71
Thomas Michael Menino, who insisted a mayor doesn’t need a grand vision to lead, then went on to shepherd Boston’s economy and shape the skyline and the very identity of the city he loved through an unprecedented five consecutive terms in City Hall, died Thursday. He was 71 and was diagnosed with advanced cancer not long after leaving office at the beginning of this year.
“Visionaries don’t get things done,” he once said, crisply separating himself from politicians who gaze at distant horizons and imagine what might be. Leaving to others the lofty rhetoric of Boston as the Athens of America, he took a decidedly ground-level view of the city on a hill, earning himself a nickname for his intense focus on the nuts and bolts of everyday life: the urban mechanic. Read the full story.
For Jared Remy, leniency was the rule until one lethal night
Jared Remy had glided through his first five criminal cases, but prosecutors thought the sixth one would be different.
Compared to what he had been charged with in the past — beating and choking his ex-girlfriend while she held their baby, cracking a friend over the head with a beer bottle in a jealous fit, elbowing and cursing out a police officer — the case that landed in Lowell District Court in January 2001 seemed minor: Threatening to commit a crime.
But for the first time, prosecutors had a victim willing to testify against Remy, son of one of the most beloved figures in New England. Read the full story.
A death in restraints after ‘standard procedure’
As soon as Lisa Brown saw the ambulance pulling into the parking lot at Bridgewater State Hospital that May evening in 2009, she felt certain something terrible had happened to her son.
Just a few minutes earlier, she’d been sitting with Joshua Messier in the visiting room at the state’s prison for the mentally ill, worrying that he was on the verge of another schizophrenic attack. Messier’s sometimes-violent outbursts in a private psychiatric ward had landed him, much to his mother’s dismay, in the medium-security prison even though he had not been convicted of a crime.
Now, she was buttonholing the EMTs and prison guards converging on the scene, desperate to find out if her 23-year-old son was hurt.
“I could feel him calling me,” she recalled. “That’s how close we were.” Read the full story.
Market Basket board meetings the stage for family strife
The transcripts, spanning more than a decade, lay bare the enduring ill will among Demoulas family members and others vying for control of Market Basket.
Since Arthur T. was fired as president of Demoulas Super Markets Inc. in June, the feud between the two men has become a rallying cry for many people, who view it as a struggle to put people over profits; rallies on Arthur T.’s behalf have drawn thousands of employees who say they will work only for him.
But for others, it’s a sad tale of warring relatives whose disdain for each other is so consuming that a once-thriving company is now close to ruin. Read the full story.
When routine turned to crisis
In the hours before they died, the lives of Edward J. Walsh Jr. and Michael R. Kennedy could not have been any more ordinary. They raced to a false alarm in the Back Bay. They made a supermarket run with two other firefighters to the nearby Shaw’s to pick up chicken breasts and thighs for their next meal. Kennedy lazed on a black couch in the upstairs TV room playing video games on his phone while haranguing a station mate trying to watch a movie.
There was one notable, though perhaps not unusual, element to the day: the relentless wind, which blew so hard that the firetruck heaved as Walsh and firefighter Dennis Keith waited outside the grocery during the shopping trip.
“If we get a fire today,” Walsh said to Keith, “it’s going to be something else.” Read the full story.