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Journalism heavyweights highlight NAJA conference

Kirsten Lundberg, former head of the Columbia University case studies project, and Marty Baron, Washington Post executive editor, discuss Baron’s role in the Boston Globe’s investigation of pedophile priests in the Catholic church at the Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans on Sept. 18. The investigation exposed the Church’s involvement in the cover-up and earned the Globe a Pulitzer Prize in 2003.
Kirsten Lundberg, former head of the Columbia University case studies project, and Marty Baron, Washington Post executive editor, discuss Baron’s role in the Boston Globe’s investigation of pedophile priests in the Catholic church at the Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans on Sept. 18. The investigation exposed the Church’s involvement in the cover-up and earned the Globe a Pulitzer Prize in 2003. (Beverly Bidney photo)

NEW ORLEANS — The Native American Journalists Association’s annual conference featured informative workshops, lively discussions about journalism, and guest speakers such as Charlie Rose, co-host of “CBS This Morning,” and Marty Baron, executive editor of the Washington Post.

The Excellence in Journalism conference – held Sept. 18-20 in New Orleans – combined the annual conferences of NAJA, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Radio Television Digital News Association.

RTDNA presented Rose with the Paul White Award, the organization’s highest honor, which recognizes an individual’s lifetime contributions to electronic journalism. During his acceptance speech Sept. 19, Rose talked about his 40 years in journalism.

“It’s a marvelous way to spend a life; to pursue the truth, to find the stories that demand our attention and to make a difference,” he said. “People want to know what’s real and what’s not real.”

Although technology has given journalists more tools to do the job, Rose said the central qualities of journalism haven’t changed. He encouraged the hundreds of journalists in attendance to do their jobs with great energy and hard work.

“The engagement of your curiosity is what will serve you better than anything,” he said.

Baron served as editor of the Miami Herald and held top editing positions at the Los Angeles Times and New York Times before he joined the Boston Globe in 2001. In 2013, he joined the Washington Post as executive editor. Baron and Kirsten Lundberg, who taught at Columbia University Journalism School, appeared together Sept. 18 at a session called Spotlight: the Future of Investigative Journalism.

Baron led the Boston Globe’s Spotlight investigative team as they published hundreds of stories about Catholic priests who abused children in Boston and the church hierarchy’s cover-up. The series, which consisted of 900 stories published in 2002 and 2003, earned the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2003; Baron was named Editor of the Year in 2001 by Editor & Publisher magazine and in 2004 by the National Press Foundation. The Academy Award winning movie “Spotlight” was based on the reporters’ efforts to get the story and earned the 2016 Best Picture and Best Screenplay.

“When someone says the truth may never be known, that should be like chum for journalists,” Baron said. “Investigative journalism is the core of our mission.”

The story started with one priest and evolved into something much larger. The reporters worked diligently to find out if the abuse and cover-up was a policy and practice of the church. Then they had to prove it.

Investigative reporting has improved since the early 2000s with the assistance of computers, but Baron said street reporting and cultivating resources face to face and on the phone is vital.

“We weren’t the first to discover priests were abusing boys, but we were the first to produce documentation and proof they weren’t isolated cases,” he said. “They were serial abusers and it was church policy to protect them. It was institutional failure and wrongdoing.”

Baron believes investigative reporters should be persistent, skeptical of quick answers, have a good meter for -the truth, and be incredibly inquisitive.
NAJA doled out its journalism awards during the conference. The Seminole Tribune earned eight awards in writing and photography in the Associate category for divisions I and II.
Seminole Tribune Native American Journalists Association awards (Associate category for divisions I and II)

Best sports photo
First place
Beverly Bidney
Rodeo Cowboy

Best sports story
First place
Kevin Johnson
Ahfachkee kids receive tips about golf, life from PGA Tour winner

Best coverage of Native America
First place
Eileen Soler
Play raises awareness for resting grounds, repatriation

Third place
Beverly Bidney
Hollywood Culture ensures Seminole traditions endure

Best feature photo
Second place
Beverly Bidney
Preschool grads

Best feature story
Second place
Beverly Bidney
Fond memories of Immokalee Reservation roots

Best news photo
Second place
Beverly Bidney
Nunez girls share family ties, royal titles at Princess Pageant

Best news story
Third place
Eileen Soler
Hendry makes new move toward FPL power plant

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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