Boston Globe owner to start life science magazine

John henryJohn Henry, the billionaire owner of The Boston Globe, formally unveiled a new website today dedicated to coverage of health, medicine and life sciences.

The new offering, called Stat, will be edited by Rick Berke, formerly an assistant managing editor at The New York Times and a former executive editor at The Politico. It will be separate from The Globe, Berke said, and has its own news staff of about 40, as well as a staff for business operations.

''We want it to appeal to a broad audience,'' Berke said in an interview. ''But we also want it to be credible and informative to people in the world of science and medicine. There is a real vacuum in the coverage, and a real opportunity for us.''

Henry, who Forbes estimates has a net worth of $2.2 billion, conceived of the idea after noting that Boston is a centre for life sciences. The Boston area is known for its well-regarded hospitals such as Massachusetts General and a host of biotechnology start-ups. ''Over the next 20 years, some of the most important stories in the world are going to emerge in the life sciences arena,'' Henry said in a statement.

There will be consumer touches, Berke said, but the aim is to provide ''provocative, interesting journalism'' on science and the business behind it, on funding and research, patients, hospitals and health.

He said that both he and Henry viewed the audience for the news site - which has reporters in New York, San Francisco and Washington - as a potentially global one. There are plans to expand its staff to cover other cities around the world.

The site arrives as The Globe, which Henry bought from The New York Times Company for $70 million in 2013, is enjoying praise and attention.

Last year, it won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news for its coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing. More recently, its journalism has been celebrated in Spotlight, a movie about its revelation of the sexual abuse of children in the Roman Catholic Church, which is out this week and tipped for success at the Oscars.

Another recent movie, Black Mass, about the Boston gangster James Bulger, known as Whitey, was based on the book of the same name by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill, who had followed the story for years for The Globe.

Though science and health content is a magnet for online audiences, Berke said,  Henry told him he felt there was a journalistic obligation behind Stat. ''He didn't buy The Boston Globe to make money; he believes in quality journalism. But he also is a smart businessman and he also sees an opportunity.''