Globe Foundation gives full-page ad to Walsh

Mayor approached CEO Sheehan for space

The Boston Globe Foundation donated a full-page ad in Wednesday’s newspaper to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh so he could thank the staff of the Boston Public Schools at the close of the school year.

Ellen Clegg, who heads the foundation, said the mayor personally asked Globe CEO Mike Sheehan for the ad space and the foundation provided it because the message was in keeping with the organization’s focus on education and literacy.

In his message, Walsh thanked the school system’s staff for their work during the school year and asked for their help in the future on such issues as “expanding pre-K, strengthening high school programming, improving our school facilities, investing in arts and technology, and equipping all students to be competitive in a 21st-century economy….Together, we will make the Boston Public Schools the national model for urban education.”

The Globe is owned by John Henry, a billionaire investor who also owns the Boston Red Sox and the Liverpool Football Club. His wife, Linda Pizzuti, serves as the chairwoman of the Globe Foundation, according to corporate records.

The ad appeared as the mayor is pushing a public-private partnership to revamp the hiring process at the Boston Public Schools, giving principals autonomy to hire the teachers they want and to ease out underperformers.

Clegg said in an email that the 32-year-old Globe Foundation is a charitable organization “that is independent of the newsroom and the newsroom is not involved at all in deciding which organization to support.” In the past, Clegg said, foundation support has included pro bono print ad space to help organizations get public service messages out to the public. Clegg said the foundation has donated ad space in the past to the One Fund and the MLK Summer Scholars programs.

Clegg said it is difficult to put a value on the ad space donated to Walsh because such ads fill space that would otherwise go for unpaid internal house ads.

Chris Daly, an associate professor of journalism at Boston University, said the Walsh ad is a little perplexing. “It seems very Boston,” he said, noting that everyone involved is probably on a first-name basis with each other and never stopped to consider the optics. “I think all these people should reevaluate their relationships and coexist at arm’s length,” he said.

Maureen Boyle, the director of the journalism program at Stonehill College in Easton, said she was not concerned by the ad. “I don’t see anything wrong with it as long as it’s very clear it’s separate from the newsroom,” she said.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Dan Kennedy, an associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University, said he thought the ad placed the Globe newsroom in a somewhat awkward situation. “It’s not unethical,” he said of the ads, “but there’s definitely an appearance thing.”

Kennedy also said the ad space given to the mayor is very different from ad space donated to an organization such as the One Fund. “This is the mayor and the school system, two things that the Globe covers on a constant basis, sometimes contentiously,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a great analogy.”