The retirement on March 7 of Martin Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post, will leave a void not only at The Post, but journalism in general.
Baron, who joined The Post in 2013, headed the news organization through turbulent times that have had a significant impact on the news media. Yet, despite a diminishing audience for the print edition of the paper, The Post now is profitable, specifically because of its growing online presence and scope. (And, let’s not ignore or minimize the financial input provided by owner Jeff Bezos, who also is the founder of Amazon)
The Post ran a story which provided insights into Baron’s time at The Post and excerpts are below.
Baron was hired “in large part for his reputation as a newsroom leader who knew how to do more with less. At the Miami Herald, he oversaw coverage of the disputed 2000 presidential election and the Elián González immigration drama, before moving to the Boston Globe and guiding its Pulitzer-winning investigation of the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal — during years when both newsrooms endured financial constraints or deep cuts.
“It was understood that a similar balancing act would be expected of him at The Post.”
However, despite the financial hemorrhaging faced by many print publications, Bezos said in a meeting that he saw a bright future by focusing on the Internet, “which had given The Post the power to distribute its work worldwide for negligible cost. So, how was the company going to take advantage of it?
“The meeting marked a turning point for The Post — and for Baron.
“It was a partnership forged at a crucial time, allowing the print newsman to help reinvent the company’s business strategy for the digital age. And The Post’s revival in turn empowered Baron — a normally reserved personality — to take up the mantle as a leading advocate for press freedoms when the industry came under attack during the Trump administration.”
“Despite having come up in the era of print, Baron says he was pushing for digital innovations long before he teamed up with Bezos. In Boston, where he spent more than 11 years, he integrated the newsroom of Boston.com into the Globe, encouraged the development of online video, and formed what he described as a tiny online-audience team.
“His specialty, though, remained his talent for overseeing a team as it conceptualized and launched ambitious investigative projects — notably the Boston investigation that exposed the Catholic Church’s coverup of priests who had abused children. The saga was turned into the 2015 film “Spotlight,” which won the Oscar for Best Picture.”
“During Baron’s tenure, The Post grew to have more than 3 million digital-only subscribers, even as print circulation has declined, and has enjoyed five straight years of profitability. The staff grew from 580 to more than 1,000. The Post opened new bureaus, after years of shuttering them, and this year expects to have 26 locations around the world. The Post, under Baron’s leadership, has won four Pulitzers for national reporting, two for explanatory reporting and one each for public service, investigative reporting, criticism and photography.”
Baron’s efforts to refocus and reinvent The Post to make it relevant to today’s audience obviously paid off, but the biggest winners are The Post’s growing readership, in numbers and scope, who, daily, get a high quality news product. Hopefully, more of the media will get the resources needed to create a product reflective of the needs of today’s audiences.
Baron’s contributions to The Post can best be summed up in the following that appeared in the New York Times: “Marty Baron Made The Post Great Again.” There’s nothing more to add.
PHOTO: The Washington Post