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New York Times Editor Dean Baquet Speaks at Foster-Foreman Conference

In the midst of the first government shutdown in 17 years, New York Times managing editor Dean Baquet made a visit to Penn State on Tuesday night to discuss all things journalism as a part of the Foster-Foreman Conference of Distinguished Writers.

“I’m envious of your age,” Baquet said in reference to the young audience. “I’m envious of the way you do things now than the way I did things when I was starting out.”

The 57-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner and former editor of the Los Angeles Times spoke to an audience of students in awe of him and his job. He sat down on the stage of Heritage Hall in the Hub-Robeson Center with the Associate Dean of the College of Communications, Marie Hardin, for a question and answer session with students.

“My absolute favorite thing about visits to college campuses are the questions from the students.” he said. “I learn more from them then they learn from me.”

Hardin asked him how students can get a job at the New York Times.

“Take the job that allows you to report. Second, learn history. Third, understand the difference between building a career and honing a craft,” he said. “I always say take the job that will teach you something that don’t know or take you somewhere geographically you’ve never been. Fourth, read, read, and never stop reading! Finally, don’t get so caught up in your ambitions that you miss the process of becoming a journalist.”

For Baquet, becoming a journalist wasn’t easy. Born in New Orleans, the aspiring journalist took his first airplane flight at the age of 18 to New York City to start his undergraduate degree at Columbia University.

“When I dropped out of Columbia, I asked a fellow student what I could expect from a career in journalism. He told me I’d be a crime reporter.”

And Baquet was a crime reporter for a bit. He made the point during his talk that you will have to enter into those kind of jobs, but that shouldn’t discourage young journalists.

“I can tell you that you’re entering the profession at a wonderful time, and I’m jealous,” he said. “You’re going to have an absolute blast.”

Baquet spoke quite a bit about the “art of investigative journalism” and discussed how that kind of journalism is essentially saving the big name newspapers.

“Investigative journalism is finding out things that people don’t want you to find out. I think it’s the hardest kind of reporting. It’s not dangerous anymore, but to me, the only news organizations that can sustain investigative reporting are the big ones,” he said. “Big newspapers need investigative reporting to survive.”

Paquet started to tell the story of when he took his son to go go-karting in upper California when he was the editor of the Los Angeles Times.

“I committed to taking my kid to go go-karting in upper California on the day of the first drops of rain of Hurricane Katrina. I was criticized for taking my kid to do that,” he said. “I always say don’t spend all your time in newsrooms, so I’m so glad to be here.”

He called himself a “workaholic,” but in no way does he see that as a negative thing. His love for the industry is incredibly apparent, and with that kind of passion comes fear for the future. He discussed his fears pertaining to the journalism industry, and he said that his only fear is that the craft and enjoyment of reporting and witnessing events will be lost.

“My only fear is that in this great season of triumph in journalism that it’s not the newspaper that will die, to be perfectly frank, I’m not that romantic. [The newspaper] is a business model, but it’s one that can be replaced by wonderful technologies,” he said with a positive tone, encouraging students to be well-rounded in all forms of multimedia reporting.

He ended his talk on a happy note for young future journalists and said that within the existing news organizations, including the New York Times, there are new jobs. Clearly, Dean Baquet has nothing but incredible love for the journalism industry.

“The turmoil has been there forever, and it’s going to continue to be there, but I think that’s kind of interesting.”

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About the Author

Sarah Peterson

Sarah Peterson is a junior from Bethlehem, PA majoring in print journalism and minoring in reruns of Breaking Bad and traveling everywhere she possibly can.

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