Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Pleasure of Listening to Marty Baron Speak

Erin Franczak

Yesterday, I had the privilege to listen to a speech by the very own Marty Baron. The speech was introduced by a past Ohio University alum who also worked at the Washington Post with Baron. It was really interesting to see how accomplished past graduates at my university are.

Then the speech began, but first I'm going to start with a little background on Baron. He worked at The New York Times, The Herald, and the Washington Post, but what really made him famous was his story at the Boston Globe. He revealed a hidden scandal within the Catholic church. He had found out the many of the priests had been sexually assaulting young children, and the cardinal had known and covered up the scandal by moving them to a different area.

Baron addressed how he felt the news should be. He said that there needs to be a willingness for what is plainly true. From there he went into a story about Lee High School. There was a screening of the movie Spotlight, which was based upon his groundbreaking story against the church. There was also a question and answer portion shortly after.

An elderly gentleman came to Baron with a few words. The gentleman said this was a hard movie to watch and he would go try to go into the theater only to turn around and walk out. He said that his wife, who had passed away, never even knew what happened.  He was sexually abused by a priest who was ordained in 1947. He wanted to thank Baron for releasing the story and was very gracious.

This led Baron to discuss journalism in a more broad perspective. He said that no matter how the media and press changes, the missions should stay the same. The most important mission being to alway tell the truth. Journalists should never be fearful of the truth because of repercussions for the public will never forgive. Journalists have no choice but to investigate and report wrongdoing. This should happen fairly, accurately, honestly and unflinchingly. Click here for an article about after "Spotlight" discovered the crimes against the church.

Baron said that when he began writing and investigating, he wanted to go after the story not the church. It just happened that the church had a story to explore. He had just switched jobs, so it was an awkward and uncomfortable. The idea came to him after a column about John Geoghan and how he abused around 80 children. He was surprised at how little he had heard from the story. Something interesting about the column was the last line; the truth may never be known because of a court seal. Baron looked at this as a challenge, and the story began. Baron talked to his lawyers and the journey to unseal the documents began.

This transition then turned into discussing the importance of journalism in democracy and society. Baron said the powerful is meant to be held accountable. There is a need for investigative journalism to keep society in check. One very important example Baron mentioned is the upcoming election and how the public needs to stay informed. Click here for an article about both candidates that should be read.
At the end I had the opportunity to ask a question about why he decided to go into journalism and told the audience about how he used to read the paper with his parents, and the impact it made on him.

Marty Baron on Truth

Sarah Blankenship

In class yesterday we started watching the film Spotlight. This award-winning film covered The Boston Globe's coverage of Roman Catholic priests in Boston which had sexually abused children.

Marty Baron played a huge role in this investigative piece; today he walked into our very own Schoonover Center.

He is now the executive director of The Washington Post and was just awarded the Carr Van Anda Award for his outstanding work as a journalist.

Matt Zapotosky, an Ohio University alumni and current justice reporter for The Washington Post, introduced Baron and shared some kind words about him.

Before he received his award from Dr. Stewart, Baron gave a talk about his career and the importance of telling the truth.

Baron has made his rounds with top executive positions at newspapers across the country like The New York Times, The Miami Herold and The Los Angeles Times. Now working for The Washington Post, he told us about their mission.

"Tell the truth and tell it unflinchingly," he said.

Baron explained that when we see a story we have no choice but to investigate and report it. That is our duty as journalists, to our readerships.

He is a self-proclaimed "news junkie" that doesn't believe that "the truth shall not be known." His work has helped so many. In this article you can read one man's response to the film.

Besides Baron's story of taking on the Catholic priests in Boston, he had much to say about the First Amendment.

"The First Amendment is at the very heart of what makes our country great," he explained.

He spoke of Norman Rockwell's painting called Freedom of Speech, calling it a "defining image" of our right to share our opinions and what we know with the world.

Baron went on about how the internet can be a wonderful thing because it allows us to use our freedom of expression. He also noted that it can lead to falsehoods as well.

"Many people believe what is plainly untrue," he said when speaking of political campaigns and news of mass shootings on the internet and in the media.

Baron urged us as journalists to "be respectful of the truth." It is our duty. He said he public needs us to be truthful.

His words correspond with so much that we talk about in class. We are learning the values and morals of journalists that we look up to and hopefully we can follow in their footsteps.

In the question and answer section after Baron's speech, a member of the crowd asked how to stand up to a boss when they ask you to do something you don't agree with. This is another thing we would discuss in our class on ethics.

Baron shared, "Stand up for what you believe in. Don't do it on impulse... You're not just entitled to do that, but you are obligated."

Ethics is not just a class we take in college; it is something we will be encountering for the rest of our careers and lives.

Thank you Marty Baron for visiting us at Ohio University!

Marty Baron visits Ohio University

Gabby Hollowell

Yesterday evening, I had the pleasure of listening to Marty Baron, Executive Editor of the Washington Post. The E.W. Scripps School of Journalism presented the Carr Van Anda award to Baron for his "journalistic contributions and persistence." He had a willingness to publish, and that was an inspiration to me and I'm sure every other aspiring journalist in the room.

Jschool director Dr. Stewart (right) presenting Baron with the Carr Van Anda award

Early on in the day, I watched the two-time Oscar-winning movie "Spotlight," in which Baron was portrayed. In 2002, Baron was the editor of the Boston Globe, which published an investigation that revealed the Boston Archdioces' cover-up of priests sexually abusing children for decades. Baron was the mastermind behind this story and pushed his Spotlight team to conduct investigations on the case. The Spotlight team at the Boston Globe won a Pulitzer prize for their piece on the priests' sexual abuse and coverups by the Catholic Church. 

Baron published an article in the Washington Post about how watching the Oscars will be very personal. "I'm in 'Spotlight', but it's not really about me. It's about the power of journalism," he titled his article. After reading that, I expected his speech to be largely about the movie and his thought process when he was making these decisions. Except his message was much deeper than that and closely related to what we've been talking about in Ethics.

Baron spoke about how our mission as journalists needs to remain the same, and the most important is to tell the truth. The public expects the truth and won't forgive us if we don't tell it. The SPJ Code of Ethics tells us that we need to "seek the truth and report it." That's exactly what the Spotlight journalists did. Baron said he's been asked many times why he decided to go after the church, but he said that was not his intention -- his intention was to go after the story; it was a journalistic impulse.

"The truth is not meant to be hidden, disguised, falsified, manipulated, or wrongdoing will persist," Baron said. "Despite our flaws, we (the press) are necessary."

Along with the press being necessary, investigative reporting is necessary, and requires a lot of work and asking questions. It's a hard task to take on, especially for such a sensitive topic when no one wants to talk, and the movie portrayed this. Baron said he hopes this story causes media owners to dedicate themselves to investigative reporting.

Baron then moved on to discussing the First Amendment. "We enjoy the gifts of the first amendment, and we have a duty to protect it," he said. Baron referenced the painting “Freedom of Speech” by Norman Rockwell.

"Freedom of Speech" by Norman Rockwell
This painting portrays an individual who isn’t afraid to think for himself or stand alone. Although freedom of speech is a gift, the internet allows freedom of expression to turn into falsehoods and conspiracy, for example, Baron mentioned the conspiracy of Sandy Hook being a hoax. We, as journalists, can't let that happen.

The big takeaway from Baron's speech was that as journalists, we can't be shy about telling the truth. We must be honest in our reporting and unafraid to tell people what we’ve learned. Baron is a perfect example of the type of journalist we should all look up to and aspire to be, and use his advice to guide us through our journalism careers.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Method Behind Buzzfeed's Madness

Andrea Wurm

Nontraditional is the New Traditional

BuzzFeed has branded itself as the poster child for the untraditional news source in regards to all things digital media. Their zany posts and reputation as a platform for cat videos and unrelated quizzes began to pave their path as a media source that may not be as credible as one would hope. However, Buzzfeed is mastering the art of having their cake and eating it too.

Buzzfeed is a massive media success story.  Its market value of nearly $1 billion makes it difficult to create an argument over the success of BuzzFeed. The problem with BuzzFeed lies within its credibility in regards to its audience. Assuming from its initial platform as an entertainment and accessory news outlet, most news audiences would not credit BuzzFeed as their top or most-trusted news entity.

BuzzFeed has proven in the past years one of the least credible news outlets in the media. Whether or not that attests to its original brand as a goofy, cat video imploded "news" outlet, or because it contributes to a variety of platforms other than hard news. The idea of credibility and trust being important to the millennial audience is something that they may be unaware of. Many would attest that BuzzFeed's "attempt at serious news" is a marketing exercise to convince an audience or media insiders that they are a reputable news organization. Personally, I believe BuzzFeed CAN do it all. They can be a reputable news source for political and world news while maintaining the modern and informal culture and brand that they have cultivated. I believe BuzzFeed is rebranding the world of news media as we know it. What they are doing seems to be working, and has not failed us as a variety of audiences yet.

The constant trending ways of the media enforce this new idea that all news is "important" news. With the ever-existing concentration on the lives of the Kardashians to the constant updates of the presidential election, who is to say what is news audiences want to see anymore. It seems as though many audiences want their timelines or media platforms to be filled with consistent global news updates, while maintaining a sense of what is "culturally trending." This is why I believe the brand BuzzFeed has created could potentially be the untraditional, however, successful way of the media.

A Cracking Foundation

Nicole Schneider

The old world of journalism is often depicted as gritty, aggressive, and methodical. Reporters work meticulously on one investigative story, that may take weeks, just to find the truth for their audience and own curiosity. We’ve built up journalism substantially since those times, creating a skyscraper of stories, platforms, and techniques. But, in creating this world of modern journalism, our foundation is beginning to crack and sink at an alarming rate. Like a skyscraper has many floors, modern journalism has many levels weighing heavily on our core.
Journalists have to perform multiple jobs due
 to these new levels.
Fast food, fast cars, fast internet; this is the world we live in. It’s a society that revolves around speed and being the first to everything. Journalism is no exception to this trend as reporters have always raced to the scene. But modern journalism has taken the ideal of speed and put it on steroids as reporters are now live tweeting every event. They are also posting video snippets on the scene through apps like snapchat and vine, rather than producing a package story.

Journalism can be dramatic. As a reporter, you have to share different sides of the same story and hold people accountable, which includes sometimes picking them apart. It is easy to get wrapped up in this drama, and thence establish some sort of bias. In such a speedy environment, bias is bound to happen because you sometimes don’t have time to settle your emotions or passion toward a subject. In order to get more ‘clicks, hits, and likes’, media outlets will push their editorial pieces because these opinionated works get them more traffic.  

Hyper aggression
Journalists have always needed a bite to them- a type of aggression. Without pushing sources and pulling some teeth, it is nearly impossible to get a real story published. Although, in the modern world of journalism, this aggression has become extreme to the point where some reporters are disregarding the subjects of their stories as they race to have the first word.

With aggressive and speedy reporting, it is hard to determine which things we see are truly accurate. This has lead media corporations to employ companies that research whether a viral video is authentic or not. Unfortunately, audience members have already been subject to false stories on the internet and therefore, sometimes prefer those because they help push their individual views. The Washington Post canceled their “What Was Fake on the Internet This Week” column because of this very issue so the researchers simply weren’t needed anymore.

Media correspondents describe the new newsroom in the digital age. Source- Journify Mapper

While some of these new levels may seem better for the journalism world, they are tearing reporters apart. Journalists are now trapped sprinting on this hamster wheel of media, facts, and stories, just trying to reach the audience before the reporter in the cage next to them, but the end of the race never comes. Paul Ingrassia, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Reuters News says, “It’s a 24-hour cycle, it doesn’t quit,” describing the modern newsroom. This is not what journalists signed up for. The cracks in the foundation of journalism are forcing reporters to do the work of five and progressively destroying the profession. 

Tangled in a "Web" of Lies

Rachel Sinistro

Expressing completely truthful and credible information to the public has become somewhat of a dilemma for journalists. This is because the truth is just as valuable to society as it has always been, but, at the same time, people want their news delivered to them as quickly as possible. This can lead to the negative aspects of many news outlets choosing to value speed over accuracy. While this is a problem now, collaborations between old and new journalistic techniques are on the rise in an effort to create more accurate news.

Photo via Flickr   
 Discrediting New Media

Journalists who have held onto the traditional values of journalism are often quick to criticize the new media techniques that many journalists have taken on. BuzzFeed has taken the world by storm with its unique ways of reaching out to a more youthful crowd with entertaining quizzes and videos. Many journalists do not consider websites like BuzzFeed to be serious reporting outlets, but the reality is that these websites are where much of society today is reading and retaining information. What many readers do not know is that while these websites are feeding us quick and entertaining news, it may be lacking crucial sources and accuracy.

The Critics

Journalists have been fabricating news long before the digital age. News reporting has always pressured journalists to put out the most exhilarating and credible stories possible. This, at times, has triggered journalists like Jayson Blair, a writer for The New York Times, to fabricate stories and plagiarize the work of others. While Blair’s stories were going to multiple editors, his lies were still going unnoticed, and that just shows that having a long editing process does not always result in factual information. Therefore, digital media should not be to blame for false reporting. 

While there is an enormous amount of digital media feeding people false information, it may be beneficial for traditional journalists to step back and take a realistic view at why sites like BuzzFeed are receiving the recognition that they are. Society is evolving as technology is, and this may be sparking a period of dismay in part with credible news reporting, however, it should be acknowledged that some of the old news room tactics are quickly making a come back. Websites like BuzzFeed are slowly beginning to realize just how much people desire the truth, and are actually using copy editors now.

A Whole New Truth Seeking Era

You could very loosely say that there is a whole new version of editing occurring among digital media, and this is being done by sites like Storyful and NowThis News. These websites both have a similar goal, which is to provide readers with the best and most reliable video clips and news snippets. Employees for these websites spend their days searching through news to find what will be most valuable to readers. This is a version of editing as these journalists are not actually writing stories, but they are weeding through information to find what is credible and what is worth being shown. Although it may take some time and tweaking, this mixture of old and new journalistic values could potentially bring about a new era of truthful and effective reporting.