Optimism Prevails Through a “Tumultuous” Year at the Globe

November 28, 2009

By: Laura Franzini

What stuck out in the minds of many of those who listened to him speak was Marty Baron’s optimism concerning the “future of journalism.”

In a talk session with his publisher, P. Steven Ainsley, at Emerson College on Thursday, November 19, Boston Globe editor Martin “Marty” Baron gave a very different perspective on the usually dire outlook for the field of journalism.

“I’m optimistic because if you look at the media at large, it’s exploding,” Baron said in response to an audience member’s question. “The reality is that media is exploding and becoming much more entrepreneurial, much more creative.”

This view was a welcome notion for the vast majority of journalism students who sat in the audience; many have been dealing with both the societal and personal questions about why they decided to pursue journalism—in particular print journalism—in an advancing culture that seems to be leaving many news organizations in the dust.

Baron’s perspective seems to be the opposite of what many people have come to fear. He said, “The opportunities [for young people entering the journalism field] are actually expanding rather than contracting.” Such opportunities include journalists starting new ventures of their own, joining other new ventures, and having the opportunity to rise quickly through organizations.

Baron stressed the idea that people must overcome the notion of what’s happening at newspapers, magazines, and radio stations in order to fully see the ways in which the field of journalism is actually growing.

Globe publisher Steven Ainsley agreed with Baron in the evidence of positive effects that the growth of the Internet in particular has had on the world of news. “More people are reading newspapers than ever before,” Ainsley said. He added that he believes that people are becoming more discriminating when it comes to the source of their news, especially related to the rise of bloggers. “People are beginning to question the veracity of what they’re reading,” he said.

In terms of their own newspaper, both Ainsley and Baron have witnessed first-hand both the negative and positive consequences that the rise of the interactive media has had on print publications. Over the past year, the Globe has experienced enormous pay cuts, staff reductions, and threats by its owner, the New York Times Company, closing or selling the paper.

This tension has made union negotiations vital as well as put a strain on the Globe’s allocation of resources, particularly internationally. But though these difficulties have made the past year a “tumultuous” one for the Globe, both Baron and Ainsley clearly recognize the good that has arisen as well.

“More people are reading newspapers than ever before,” Ainsley said. “Far more people are reading the Globe today than ever have in the past.” “The Globe is not just a newspaper anymore,” Baron added, citing the implementation of video, documentaries, and audio into their news presentation. “The capacity to be able to tell stories in new ways is an exciting notion.”

And the opportunities that these capacities will provide to aspiring journalists in the future is a comforting notion to both journalism students and their professors. “Maybe I should start telling my students that,” said Mark Leccese, a journalism professor at Emerson, in reflection of the perspective Baron gave concerning growing journalistic opportunities. For Baron and Ainsley already, this notion has given them hope in some of the most difficult times of their careers.

Ainsley is set to retire as publisher of the Boston Globe at the end of this year. No official explanation has been given.

Audio of the talk can be found here.

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