The Reassurance of Dean Baquet

When I went into the Foster-Foreman Conference, I didn’t expect it being so interesting.  I thought that I’d be fighting to stay awake and be doomed when it came to writing this blog post and the article.  It was the exact opposite.  There have been very few speakers that have caught my attention like Dean Baquet.  The wisdom of journalism as a craft that he shared with everyone in that room was amazing.  He wasn’t arrogant, he didn’t speak as if he was the all mighty guru of journalism and he was just a flat out personable guy.

One of my favorite moments of the conference was when he began speaking and the microphone wasn’t working.  He started talking and praising Gene Foreman and no one in the back could hear him.  When they fixed the problem he summed up what he was saying with a simple, “Gene’s a good guy.”  I thought that was hilarious and it really put some energy into the room.

His outline of advice for young journalists was:

  • Learn history.
  • Understand the difference between building a career and building a craft.

    Dean Baquet during the Q&A portion.

    Dean Baquet during the Q&A portion.

  • Read, read, read and never stop.
  • Don’t get caught up in ambitions and just be a journalist.

The biggest, most reassuring thing he said to all of us aspiring journalists in the room was “You;re entering a profession at a great time……you’re going to have a blast.” As communications majors we are always told how we can’t get jobs with a communications degree, we have the easiest major and that we never go into journalism for money.  Dean Baquet made none of that matter when he spoke.  He reassured my passion for journalism as a craft and helped make the negatives not really matter.

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12 thoughts on “The Reassurance of Dean Baquet

  1. Hey Jordan,

    I found it especially inspiring when Dean talked about the importance of honing the craft than being all-time wannabes.

    For many of us who dreamed of entering sports, entertainment, political or cultural field are all confronted with the question of how much we really know of reporting in these domains rather than how much we take interest in the field. Rather than being a whole bunch of highfalutin theorizers, entry-level journalists should enter our training with humility and eclecticism.

    Dealing our journalistic practices with humility requires a stretch from assuming arrogance. We need to tear off the mask of smugness and deal with the topic with impartiality and pragmatism. The taboo in reporting is to pile up a farrago of jargons and officialese, which would obfuscate the audience and all but prove the writer’s indolence and unfriendliness.

    With the craft of eclecticism in hand, we possess one of the most cherished value in the journalistic practices. Reporters, veterans or freshmen, should not shun the possibility of reporting in subjects previously unfamiliar to them, It is to say that interest-driven journalism makes an aficionado journalism, but need-driven journalism makes a meritorious journalism.

  2. Hi Jordan! I totally agree with your first paragraph. I was dreading sitting through the Conference but was very pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it by the end. I would love to hear Dean Baquet speak again. He really helped to assure me that there is a job out there for me after I graduate from Penn State. It’s so upsetting to be constantly told that journalism is dying and there will be no jobs in the field. I feel so positive about becoming a journalist after Baquet’s speech and hearing how revolutionary technology has been on journalism. Now, if only my mother could have heard that! HAHA!

    • Haha Sarah, I wish my Dad could have heard that too! I think he’s a little apprehensive about me entering into the Communications field. I think he would rather me go to nursing school 🙂

  3. I completely agree with you on the “Gene is a good guy” part of your piece–it definitely made Baquet seem even more personable and funny! I really like it when people giving speeches make an effort to connect to their audience and I think Baquet did a wonderful job of that. I also agree with what you said in your last paragraph about how he made you reassured about becoming a journalist. I felt the same way! It’s definitely refreshing to hear someone speak so positively about a career path that is constantly spoken about negatively.

    • Absolutely! I’m tired of the pessimism in journalism! Baquet’s message made me feel like it’s now our job to improve and transform journalism. He did say, “you get the chance to transform a craft that needs transformation.”

  4. I completely agree with your paragraph on Baquet reassuring us as to why we want to get a degree in Journalism. Often people do put down the major– you know, “what are you going to do with that?” or “why don’t you do something with math or computers, that’s where the money is.” They don’t realize the importance of Journalism and that it’s honestly one of the rare careers people actually go into because they really want to do it from the heart. I know I have some friends who are in the engineering program and they have no idea what they want to do after they graduate and admit they only go into the program because their parents want them to or because they will make a lot of money. It’s kind of sad.

  5. Hi everybody —

    This is so interesting, how the “Gene’s a good guy” comment resonated with you all. (Also, I can confirm: Gene IS a really good guy, a prince of a human being and an incredibly smart journalist.)

    I want to put that comment in a related, but slightly different, context: We’ve talked about interviewing, and how part of what you need to do is to make a connection with the person you are interviewing. (We’ll talk even more about it, too.) Imagine Baquet in an interview, any interview. And then imagine him doing an interview for an investigative piece, something hard-hitting. How do you think his personality and ability to think on his feet play out?

    Lori

    • I think that his personality will allow the person he is interviewing feel more comfortable to share information with him. Since he is a personable guy, I know I’d feel more comfortable talking to him, When it come to thinking on his feet, that should be able to help him with thinking of follow-up questions as well as dealing with some unexpected information that he may receive.

  6. Lori/Jordan, I think that because Dean Baquet is so well-spoken that there would be no awkward or dead portions in an interview. I picture him perfectly being able to talk his way out of a situation like the reporter from the Sigur Rós interview was in. Baquet is so warm and welcoming that he makes people want to talk him. I’m not going to lie, I would answer almost any of Baquet’s questions to me.

  7. I completely agree with your blog! When I first got there I thought it was going to drag on and I was going to have to find ways to stay awake. Luckily it was not like that at all! My favorite piece of advice that he said to us was, “Read, read, read and never stop reading.” I found this to be so powerful and so true. The act of reading helps so much in life; this advice is not just for Comm majors, It’s for everyone. I’m really happy you enjoyed the conference as much as I did!

  8. I completely agree with what you and everyone else has been saying–I really thought this was going to be another boring speech that I’d have to sit through for class. Plus, I didn’t have a chance to eat before class that day so I was tired and hungry ahaha So happy it wasn’t like that! I really like how you highlighted one of his quotes on the four things a journalist should be able to do. I think that was one of his greatest pieces of advice and something everyone should always keep in mind. Great article!

  9. Hi Jordan,

    I love the fact that Dean Baquet really gave some assurance to aspiring journalists like us. The list of advice he gave will definitely come in handy and coming from him, he has probably seen anything and everything in the industry. After reading everyone’s posts about this conference, including yours, it has really made me feel even better about the decision I made to be a journalism major and to shrug off any negative feedback I hear about it. Great post by the way!

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