On the eve of destruction

The spring and summer issues of the Ryerson Review of Journalism have finally arrived. Starting with Matthew Halliday’s up-close-and-personal profile of Globe and Mail editor-in-chief John Stackhouse, J-Source will feature an article each week.
Ryerson Review of Journalism summer issue
In the mind of John Stackhouse, the Globe of the future could involve tearing down much of what readers value most. Will it mean brighter days or trigger an unmitigated disaster? Matthew Halliday investigates.

Visitors to The Globe and Mail’s Toronto headquarters often comment on how sedate the place is—nothing like the frenzied, shouty bullpen newsrooms of pop culture. It’s more akin to a mid-sized corporate office; a grey and workmanlike place where serious people are engaged in serious work, putting together a very serious newspaper. So by Globe standards, the tempest gripping the office on May 25, 2009 is comparatively high drama. It’s mid-morning in the cubicle maze that’s home to the Review, Life and Report on Business sections. The loudest sounds are the click-clack of keyboards and hushed conversations. Suddenly, a gasp. And another. And another. The entire newsroom goes still for a few seconds as employees read the memo that’s just appeared in their inboxes.

“Eddie’s been fired,” one colleague explains hurriedly to another. “Stackhouse is the new boss.” Edward Greenspon, editor-in-chief for seven years, is out. John Stackhouse, a 48-year-old Globe lifer, is in. A few hours later, the paper’s writers and editors assemble in a meeting room, spilling out of doorways and into the halls, to hear his first pronouncements. The crowd is expectant and uncertain. Publisher Phillip Crawley gestures to the back of the crowd and chuckles because reporter Siri Agrell, who’s on maternity leave and came in just to hear Stackhouse, has brought along her baby. Agrell responds dryly, “I figured she wouldn’t be the only one shitting her pants.”

Everyone laughs and Stackhouse lets his face break into a brief smile, but it vanishes as quickly as it appeared.

The new boss has been at the Globe for more than 20 years, as a reporter, editor of the Report on Business section and editor of the national and foreign desks. Most of his colleagues assumed he was headed for the editor-in-chief ’s chair, but no one thought it would happen so abruptly or at such a turbulent time. In February 2009 the paper went through a huge round of layoffs and buyouts, cutting 10 percent of its staff. A few months later, tension was building between the union and management over contract negotiations and a strike appeared likely. Needless to say, the mood in the office wasn’t exactly buoyant. Reporter Michael Valpy, who’s been with the Globe off and on since 1966, says the last months of Greenspon’s tenure were a time of “tortured morale bruising” as the paper suffered one bad management decision after another. . . . . (Cont’d)

Read the rest of article on the RRJ‘s website.

After reading the piece, weigh in on the RRJ poll about which stage of grief Stackhouse is in.