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.