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The future of media is changing—and changing fast

In an address on the future of media, in a time of end­less change, Marty Baron, a respected jour­nalist and Pulitzer Prize- winning editor, chose to begin his talk with some­thing he says must remain constant.

A mis­sion of truth telling.

The public expects that of us,” Baron, the exec­u­tive editor of The Wash­ington Post, said Thursday after­noon before a capacity crowd that con­vened in the event space on the 17th floor of Northeastern’s East Vil­lage. “If we fail to pursue the truth and tell it unflinch­ingly because we are fearful we’ll be unpop­ular or because pow­erful inter­ests will oppose us, the public will not for­give us.”

Baron’s talk marked this semester’s final install­ment of Northeastern’s pres­i­den­tial speaker series “The Future of…,” which explores what’s on the horizon for topics that shape our lives, such as media, food, and dating.

[Read a full tran­script of Baron’s opening remarks.]

Baron has 40 years of expe­ri­ence as a jour­nalist. Prior to taking The Wash­ington Post job in 2013, he served as editor of The Boston Globe from 2001 to 2012. During his tenure, the Globe won six Pulitzer Prizes, including one for public ser­vice in 2003 for the newspaper’s inves­ti­ga­tion and reporting of the Catholic Church priest sex abuse scandal.

He’s held top editor posi­tions at var­ious news­pa­pers across the country including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Miami Herald.

Baron imag­ines what the reac­tion would be like if the idea for news­pa­pers was pitched today

When exam­ining the future of media, Baron said there is one thing to be sure of: “There will be change and change will come faster than ever.” He noted that there are numerous themes the media must address in order to suc­ceed in that future, such as embracing a new mobile society, get­ting better at lis­tening, and rec­og­nizing that dom­i­nance in the field is up for grabs.

The greatest peril facing the future of media, Baron said, is people choose their own facts, rather than than dis­sem­i­nating reality from fiction.

This could well define the future of media, over­whelming every­thing else that con­sumes our atten­tion,” Baron said. “We need to acknowl­edge this chal­lenge, we need to con­front it, we need to find answers…we do not have much time.”

Fol­lowing his remarks, Baron sat down with North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun for a Q&A.

Baron dis­cusses his response to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama crit­i­cizing the media for being “click driven”

With many jour­nalism stu­dents and edu­ca­tors in the audi­ence, Aoun asked Baron, as an exec­u­tive editor, what skills he seeks in journalists.

It used to be in our busi­ness that we tried to hire people who would learn from us,” Baron replied. “Now we look for people who can teach us some­thing we don’t know. We also look for people who can use a lot of the new tools we have and are not intim­i­dated by technology.”

Having spent more than a decade in Boston, Baron noted that he has observed North­eastern quite closely and com­mended the uni­ver­sity for its lim­it­less ambitions.

(North­eastern) has demon­strated that inno­va­tion is pos­sible and can suc­ceed, even for old insti­tu­tions in the oldest fields,” he said. “And there is a lesson there for all of us in media.”