Good evening and welcome to the live blog of the 17th annual Kesterton: Spotlight on Journalism. Tonight, CBC’s Ottawa Morning radio host Robyn Bresnahan will interview Washington Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron.
The event is hosted by Carleton’s School of Journalism and Communication. Here is a description of the event that was provided by the school:
If you’ve seen the movie Spotlight you’ll know what Martin Baron stands for: tenacious, ambitious journalism. Invaluable, distinct work that only journalists can do.
Now the man who was the catalyst behind The Boston Globe Spotlight Team’s investigation into sex abuse in the Catholic Church is at The Washington Post, the storied newspaper of Woodward and Bernstein and Watergate. Baron and the Post are embracing the digital age with an unwavering commitment to meaningful journalism.
Come hear the story behind Spotlight—and find out how the Post is facing the future.
Baron had been the editor for The Boston Globe since July 2, 2001 before becoming the executive editor for The Washington Post on December 31, 2012.
Here is the trailer for the movie Spotlight (2015) inspired by the 2001 Boston events in which Catholic priests were found to have been sexually abusing young boys. The spotlight team at The Boston Globe uncovered the story after Martin Baron, who was the editor at the time, triggered the investigation. Their ongoing coverage of these cases encouraged more victims of sexual abuse to come out and recount their stories, which resulted in more lawsuits and criminal cases.
In the Spotlight movie, Baron's character is played by Primetime Emmy Award nominated Liev Schreiber, which also stars Rachel Mcadams, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, John Slattery, and Stanley Tucci.
Journalism professors at Carleton University are also tweeting about the sold out room and the high turnout for tonight's Kesterton talk with Baron.
Baron and Bresnahan arrive and get seated. The room waits for Susan Harada, Associate Director of Carleton's School of Journalism and Communication, to introduce the event.
Harada highlights the importance of the movie in showing journalism's real purpose.
Former Toronto Star reporter and Carleton professor Allan Thompson introduces the talk with Baron. He says he was intrigued by the movie when it came out a few months back. "Anyone who's seen it knows it's a wonderful film in any respect," he says.
"it's the kind of movie that makes you proud to be a reporter," says Thompson.
Thompson says he cried during the movie in a sense of nostalgia. "Am I watching something that is really about another era of journalism in our profession," he says, before adding that the future of journalism is something that the talk will stress on.
Thompson introduces Robyn Bresnahan who was a carleton graduate student back in 2001.
The room laughs while Bresnahan asks Baron what he thinks of Liev of Schreiber portraying him in the movie. "I think he's a terrific actor," says Baron, before adding that he's very pleased with the work that he did in the movie.
Baron says that he was labeled an outsider back in 2001 when he first arrived in Boston. "I wasn't very joyful then," says Baron. He says the movie captures his character then since the actor who plays him doesn't portray a joyful side of him.
"I didn't pursue the catholic church," says baron. "I pursued a story."
"When someone says the truth can't be known, this should be chum for journalism," says Baron on the sealed documents that revealed corruption in the catholic church back in 2001.
"Was there any questions of fear regarding cancellations of subscriptions," asks Bresnahan. Baron says there was a lot of preparation and anticipation but explains it didn't happen because the story was very powerful and revealing.
Bresnahan asks about Baron's first meeting with Cardinal Law. "He knew we were launched on that investigation but we didn't bring it up," says Baron, adding that they talked about other subjects. The cardinal gave him the actual catechism shown in the movie.
"What was going through your head in that moment," asks Bresnahan about the first article that was published in 2002. "I was wondering what was going to happen and I didn't know," says Baron. "I was just waiting to find out."
Baron says he admires people who made the distinction between the corrupted church system and their faith that remained intact.
He says the pope still receives questions on whether he's done everything he can to resolve the issue. "They haven't done anything yet," says Baron on the Vatican holding archbishops accountable 14 years after the investigations.
"Not holding high powers and institutions accountable is the most irresponsible thing we can do," says Baron on the purpose of journalism.
Baron laughs at the dedication regarding coverage of pop culture, celebrities, and award ceremonies. "I don't diminish it at all, but you have to wonder whether the resources are properly allocated," he says.
Bresnahan opens the digital journalism portion of the talk and asks Baron about the new Washington Post building. "How did you put an emphasis on digital journalism in this building," she asks.
Baron explains people can collaborate more and that they now have more technology. "It feels more forward looking," says Baron. He explains it still pays homage to the past but that it's dedicated to the future.
"How did you get the old guard to embrace new media," asks Bresnahan. Baron explains that there is a choice to be made and that in order to succeed, change should be embraced. "It doesn't mean we have to give up our principles ... but it means that we have to understand how communications have changed," he says.
Bresnahan asks about Baron's business competition. "A serious competition is twitter, google, Facebook," he says. He explains that they can profile people, sell apps, and know what people's interests are. He adds that they have become frenemies because they also partner with them.
Bresnahan mentions the cuts made in the journalism industry in January only, and asks about the future of journalism and the one thing that will save journalism. "The answer to that is no, there isn't one thing that will save newspapers," says Baron, adding that he doesn't understand why people thought tablets would save the industry when they were first introduced to the world.
"Sometimes the answers are very simple and they can create many differences to people," he says, adding that people should look for things like "wheels on luggage" instead of "moonshots" that can be complicated and don't result in any solutions for the industry.
Audience members come forward to ask Baron questions.
Audience question: Is there any investigative story that you started and never saw the light of day?
Baron says they had a story on the elections that never saw the light of day because it turned out to be false.
Audience member asks about the risk of romanticizing investigative journalism in the spotlight movie. Baron responds by saying that it doesn't romanticize it and that critics have said it accurately shows what investigative journalism is all about.
Audience member question: ... are the more Eward Snowdens in the system and are you trying to find them?
"We have a great staff that covers national security and we publish stuff routinely that the government doesn't want us to publish," responds Baron, adding that they will find out whether there are other Edward Snowdens out there through hard work.
Audience member asks a question on the role of journalism in a world where everyone can easily get information off the internet. Baron says that it is easy to find information, but harder to gather it. "That is one of the fundamental business challenges for us today," says Baron.
Audience members asks about the relationship between an editor and a publisher.
"I've been fortunate to have supportive publishers," says Baron, adding that the publisher at The Boston Globe had been supportive of the catholic church scandal story.
Baron says he has previously disagreed with publishers, but that they always move on and end up finding a middle-ground. He says he could never work at a newspaper where he couldn't do his job right.
Audience members asks whether press ignores Bernie Sanders' campaign. Baron says he doesn't think it isn't receiving enough coverage.
First year journalism student asks Baron for advice as a person who is just starting out in the world of journalism.
Baron says he knew from a very young age he wanted to do journalism. As for advice, he says he doesn't think there aren't enough opportunities and that many newspapers and websites such as Vice are finding out new approaches to tackle journalism. "If they're doing honourable journalism, i'm all for it," he says.
As for advice, Baron says: "Be curious about the world, be a good writer, be a good thinker, and learn all the tools, because we're going to use them. Have an understanding about the business, and just have some appreciation for how this business works."
"Just because it's difficult, doesn't mean it's impossible," says Baron, adding that journalists should be optimist.
The event comes to a conclusion as Susan Harada gives the final word.