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|