“In order to have a democracy, you must share a common set of facts” – Marty Baron
The proliferation of online disinformation sites purporting to be legitimate news has created an incredibly difficult and hostile environment for journalism, said Marty Baron, former executive editor of The Washington Post, in a discussion moderated by FCC President Keith Richburg.
“Consumption of media is now more polarised than it probably ever has been, and that’s not a great result for us,” Baron said. “Because in order to have a democracy, you have to share a common set of facts.”
He said that increased education around media literacy and journalists being more transparent about their reporting were both necessary steps to combat the unchecked spread of disinformation.
Asked if President Trump had been successful in sowing distrust against the media, Baron said yes but acknowledged that Trump’s cries of ‘fake news’ had not been the sole cause.
“Approval and trust in the media was declining well before that, but he accelerated and reinforced it,” Baron said. “Sadly, he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish, disturbingly so, and we’re going to be dealing with that for decades to come.”
During the discussion, Baron was asked about Post reporter Felicia Sonmez’s suspension and ban from covering sexual assault stories, with viewer Wayne Ma submitting the question, “Do you regret those decisions, what was the original thinking behind them and what has the Post done to ensure such incidents don’t happen again?”
Baron said he did not want to comment on the case specifically but added “I don’t have any regrets.” As he was talking to the FCC, Sonmez filed a lawsuit in Washington D.C. against the Washington Post and several individuals including Baron.
Watch the full discussion below: