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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2017 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

April 8, 2016  RSS feed
Culture

Text: T T T

Editor portrayed in ‘Spotlight’ grew up in Tampa as ‘no-nonsense’ kid

By BRUCE LOWITT Jewish Press


Marty Baron, right, with actor Liev Schreiber who played him in the Best Picture Oscar winning film. Marty Baron, right, with actor Liev Schreiber who played him in the Best Picture Oscar winning film. Marty Baron was the editor heading the Pulitzer Prize-winning Spotlight investigative team at the Boston Globe in 2002 when the newspaper broke the scandal of systemic sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.

Baron, 61, was played by Liev Schreiber in the film Spotlight, based on the Globe’s relentless pursuit of truth, which won Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards.

“The movie portrays him as kind of this person with no personality and it’s certainly not accurate,” said his brother, Michael, eight years younger, an osteopath in Stone Mountain, GA.

“The first thing I said when I walked out of the movie was, ‘That doesn’t seem like my brother.’ He said his co-workers in Boston felt he was like that at the beginning and that might be because he didn’t really know anyone in Boston and it was a stressful time.”


(L-R) The Baron brothers: Allen, Michael and Marty. (L-R) The Baron brothers: Allen, Michael and Marty. But to understand and appreciate the maturation of Marty Baron, executive editor of the Washington Post since 2013, it is best to consider what he was like as a boy growing up in Tampa.

He became a bar mitzvah and “used to be fairly observant,” he said, “but it began to fade after college.”

“He was quiet, intelligent, studious, well-mannered,” said Adrianne Sundheim, his eighth-grade Sunday School teacher. “A very nice young man.”

It goes a lot farther back than that.

“I took care of him as an infant, as a young child,” said his now-retired pediatrician, Dr. Philip Adler. “He was not a kid to run around. Everything he did was sort of in a very serious manner, No nonsense. A very studious kid; didn’t joke around a lot. A very nice little boy.”

Marty has another brother, Allen, one year older, a retired bank compliance officer in Plantation.

“Of the three brothers, (Marty) gave me less of a hard time than the other two,” Adler said.

Michael said Allen and Marty “had a room they shared like oil and water, shared the same space with beds on opposite sides, and I was the little kid.”

“So they would go like, ‘Michael, who’s your favorite brother?’ … ‘Michael, I’ll give you a penny if you come over here.’They’d kind of back-and-forth me a little bit.”

Allen acknowledges he was the laid-back brother, Marty being more driven. “He was a real go-getter as a kid,” Allen said. “Nothing stood in his way. He wasn’t intimidated by anybody or anything.”

The boys were sons of immigrants from Israel who arrived in 1954. Their father was responsible for export sales for Seald Sweet, a marketing cooperative for Florida citrus growers. Their mother was a homemaker.

“My parents were so interested in what was happening in public affairs, very keen to know about this new country of theirs and what was happening around the world,” said Baron in a phone interview with the Jewish Press.

“We had a daily habit in the household of getting the morning newspaper, the Tampa Tribune. And they would watch the news at night, first the local news, then NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report. They also got Time magazine. It was a fairly heavy news diet.”

That diet influenced his direction. Baron attended Berkeley Prep from seventh grade through graduation and wrote for The Fanfare, the student newspaper. And if Headmaster Edgar McCleary expected him to be just another booster for the school, he was sadly mistaken.

“I remember having a lot of conflicts with the school administration at the time,” Baron said. “We knocked heads quite a bit over the contents of the newspaper.”

He was quite willing to go up against authority. “I didn’t shy away from it. I didn’t set out to do that, but that’s kind of how it ended up.”

Baron attended Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, began writing for The Brown and White as a freshman and by his junior year was the student newspaper’s editor-in-chief. And for three summers while he was in college he was an intern for the Tampa Tribune.

“They had me covering the cops, the school board, the county commission, the city council, business, religion … Whatever they wanted me to do, I did,” he said.

In 1976 he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s in business administration, started his professional career as a Miami Herald reporter, went from there to the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, then returned to the Miami Herald in 2000 for a year as executive editor, during which the newspaper earned a Pulitzer for coverage of the custody battle over Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez.

He read an Eileen McNamara column in the Boston Globe the day before his first day at the newspaper in July 2001. “She talked about this one case, a priest by the name of John Geoghan who had been accused of abusing as many as 80 kids,” Baron said.

According to McNamara, the lawyer for the victims said Cardinal Bernard Law and his lieutenants knew about the abuse and yet the priest was assigned from parish to parish, where he repeatedly abused children. And the lawyer for the church called the charges false and irresponsible “and at the end of the column she said the truth may never be known because church documents that might reveal the truth were under court seal,” Baron said.

“So on my first day, in my first meeting, after everybody talked about what they were working on for the day and nobody mentioned this particular case, I asked what we were doing to follow up on it and could we not get beyond one side saying one thing and the other side saying something else and to try to get at the truth of the matter – and it went from there.”

Director Tom McCarthy and screenwriter Josh Singer, who cowrote Spotlight and won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay, “conducted an enormous number of interviews with the journalists portrayed,” Baron said.

They studied e-mails and documents, interviewed people in the community and sent the journalists several versions of the screenplay “and gave us the opportunity to review it and offer comments. … It was fairly faithful to how the investigation evolved and a fairly faithful portrayal of the personalities who were portrayed.”

The journalists were invited to be extras in the film and most accepted. Baron did not.

“I would have had to go to the set and sit around like extras have to do and I just didn’t have the time for it,” he said. “and, I didn’t particularly care if I appeared in it.”

He’s pleased that Spotlight won Best Picture and that he was part of it, “but it’s not my Oscar,” Baron said. “I didn’t make the movie. I was a journalist before the movie, I was a journalist while it was being made, and I continue to be a journalist. That’s my real life.”


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