National Press Club

Post editor Baron uses Club's Fourth Estate Award dinner to call out Trump

December 2, 2018 | By Wesley G .Pippert | pippertw@missouri.edu

From left to right: National Press Club Journalism Institute President Barbara Cochran, Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Club President Andrea Edney.

From left to right: National Press Club Journalism Institute President Barbara Cochran, Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Club President Andrea Edney.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Marty Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post, used the occasion of his receiving the National Press Club’s Fourth Estate Award Thursday to go after President Donald Trump's attacks on journalism and facts.

“History tells us we can’t always rely on our leaders to safeguard free expression in the cause of truth,” Baron said after receiving the Club's highest honor with Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, at the 46th annual dinner. “Today, we face another threat arguably more pernicious. This one is against the very concept of truth itself."

He said an assault on journalism led by Trump "has gone on for years, beginning during the campaign to marginalize us, then to delegitimize us, then to demonize us, then to dehumanize us and then came the enemies of the people.”

Baron never mentioned Trump's name as he said, “Truth is not just who has the loudest megaphone or commands the most power."

“The goal Is evident and cynical — to obliterate the idea of objective truth," he said. "If we come to believe truth is unknowable — or held by a head of state —then mission accomplished. People just believe what they like to believe.”

Times Publisher A.G. Sulzberger praised Baquet for leading the newspaper into the digital area and called both Baquet and Baron the best editors in America.

“I used to think it was surprising this old-fashioned guy with an old-fashioned pedigree ended up being the leader who transformed this tradition-bound newspaper into a vibrant, ambitious, digital report,” Sulzberger said.

Baquet told of his origins — his father was a mailman and his grandmother a maid — as he discussed how he functioned as a journalist.

“If you hang around long enough and listen, people will open up and tell you their story,” he said.

Times Washington Bureau Chief Elisabeth Bumiller said Baquet gets so excited about a story that after a Friday night meeting he will call at 7 a.m. Saturday and say, “Let’s have a conference call” on a new thought he had about the piece.

“Dean understands narrative and storytelling like no one else,” Bumiller said.

Club President Andrea Edney announced that the Club’s John Aubuchon Freedom of the Press Award was given posthumously to Jamal Khashoggi, an American resident and Washington Post columnist, who was murdered at the Saudi embassy in Turkey.

Fred Ryan, publisher of the Post, accepted the award on behalf of Khashoggi, and in doing so, was the only one to mention Trump by name during the evening.

“President Trump wants us to look the other way” in investigating Khashoggi’s death, he said. "Turning a blind eye is a betrayal of our interests."

Edney said the Club was would start recognizing investigative reporting with an award named for Neil and Susan Sheehan. She said the first recipients were Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of the Times for their series on sexual harassment.

Barbara Cochran, president of the Club’s Journalism Institute, announced that Aubuchon awards also would be given to Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo of Reuters for their reporting about Myanmar where they are now imprisoned, and to Chuck Plunkett, who was fired from the Denver Post after writing critical editorials about ownership.