Martin Baron meets with K-State journalism faculty, students

Martin Baron, executive editor for The Washington Post, delivered the 176th Landon Lecture on Thursday. (Payton Heinze | The Collegian)

Landon Lecture speaker and Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron spoke with journalism students and faculty Thursday afternoon in the Kansas State Student Union’s Big 12 Room following his morning lecture.

Between lunch with Landon Lecture patrons and an afternoon flight itinerary, Baron forewent any introductory speech and immediately took questions from the student audience.

An audience member asked Baron how the Washington Post selects people to contribute to the publication, which has expanded its coverage to be more global in recent years.

Baron said the newspaper has a program called the Washington Post Talent Network, which was set up about two years ago. The network marked a transition for the Washington Post when it expanded its regional coverage to become a national paper under new owner Jeff Bezos, founder and chairman of Amazon.

“The question was, ‘How can we be national if we don’t have correspondents all across the country?’” Baron said. “We did have a foreign staff, but it wasn’t as big as the New York Times. We wanted to do (the network) in a cost-effective way, and we recognized that there are a lot of journalists out there.”

Under the program, the newspaper built a network of journalists across the country and globe, creating “an incredible reservoir of talent,” Baron said. The program includes journalists who have extra time to work and other journalists who have retired or “prematurely retired.”

Another audience member asked if the success of the Washington Post was indicative of the journalism industry. Baron said it was not.

“We’re in a somewhat privileged position in a couple of respects,” Baron said. “One is that we are now trying to be national and international in scope, and there are very few media organizations that can do that … the other advantage we have is that we have an owner who has the capacity to invest in the longer run, and he has been willing to do so.”

“We’re not a charity, he doesn’t treat us as a charity … I’m glad he doesn’t treat us as a charity, because if he ever got tired of his charity we’d be in really bad shape,” Baron said.

Steven Smethers, associate professor of journalism, said the question-and-answer opportunity was made possible after President Richard Myers’s office reached out to the journalism school a month ago.

“They’ve gone to a format in the Landon Lectures where they’ll try to bring their speakers into contact with students at K-State,” Smethers said. “This was intended to be sort of a wrap session with students, kind of an opportunity to maybe extend into what student interests are. I thought (Baron) did a great job of that and really related to our students.”

Baron said his piece of advice for student journalists is to simply do their jobs.

Baron said that on the first day of his tenure at the Boston Globe, he referenced in a meeting an editorial on the sealing of Catholic Church records on what Church leadership knew about allegations of sexual misconduct by priests. The story ended with the phrase, “The truth may never be known.” Baron said he took issue with that sentence, because every journalist’s job is to find the truth.

He referred to a recent story in which student journalists at Pittsburg High School in Kansas uncovered that the newly-hired principal had suspicious credentials. The principal resigned from the position days later, all before starting her official duties.

“Keep at it,” Baron said. “People were telling them, ‘Don’t put your nose where it doesn’t belong …’ I think they did exactly the right thing … any journalist at various times in their career will be told, ‘You’re going down the wrong path,’ or, ‘This is none of your business.’ That should inspire you to keep at it, especially if you know you’re onto something serious.”

I'm Rafael Garcia, and I'm a 2019 K-State graduate in journalism and former editor-in-chief of the K-State Collegian. I believe that much of the world's problems come from a lack of understanding of other people, but by telling other people's stories and finding the good in the world, I think we can increase our understanding and appreciation of each other. Questions, comments, concerns, news tips? Email the Collegian team at