And so my former colleagues at the Globe and Mail have another big change at the top to mull over in the bars tonight. That is, if newspaper types still go to the bar during these daze of social media, wine and healthy eating….
John Stackhouse, editor of the Globe since 2009, has been abruptly shown the exit. The new man through the revolving editorial door is David Walmsley, returning to the Globe after a six-year stint that he cut short in 2012 to take on the difficult task of directing news content at the shrinking CBC.
The latest shuffle is proof positive that the tough-guy approach of publisher Phillip Crawley continues unabated. Stackhouse is the fourth editor he’s axed since taking over as publisher in 1998. Those turfed include William Thorsell, editor when I joined the paper in 1990; Richard Addis (not actually fired, his contract wasn’t renewed); “Fast” Eddie Greenspon, and now, Stackhouse, my co-correspondent in Asia during the 1990’s.
Phillip Crawley is the best publisher I ever worked for. His competitive fire basically saved the Globe, when it appeared its loosey-goosey culture and esoteric leadership might have doomed the paper, in the face of the a concerted challenge from Conrad Black’s brash new National Post. Crawley took no prisoners fighting the Post, and the Globe prevailed. But as the newspaper industry has struggled in recent years, he has become increasingly demanding in his quest for cutting costs, while trying to keep the paper’s bottom line above water. Content, space and editorial ranks are shrivelling, which disheartens longtime, loyal readers like myself. Is this the way to the future, offering readers less as revenues decline? He’s also been very tough in his dealings with the Globe’s hardly-militant union.
On the other hand, the paper has mostly retained its superb fleet of foreign correspondents, while other Canadian newspapers and wire services have not. The continued, on-the-spot excellence of Mark Mackinnon, Geoffrey York, Stephanie Nolen, Nathan Vanderklippe, Paul Waldie and the various U.S. corros are alone worth the daily price of the paper. Keeping these reporters in the field is not cheap, and the Globe should be applauded for keeping them there. When people complain there’s nothing in the Globe, they’re certainly not reading their on-the-spot reports from around the world.
As well, there’s nothing quite like the B.C. section of the Globe and Mail, not seen by those in the rest of the country. Seven news reporters fill those three pages every day, plus Marsha Lederman, Dave Ebner, Brent Jang, brilliant photographer John Lehmann and Iain Marlow on the arts, sports, business, and Asia-focused business. There’s also regular freelancer Frances Bula, who knows more about Vancouver issues than perhaps anyone else in the city. This all costs money, but the Globe still does it, in the face of ebbing profits.
Okay, back to the top. Stackhouse was/is a superb journalist, winning numerous, well-deserved National Newspaper Awards, but he was sometimes an awkward fit in management, short on people skills. Impossibly-still boyish, bright, hard-working, and dedicated to the Globe, he nevertheless witnessed an escalating exodus of top-flight managers and reporters from the paper, while he was in charge. That had to have played a part in Crawley’s decision, especially when the paper just received 14 NNA nominations.
Now, the new guy. David Walmsley was someone I greatly enjoyed working for while I was at the Globe. He’s a lovely man, who appreciates reporters and adores news, particularly investigative stories. One of his endearing traits was asking reporters to dig into an angle that seemed to percolate only in his own fertile imagination. Better that, however, than taking everything at face value. He cares, deeply, about the business, and David Walmsley is someone you relish sharing a pint of Guiness or four with. As the new editor of the Globe and Mail, he’s got a tough job. I don’t envy the arduous task he has ahead. It ain’t easy, in these difficult newspaper times. From my retirement perch, I wish him, and the good old Globos, the very best. If the Globe goes down for the count, we all lose.
Here are the various memos announcing today’s big shuffles, courtesy of the excellent Canadian Journalism Project. Note John Stackhouse’s quite classy memo of departure. Unlike Eddie Greenspon, who came to work one morning and within an hour was out the door with a few mementos in a cardboard box, Stackhouse was given notice of his demise.