You are here: Home / News / Reporting Power   

Reporting Power   

Ogden Honors Senior Interviews New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet
Reporting Power   

New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Sarah Gamard. Image credit: Zoë Williamson

At age 22, print journalism major and Ogden Honors senior Sarah Gamard already describes herself as a diehard.

“In the Manship School there's a group of kids who are just diehard reporters,” Gamard said. “I'm in that group of diehard, print reporters. When you’re a journalist you kind of adopt this lifestyle. It's just all you do, it's all you think about all day. Writing feels like breathing.”

Gamard was among those selected to interview visiting Executive Editor Dean Baquet of The New York Times. The LSU Ogden Honors College and Manship School of Mass Communication’s Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs recently played host to a public roundtable discussion with Baquet on the media’s response to the current political situation and the state of journalism in a rapidly evolving industry. Held in the Hans and Donna Sternberg Salon of the French House, the conversation consisted of a Q&A format with three reporters from the Manship School – Gamard, William Taylor Potter and Kayla Swanson – questioning Baquet on the latest issues facing journalism today.  

Baquet, a New Orleans native, began his career as a reporter for The Times-Picayune. He has worked in a variety of capacities for the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times over the course of his extensive reporting and editing career. After Honors College Dean Jonathan Earle’s opening remarks and Manship School Dean Jerry Ceppos’ introduction of Baquet, Gamard kicked off the exchange.

Also a New Orleans native, Gamard has written for the Manship School News Statehouse Bureau and Politico. She currently serves as a contributor to LaPolitics and as a “Young Americans” initiative reporter for Salon. An alumna of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, Gamard explained that she developed a passion for journalism through creative writing and studying nonfiction essayists. When she transferred to LSU from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst she entered the Manship School and began writing for The Daily Reveille, where she was thrown into the world of state and local policy.

“I didn't understand a thing about policy,” Gamard said. “Then I started reporting on it and you feel like a kid on a playground. It felt like people were speaking German before, and now I understand everything about legislation. And when you're reporting, you feel like you're actually doing something for everyone because politics is ubiquitous.”

Her crash course in policy led Gamard to writing opportunities with Politico and Salon, both of which positioned her to appreciate her joint interview with Baquet as a young but experienced journalist. When the Manship School contacted a pool of students who might be interested in interviewing Baquet and asked them to submit potential questions, Gamard was ready.

“I had just spent all summer in DC, so I had a lot of questions for Dean Baquet,” Gamard said. “I was watching in real time the way that the journalism industry was kind of – I don't want to say compromising, but reacting to the scene we're in right now.”

Gamard and her fellows structured the roundtable around issues such as press transparency and accountability. Drawing on his roots, Baquet discussed how his upbringing in New Orleans has influenced his approach to journalistic integrity.

“It's made me care more deeply about people who aren't making it,” he said. “I've never been an editor who felt comfortable being too much in the company of powerful people. I think it has made me feel like I should be less attuned to powerful people, and more attuned to people who have less power, which I think, generally speaking, is a good trait for a journalist.”

According to Gamard, she felt a kinship with Baquet as a reporter with a similar upbringing.

“What Dean said about how, because he's from New Orleans, he's not as fascinated with people in power as most of the Washingtonians or most of the people in the upper East Coast — that really resonated with me,” Gamard said. “I think that about myself, so that was really validating to hear.”

Baquet also addressed the importance of having reporters from different backgrounds cover the news regularly — not just when there is an outcry from those who feel underrepresented.

“I don't think a newsroom can actually cover the country —  especially a national newsroom, like mine — unless it has diverse voices,” Baquet said. “I don't think we can cover those debates unless we have different voices and different experiences.”

For Gamard, emerging from the Baquet discussion is the insistence that the news shapes public discourse. She will continue to explore this topic as she develops her Honors Thesis on journalism as an organic art form.

"I'm trying to figure out whether or not we need to be subscribing to this boxed-in definition of journalism,” Gamard said. “Especially when politics has proven itself to be so fragile — is it really that bad if we let it evolve the way that art has evolved? I really think it's the most powerful thing in the world, just the same way art is. It's a creative medium influencing mass opinion.”

In the future, Gamard plans to keep writing, both for the story and the sake of writing itself. The lifestyle of a journalist, which she describes as “almost monastic,” has inspired her to surround herself with a community of writers with purpose who immerse themselves in the news on a daily basis.  

“As a journalist, you can really second guess yourself,” Gamard said. “People are yelling at you all the time, people are criticizing you all the time. There's something that brings me back. I really want to get into the hullaballoo — I just want to be part of the hordes of journalists that are reporting on these things, because it's important.”

Story by Jacqueline DeRobertis, Ogden Honors College. For more information, email jacquelined@lsu.edu or call 225-578-0083.