In an age when accusations of “fake news” abound, journalism is still a major medium that seeks truth — a role that aspiring professionals in the field must remember, the top editor at the New York Times said Friday night.
“Journalism right now is more important than it’s been in a long time,” New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet said after being honored at Wayne State University. “We have an assault on ‘fake news.’ A lot of politicians don’t tell the truth. People are divided. ... It’s important for journalists today to understand that truth is the most important thing.”
The pursuit of facts and shedding light on serious developments were recurring themes at the 2017 Journalism Institute for Media Diversity’s Spirit of Diversity Awards.
Baquet was honored during the event at St. Andrew’s Hall on the Wayne State campus along with Bridge Magazine reporter Chastity Pratt Dawsey and several scholarship awardees.
The institute trains students for media careers and offers scholarships to study journalism, public relations or radio and television production at the university.
Many who spoke at the reception reminded the roughly 100 attendees that Baquet, Pratt Dawsey and others working in the profession today endeavor to inform the public, regardless of challenges.
“The news they produce is real news, not fake news,” said Matt Seeger, dean at the WSU College of Fine Performing and Communication Arts.
Baquet’s newspaper is among the media outlets President Donald Trump has dubbed “fake news.”
Amid other criticism of the press, Trump has also repeatedly referred to the New York Times as “failing.”
Despite the accusations, Baquet — a Pulitzer Prize winner for investigative reporting who has been the Times’ executive editor since 2014 — said some in the public still support journalists’ work.
“When we’re under assault, people really and truly want us to succeed,” Baquet said, after receiving his award. “They truly want us to be independent and fair.”
After meeting Baquet on Friday, Wayne State junior Aleanna Siacon felt more inspired on her path to becoming a journalist.
“We have an opportunity to do unprecedented things in an unprecedented climate as student journalists,” she said.
Earning the Working in the Spirit of Diversity Award was Pratt Dawsey, who covers Michigan cities and urban affairs for Bridge magazine. She previously reported for the Detroit Free Press.
In a program booklet at the dinner Friday, the Journalism Institute for Media Diversity described her as having “broken many of the biggest stories regarding education in the state’s largest city over the past decade. Her work has resulted in the removal of superintendents, the jailing of corrupt officials and the demolition of blight around schools.”
A commitment to others drives her work, said Alicia Nails, the institute’s director. “She’s what journalism is all about.”
In her acceptance remarks, Pratt Dawsey reflected on advice she received earlier in her career to “just do the work.”
“I’m just trying to do the work,” she said, adding that she aims to help improve Detroit through her coverage at Bridge.