The moment of clarity came thanks to my wife, Julie. In the middle of a sleepless night, she said, “For ten years, you have been getting shot at in war zones for a living. So why are you so afraid of taking a risk when it comes to your own career? You’ve got to do what you love.” The next morning, I worked out the final terms of a deal with Phil, and I signed the buyout papers on St. Patrick’s Day.
On my last morning at The Boston Globe, as I walked past its glorious fleet of green delivery trucks, I was sad, and took in all the things I love about the paper. The biggest part was the chatter with colleagues who know how to tell a great story, who know precisely how and when to give you a hard time, and who could make you laugh even on a bad day. I had it out a few times with some editors, but I knew I would miss the old-school types who loved the craft and had great respect for the tradition of the paper and its place in the city.
I savored one memorable sound from the newsroom in particular—the thud of the huge rolls of newsprint hitting the cement loading docks. It shook the newsroom just a bit on Thursdays before the big Sunday run. To me, this was the sound of a big city newspaper, the heft of it all.
I didn’t know it then, but as we were building this start-up, two statistical lines were crossing. Print newspaper readership was trending downward and being surpassed by the rising number of those who got their news online, according to a Pew Research Center report that would be published in December 2008. We could all feel the trend advancing even if we didn’t yet have the facts. And that’s why on that last day of work, the wondrous thud of the newsprint hitting the docks seemed more ominous, like thunder. And the news of the industry since I left has been devastating. More newspapers have had layoffs, the Minneapolis Star Tribune went bankrupt and The Christian Science Monitor ceased its daily print edition; the Globe is staring down the barrel of more buyouts and likely layoffs.
So nine months later, staring out at the snow on that January night we launched GlobalPost, I was thinking about that last day at the Globe, and struck by the contrast I felt. The newspaper world was tactile. The trucks idle in the cold, pre-dawn morning like horses. The floor in the pressroom is slippery with ink. I had held a union card that guaranteed me “employment for life,” an agreement the unions had reached in the flush days of the early 1990s. And the sound of a big newsroom chasing a breaking story was still great, even if more and more cubicles were empty. Here I was launching an entire news organization in the dead of night with only the quiet clatter of a keyboard. It just didn’t seem the same somehow.
Yet creating a news organization in the ferment of the Internet has been thrilling and nerve wracking all the same. We have raised approximately $8.5 million of the $10 million of capital that we require, which gives us more than enough for a solid footing. We always knew it would be difficult to make this work and the global economic collapse has, of course, made it even harder. We have kept our revenue projections in place, but recognize that we will have to work harder to achieve them. No one ever said it would be easy.
And editorially, I see the global economic collapse as a great and important story for us. It’s the kind of event that seems to cry out for a news organization like ours, one with a breadth of global coverage. We have a total of sixty-five correspondents in forty-five countries filing dispatches. Ten of these cover the kind of beat, or “latitude” as we dubbed it, that cuts across national boundaries and connects us all.