Most who attended the 29th Foster-Forman Conference will agree that Dean Baquet’s commentary on journalism was refreshing and reassuring for us aspiring journalists here at Penn State. Usually, we are bombarded with statements such as “Journalism is a dying field” or “What we need more of are math and science majors.” Yet Baquet, the managing editor of THE New York Times, is optimistic about the future of journalism.
“You’re entering the profession at a truly wonderful time,” he said. He even went as far as to say that he is envious of the opportunities we will have in this new age of technology and that “the best journalism is being produced right now.”
Not only did he make me feel better about my career choice, but he also completely altered my view of what the role of a journalist means. For such a successful man who had his own humble beginnings growing up in Louisiana, with no books in his house and a mother with a third grade education, it was fascinating to hear him say “Don’t get so caught up in your aspirations.” It’s as if he’s saying Go wherever the wind takes you, and eventually you’ll end up where you’re supposed to be. Perhaps he ended up at the NY Times by taking his own advice of simply taking that job that teaches you something you don’t already know.
One of the most important things I took from Baquet’s speech is that reporting is more important than analysis. And he is right. We need journalists who are willing to be witnesses and among the action. That is where real news comes from, and that is how journalists can accurately inform the world—not from in a chair in walled newsroom.
When Baquet said this, I was reminded of Steve McCurry, a Penn State graduate, who is a well-known photojournalist. I did a presentation on him for my photojournalism class year, and was amazed at the situations he put himself in for the sake of his “craft”. He has smuggled himself across country borders, has been in the midst of war and has even had near death experiences—But as a result, he has produced some of the most iconic and eye-opening photographs the world has ever seen. When Baquet says that he fears the loss of witnessing and reporting, I think he means that he fears that journalists will become passive.
So get out there! Travel the world, learn new things and have the time of your life doing it.