tv The Media Show BBC News April 13, 2021 1:30am-2:01am BST
a state of emergency has been declared in minneapolis over the fatal shooting of another black man. authorities say daunte wright was killed after an officer mistakenly pull data wrote —— a gun instead of a taser. the trial of derek chauvin in the killing of george floyd has been denied the request to sequester the jury. prince harry and prince william have paid tributes to prince philip. politicians from across the political spectrum also pay their respects and special parliamentary and assembly settings to mark the death of prince philip, who was 99.
now on bbc news, social media, antisocial media, breaking news, faking news — this is the programme about a revolution in media, with amol rajan, the bbc�*s media editor. hello. in 2012, the washington post was perhaps the world's most famous local newspaper, whose new editor needed to make cuts. within eight years, the paper had become a global powerhouse, with ten pulitzer prizes under its belt and over 100 million monthly website views. the paper had a new owner, jeff bezos, the world's richest man and it had one of america's most lauded editors at its helm. marty baron had already been the editor of the miami herald and had seen his years at the boston globe get turned into an oscar—winning film called spotlight. sometimes it is easy to forget that we spend most of our time stumbling around in the dark. suddenly a light gets turned on and there is a fair share
of blame to go around. back injanuary, marty baron announced that he would be stepping down as editor of the washington post, which he duly did. marty baron, welcome to the media show. thank you. many of our audience will have a vague sense of your achievements, maybe they will have seen that film, spotlight, but they will not know you very well, so let me ask a couple of questions to get to know you a bit better. were newspapers a big part of family life when you were growing up? they were. my parents were immigrants to the united states. they wanted to know a lot about their own country, this new country and they were interested in what was happening around the world, so we had our local newspaper in tampa, florida, every single day. they watched the news regularly, the national news and the local news on television and then we received time magazine every week, so we had a regular news diet in our household. what did your parents do for a living? my father was an exporter of florida citrus around the world and my mother was a homemaker. did you stumble into journalism or did you sort of march
decisively into it? lots of people go into journalism by lots of different routes. what's the method by which you came into it? ijust seemed to always be interested in it and i think going back to junior high school, i think probably because of the news diet in our household, i became editor of my high school newspaper and then when i got to college, i became editor, ultimately became editor of the college newspaper and then i went right into working at newspapers as soon as i left college. let's think about some of those other papers where you have cut your teeth as an editor. this is much later, long after you left college. in 2001 you became the editor of the boston globe. within two years, the paper won a pulitzer prize for exposing widespread child sexual abuse within the catholic church, inspiring the film spotlight. what was it that first convinced you there was a major story there? well, when i arrived in boston, i was obviously reading the globe very closely to look for stories. i was coming from miami, which seemed to be a great source
for stories, there were all sorts of crazy things that happened there, and frankly i was a little concerned that boston would be a little bit too calm for great news stories, but it turned out that i read a column that appeared the sunday before i was to start, i was starting on a monday, and it was written by a pulitzer prize—winning columnist, eileen mcnamara. and she talked about the case of a priest by the name ofjohn geoghan who had been accused of abusing as many as 80 kids and she went on to talk about it and how the lawyer for the plaintiffs alleged that the cardinal himself, the cardinal in the new york diocese of boston, was aware of the abuse by this priest and yet continually reassigned him from parish to parish where he abused again and again. the church hierarchy said that was untrue, these were baseless and reckless charges and at the end of the column she said the truth may never be known, because the documents, internal documents of the church, that might reveal the truth, were under fourth seal, meaning they were kept confidential. and so i came in the next morning, my first day, my first meeting, everybody talked about what they were doing, it was a ten o'clock
meeting at the time, that might reveal the truth, were under fourth seal, meaning they were kept confidential. and so i came in the next morning, my first day, my first meeting, everybody talked about what they were doing, it was a ten o'clock meeting at the time, and nobody mentioned the case. i was a little stunned, because an amazing case, a priest accused of maybe abusing as many as 80 kids, allegations that the cardinal himself knew about the abuse and yet continually reassigned this priest despite knowing of that abuse and essentially allowing him, enabling him essentially to abuse again and again. and so i asked about it. and i asked what we were doing
and it was pointed out to me that the documents were under seal, which i knew because i had read that in the piece and i said that i did not know what the laws in massachusetts were but in florida we would most likely go were but in florida we would most likely go after those documents, go to court to try to get them. they were not public records, they were the records of the church, but a case could be made that it was in the public interest to reveal those records, to make them available to the public. and was it those words, sorry to interrupt, was it those words in the column, the truth may never be known, that aroused your interest in it? absolutely. that is right, because i think when you see that, when any journalist sees that, we should say that that's ourjob to try to get at the truth, so that should be...i see it like chum in the water forjournalists. i'm always interested in the moments where people are chasing a story which is true but dangerous for those who are the subject of the story, i'm always interested in the personal difficulties they have over the course of that story. how much pressure did you personally come under and from whom to drop that investigation? i was not under an enormous amount of personal pressure. we knew that the church was very
powerful, it was the most powerful institution in new england and had been so for a very long time. the church had attacked the boston globe previously for some of its stories, including stories on abuse. the cardinal himself, as he put it, called down the power of god on the previous editor of the boston globe and so we knew it could subject the globe to accusations of anti—catholicism. so that was the sort of environment in which we were operating. i would not say i received threats or anything of that sort, i certainly didn't, but we knew that this was a story of great sensitivity and that it made us potentially vulnerable to accusations of being anti—catholic, which in a very catholic city like boston is a substantial reputational risk. the globe wrote follow—up pieces for several years after that initial investigation. how do you know, how do you make the judgment of when it is time to wrap up a story like that?
well, we made thejudgment that it was not enough to just document that many priests had been accused of abuse. there was a desire on the part of some on our staff to publish at that point, because we had indications, i think it was about 60 priests had been accused of abuse and we could document that and that was stunning in and of itself, but i felt that we needed to show more than that. i think that we needed to show... we needed to find out what did the church do once it found out that these priests abused? not just the fact of the abuse, but what was the institutional response? to what extent did the church fulfil its obligations to the most devout and to the children who were in its care? so we kept on that story and we were able to document, both through our own reporting as well as the court
action that we took, that in fact the church was fully aware of this abuse and yet covered it up, continually reassigned these priests and these priests abused repeatedly. so that was when we had that, when we could show the cover—up, and the cover—up had lasted for decades, four to five decades, then we were ready to publish. in 2013 you became editor of the washington post, the paper of bob woodward and carl bernstein. of course it was their watergate investigations in the early 19705 that eventually brought down president nixon. your time at the post would be linked with a very different president. donald trump ended up providing you with enough story leads to fill the paper for many a year. you had an ongoing fact—checker in the paper and by the end of trump's four—year presidency, the post had found that he had made 30,573, and i quote, false or misleading claims. how do you even begin to go about fact—checking that number of statements? how big was that fact—checking team? it is bigger today than it was to begin with. we had to add to it. they have been incredibly busy.
so we basically... we have three people now on the team and look, donald trump repeats some of the same misleading statements and lies and falsehoods that he has said before and he says them over and over and over again. so, many of them, they are ready to run a fact—checker because they have already fact—checked it a few thousand times already. exactly, it is a kind of copy and paste thing, isn't it? let me read you a few washington post headlines from the past few years. "how fascist is donald trump? "12 signs trump would try to run a fascist dictatorship. "trumpism is american fascism." some of those may have come not from the news pages but the comment pages and there is a very important distinction between the two which is actually more of a distinction in the us and us press than it is in britain, but do you think that the post and other parts of the media overreacted to president trump? well, i'm glad you pointed out that those were headlines, they clearly sounded like headlines that came from our opinion page and nothing that would appear on the news pages for which i'm
responsible and i'm not involved in the opinion pages and of course we have a wide variety of opinions on our opinion pages. do you agree with that system where there is such a sharp divide between... because to an english journalist it is a very strange idea, if you think about some of the most powerful newspaper editors in britain, they get most excited about what they can commission on the comment pages. why do you think it is ethically important that the editor of the washington post does not know what is in the opinion pages until he reads it in print, or she? i guess there is more than an ocean that separates us, right? i do not want to be responsible for it. i want us to cover our news with the kind of, as independently as we possible can. i do not want us to be perceived as allied with any particular interest. i like our independence, i think that is the core to our integrity as journalists. i think that helps us go about our business, ourjobs, more professionally and it is a tradition here in the united states and it is established practice. not at every newspaper, but most, certainly the big ones and i think that is good.
i want to be able to say i have nothing to do with them, the editorials and the opinion pages, because i do not. one of the things that a lot of people in this country worry about is whether or notjournalism, even crusading powerful investigative journalism, does not necessarily seem to have the same consequences as it did a generation ago, so where woodward and bernstein had a very tangible impact which led to the downfall of a president, some people would say ok president trump wasn't elected, but did the journalism which exposed his misleading claims, his falsehoods and his lies actually fundamentally change public opinion? did it have a tangible impact on american democracy, do you think? well, i do not think that should be our primary concern. we must look at what the impact is. i think ourjob is to give the public the information that they need and deserve to know in order to be engaged citizens. and they decide for themselves, that's the way democracy works. i also think it is not accurate to say and what coverage did not have an impact. i think it may not have had
an impact as big as it might have in the past, but look, donald trump went through two impeachment trials and he also, by the way, lost the election. i'm not saying it is the result that we sought, it is not, just ourjob is to tell people what is going on. we would do the same thing in a democratic administration and the post has had the same mission with the biden administration as it had with the trump administration. i mean, look at how people are covering andrew cuomo now, he is a democrat, the governor of new york. it is very aggressive coverage, as it should be, and so that is the way the press are. we will come on to the change in ownership during your time in a moment, but do you accept that trump was pretty good for sales? there are some estimates that suggest that there has been a fall in political news consumption since... some people say it is a good thing, we need a less caffeinated news
cycle, i'm sure you as you step into retirement are thinking, you know... you lived through the most caffeinated news cycle of them all. but there is an estimate that the fall in political news consumption since biden was elected was around about 20 to 28%. has trump been good for sales? yes, i would say he has been, to be honest about it. there is no question that during the campaign, the 2016 campaign, and during his administration, there was a large segment of the american public that felt that he needed to be held to account and they were concerned that the other institutions that they previously could rely on for holding a government to account would not do so. the courts, he was appointing a lot ofjudges to the courts, so they were concerned about his ability to basically appoint enoughjustices to the supreme court where he would not be held to account there and they were concerned about congress, that congress was not going to do itsjob. and when they looked around for institutions in this country holding trump to account, they saw the press as perhaps the only remaining institution.
the other factor is there was obviously a lot of so—called news sites that were spreading falsehoods, disinformation, misinformation. the quality of the information out there had deteriorated and people felt that it was important to support quality news organisations that had real reporting staff and that were doing theirjobs. if they want it, they are going to have to pay for it, which is in fact the case that if they do want that kind ofjournalism, they are going to have to pay for it. this in 2018, the post under your leadership won a pulitzer prize a pulitzer prize for its coverage of russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. would the post have been able to sustain this number of very complex investigative journalism without the financial backing ofjeff bezos? well, i think that ifjeff bezos had not acquired us in 2013, the fall of 2013, we would have we would have been on the same trendline that we had been
previously, we would be declining. we would have had fewer resources, fewer staff, all of that. i do not think that we would have been as powerful a media force as we became, because we achieved commercial success and obviously in order to be a successful journalistic operation you have to be a successful commercial operation as well. and we were able to add staff, quite a bit of staff. we were able to achieve stability, achieve profitability, reinvest our earnings, becausejeff bezos doesn't need the dividends and so yes, i think it made a tremendous difference. i do not think we would have represented any kind of cause for worry for the trump administration if we had continued on our previous financial path. where and when did the pair of you, you and jeff bezos, first sit down and discuss the paper's direction? well, we sat down with the executive team at the post at the time. he made very clear right from the beginning that he thought that strategy of being for and about washington,
of being regional, may have been the right strategy for a different era, the post had made a lot of money over the years, but it was not the right strategy for the current era. because we were taking all the pain that the internet had to offer, it was destroying every financial pillar of our business, but we were not taking what he called the gift of the internet. we were a bit mystified as to what that gift was at the time, but he explained, i think quite clearly, that the gift was worldwide distribution at virtually no additional cost. because of the internet we did not have to deliver papers everywhere in the world and so you have the opportunity to be national and even international in this way because you do not incur additional costs and you are ideally positioned to do so. because we were based in the nation's capital, because we were in a good place for that, because we had a name, the washington post, which was a good name for going national and even international and because we had a tradition and heritage that was well—defined in the public�*s mind,
going back to watergate, of shining a light on dark corners, holding the government accountable, holding powerful institutions and individuals accountable. the implication being that we did not need to run off to a retreat to figure out who the hell...who we were. excuse me, using colloquial language there. that is fine. what is he like, bezos? very smart, very focused, very disciplined. you know, i get along with him great. do you have any qualms about working with someone you barely knew? it is a strange place for an editor to be, isn't it? you have to form a new relationship and notjust with anybody. when i became editor of the miami herald i was working for somebody i barely knew. when i became editor of the boston globe i was working for someone i barely knew. and when i became editor of the washington post i ended up working for someone i barely knew and when bezos acquired us, i was so i was kind of used to it. so it is fine.
i should say in the spirit of fairness that you have won plaudits for the way in which you handled that relationship publicly, but i wonder if you could say now, reflecting on it some years on, whether it is sometimes an uncomfortable place for a journalist to be, being ultimately owned by someone who has an incentive in seeing their competitors denigrated? right, but the thing is that he has not interfered in ourjournalism at all and i'm gratefulfor that. i would not have wanted to be there if that had been the case, if he had interfered. he knows that, he thinks that the paper should have its independence and do itsjob with integrity. he did not buy the post for any other reason, to advance the interests of amazon or anything like that. amazon does fine on its own, it does not need the help of the washington post. and so he bought it for the mission of the washington post, not for the mission of amazon. and so he has not interfered at all, he lets us cover amazon, he lets us cover him with total independence as well. i can tell you this,
not all the stories are favourable and he does not come in at all on them, he does not criticise us. he's never suppressed a story and does not suggest any stories. and his competitors know that we cover them fairly as well. we have full access to his competitors, regardless of the field it's in, whether it's in retailing, or icloud computing or space, commercial space, you name it, they all know that we cover them independently. otherwise they would not talk to us, but they do talk to us. as you say, for those of our audience who do not know, it is really important to say that bezos bought the post in a personal capacity. it was not amazon who bought it, it was very much bezos that bought it. right. he has stepped back, he announced that he has stepped back from running amazon on a day—to—day basis but says he wants to spend more time on the washington post in the future. i know you have left as well, but what does that mean? can you just translate that bezos speak to us? i honestly do not know. i have not talked to him about it. i would like to know
what it means as well. honestly, i do not think it means all that much, to tell you the truth. my guess is he is going to spend much more time on his commercial space ventures, but that is speculative on my part. that has obviously been a huge passion of his. i do not think there is enough to occupy his time at the washington post, frankly. he will not get involved in thejournalism, he has made that clear, that has been his practice and policy since he acquired us. he was already involved in the business side of things, so maybe he will spend a little bit more time on it, but my guess is that he would spend, have more time to dedicate to commercial space ventures as well. i do not think it means very much, to tell you the truth. sure. whose idea was it to adopt the tag line, "democracy dies in darkness?" a quote from bob woodward. actually, the original, the origin was really what a judge said at the time of watergate, which was, "democracy dies in the dark." bob sort of modified that in his speeches over the years to say "democracy dies in darkness."
jeff bezos felt it was important for us to have a motto that encapsulated our mission and the distinct role that the washington post plays in american journalism and american society by being in the nation's capital and shining a light in dark corners and all of that. we went through, i don't know, nine months of deliberations, thousands, seemingly thousands of options. i do not think at the beginning there was a huge 5 amount of clarity as to exactly what we were doing. we were about to give up, butjeff did not want to give up and then finally, that phrase had been around, it was one of the options, but as you might imagine people were a little concerned about death and darkness being part of our motto. it's not exactly what you would hear typically from an advertising company as to how you should pitch yourself, but it did capture what our mission is. i have to say that i had some
hesitancy about it as well. because of death and darkness, it was just very gloomy. we tried using light, but it made it sound, it was sounding either too self—agilatory or it sounded like a cult, so we could not come up with any phrase that didn't make it sound like either we were too self—adulatory or cult—like, so we opted for darkness and death. and you know what, it has been hugely popular. it resonated with a lot of people instantly. i have a vague recollection. i think dean baquet, your contemporary at the new york times, executive editor, i think he said i love marty, but that is a very gotham quote. i have to say gotham is what came to my mind as well. let's talk a bit more about the wider industry. you've talked about the huge expansion of the post. you've now got over a thousand people in your newsrooms. you have been able to hire people, fund investigativejournalism. will the washington post still exist as a physical paper, do you think, print form, in ten years�* time? i hate to make predictions.
print has been around a lot longer than a lot of people predicted and we have very loyal readers, but if i had to guess, the answer would be no. i think that we can see the trendlines for print newspapers and they are all down and ours has been done, the new york times has been down. that is just not how people live their lives these days. people are getting their information through digital means, typically through a mobile phone and social media. and that is how it is and so that is fine with me, because what i think is important is the journalism that we practice, not whether we deliver it on a piece of paper or deliver it on a computer screen. do you worry that the shift of advertising and the eyeballs associated with it to a few technology performs has made those technology giants, particularly google and facebook, but notjust those, has made them too powerful in modernjournalism? they have an exceptional amount of power, there is no question about it. too much?
more than i would like, that is for sure. i think that certainly they have sucked up a huge amount of the revenue, they control the platforms on which we operate, we basically have to abide by their rules. at the same time they provide a platform for us to reach a large number of people we would not be able to reach otherwise. i mean, if we werejust a print newspaper, only people in the washington region would be able to read us or we would have to deliver the physical paper. the reality is that facebook, google, apple, all of those provide platforms for us to reach a large number of people everywhere in this country and everywhere around the world. that is a big advantage for us that they provide. however, there is not a lot of competition, they do not face a lot of competition, and so they exercise an enormous amount, an inordinate amount of power and there is clearly an unequal relationship between us and them. highly unequal. and so, yes, i think
it is an inordinate amount of power. marty baron, now the former editor of the washington post, thank you very much for your time. thank you, i appreciate it, thanks for your interest. all highs on the weather now that lockdown is slowly easing and it is not looking too bad over the next few days. it will remain a little on the chilly side and we are in for a frosty start on tuesday but it will be a sunny one. on tuesday there are still a lot of cold air across the continent and we are in that cold air, it is still
coming from the ark dig and will take a while before the things warm up. this is what like early on tuesday. as low as eight celsius in the glens of scotland and a frost down to the south coast. plenty of sunshine around right from the word go, however the cloud will be increasing through the morning and into the afternoon across western and southern areas so it is not a completely dry day. we do expect a few showers. the best of the weather will be across central parts and towards the north sea coast. temperatures, 10—12 degrees, not that far off the average the average but we would like them closer to the mid— teens especially across southern parts of the uk and at least into double figures in most areas. so the next few days? the weather will remain dry because we have high pressure centred across the uk. notjust across the uk but spreading itself right across western parts of europe. a lot of dry weather in many areas and this is what it looks like early on wednesday. starting a little misty in places with a touch of frost but in the afternoon the weather looks fine. maybe a couple of showers here and there.
the temperature nudging into the mid— teens across southern parts of wales. this is a look at thursday. it does look as though it will pick up more of a breeze off the north sea here so the temperatures may drop a little bit. we're only talking nine in norwich and in london so the higher temperatures later in the week will be across more western areas of the uk. there is a hint that things are going to be warming up as we head into the weekend. slightly milder atlantic wind sets in across the british isles but not everywhere. so temperatures will pick up towards the weekend and the best temperatures will be across more western areas. and from the weather symbol it does look generally dry. bye— bye.
welcome to bbc news — i'm mike embley. our top stories: a state of emergency and overnight curfew in minneapolis after protests at the shooting dead of another black american by police. the local police chief says it was an accident. during this encounter, however, the officer drew their handgun instead of their taser. iran blames israel for a major cyber attack on its natanz nuclear site, and promises to take revenge. israel says it will defend itself. the world health organization warns that brazil is yet to relieve reach its covid peak. victim �*s family said the crisis there is now public health disaster.
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