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Washington Post Editor Marty Baron: Listen Well and Ask More Questions

Diamondback editor Ryan Romano (left) and Capital News Service reporter Roxanne Ready interview Washington Post editor Marty Baron in Stamp Student Union's Hoff Theater.

Diamondback editor Ryan Romano (left) and Capital News Service reporter Roxanne Ready interview Washington Post editor Marty Baron in Stamp Student Union’s Hoff Theater.

COLLEGE PARK (11/2/18) — When the reporting is finished and the story takes shape, Washington Post executive editor Marty Baron says there’s another question journalists need to think through.

What hasn’t been asked?

Asking that question has helped Baron lead his newsrooms to 14 Pulitzer Prizes. And it’s the kind of curiosity that he says is critical to practicing good investigative journalism.

“It’s really important for any journalist — no matter what position you hold, whether you’re new to the field or whether you’ve been in the field for a long period of time — to be more impressed with what you don’t know than what you do know,” Baron said Thursday evening during an hour-long conversation with University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism students. “Because there’s a lot more that you don’t know.”

“We are going to fail as an institution if we think we know it all.”

Baron, who was editor of The Boston Globe during its famous investigation of the Catholic Church, spoke following a screening of “Spotlight,” the Oscar-winning film depicting those events. Co-hosted with The Diamondback, it was the first in an ongoing speaker series organized by The Howard Center for Investigative Journalism.

Baron was interviewed by Diamondback editor Ryan Romano and Capital News Service reporter Roxanne Ready. They asked about investigative journalism, some officials’ efforts to discredit the media, violence against journalists and the economic outlook for local and regional news organizations.

Baron returned more than once, though, to a key refrain: journalists must be “constant learners” and “good listeners.”

“My view is ‘let’s go do some reporting and let’s find out what’s really going on here, and when we’ve done that reporting, let’s go do some more reporting and find out what’s happening here,’” he said. “What we as journalists mostly ought to be doing is listening, and listening really well.”

He also said journalists “have to be activists for the truth” and, when it’s being challenged, should speak up in defense of the free press.

Others should speak up, too.

“I do wish there were a larger constituency that spoke out on behalf of a free press and free expression. Everybody benefits from that,” Baron said. “The advertising business is built on free expression, saying whatever they want. The music industry is built on free expression, the movie industry is built on free expression, and corporations went to court in Citizens United to argue that they ought to have what they deemed full rights for freedom of expression.

“So, when the press comes under attack, I think all those sectors of our society should be speaking up against it. And I wish that would happen more often.”

For more information, contact:
Alexander A. Pyles

Washington Post Editor Marty Baron Visits in Howard Center Speaker Series

Marty Baron

Marty Baron

COLLEGE PARK (10/31/18) — Journalism veteran Marty Baron has led newsrooms to 14 Pulitzer Prizes, but it was Hollywood that made him famous.

In the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight,” Liev Schreiber shows how Baron — The Globe’s editor for more than a decade — led the investigation that exposed a decades-long sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. The real-life Baron, now executive editor of The Washington Post, will discuss the role of investigative journalism at a conversation on campus Thursday.

The Diamondback editor Ryan Romano and Capital News Service reporter Roxanne Ready, both Philip Merrill College of Journalism students, will interview Baron in Stamp Student Union’s Hoff Theater at 7:15 p.m. The discussion will follow a 4:45 p.m. screening of the 2015 movie. Free tickets are available at umdtickets.com.

“The most gratifying thing about ‘Spotlight’ is the impact it had,” Baron said in an interview. “The public gained insight into the importance of investigative reporting and what’s required to do it right. Publishers and media owners rededicated themselves to the journalistic mission of holding the powerful to account. Reporters and editors were reminded of the necessity of listening generously to those without power because they can have something vitally important to say.”

The Q&A and screening were organized by The Diamondback and Merrill College’s Howard Center for Investigative Journalism.

“Marty Baron’s internationally recognized commitment to watchdog reporting at The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and elsewhere makes him the perfect person to launch the new Howard Center speaker series,” Merrill College Dean Lucy A. Dalglish said. “We’re so grateful he’s visiting with our students, especially with the midterms less than a week away.”

Ready said she and Romano want to know how the story told in “Spotlight” would be presented differently in today’s higher-velocity news cycle. They also plan to ask Baron about violence against journalists, including the killing this month of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

“I’m hoping people can understand a little more about the difference between real news and fake news, and how much effort is put into investigative journalism,” Ready said. “I’m hoping they maybe can be a bit inspired by hearing what Marty has to say. I know I probably will be.”

“Spotlight,” like “All the President’s Men” a generation ago, may already be inspiring future journalists: At Merrill College, freshman enrollment is up 51 percent this fall.

“It’s wonderful to be able to talk about all that at the University of Maryland,” Baron said.

For more information, contact:
Alexander A. Pyles

Lead The New Howard Center for Investigative Journalism

COLLEGE PARK (9/25/18) — The University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism is seeking an accomplished journalist to lead the new Howard Center for Investigative Journalism.

The Howard Center is funded by the Scripps Howard Foundation. The center’s director “will produce groundbreaking investigative projects while training the next generation of watchdog journalists. We are looking for someone with the vision, skills, ideas and commitment to carry out that dual mission,” according to the university’s job posting.

For more information and to apply, visit the university’s jobs website.

Job Description


Position Summary/Purpose of Position: The University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism is seeking an director to lead its Howard Center for Investigative Journalism. Funded by the Scripps Howard Foundation, the Howard Center will produce groundbreaking investigative projects while training the next generation of watchdog journalists. We are looking for someone with the vision, skills, ideas and commitment to carry out that dual mission.

Minimum Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree required. Newsroom leadership or mentoring experience required as well as 10 or more years of professional experience. The position requires a deep understanding of investigative journalism, the ability to manage complex collaborations and an abiding commitment to mentoring student journalists. In addition to launching and shaping the center, the successful candidate will be an editor, a leader, a collaborator, and a powerful public advocate for the importance of investigative journalism in a democratic society. We are looking for someone who is excited to explore new forms of storytelling and eager to mentor the next generation of investigative journalists.

Preferences: Advanced degree and/or university-level teaching experience.

Howard Center Boosts Investigative Journalism at Merrill College

COLLEGE PARK (8/8/18) — The investigative reporting curriculum at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism is about to get even stronger.

As one of two universities selected to host the new Howard Center for Investigative Journalismannounced by the Scripps Howard Foundation Monday — the Merrill College will pour the foundation’s $3 million investment into recruiting diverse classes of standout students and training them in ethical research and reporting methods and compelling multimedia storytelling.

In partnership with news organizations and journalism schools across the country, Merrill College intends to use the Howard Center to prepare the next generation of watchdog reporters to hold the powerful accountable.

The nationally and internationally significant investigations published by the center will complement the work of Capital News Service, the college’s student-staffed nonprofit news organization that has won numerous national and regional journalism awards in its 28 years.

“Our gifted faculty members at Merrill College have done a remarkable job over the years providing challenging investigative and enterprise reporting experiences for our students in partnership with many local and national news organizations,” Dean Lucy A. Dalglish said. The Howard Center she added, will foster even more vibrant opportunities — building on the college’s legacy.

This year, a project by students in the CNS Data Lab and Baltimore Urban Affairs Reporting classes won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for “Home Sick,” an investigation published in partnership with Kaiser Health News that showed how substandard living conditions can contribute to illnesses such as asthma.

Students guided by Abell Professor in Baltimore Journalism Sandy Banisky interviewed dozens of Baltimore health officials, community leaders and residents as CNS data editor Sean Mussenden‘s students spent more than a year analyzing millions of medical records to identify city neighborhoods where living conditions had the worst effects on residents’ health.

Banisky said Merrill College students have an opportunity many professionals do not — to spend a semester or longer diving deep into a subject. Such reporting produces more compelling and impactful stories.

“Researchers long ago established that asthma is more prevalent in less affluent neighborhoods,” Banisky said. “Our reporters could spend a semester in one neighborhood and establish that the trash in the alley was more than unsightly — it actually was the source of asthma triggers.”

Mussenden said data reporting was key to the project and others through the years.

“Our students’ ability to responsibly analyze complex data sets, and use those findings as a foundation on which to build layered investigations … has set the tone for Capital News Service projects over the last decade,” he said.

The news service became even more focused on deep dives this year, when it launched a formal investigative bureau with funding from the Park Foundation.

Associate Professor of Investigative Journalism Deborah Nelson, working with Chicago-based Injustice Watch, led the bureau this year in reporting on people who were wrongly arrested by members of a corrupt Baltimore Police task force. Some who were charged chose to plead guilty rather than face trial and risk a potentially lengthy prison sentence.

“Given that more than 90 percent of convictions nationwide are from guilty pleas, if even a small fraction of are innocent, it would be a significant miscarriage of justice,” said Nelson, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. “Because plea deals are negotiated in the hallways and backrooms of local courthouses, it’s important to have reporters on the scene to watch and listen, to witness and report.”

Meanwhile, the CNS field producing team — led by Eleanor Merrill Distinguished Visiting Fellow Tom Bettag — worked with PBS NewsHour correspondent John Yang to show how the opposite choices made by two brothers wrongfully convicted of the same murder in Chicago dramatically changed their lives. The students did all the shooting and all the editing of a piece that aired on the NewsHour.

Merrill College students, Injustice Watch and a network of investigative teams based at universities across the country are continuing work on the project, “Trading Away Justice.”

Also with assistance from the Park Foundation, Dana Priest — the college’s John S. and James L. Knight Chair in Public Affairs Journalism — sent students to five southern states last semester to report on what’s being done and how people feel about Confederate statues in front of county courthouses. Upcoming investigations by Priest’s classes will look at the fate of an imprisoned journalist overseas and how certain U.S. agencies care for veterans.

“Washington, five metro stops away, is our second classroom,” said Priest, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. “U.S. agencies are our bread and butter.”

Another recent investigation, “Strength and Shame,” was reported and told by CNS’ visual storytelling team, ViewFinder. The documentary-style story about the deadly abuse of heroin, prescription painkillers and other opioids was aired on Maryland Public Television in February.

Lecturer Bethany Swain, who founded ViewFinder at Merrill College, said what started as a semester-long project grew to more than a year once she and her students realized they could tell a story that might not otherwise be told.

“We never imagined when we first started that it would turn into such an in-depth project,” Swain said. “But the stories are so compelling and it’s not unique to our area, which is why it resonated with other audiences.”

Swain’s class, like so many others at Merrill College, had the opportunity to dig deep and produce something special.

Now, the Howard Center — at Maryland and at Arizona State University — will provide students with even more opportunities to tell unique stories.

“At Merrill College, my students and I can take risks, and that’s what investigative journalism is all about,” Priest said. “Lonely digging while everyone else is chasing the same ball.”

For more information, contact:
Alexander A. Pyles

Merrill College To Host Howard Center for Investigative Journalism

CINCINNATI (8/6/18) — In a move to advance high-quality enterprise journalism, the Scripps Howard Foundation today announced a $6 million investment into the creation of two centers for investigative journalism.

The University of Maryland and Arizona State University will each receive $3 million over three years from the Scripps Howard Foundation to establish a Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at their institutions.

The Howard Centers will be multidisciplinary, graduate-level programs focused on training the next generation of reporters through hands-on investigative journalism projects. The Howard Centers’ students will work with news organizations across the country to report stories of national or international importance to the public.

The Howard Centers honor the legacy of Roy W. Howard, former chairman of the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain and a pioneering news reporter.

“Roy Howard was an entrepreneur whose relentless pursuit of news took him around the world, sourcing his education directly from the lessons of the newsroom,” said Liz Carter, president and CEO of the Scripps Howard Foundation. “That same pursuit led us to establish the Howard Centers – bridging the classroom and the newsroom to ensure tomorrow’s journalists are prepared with the mastery of dogged reporting they need in a world that increasingly demands it.”

Arizona State and the University of Maryland were selected as locations for the Howard Centers based on proposals submitted in a competitive process. Both universities have journalism programs that feature a rigorous curriculum and hands-on training for student journalists.

“The Centers are envisioned as innovative educational programs,” said Battinto Batts, director of the journalism fund for the Scripps Howard Foundation. “Both Arizona State University and the University of Maryland are well-positioned to challenge their students to become ethical, entrepreneurial and courageous investigative journalists.”

The Howard Centers will recruit graduate students and faculty of diverse academic and professional backgrounds. Students attending a Howard Center will be introduced to topics including new media, data mining and the history and ethics of investigative journalism.

In addition to the emphasis on multidisciplinary studies within their own curriculum, the Howard Centers also will collaborate on investigative projects to deliver high-impact content to news consumers.

“Investigative journalists shine a light on our society’s problems and protect democracy by holding the powerful accountable,” said Lucy A. Dalglish, dean of the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism. “The Howard Center at Merrill College will provide an unmatched opportunity for our students to learn to tell important stories in innovative ways, preparing them to become outstanding professional journalists.”

“The Howard Centers will create a new cadre of great investigative journalists – steeped in the values and vision of the Scripps Howard Foundation – while generating impactful national investigations on some of the most important challenges facing our country today,” said Christopher Callahan, dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, vice provost of ASU and CEO of Arizona PBS. “We are honored to be selected for this critically important initiative and to preserve and celebrate the extraordinary legacy of Roy W. Howard.”

The Howard Centers will launch national searches for directors this fall and will open programming to graduate-level students in 2019.

About The Scripps Howard Foundation

The Scripps Howard Foundation supports philanthropic causes important to The E.W. Scripps Company (NASDAQ: SSP) and the communities it serves, with a special emphasis on excellence in journalism. At the crossroads of the classroom and the newsroom, the Foundation is a leader in supporting journalism education, scholarships, internships, minority recruitment and development, literacy and First Amendment causes. The Scripps Howard Awards stand as one of the industry’s top honors for outstanding journalism. The Foundation improves lives and helps build thriving communities. It partners with Scripps brands to create awareness of local issues and supports impactful organizations to drive solutions.

Media Contact:
Rebecca Cochran, The E.W. Scripps Company, 513-977-3023, rebecca.cochran@scripps.com