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Globe names Abraham and Cullen as columnists

The Boston Globe yesterday named two veteran staff reporters who share international backgrounds and a deep affection for the city as its new metro columnists.

Kevin Cullen, the son of a firefighter, has been writing for the paper for 22 years and is "Boston to the core," the Globe's editor, Martin Baron, said yesterday in a note to the staff. Yvonne Abraham, a native of Australia who as a reporter has chronicled the evolving face of America, is a "dynamo as voraciously inquisitive as she is vivacious personally," Baron said.

"Both have the insatiable curiosity, writing chops, and energy that are the essential ingredients of a standout columnist," Baron said. "Both have strong opinions, too. With this appointment, they can finally let loose."

They will replace Eileen McNamara , a Pulitzer Prize winner who retired and is now a journalism professor at Brandeis University, and Brian McGrory , who was named deputy managing editor for local news. A start date has not been set for the new columnists, who will write twice weekly for the City & Region section along with Adrian Walker.

"I've got the job I've wanted since I was a little boy," Cullen said yesterday. "A metro columnist for the Globe is like playing left field for the Red Sox -- that's how often the job comes up."

Cullen was born in Boston and he grew up in Malden. He graduated from Malden High and went on to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Trinity College in Dublin.

After stints at the Transcript-Telegram of Holyoke and the Boston Herald, Cullen joined the Globe and has covered assignments ranging from local crime to the peace process in Northern Ireland. He was a member of the Spotlight team that exposed the FBI's corrupt relationship with Whitey Bulger and a member of the Pulitzer-winning investigative team that exposed the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

From his blue-collar upbringing to the year at Harvard University as a Nieman fellow, Cullen said life his given him a unique perspective on the world that will serve as fodder for his column.

"We don't talk about class a lot," said Cullen, 48. "But I think class is really important."

Born in Sydney, Australia, to Lebanese immigrants, Abraham worked "every rotten job you can imagine," including a stint as a debt collector, on her way to earning degrees in history and English literature at the University of Sydney. She came to Boston on a Rotary Foundation fellowship in 1993 to get a master's degree in journalism at Boston University.

After a year as a staff writer at Boston magazine, Abraham was hired by the Boston Phoenix and came to the Globe in January 1999. She has covered assignments that have taken her from the State House, on presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2004, and to Pakistan after Sept. 11, 2001.

Two years ago she began covering immigration, a beat that she said honed her desire to become a columnist.

"There are whole populations in this state that we rarely hear from," Abraham, 40, said yesterday. "It would be great if a column was a place where they could see themselves."