Charlie Mansbach slipped into Dorchester from Newton five afternoons a week beginning in early 1979, and usually stayed past midnight tending to his responsibilities on the night desk of The Boston Globe.
A shy man who downplayed his widespread, and sometimes offbeat, interests, he didn’t take long to show that he had the right stuff, and in short order, he was promoted to assistant night editor, then night news editor, and, finally, Page One editor, a position he held for a quarter-century until he walked out the newspaper’s back door on Morrissey Blvd. for the last time a week ago, taking with him a package of institutional knowledge and newspapering stripes that will be irreplaceable in the Globe newsroom.
A decent estimate suggests that Charlie left his prints on up to 6,000 Boston Globe front pages during his near four decades on the nightside. As Page One editor for the last 27 years, he worked alongside designers to make them first-class productions, and recognizable as the Globe’s, then he supervised the final editing of the cover stories and captions and either wrote or facilitated the writing of the headlines.
At the height of its circulation in the 1980s and 1990s, the Globe distributed some 530,000 papers on weekday mornings, and up to 800,000 on Sundays, numbers indicating that more than a million weekday readers, and maybe two million on Sunday, were casting their eyes over what the Globe staff had created for them. And even in this sports-crazy town, most of them started with the front page.
Today, in the digital era, print circulation is much lower, with the future of the newspaper riding on other ways of doing what the Globe has been up to for 144 years. Still, the Page One editor continues each night to do the final wrapping, a task freighted with the highest expectations that each cover page will redound to the pride and benefit of the entire organization.
In retiring, Charlie Mansbach leaves behind a mere handful of Globe men and women who worked at newspapering in a long-ago time when linotype machines clattered away in a composing room filled with the dust of lead type as pages were moved around in cast-iron forms and pushed into the defunct stereotypers’ section en route to the roaring presses on the far side of the bottom floor. Night desk editors made up the follow-through team, taking the work and decisions of the dayside writers, editors, photographers, and designers through the production process to the pre-midnight edition deadline. What technology has done to change that scene is a story for another time.
All of that was Charlie Mansbach’s working life for close to 50 years, and the record shows he fulfilled his responsibilities by deploying to the fullest his intellect, a keen sense of fairness, a felicitous appreciation of English grammar and the rhetorical power of the written word, a deep understanding of what separates the excellent newspaper from the merely good one, and a rock-solid ethic for integrity and accuracy that served his colleagues and the paper’s readers in good measure on those thousands of nights when he was on the job.
There are many fine Globe journalists – reporters, photographers, editors, and designers – working across the diminished fetch of a building on the boulevard that they will soon abandon for new downtown premises, but they will surely miss their midnight caretaker, and part-time Dorchester resident.
Tom Mulvoy, a former Globe managing editor, worked nights with Charlie Mansbach for 22 years.