The newsroom of The Boston Globe was uncommonly silent Thursday afternoon when publisher William O. Taylor announced one of the worst-kept secrets in American journalism.

Confirming rumors that surfaced more than a year ago, he said that Tom Winship, energetic and fatherly editor of The Globe for almost 20 years, will retire in January at the age of 64 1/2. His replacement is to be Michael C. Janeway, The Globe's Sunday editor, a man 20 years his junior.

After the emotional speeches, with Janeway acknowledging that "no one can be another Tom," the incoming editor asked his future staff if there were any questions. There followed a long moment of embarrassing silence.

"Yeah," Winship suddenly injected into the gloom. "When's the shakeup coming?"

It was the kind of frank and guileless humor they will miss at "the glass palace" where The Globe is put out by a collection of some of the best, brightest and occasionally most eccentric journalists in the country.

Many of those reporters and columnists, who have spent their adult lives under Winship's mostly gentle wing, are openly depressed and angry about the change in leadership.

Because such intense passions seethe at The Globe, Janeway's ability to command his troops will affect one of the most powerful voices in New England, a paper that is beloved and despised by its 520,000 readers. But the way Janeway steps into Winship's meticulously scuffed brogans will be of more than provincial interest, especially to many in the upper echelons of American journalism.

The Boston Globe is the first of four major daily newspapers that are expected to face changes in their No. 1 editorial positions during the next decade. And newspaper experts are watching the Winship-Janeway transition to see how it can be done better, faster or, perhaps, simply differently.

"They can learn from our mistakes," said Matthew Storin, The Globe's managing editor, who says staff anger reached its peak a year ago, as soon as word leaked that Winship would retire. "Already it's beginning to settle down; Mike is beginning to reassure people. But we know we're not out of the woods, and I think it will take a year to shake it out."

Among those watching it closely will be A.M. Rosenthal, 62, executive editor of The New York Times, who is expected to leave his post within three years at the paper's standard retirement age.

Benjamin C. Bradlee, executive editor of The Washington Post, will be 65 in two years but is not required to step down automatically.

And Los Angeles Times editor William Thomas turned 60 this year and has agreed to hand over his title by 1989.

In each case retirement will mean change, not only at their newspapers but also in their communities. Eras marked by their particular and often personal brands of journalism will end.

"In contrast to some of the sturm und drang at The Post and New York Times, while I think we've had some pain and wonderment I don't think we're going to lose some of our best people," Janeway said in an interview after the announcement.

He says much of the resistance to him occurred because he is an "outsider," a word that some veteran Globe employes can make sound like an ethnic slur. Moreover, The Globe's newsroom mirrors this city's traditional tension between the Irish and the Boston Brahmin.

"A lot of the complaints around here are not because he's an outsider or because he's too intellectual," said one Irishman in the newsroom. "He's got one thing wrong with him as far as they're concerned; he's not Irish."

Neither was Winship, whose father, L.L. Winship, was editor of the paper before him, whose wife is Elizabeth Coolidge Winship, and whose rumpled rainhats and genuine hand-tied bow ties send out instant signals that he ranks on the A-list of Boston society.

But Winship loved the Irish journalists for their artistry, their singular way with the language. He hired, among others, Mike Barnacle, whose column routinely trashes people named "Buffy" who talk through cemented teeth, often undoubtedly to complain to Winship about such treatment.

"I'm relatively unknown compared to some that were considered, and there is a big fear of the unknown which I have recognized and which hasn't eased by the rumors and tensions at a time when all I could do was shut up," Janeway said. "Now, I will start taking a lot of people to lunch and start doing a lot of listening."

What is known about Janeway is that he is vastly different in personality from his predecessor. Winship is charmingly vague; Janeway is stiff and formal. Already there are complaints that he walks through the newsroom with his head down, leaving a wake of concern among those who don't understand his distant manner.

A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard, Janeway was best known for his 11 years as an editor of The Atlantic Monthly, where he helped to discover or develop writers such as Frances FitzGerald, Kevin Buckley and Ward Just, among others. Son of economist Eliot and writer Elizabeth Janeway, Michael was an assistant secretary of state under Cyrus R. Vance before coming to The Globe in 1978. Anywhere else it would be an impressive curriculum vitae; in The Globe newsroom he is tagged with the term "intellectual."

"I think he's a very smart guy, extraordinarily well-read and well-versed," said metropolitan editor Al Larkin, who is close to Janeway. "It's likely the paper will get a little bit more serious, a little more analytical or thoughtful -- three words I'd use instead of intellectual."

Globe insiders fear most that Janeway has little experience in daily journalism, in the breathless race against time and news space that is central to the running of a big city paper.

"I'm afraid that he doesn't care about daily news," sighed one reporter. "That's what most of us here do for a living."

Janeway, whose brush with the daily side of the business was a stint on Newsday more than 20 years ago, says each new editor sees a pattern formed by another paper and uses that model to launch his own brand of journalism.

Winship's model was The Washington Post, where he worked for 10 years before going to The Globe in 1958. Globe staff members fear that Janeway might reject their paper's pattern of "endearing inconsistency," as one critic calls it, and model the paper after The New York Times.

"My plan would not be to make The Globe into The Times at all," Janeway said.

"I would look to the old Herald-Tribune where, in its great days, you had a strong newspaper of record, with crack reporters, as well as strong, distinguished and colloquial voices like Walter Lippmann, Jimmy Breslin, Pete Hamill and even Tom Wolfe, for a time."

The New York Herald-Tribune, one of Manhattan's finest newspapers, ceased publication in August 1966.

For The Globe's position of prominence in this city, Janeway acknowledges that the credit goes to his predecessor. When young Winship took over the editorship from his father in 1965, The Globe was "a snooze," as one staffer puts it.

The Globe's editorials often were signed "Uncle Dudley" and ran the gamut from an ode to spring to hard-hitting tomes against litter and speeding. Ads could be found on the front news page. "I guess what I did was make it an involved paper," Winship said in an interview before the announcement.

That may be classic New England understatement from a man who took the slumbering Globe and made it seethe with daily indignation about civil rights, the Vietnam war and many other highly controversial issues of the last two decades.

Winship turned it into an "activist" paper that combined boosterism for Boston with a number of mostly liberal causes.

Winship quickly irritated the older staff he inherited and hired green and promising young people.

"We were a collection of shy, insecure egomaniacs," said Thomas Oliphant, one of Winship's early hires, now in the Washington bureau. "But he was probably the only editor on God's earth who not only understood that but acted accordingly."

Mostly, he encouraged them to write, especially about politics. As one of his young discoveries, William A. Henry III, now on Time magazine, wrote recently in a paean to Winship: "Not only the paper's strength but also its weaknesses reflect the quirks of Winship's taste. He prizes unpredictability above all other qualities, and the paper he produces is erratic -- brilliant one day, half-cocked the next."

With 11 Pulitzer prizes won during his tenure, Winship counts among his most important deeds The Globe's early call for U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. It was the second metropolitan paper in the country to do so.

Yet with all the energy, talent and new burst of money from the Taylor family to pursue Winship's dream, The Globe seemed to keep promising greatness and never quite deliver.

As Winship said, acknowledging his sadness at giving up a job he clearly loves, "Twenty years of my kind of journalism is enough . . . . We're a good paper, but we're not a great paper, and we've got a lot of chinks to fill. That's for the new guy to do now."