By:
January 27, 2021

One of America’s great journalists is retiring. Marty Baron, the esteemed editor of The Washington Post, told staff on Tuesday that he will retire next month.

In a memo to staff, Baron talked about his legendary career and said, “The experience has been deeply meaningful, enriched by colleagues who made me a better professional and a better person. At age 66, I feel ready to move on.”

His final day will be Feb. 28.

Baron joined The Washington Post as editor at the end of 2012. During his time there, he helped return the paper to glory, leading a newsroom that won 10 Pulitzer Prizes.

He wrote, “From the moment I arrived at The Post, I have sought to make an enduring contribution while giving back to a profession that has meant so much to me and that serves to safeguard democracy. It has been my honor to work alongside hundreds of journalists who make The Post an indispensable institution.”

New York Times media columnist Ben Smith tweeted, “The revival of the @washingtonpost over the last decade is one of the really great stories in US journalism.”

Before the Post, Baron was the editor of The Boston Globe. While there, the Spotlight investigative team wrote a series of blockbuster stories exposing sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic church. That became the subject of the 2015 film “Spotlight,” which won the Oscar for Best Picture. Baron was played by Liev Schreiber.

His career also included stops at the Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times and The New York Times.

Since Baron took over the Post, the newsroom there has gone from 580 journalists to more than 1,000.

Baron told The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi, “It’s an exhausting job. With the Internet being so big a part of it, it’s 24-7-365. You’re pretty much on duty and on alert all the time. It means you never really get to disconnect.”

As for what’s next for Baron, he told Farhi he has no plans.

“I think I’m owed a breather,” he said.

Tributes immediately flooded in.

Longtime Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten tweeted, “Marty  Baron, the executive editor of the Washpost, retired today. He was a great editor, in the sense that the staff never for a second doubted his decisions were made b/c of anything other than integrity. He screwed me many times. I still respect him.

Charles P. Pierce, who worked for Baron for seven years, wrote a piece for Esquire. Pierce wrote, “There is no newspaperman I admire more. In an era in which too many newsrooms are run by sycophants, beancounters, and corporate time-servers, Marty would walk through fire for his people, which is the only true measure of a great editor.”

Sacha Pfeiffer, who was part of The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team (she was played by Rachel McAdams in the movie), told The New York Times’ Katie Robertson and Marc Tracy, “It’s well known that Marty is not warm and fuzzy. But he’s one of the best editors I’ve ever had, because he has an excellent moral compass, an uncanny instinct for what could make a good story and he seems to be fearless. He knows how hard reporting can be.”

In a note to staff, Washington Post publisher and CEO Fred Ryan said, “Although we have long known this day would come, it does not lessen the emotion we feel with news of Marty Baron‘s decision to retire.”

Ryan added, “Under Marty’s eight years of newsroom leadership, The Washington Post has experienced a dramatic resurgence and has soared to new journalistic heights. As Executive Editor, he has significantly expanded our coverage areas, inspired great reporting, managed an awesome digital transformation and grown the number of readers and subscribers to unprecedented levels.”

As far as what’s next for the Post and Baron’s replacement, Ryan wrote, “Marty has been thoughtful in his planning, which has allowed us to carefully discuss the timing of his retirement as well as the selection of a worthy successor. Please know that I view this as one of the most consequential responsibilities I will have as your publisher. The search will be a broad and inclusive one, considering both outstanding internal candidates as well as journalists at other publications with the vision and ability to build upon Marty’s success.”

Big job openings

With Baron’s impending retirement, there are now two major newspapers looking for people to lead their newsrooms. The Los Angeles Times is still looking for a permanent replacement for Norman Pearlstine, who stepped away as executive editor in December.

The New York Post’s Keith J. Kelly reported last week that the Los Angeles Times is “still wading through a long list of potential candidates but expects to announce a permanent executive editor by the end of the first quarter.”

Kelly reported at the time there was no frontrunner, but some of the names Kelly mentioned as possibilities include Minneapolis Star Tribune editor-in-chief Rene Sanchez, Time contributing editor and former Hollywood Reporter editorial director Janice Min, and Kevin Merida, senior vice president at ESPN and editor-in-chief of The Undefeated. Kelly also mentioned Scott Kraft and Kimi Yoshino — Times editors who were put in charge of the newsroom after Pearlstine left.

One more name to consider

New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet. (Photo: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Just for fun, there’s another name swirling around the rumor mill for the Los Angeles Times job. That’s current New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet. There was a report that Baquet recently bought a home in Los Angeles, although it should be noted that Baquet has family in California and it is thought that he likely would retire there … someday.

The Times technically has a mandatory retirement age of 65, and Baquet turns 65 in September. However, it’s believed that, with an extension, Baquet could stay on if he chooses.

Tweeting Times

Over the past couple of days, I’ve written about The New York Times letting go of an editor after she tweeted about having “chills” upon seeing Joe Biden’s plane land in Washington, D.C., ahead of his inauguration. There’s more to the story than just that. The editor, Lauren Wolfe, was not a full-time staffer, and the Times claims she had been warned about previous social media behavior.

But details on the whole ordeal were not immediately clear, partly because of a murky statement put out by the Times, which said, “There’s a lot of inaccurate information circulating on Twitter. For privacy reasons we don’t get into the details of personnel matters but we can say that we didn’t end someone’s employment over a single tweet. Out of respect for the individuals involved we don’t plan to comment further. (To clarify something that has been incorrectly reported, Ms. Wolfe was not a full-time employee, nor did she have a contract.)”

The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple wrote, “What a dreadful statement: On the one hand, the Times wishes to limit the details of personnel matters. On the other hand, it clearly insinuates that there were unspecified instances of substandard performance by Wolfe.”

Wemple talked to Wolfe, who felt that last week’s tweet was “the only reason they fired me.”

Wolfe told Wemple, “The people I’m mad at are the people who put out the statement. I respected tremendously the people I worked with. I respected them to the end of the earth and still do. They were the end-all, the be-all.”

Wemple writes more about the Times and social media, but this all raises questions about journalists and social media. I asked readers of The Poynter Report to give their thoughts, and here are some of the responses I received:

  • “Of course journalists have personal beliefs. Our duty to the craft is to put them aside (unless your job is to write your opinion). A problem, of course, is that too many think we can’t do that. I respond that jurors do, scientists do, why not journalists? We need to be careful when we are not ‘on the clock.’”
  • “I’m a retired news editor for the Gannett newspaper chain. I strongly feel that while employed on the news end of a legitimate newspaper, tweets should never be political. Leave the opinions to the editorial page writers and cartoonists. If you must tweet or partake in social media, post family and pet photos. But, once retired or out of the journalism business, you can post an opinion.”
  • A career-long Catholic school teacher and principal wrote, “My opinion is that journalists must strive at all times to be as politically impartial as they can simply because their job is to report facts. When their personal politics become known, the facts they report can then be called into question. However, they are also private citizens with a right to their own views, so I would just caution them to keep those views off of their social media.”
  • A former reporter wrote, “The idea of journalistic purity is a myth. A dangerous one. We can do our best, but sometimes our well-informed and legitimate opinions will come out. And they should, after all a good journalist is aware of the color and texture of what’s happening, and the character of the key actors, insights most of us don’t have. Claiming that we don’t have such insights, in the false god of ‘both sides-is’ is what got us in this mess.”
  • “I think if you’re a journalist you should always be on the clock, whether it’s (not putting up) bumper stickers, yard signs, Facebook posts or tweets.”
  • “Employers rightfully expect employees to conduct themselves in ways that respect — or don’t disrespect — the employer and its values. Willfully or frequently engaging in behavior that the employer considers contrary to the interests of the employer, and the enterprise, is bad. On the job, or off the job, it doesn’t matter. Somebody who works at the NYT should understand that impartiality is an important value that needs to be respected by everybody, on or off the job. Minor violations can be forgiven but frequent highly public ones cannot be. An employee who weakens the credibility of the enterprise can’t be tolerated.”

Excellent, but troubling reporting

Terrific and impactful work turned in this week by the Los Angeles Times’ Meg James, who reported disturbing workplace culture at CBS Television Stations.

One story detailed allegations of abuse and racist treatment of employees at local TV stations. For example, a former general manager recalled that Peter Dunn, the head of CBS TV Stations, referred to a Black anchor in Philadelphia as “just a jive guy.” That’s just one example.

In her piece, James wrote that Dunn and a top lieutenant “cultivated a hostile work environment that included bullying female managers and blocking efforts to hire and retain Black journalists.”

In another piece, James looked into a 2011 deal in which CBS bought a small Long Island TV station for $55 million and received a membership at an exclusive golf club owned by the seller.

The stories had an immediate impact. “CBS This Morning” reported Tuesday that two executives, including Dunn, are on administrative leave while the company looks into alleged racist and sexist behavior.

McEnany’s next move

Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Is Fox News hiring former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany? A report from something called Citizens For Ethics said it’s a done deal, that McEnany has reached a deal with Fox News to start working there this month.

However, in a statement, Fox News said, “Kayleigh McEnany is not currently an employee or contributor at Fox News.”

But don’t be surprised if McEnany does end up at Fox News. A source familiar with the matter said the network had “initial conversations” with McEnany after the election. Those conversations were put on pause, although the source did not say why. However, Fox News is, according to this person, “open to hiring her in the future.”

It would seem clear that McEnany will end up on Fox News.

Know who is definitely going to Fox News and Fox Business? Larry Kudlow, former President Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser and National Economic Council director. He will get his own weekday program on Fox Business and will be a contributor to Fox News.

As The New York Times’ Michael M. Grynbaum noted, “This is the first major television gig secured by a senior Trump aide who stayed in the White House until the president’s term ended last week.”

He can go cry into his pillow

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a diehard Trump supporter, tweeted one too many false statements about the presidential election being a fraud. Twitter finally has permanently banned him for “repeated violations.”

Lindell already has faced consequences for his continual and false assertion that the election was stolen from Trump. Kohl’s and Bed Bath & Beyond have stopped carrying MyPillow products. And The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman reported that Dominion Voting Systems has threatened to sue Lindell over his false claims involving its machines.

At the time of his suspension, Lindell had a little more than 423,000 Twitter followers.

Lindell told The Star Tribune’s Kristen Leigh Painter and Stephen Montemayor that he still believes the election was stolen from Trump and added, “My support of Donald Trump has never wavered since the time I met him and it never will. Never ever, ever.”

Good question

There was a light moment at the White House on Wednesday when, as President Joe Biden was leaving the room, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked, “Mr. President, what did you talk to Vladimir Putin about?

Biden never broke stride and, while smiling, said, “You. He sends his best.”

Reporters laughed. I don’t know that Doocy could’ve expected a detailed answer about what surely was a complicated call while Biden was walking out of the room. Having said that, it was a completely valid question even if he wasn’t going to get a great answer at that specific moment.

For the record, the White House did reveal what the conversation included.

Tuning in

The national evening news broadcasts all had big numbers on Inauguration Day. ABC’s “World News Tonight” led the way with 10.14 million viewers, followed by the “NBC Nightly News” with 8.27 million and the “CBS Evening News” with 6.16 million.

Hot type

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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