Every Citizen Has a Stake in Success of The Boston Globe's New CEO

Monday, December 12, 2016

“In 2016, the political climate and social media within the United States have identified, if not created, what I would call a factual imperative.  There has never been a greater need to help citizens distinguish between that which is true and that which is false, and to do so with a sense of purpose and a sense of fury.  It’s why we do what we do.”       
-John Henry, owner, The Boston Globe

From age 23 to 33, I was a full-time newshound, working as a reporter, then as an editor at the Evening News & Mercury daily newspaper group in Malden, Medford and Melrose.  Before that, during my college years, I worked as a reporter at the Chelsea Record, a small but pugnacious daily.  I was a  Northeastern University co-op student/kid reporter in Chelsea.
The respect I have for the craft of news gathering and the appreciation I have for the practitioners of that craft have only deepened through the years.  To sustain the life of our republic, we need strong and independent newspapers.  The Internet is wonderful and all, but we became a great nation without an Internet and could (theoretically) remain a great nation without the Internet -- but not without strong and independent newspapers.

Thus do I wish, sincerely, that Doug Franklin enjoys great success in his new role as chief executive officer of The Boston Globe, New England’s largest circulation newspaper, and that the Globe attains lasting financial stability during his tenure.
Today, the Globe has around 100,000 digital subscribers, for more than it did just a few years ago. But that number equals just one-tenth of the readers who pay to read the New York Times online.  Franklin’s job will be to increase digital subscriptions, and thereby advertising revenue, at a time when newspapers continue to lose print subscribers and see net advertising revenue decreases.  He has to make more people under age 40 care enough about the Globe to pay for its content online.  These tasks have defeated some of the greatest minds of American journalism and publishing.    

The Globe announced Franklin’s appointment in its online version this past Thursday afternoon and in its print edition this past Friday morning.  Also on Thursday afternoon, John Henry, owner of both the Globe and the Boston Red Sox, introduced Franklin to the newspaper’s employees in an internal memo, a copy of which found its way to my inbox.
“Doug is a seasoned newspaper executive, dedicating much of his career to Cox Media Group Properties and overseeing virtually all aspects of the business while leading change in each role along the way,” the Henry memo said.

The Henry memo noted: “Between 2013 and 2015, Doug was Executive Vice President and CFO of Cox Enterprises, the parent company of all Cox businesses including communications, media, and automotive.  Cox is an $18 billion company with 50,000 employees.  Prior to that, from 2010 to 2013, he rose from EVP to President of Cox Media Group, which is comprised of their TV, radio, newspaper, direct mail, and digital operations.  Doug has extensive experience as a newspaper publisher, overseeing four Ohio newspapers including the Dayton Daily News from 2004 to 2008, then becoming Publisher of the Palm Beach Post for a short but high-impact stint in 2008, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution until 2010.  Doug has experienced virtually every challenge our industry faces today – and succeeded at every turn.  As I’ve gotten to know Doug over the past few months, I’ve come to understand that he is fearless, energetic, articulate, and passionate in his desire to help the Globe achieve our long-term goal of creating a sustainable business model for high level journalism.”
Friday morning’s Globe article on Franklin’s appointment said: “A friend who learned of the Globe CEO search suggested to Franklin earlier this year that he would be a good fit.  Franklin was not looking for work at the time, though he acknowledged ‘retirement is pretty boring…I don’t have to work; I like to work.' ”

I don’t have to work.
Promisingly, this suggests that Franklin has the objectivity and freedom to make the truly best decision every time he has a tough choice to make at the Globe and there are powerful factors on either side of that decision.  “Clearly, there’s going to be lots of changes,” Franklin told the Boston Herald, (“Ex-Atlanta publisher to be Globe’s new CEO,” 12-9-16).

On the other hand, it might suggest Franklin does not have enough skin in the game.  As a journalism wash-out, I lack standing to pontificate on such matters.  Even wash-outs, however, stumble across truths in their working lives, such as the one imparted to me by a successful hospital CEO many years ago: For a big job, always hire someone who’s at a point where his career and future will be damaged if he fails in the job you are giving him.    

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