Campus, News

Boston Globe editor becomes new chair of BU journalism department

Brian McGrory
Boston Globe Editor Brian McGrory. McGrory will step down from the Globe by the end of the year and to become chairman of Boston University’s Department of Journalism. COURTESY OF SUZANNE KREITER VIA THE BOSTON GLOBE

After 10 years as editor of The Boston Globe, Brian McGrory will be transitioning from being an industry mogul to chairman of Boston University’s Department of Journalism in the College of Communication by the end of the year. 

McGrory — who has been at the Globe for 33 years — said he wants to make BU a  “thought center” for creating sustainable journalism as the newspaper industry is facing an “existential threat” as challenges arise with the digital age and political leaders attacking the free press. 

“Journalism is under siege as never before, and I would love to see BU and other academic institutions play a very central role in helping the industry figure these things out,” McGrory said. 

After leading the Globe through three newsroom Pulitzer Prizes, McGroy said he wants to make BU a place where students and others from the industry can meet — perhaps in panels or over dinner — to discuss the state of the industry and collaborate on new business models.

“There needs to be a catalyst in this, a convener, and I think BU could very effectively play that role,” McGrory said. “There’s a lot of opportunity here to collaborate and to share ideas and to push each other.” 

Mitchell Zuckoff, a journalism professor in COM, said McGrory has been “cutting edge” in transitioning newspapers to digital platforms. 

“That was the biggest business challenge in journalism the past 10 years, and Brian crushed it,” Zuckoff said. “Other newspapers … consult with him to ask, ‘How did you do this? How can we model ourselves on what the Globe accomplished?’” 

Zuckoff, who worked for the Globe’s Spotlight Team and has known McGrory for 35 years, said it is a “huge win” for BU students. McGrory is in contact with many major newspaper editors in the country, Zuckoff said — another benefit for BU journalism students. 

“He is someone who knows exactly what’s happening in journalism today,” Zuckoff said. “He knows what editors are looking for. He knows what readers and viewers and listeners are looking for.” 

Whether he’s in the classroom or the newsroom, Zuckoff said, McGrory is exactly the kind of person the program needs.

“It’s going to be a learning curve, as it would be for anyone to transition from being the editor of a major newspaper to being the chairman of an academic department,” Zuckoff said. “[But] our department is very professionally focused. We’re focused on teaching people how to function in the world where Brian is coming from.” 

William McKeen, the current chair of BU’s Department of Journalism, said McGrory will give BU’s journalism department a lot of visibility, along with possibly teaching a course on writing columns and leadership.

“I think he’s going to come in and help guide us in a lot of ways because he’s run a big news organization,” McKeen said. “I hope he develops coursework in leadership in being an editor.”

McKeen said he will continue teaching at BU as a full-time faculty member, and this transition is an exciting point for the department.

“We’re beginning our initiative on impact journalism, and we’re going to have coursework that guides students through learning how to report about race and about climate change and about water shortages and issues like that,” McKeen said. 

Mia McCarthy, WTBU news director and a senior in the COM and College of Arts and Sciences, said it’s really exciting to have the next chair be someone so involved in the Boston news scene.

“We’re not trained to study journalism for the rest of our lives and to get PhDs in journalism,” McCarthy said. “We’re being trained to be reporters, to go out into the world and report on things.”

McGrory said he sees an opportunity to make the BU journalism department, which he said is already strong and well-positioned in the industry, even better.

“Journalism has never been this important, ever,” McGrory said. “What we need is vital journalism organizations in this country that can keep people informed.”


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