The Washington Post

Michael C. Janeway, former Boston Globe editor and author, dies at 73

Michael C. Janeway, left, with Boston Globe editor Thomas Winship in 1984. Janeway became Globe editor in 1985. (Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe)

Michael C. Janeway, the former top editor of the Boston Globe and executive editor of the Atlantic magazine who later held academic posts and wrote books on history and public policy, died April 17 at his home in Lakeville, Conn. He was 73.

He had cancer, his family told the Globe, which first reported his death.

Mr. Janeway built a reputation as a skilled editor in the 1960s and ’70s at the Atlantic, the venerable magazine then based in Boston. Working alongside editor Robert Manning, he helped launch the careers of writers Frances FitzGerald and James Fallows, among others, and helped make the Atlantic a major voice in narrative journalism.

After a short stint as a special assistant to Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance in 1977 and 1978, Mr. Janeway moved to the Globe, where he edited the Sunday magazine and held other editing jobs before becoming the paper’s top editor in 1985.

He succeeded a longtime editor, Thomas Winship, who had built the Globe into one of the country’s strongest papers, renowned for its writing and, as a Washington Post article put it in 1984, “a collection of some of the best, brightest and occasionally most eccentric journalists in the country.”

The cerebral Mr. Janeway told The Post that he planned to “start taking a lot of people to lunch and start doing a lot of listening,” but he was a poor fit from the beginning. He got off on the wrong foot when he admitted that he was primarily interested in national and international news and seldom looked at the paper’s fabled sports section.

Within six months, a popular managing editor, Matthew V. Storin, resigned, saying Mr. Janeway didn’t understand local news, particularly in a city such as Boston. (Storin later returned to the Globe and was the paper’s top editor from 1992 to 2001.)

Less than 14 months into his tenure, Mr. Janeway was forced out by the Globe’s publisher at the time, William O. Taylor, because his aloof manner was creating too much dissension in the newsroom.

“His style,” Taylor said in a statement at the time, “was markedly different from what the Globe’s editorial staff had been accustomed to for many years. It just didn’t work.”

After working at Harvard’s Institute of Politics and at the Houghton Mifflin publishing company, Mr. Janeway was named dean of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 1989.

In 1997, he joined the faculty at Columbia University and became director of the National Arts Journalism Program at the university. He retired in 2011.

Michael Charles Janeway was born May 31, 1940, in New York City. His father, Eliot Janeway, was a well-known economist and Time magazine columnist who was an adviser to the inner circle of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and later to President Lyndon B. Johnson. His mother, Elizabeth Janeway, was a novelist.

Mr. Janeway graduated from Harvard University in 1962 and, after a stint in the Army, began his journalism, working at Newsday, Newsweek and the New Leader.

His first marriage, to Mary “Penny” Pinkham, ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife of 19 years, Barbara Maltby of Lakeville; two children from his first marriage; two stepchildren; a brother; and 10 grandchildren.

In a 1999 book, “Republic of Denial: Press, Politics, and Public Life,” Mr. Janeway argued that the social and political fabric of the United States was disintegrating, partly because of the news media.

Five years later, in “The Fall of the House of Roosevelt: Brokers of Ideas and Power From FDR to LBJ,” Mr. Janeway wrote critically of his father, saying Eliot Janeway — once a New Deal insider — came to despise President John F. Kennedy with a visceral passion.

More tellingly, perhaps, Mr. Janeway revealed his father’s lifelong pattern of deception, saying he had concealed an early marriage, had once been a Communist and was Jewish at birth, changing his name from Jacobstein to Janeway when he was 15.

His father, Michael Janeway wrote, “never acknowledged even in a vague way Jewish religion, culture or heritage.”

Matt Schudel has been an obituary writer at The Washington Post since 2004.


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