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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
aapyles@umd.edu
301-405-1321

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
aapyles@umd.edu
301-405-1321