ISOJ Keynote: Washington Post’s Martin Baron optimistic about the future of journalism

During his keynote speech at the 15th International Symposium on Online Journalism, Martin Baron, executive editor at the Washington Post, talked about why he is optimistic about the future of journalism. However, Baron clarified that his optimism doesn’t necessarily extend to the durability of current media platforms.

“There is no acceptable alternative to optimism. We cannot be successful if we are not optimistic,” said Baron. “We have to see the opportunities and seize them.”

Baron said he has several reasons for journalists to be optimistic about the future of journalism, which included:

  • Journalism has survived despite the grave predictions of the not-to-distant past. There are real journalists doing real, important journalism. “We are more resilient than people give us credit for and we give ourselves credit for,” Baron said.
  • Journalists are finding capital for entrepreneurship. Although some people see the spin-off of journalists from legacy media as a sign of trouble, Baron said he thinks this is healthy. “The environment is more varied and more colorful than before,” he said.
  • Readers are now able to digest more information than ever before, and audiences are more satisfied by the variety of platforms and ways in which data is presented.
  • There is lots of new talent that is very engaged and passionate. “Young journalists are truly digital natives,” Baron said. For them, technology is their first language.

Nevertheless, Baron said that he is a “dissatisfied optimist.”

Evan Smith (Texas Tribune) and Martin Baron (Exec Director, Washington Post). Why We Should be Optimistic About Journalism.
Evan Smith, CEO of The Texas Tribune, speaks with Martin Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post, at the 2014 ISOJ on the University of Texas-Austin campus, Apr. 5, 2014. (Bryan Winter/Knight Center)

“There are serious questions about how journalism will be funded in the future,” he said. And there are too few journalists covering even the basic of politics at the local level.

During the Q&A session, Baron addressed questions about the recent sale of the Washington Post to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and the concerns that Bezos could influence content.

“He has not had his nose in our newsroom in any way. He is merely interested in how we grow. And the only way we can grow is through digital transformation,” he said. “[Bezos] understands technology, but he also really understands the consumer.”

See here for a Storify on the highlights of Baron’s speech.

ISOJ 2014: Martin Baron Keynote, from Knight Center on Vimeo.