Martin Baron comes to Carleton

By Samantha Goodman

Journalist Martin Baron has hope for the future of journalism and the changes in the industry. “Why should we fail?” he asked. “We should succeed. Embrace the changing world.”

Baron spoke at Carleton University at the 17th annual Kesterton Lecture on Feb. 4.

As portrayed in the new movie Spotlight, Baron was the editor for The Boston Globe’s 2001 investigation into child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Baron described how he was new to The Boston Globe in 2001, and he made his adjustment even more difficult by jumping the gun and bringing up the issue of sexual abuse as soon as he arrived.

“People were stunned that I’d bring this up at the first meeting on the first day,” Baron said, adding what a major institution the Catholic Church is in Boston.

While writing the story, Baron said he “didn’t know about the internal resistance to the story” from others at The Boston Globe. As a newcomer to the paper, he didn’t have anyone to inform him.

Baron said he never felt like he was going after the Church. “This is a story. We’re journalists. We’re supposed to go after stories like this,” he said.

Baron said he was expecting a negative response to the story because of the impact it would have, but it was quite the opposite. “I would get emails from people saying they’re glad we did this story,” he said.

People in Boston were not the only ones affected by this breakthrough story, “it emboldened news organizations around the world to do work like this,” Baron explained.

He described the warm reception he and his team received at promotional events in Rome, and attributed this to how the Italian press was affected by the power of the Catholic Church.

“They feel pressure not to report on what’s going on,” Baron said, but that changed with The Boston Globe’s revolutionary article.

“The most irresponsible thing we can do is not hold people in power accountable,” Baron said in relation to the power of the Catholic Church and the sexual abuse he and his team exposed.

When asked about the movie and Lev Schreiber, the actor who played Baron, Baron said he was pleased with his work. “I’m happy he took [the role],” he said.

Carleton professor, and former Toronto Star reporter, Allan Thompson described Spotlight as “the kind of movie that makes you proud to be a reporter.”

Baron expressed that what makes the movie powerful is how honest it is. He said it does not romanticize investigative journalism—in fact it does quite the opposite. “It shows it takes hard work, which is one of the strengths of the movie,” Baron explained.

Baron’s advice to aspiring journalists is all about learning the basics. “Be curious, be a good writer, be a good thinker, be a good critical thinker, and have an appreciation of the business,” he said. Baron linked his advice back to his work on the sexual abuse scandal, and ended by saying, “just because it’s incredibly difficult, doesn’t mean it’s impossible.”

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