Earlier today I attended an event honoring Boston Globe editor Marty Baron as the 2012 winner of the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award, presented by the New England First Amendment Coalition.
Baron is the second winner. The first, in 2011, was retired New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, a longtime defender of the First Amendment.
Baron’s talk is well worth reading in full. Afterwards he sent me the text at my request, and I’m pleased to present it here. I was particularly struck by this, which comes near the end of his speech:
The greatest danger to a vigorous press today, however, comes from ourselves.
This is a moment in American history when the press has been made a fat target. The press is routinely belittled, badgered, harassed, disparaged, demonized, and subjected to acts of intimidation from all corners — through words and actions, including boycotts, threats of cancellations (or defunding, in the case of public broadcasting), and even surreptitious taping, later subjected to selective, deceitful editing. Our independence — simply posing legitimate questions — is seen as an obstacle to what our critics consider a righteous moral, ideological, political, or business agenda. In some instances, they have deployed scorched-earth tactics against us in hopes of dealing a crippling blow.
In this environment, too many news organizations are holding back, out of fear — fear that we will be saddled with an uncomfortable political label, fear that we will be accused of bias, fear that we will be portrayed as negative, fear that we will lose customers, fear that advertisers will run from us, fear that we will be assailed as anti-this or anti-that, fear that we will offend someone, anyone. Fear, in short, that our weakened financial condition will be made weaker because we did something strong and right, because we simply told the truth and told it straight.
The full text of Baron’s prepared remarks — minus an improvised shoutout he gave to classmates from Lehigh University who were on hand — follows.
This award is named after a great publisher, Stephen Hamblett, who helped build a great newspaper, the Providence Journal.
The first award was given, last year, to a magnificent journalist, Tony Lewis — whose talent and erudition made him a leading expert on the First Amendment and one of the country’s pre-eminent columnists, at the New York Times.
And today I get to stand before so many extraordinary leaders in the field of journalism — publishers, writers, editors, journalists of every type — whose dedication to our craft and our mission serves as inspiration to me daily.
So, I am honored that I was invited to be with you to accept this award. And I am deeply grateful for what it means. This is recognition not solely for me, but also for all of my colleagues at The Boston Globe, many of whom were kind enough to be here today. Continue reading