Marty Baron Isn’t Talking Much. Smart Guy.

By Jack Limpert

I’ve played an editing role in a couple of hundred stories on the Washington Post, starting with a piece back in April 1969 about Ben Bradlee and his elimination of the paper’s women’s section to create the new Style section. Some of the stories were great—thank you Barbara Matusow, Larry Van Dyne, Mary Walton, Harry Jaffe, and others. Some were just okay, but I can’t think of one dumber than the National Journal piece posted today about Marty Baron, who in January became the Post’s executive editor.

The story, titled “Is Marty Baron the Man to Fix The Washington Post,” is written by Chris Frates, who mostly covers lobbying for the National Journal. Here’s the story’s nut graf:

He’s the consummate newsman, a compliment that has long been reserved for industry lifers who care more about the makeup of Page 1 than the future of newspapers. But can The Post, whose flagging fortunes include tumbling revenue, circulation, and staff ranks, still afford that kind of luxury? If Baron has a vision for the paper’s future—and almost certainly he had to offer one to Publisher Katharine Weymouth to be handed the helm—he’s loathe to discuss it. He’ll talk about his journalistic accomplishments, the mechanics of a good story. But as for fixing The Washington Post, he’s not about to admit that it’s even necessary.

Baron has been at the Post less than five months after running the Boston Globe for the past 11 years. As a longtime reader, it appears to me that he’s injecting some life into page one and improving local coverage. He’s not laying out what’s next for the Post. He’s not giving Frates his blueprint for the future. He’s still hiring his people, still learning. He’s not trying to please a National Journal writer.

As the NJ’s lobbying reporter, Frates did get a “Washington public-affairs consultant” to suggest that Baron is failing in his role as Post editor because, ‘In fact, the consultant hadn’t even heard of Baron.” Do consultants that dumb make a living in DC?

At this early stage it appears that Marty Baron is a lot smarter than the people writing about him.


  1. Jack Limpert says

    Note from a longtime DC editor:

    Lots of good background in the piece but he treats Baron like Baron is running for office and won’t come clean with a campaign statement.

  2. Jack Limpert says

    Note from a longtime wire service reporter:

    If the author had left out his whining about Baron’s refusal to reveal the inner Marty, this would have been a good piece. His last paragraph is a puzzle. He seems to say that ethical journalism is just another device to be played with.

    This Baron quote ought to be pasted on every zip-age journalist’s wall:

    “Readers think these days that all information is available instantaneously, and the truth is that not all information is available instantaneously. You actually need some time to check things out. They expect that you’re going to have it right away, but they’ll hold you accountable if you get it wrong.”

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