The playwright Tom Stoppard once said that “if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.” Students flock to School of Journalism and Media Innovation at Northeastern’s College of Arts, Media and Design to make a difference through the power of the pen, learning from seasoned professionals and respected scholars.
At a time when journalism and even the facts are in dispute, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post and Boston Globe editor Marty Baron joined the School of Journalism to remind students just how important their chosen career path is to maintaining a strong democracy. . Interviewed for a special Giving Day conversation by Jonathan Kaufman, Director of the Northeastern University School of Journalism, Baron spoke candidly about the changing yet critical role of journalism.
Reporting in a Divided Nation
During a period of tumultuous change for both the news industry and American democracy, Baron has emerged as a fierce champion of the free press and fearless investigative reporting. Speaking with Kaufman, Baron candidly reflected on his time as an editor, what it was like to be attacked as an “enemy of the people” and cover Trump, and what he sees for the future of journalism—and the country.
In a memo to The Washington Post’s staff upon his retirement, Baron wrote: “From the moment I arrived at The Post, I have sought to make an enduring contribution while giving back to a profession that has meant so much to me and that serves to safeguard democracy.”
He elaborated on that mission in conversation with Kaufman: “Our job was to report what was actually happening. Regardless of who is in office, it’s the job of the press to keep watch on what’s happening in government, to take a look at who is responsible for those policies are working and what kind of impact they are having on ordinary citizens.”
The Next Generation of Journalists
Baron has often emphasized the need to ensure that students have honest, hands-on experience in reporting, producing, and publishing high-quality work while in school. Speaking about what he looked for in a good journalist, he said: “I particularly looked for journalists who are intellectually curious … They are more impressed with what they do not know versus what they do know or think they know. They are consistently in learning mode, doing reporting, and recognizing that they always have to learn. For the most part, we looked for people with integrity and intellectual curiosity.”
Students at the School of Journalism are taught these qualities through a combination of theory, hard skills, and experiential learning. Baron was enthusiastic to lend his voice and stature to Northeastern’s annual Giving Day, helping the school to fund scholarships and stipends for students with financial constraints to gain access to experiential learning opportunities and university resources.
When he was editor of the Boston Globe and the Washington Post, Baron ran stories by journalism students that grew out of internships and other hands-on learning opportunities. Such experiences are crucial to the education of future journalists and give them a leg up when they enter the workforce. Supporting under-resourced students helps to level the playing field, ensuring that young journalists of all backgrounds can make the most of their time at Northeastern.
Inspired by Baron’s participation, a generous anonymous donor matched all Giving Day donations to the School of Journalism up to $5,000, helping them to ultimately raise $13,605. “The power of journalism and freedom of speech uphold our values as a society and speak truth to power. Journalism and higher education are interconnected in addressing the same core issues in society today,” Baron told students.
The School of Journalism is building the next generation of journalists to bear witness, seek truth, and never stop interrogating the world around them.