A few hours before a March 31 event at Ohio’s Oberlin College and Conservatory, Dean Baquet sat down with a group of student reporters that included Oliver Bok, news editor of The Oberlin Review. When Bok asked The New York Times executive editor about the murky challenges of sponsored content, Baquet put it in perspective. We’re talking All The President’s Men-era perspective:
“When I started out as a reporter in New Orleans, we used to do something that I’m embarrassed to talk about now. Every year, we’d have to put out a section called “Pro South,” which meant positive things about the city. And really it was a special section, and you went to advertisers and you said, “Biggest local automobile dealer, come talk to a reporter about how great your new Ford is.”
In the 1960s and ‘70s, newspapers did that kind of stuff. And then a bunch of us, including me, rose up and said, “We shouldn’t be doing this,” and then we stopped. Newspapers have always struggled with this, and I think we’re more pure — and I intend to keep it that way — now than we ever have been.
Elsewhere in his answer, Baquet made a couple of forceful points about his changed feelings regarding a phenomenon that has returned to the daily newspaper newsroom and is likely here to stay.
Previously on FishbowlNY:
New Orleans Remains at the Top of Dean Baquet’s List