The Boston Globe Bails on Crux
By Emma Green
March 11, 2016
Eighteen months ago, The Boston Globe announced a radical experiment: The newspaper would launch a vertical specifically dedicated to coverage of the Catholic Church, betting that it could support this coverage with ad sales. Crux was born, led by the veteran reporter John L. Allen Jr. and staffed by a handful of experienced writers and editors. The section consistently broke news related to Pope Francis and the Vatican, but it also ran stories from across the U.S. and around the globe, covering everything from religious-freedom conflicts in the American Midwest to poverty in Africa.
Eighteen months later, The Boston Globe has bailed. In a letter to staffers, the Globe’s editor Brian McGrory announced that the paper is shutting down the vertical on April 1st, a move which will involve two to three editorial layoffs and one business layoff, according to a spokesperson. In an email, McGrory wrote, “I loved Crux. We all did. It was a terrific idea, a noble mission, and very well executed by a small, deeply experienced, hard-working staff. We made the words work, but not the numbers. They simply didn't add up. So we decided, quite literally, to cut our losses and focus on the core of our business.” In a few weeks, the paper plans to turn the site over to Allen, who says he is “determined to make sure that Crux continues. How exactly we’re going to engineer that remains to be seen.”
From the beginning, the business model the Globe envisioned for Crux seemed tenuous. The pitch was twofold. First, the paper has been a leader in coverage of the Church, which is a huge cultural and political institution in Boston. Fresh off its Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into widespread clergy sex abuse—an effort that was recently featured in the massively popular, Oscar-winning film Spotlight—the Globe anticipated a big local and national readership for in-depth coverage of the Church. Second, it was betting that there was an untapped market for advertisers who would want to be associated with this coverage—from Catholic hospitals and charities to companies that were looking to appeal to a specifically Catholic readership.