A Life Well and Truly Lived: With Anecdotes and Loving Words, Steven V. Roberts Paid Tribute to His Wife and Distinguished Fellow Journalist Cokie Roberts at the January Meeting

By David A. Andelman

Steve Roberts

For 53 years, Steve Roberts was Cokie’s biggest fan. He was also her husband and, at times, writing partner and traveling companion. They also became, for each of them, mutual sources of ineffable inspiration.

That’s the message that comes through in the 272 pages of Cokie: A Life Well Lived and that was conveyed across nine time zones by her husband, Steve, to the many friends and colleagues who dialed in on Zoom for January’s luncheon event.

It was a lifelong love affair—from their first meeting at their respective ages of 19 and 18, Steve a budding journalist on The Crimson at Harvard, Cokie at Wellesley. They were only rarely apart for the next five decades, hopscotching through their years together from Washington to California to Greece and back to Washington. Steve outlined the start of Cokie’s career from her earliest iterations as a journalist, stringing for CBS News as tanks rolled through the streets of Athens in a landmark coup d’état (with Steve on Cyprus and unable to return), to Cokie’s first big breaks on NPR, then ABC, dogged in those far-off days by the burden of being a woman in the man’s world of journalism.

“I was her biggest fan,” Steve said, clearly recalling their decades together until her tragic death cut short their lifelong romance in 2019. “I knew from the day I met her what an extraordinary person she was.”

Still, these were the 1960s and while Steve had a golden pathway from the Harvard Crimson to the Washington bureau of The New York Times, this was not the same avenue for a young woman, even one as talented and with as sterling a Washington pedigree as Cokie (whose parents, Hale and Lindy Boggs, were longtime members of Congress). So, for the first years of their marriage, it was Cokie who would follow Steve as his career path took him from Washington to Los Angeles to Athens and back to Washington again.

From the beginning, Cokie “had an atavistic devotion to newspapers,” Steve recalled, “and an enormous talent” for journalism. She first demonstrated her gift in 1974 when Steve had flown off to Cyprus to cover the Turkish invasion for The Times, leaving Cokie behind in Athens where a Greek coup suddenly erupted. All alone, Cokie found herself in the midst of the biggest news story of the day and rose to the occasion, filing for CBS Radio, though she’d never written a radio story before in her life. Then, suddenly her parents received a phone call from the CBS Broadcast Center. Did they have a photo of Cokie? They panicked but were quickly reassured she’d not been killed. Rather, her radio piece would be leading the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite that evening and they needed her photo for a slide while the radio piece played.

Cokie followed Steve back to Washington, though she was reluctant to give up the life of a foreign correspondent at that point—quite aware of the deep-seated male domination of the news business. That was when she stumbled upon, many would say effectively created, the “old girl network.” When The Times’s Judy Miller suggested Cokie reach out to Nina Totenberg and that led to a job, and eventually a starring role at NPR, as Steve observed, “it was the first time I saw women be able to help each other the way men have always been able to help each other.” NPR in turn led to a guest slot in October 1987—essentially a tryout—at ABC side by side with Sam Donaldson, George Will and David Brinkley, three of the giants of the news business. “It was like the varsity had arrived,” said George Will, “not given to praise of anybody.” Indeed, Steve told the Silurians, Cokie “had a special quality that you don’t teach.”

While she was waiting to go on the set that first day, Cokie was talking with the show’s young producer, Marc Burstein. “There are three things you need to know about me,” Steve quoted Cokie as telling him boldly. “I’m married to the same man for 20 years. I live in the house I grew up in, and I go to church every Sunday. And if you love those three things about me, we’re going to get along fine.” Years later, Steve recalled, Marc told him, “The only thing that hasn’t changed in that whole introduction was the number of years, you were married.”

In the end, that was all we needed to know about Steve and Cokie. But there is lots more in the book he has written as a tribute to his beloved wife of more than half a century—a book at once instructive and inspiring with a life so very well lived.

Entries Are Open through March 7, 2022, for the Silurians Press Club’s Excellence In Journalism Awards

New York City area journalists working in print, broadcast and online media are invited to submit entries to the 77th annual Excellence in Journalism Awards sponsored by the Silurians Press Club of New York City. The fee for individual freelancers is a special $25 per entry. Competition categories and rules may be found [here].

To enter the competition go to: https://silurians.submittable.com/submit

Questions should be directed to Silurians Awards Chair Jack Deacy at jackdeacy@gmail.com.

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Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst and Author of The Rise and Fall of Osama Bin Laden, Delivered the Low-Down on Afghanistan at the December Meeting

By David A. Andelman

Peter Bergen is unequivocal about many issues surrounding the world and especially America’s place in it. Above all, he’s pretty clear about what he thinks of Joe Biden’s Afghanistan policy.

He minced no words when he spoke before the Silurians monthly zoom-luncheon on December 15: “It has turned into a total fiasco.”

Peter Bergen

He elaborated: America should never have left, he said, and certainly not in the fashion that it did. Bergen observed that “President Biden, and his approval ratings, never recovered from the poorly executed withdrawal from Afghanistan.” But the fallout has turned out to be even worse and more far-reaching. It “seemed to undercut any kind of narrative about competence in the administration.”

Bergen, CNN’s national security analyst, is vice president of the New America think tank and author, most recently of The Rise and Fall of Osama Bin Laden, published in August.

He said the withdrawal from Afghanistan was not simply poorly executed, it was a very poor policy decision on a number of levels. And he believes it could even lead to the possibility of a return to Afghanistan at some point. “First of all, the Taliban could engage in ethnic cleansing which they certainly have done in the past.” The fear of genocide was the trigger for Barack Obama’s decision to send more American troops into Iraq. “It wasn’t the murder of Jim Foley [the American journalist]. All that was important, that precipitated Obama’s change of mind. [But] it was the threat of genocide against the Yazidis. Jim Foley’s murder amplified that decision but didn’t precipitate the decision.”

As for what is happening now and what is likely to take place going forward in Afghanistan, Bergen observed that he had spent some time in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. His conclusion was that they “really had no plans for governance in a real sense. They believe that if you make society pure, that everything else will follow and everything else would get taken care of. Well, that’s not a program for turning on the electricity, or putting water in the pipes. And it’s certainly a program that is probably going to lead to the humanitarian catastrophe that we see unfolding in Afghanistan. Ninety-seven percent of the population may be below the poverty line and millions of people may starve.”

As for Osama bin Laden, a major focus of Bergen’s writing and research in the region, he believes that Pakistani officials were not actually protecting Bin Laden in the months and years before his final assassination in a compound less than a mile from Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point. “Many people naturally supposed that somehow he was being protected by the Pakistanis, but there’s no evidence for that in any documents that were released.” He pointed to the research of Nellie Lee, a colleague of his at New America “who’s read all the documents in Arabic as well,” for a new book that will be coming out shortly. “She and I come to the same conclusion, which is of course, it’s hard to prove negatives, but there was no Pakistani officer protecting Bin Laden.”

Bergen is especially concerned by the prevalence of leaders of the Haqqani network, perhaps Afghanistan’s most notorious terrorists, in the top ranks of the Taliban leadership, including one of the top Haqqani leaders who is serving as Minister of the Interior “with the role of head of DHS and head of the FBI combined,” with 14 of the 33 members of the Taliban cabinet sanctioned by the United Nations as terrorists.

Finally, Bergen was asked what he might have done differently had he been in charge before the Taliban finally seized power. “We were at a politically sustainable place with 2,500 troops on the ground,” Bergen said. “It was a relatively small number [but] it was sustainable and it was in the interest of the United States and also in the interests of the Afghans” that they remained. “And now we have a situation where the Taliban on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 is now back in control. They’re in a much stronger position than they were before 9/11.”

Still, Bergen remains encouraged by the quantity and quality of reporting that is emerging from Afghanistan, even under Taliban control. “I think we are getting a reasonably good picture of what’s happening.”

Will Trump Run Again? Michael Wolff Gave Silurians His Take—After Explaining in Detail How Insane the Ex-Prez Is.

by David Margolick

It sounds more like an ad for a legendary electronics store than an appraisal of a former President of the United States. But according to Michael Wolff, Donald Trump is… insane!

Michael Wolff

And “crazy.” And “off his rocker.” And “occupying a different reality than literally everyone else.” And “incompetent,” spending his time “talking and talking and just spewing forth and saying whatever comes into his mind.” And illiterate (“He doesn’t read”), which is “compounded by the fact that he doesn’t listen, either.”

“I don’t think he has dementia,” Wolff allowed in his very frank and highly entertaining virtual talk before the Silurians on November 17. “I think he is just crazy. I think he has been crazy for a very long time.”

Wolff has followed Trump for years, dating back to his days as a columnist for New York Magazine, when the President-to-be would hock him semimonthly for leaving him out of something he’d just written. And his trilogy of best-selling books on the man could well prove the most enduring chronicle of the bizarre and exhausting and ongoing Trump years.

As Wolff sees it, his work has proceeded on a fundamentally different premise than the one followed by the mainstream press. By instinct and tradition, he believes, most White House reporters approached Trump on the mistaken assumption that he was sane, and that his presidency was within traditional norms. He, by contrast, covered Trump as the nut case he was and is and always will be.

“I don’t think they got close to understanding that this was in every way, shape and form an aberrant presidency,” Wolff said. “Not just a deceitful presidency or corrupt presidency or a wrongheaded presidency or a disorganized presidency, but a presidency that had no relationship to any presidency that has occurred in the past. There was no way for a whole swath of institutional journalists to say the President of the United States is insane. I can say that. They cannot.”

But remarkably, Trump hadn’t taken anything Wolff has written about him personally, at least for very long. After the publication of Wolff’s first Trump book, Fire and Fury, Trump threatened to sue him. But when Wolff worked on the third, Landslide, Trump laid out the red carpet for him in Palm Beach, and for a simple reason. “The guy gets ratings,” Trump told a flunky.

“So I’m in Mar-a-Lago and he’s introducing me to everybody as ‘Michael Wolff, the best writer in America,'” Wolff recalled. Trump acolytes like Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who’d been deputized to badmouth Wolff, looked on dumbfounded. “Reality changes on his timetable, and that can be minute-to-minute,” Wolff observed.

But to Wolff, the very chaos in Trump’s brain is his best defense against the swirl of conspiracy charges leveled against him, whether over financial legerdemain, electoral manipulation, or Capitol insurrections. “He has no plans,” said Wolff. “He has no intentions. He has no follow through — none of the things that you need to pin a crime on somebody. How do you convict a crazy man of conspiracy? If, literally in every cognitive aspect, he does not have the ability to conspire?”

“The ideal of Trump leading a conspiracy is, frankly, ludicrous and ill-informed,” he said. And because growing celebrity and power have only “fueled his insanity,” such charges have only become more untenable over time. And speaking of conspiracies, Wolff said no one in Trump’s inner circle, including his own family, believes he won the 2020 presidential election. Even in that crowd, Wolff said, Trump “occupies an absolutely different reality.”

Wolff said he’d first proposed a fly-on-the-wall book on the early days of the Trump Administration to President-elect’s newly-minted consigliere, Steve Bannon. When Trump didn’t exactly turn him down, Wolff started showing up at the White House, installing himself on a strategically-located couch in the West Wing. “I got to be a familiar face and people assumed I must be there for some reason,” he recalled.

Wolff’s talk ventured for a time into Jeffrey Epstein, whom he also got to know well, and to whom he devotes a chapter in his latest book, Too Famous. But that detour quickly doubled back to Trump thanks to a question from Allan Dodds Frank, who wondered how much Epstein knew about the former President.

“An immense amount,” replied Wolff, noting that for fifteen years the two men were “inseparable.” “I think Epstein knew all about Trump’s finances,” he said. “He knew all about Trump’s women, as Trump knew about his women.” Searching Epstein’s house, he went on, the FBI found a dozen or so pictures of Trump, some with the same young girls whose testimony, according to Epstein, helped send him to jail. According to Wolff, Epstein believed it was Trump who ratted him out to the Palm Beach police, after Trump double-crossed him on a real estate deal.

Shortly after Trump’s elected, Wolff said, Bannon told Epstein he’d been the only person he’d been afraid of during the Presidential campaign, and that Epstein replied, “You should have been.” Wolff added that Bannon and Epstein quickly bonded, in part over their shared conviction “that Donald was a crazy person.”

Despite a terrible diet — and a daily regimen of “at least” 12 Diet Cokes — Wolff described Trump as “indomitable” and said he looked “fantastic” the last time he saw him, certainly in shape for another presidential run. Though awful for the country, Trump had been a “gift” to him, he said, one likely to keep on giving. “Put it this way: there’s every reason for him to run,” Wolff concluded. “He can’t really continue to be Donald Trump without running.”

The Tale of Merriman “Smitty” Smith, Known as “the Greatest Wire Reporter Ever,” as Told by Bill Sanderson at the October 20 Meeting

by Aileen Jacobson

Bill Sanderson

At an urgent pace, Bill Sanderson recounted the tale of how reporter Merriman “Smitty” Smith got the news that President John F. Kennedy had been shot onto the UPI wire in only 4 minutes, much faster than anyone else

Changes in the “speed of news” was one transformation Sanderson addressed in his study of the fateful day in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated, he told Silurians at the October 20 Zoom meeting. “Today we’ve gone down from 4 minutes to 0,” Sanderson said. Another big change, he said, is that newspapers are no longer the dominant way people learn about the news. Smart reporters and editors are still necessary, however, added Sanderson, who has been a reporter for the New York Post and is now a writer and editor at the Daily News. In 2016, he wrote a book, “Bulletins from Dallas,” about the events surrounding those shots that Lee Harvey Oswald fired into the young President’s limousine.

Smitty, who had been the UPI’s White House correspondent since 1941, sat in the front seat of the pool car in the motorcade that followed JFK’s car. He was sandwiched between the driver and a presidential press agent. That put Smith on top of the car’s radio telephone, a then-new device that was meant to be shared by all four reporters in the car. As it happened, the AP reporter—the AP being Smith’s main rival—sat in the back. He wasn’t the usual White House correspondent (who was on the press bus) but a different reporter who was there to collect “color” for his own piece.

When the passengers heard shots fired, Smitty grabbed the phone, called his office and wouldn’t let go. The AP reporter cursed him, punched him, hit him and pummeled him, but Smith wouldn’t hand it over until the press car, a few cars behind the limo, stopped in front of the Parkland Hospital. Smith jumped out, dumping the phone on his way. When the AP reporter grabbed it, he found the line dead. Some thought Smith had sabotaged it somehow, but UPI always denied it, and the mystery was never solved, Sanderson said in his breathless narrative.

Before President Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connally, who had been seriously wounded, were even wheeled into the hospital, Smith jumped on the running board of their limo and witnessed the blood surrounding both men. Smith then hopped on the side of the next car in the motorcade and spoke with a secret service agent he knew, who told him the President was dead. Smith ran into the hospital, commandeered a phone in the emergency room and called in updates to his story as it unfurled.

The first AP dispatch, which came in five minutes later than UPI’s, came from a photographer who had been close to the action. The AP story was also garbled and contained several errors, Sanderson said.

Smith was known as a “reporter’s reporter, who went all out to get his story” and is often ranked as “the greatest wire reporter ever.” He won a Pulitzer Prize for the swift and full coverage that he wrote the next day.

Many people remember first hearing the news of the President’s death from Walter Cronkite on TV, Silurian vice-president Joseph Berger pointed out during the Q and A. But Cronkite was relying initially on Smith’s account, Sanderson said—and that came later: It took about half an hour for studio cameras to warm up in those days, and at first Cronkite was only heard but not seen.

Asked about persistent ideas that Oswald was not the lone shooter, Sanderson replied, “Merriman Smith resolutely hated the conspiracy theories.” Smith would say that he was there and “I know what happened.”

Theater Maven Michael Riedel Shares Inside Info, Celeb Anecdotes and Broadway Predictions at September Meeting

by Aileen Jacobson

Michael Riedel, who has long written about theater for the New York Post and other publications, spoke to us at our September 22 Zoom meeting just as Broadway was starting to open up again after a long Covid-induced hiatus. The presentation, attended by more than 50 people (and available here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hv2gVaBsSds) was snappy, spirited and fun.

Riedel had recently visited the new musical “Six,” a pop-rock romp about the six wives of Henry VIII, and gave it a thumbs-up. It’s the kind of fresh new show that should do well, he predicted. However, older shows like “Phantom of the Opera” and “Chicago,” that were relying on tourists—no longer here in great numbers—may not last long, after the initial excitement of Broadway’s reawakening dies down. In fact, a person in the know had shared with him, he said, that only 14 of the 35 plays and musicals that are to make up the new season may survive.

Off-Broadway, Riedel added, may make a strong come-back because its more reasonably priced and often adventurous offerings are likely to appeal to young people, the ones who are out and about as though there is no pandemic in the downtown area where lives.

Board member and past president Tony Guida, who moderated the event, said he had researched some ticket prices for “Hamilton” and thought they seemed healthy–$399 each for tickets on the coming Friday and $700 for seats around Thanksgiving. Those are bargains, Riedel replied. Before the pandemic, tickets were going for $1,000 each. And ticket agents, who buy many seats and offer them for resale, may have to start dropping prices for this and other shows, or try to return them.

Anecdotes he imparted included Elaine Stritch often running out to the box office “in her panties” before the curtain rose on “A Delicate Balance” to see how well sales were going, much to the chagrin of her co-star George Grizzard. He had written about that in his latest book, “Singular Sensation: The Triumph of Broadway,” published November 2020. It focused on Broadway’s post-9/11 recovery. This one probably won’t be as swift, he said. People wanted to gather together almost immediately after that trauma. These days, of course, close proximity is not what many people are seeking.

2021 Silurians Journalism Award

Inspiration and Insights Highlight the
76th Annual Excellence in Journalism
Awards Gala.

THE WINNERS OF THIS YEAR’S Excellence in Journalism Awards took their bows virtually once again, in a festive program that debuted on June 16 and is now available at
https://youtu.be/QxysOdv0EhU/.
Our 76th annual celebration was as warm, impressive and informative as ever.

“Sixty Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker delivered a keynote address that was inspiring. He spoke about the importance of a free press, especially in these “unsettling times” and commended the award winners for contributing “to our national conversation.” He urged all journalists to “keep on keeping on,” building on trends in digital and non-profit news gathering. “We’re not dinosaurs,” he said. “We can adapt.”  You can watch Bill’s keynote address here.

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2021 Silurians Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards

NEW YORK TIMES AND NEWSDAY
ARE THE BIG WINNERS
IN THE 2021 SILURIANS EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM AWARDS

Following is the full list of all Medallion and Merit award winners.

PRESIDENT’S CHOICE AWARD: “The President’s Taxes”
The New York Times, Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig & Mike McIntire

PRESIDENT’S CHOICE AWARD: “The Grumman Plume: Decades of Deceit,”
Newsday, Paul LaRocco and David M. Schwartz

EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM SPECIAL AWARD, Jim Dwyer,1957 – 2020;
Newsday – Daily News – New York Times; “A Crusader Against Injustice”

 

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Silurian Contingency Fund: Help
Is Available for Journalists in Need

For more than 60 years, the Silurian Contingency Fund has been providing grants to New York metropolitan area journalists facing financial hardship. All present and former New York City journalists who can demonstrate need are eligible for grants from the fund. Members of the Silurians Press Club will be given priority.

All transactions — including the identities of the recipients — are strictly confidential and known only to the directors of the fund, which operates independently from the Silurians Press Club. The fund, whose formal name is the George E. Sokolsky Silurian Contingency Fund after its first chairman, is administered by a four-person Board of Directors, all members of the Silurians. Steven Marcus is president. The other directors are Mark Liff, Kevin Noblet and Michael Serrill, who as president of the Silurians Press Club serves in an ex-officio capacity. The board members evaluate applications for grants and determine eligibility and the amount of the grants.

Grants have historically ranged up to $1,000. To apply, contact Steven Marcus at steven.b.marcus@gmail.com.

If you want to contribute to the fund, also contact Steve. The fund is certified by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501 (c) (3) charity, so contributions are tax deductible. Contributions should be made payable to the George E. Sokolsky Silurian Contingency Fund and sent to Steve at 160 West 96th St., Apt. 15M, New York, NY 10025.

Marty Baron Covers Hollywood, the Washington Post, Trump, Bezos and Other Topics During his May 19 Silurians Talk

by David Margolick

Marty Baron

Rather than “that crummy actor [Liev] Schreiber,” Michael Serrill asked Marty Baron during his virtual visit with the Silurians on May 19th, didn’t the much-esteemed, recently-retired editor of the Washington Post think he should have played Marty Baron in “Spotlight”?

“No, I don’t, actually,” replied Baron, whose eleven years atop the Boston Globe included the landmark expose of pedophilia by Catholic priests and a cover-up of the abuse by the Boston archdiocese depicted in the Oscar-winning 2015 film. Schreiber “did a great job,” Baron insisted, though Hollywood’s version of Marty Baron, he conceded, was short on charm and had precious little to say. The Marty Baron speaking via Zoom from the Berkshires was considerably more visible, voluble, and witty.

His talk provided an outline of sorts for his memoir-to-be: a boy raised by Israeli immigrants to whom news mattered; who edited his Florida high school and college papers; who got himself an MBA “just in case the journalism thing didn’t work out.” Work out it did, and then some: in his illustrious career the 66-year-old Baron led three major dailies (the Miami Herald was the third), and held major posts at the Los Angeles Times and New York Times before reaching the Post, where he presided from December 2012 until his retirement last February.

At his insistence, there was no speech: he’s giving enough of those these days. Instead, he took questions, the first several of which, predictably, concerned Donald Trump and his four-year campaign to sully the press. To a considerable extent, said Baron, he succeeded.

“In many ways, that might be his single biggest achievement, if you can call it that,” he said. “Look, we were a convenient enemy. He always needed an enemy. Otherwise you’d judge him on his own merits.” But at the same time, Baron noted, Trump had actually been good for both journalism and journalists: people who’d taken the press for granted came to cherish it, while the reporters covering him became ever more “unflinching.”

And Trump had been good to and for the Post: while denouncing its correspondents and denying them credentials, he’d also cooperated with them, spilling to Bob Woodward among others. At work, he theorized, were both exhibitionism and vanity. “I think he assumed he would persuade Bob that he was doing a great job or something like that,” he said. “God knows.”

It’s thanks largely to Trump, he added, that the paper now has three million digital subscribers — a goal which Jeff Bezos, the Amazon mogul who’d bought the Post nine months into Baron’s tenure, championed. With its storied name, headquarters in a world capital, and reputation for “shining a light into dark corners,” as Bezos himself liked to say, he envisions a paper which one day will have ten, or even a hundred, million digital subscribers.

“He’s the first person I’ve ever heard talk about what we’re going to be in 20 years,” Baron said. “When I first heard him say ‘20 years’ I practically fell to the floor. I’ve never heard the term ‘20 years.’ I was used to hearing ‘next quarter,’ ‘next year.’

“He’s a very unconventional thinker,” he continued. “That’s how he came up with Amazon. If he had thought conventionally he would have been Barnes & Noble.”

Baron said he initially spoke to Bezos every other week, mostly via teleconference, mostly about technology and marketing, though the frequency of their chats eventually trailed off to maybe once a month. “He was fairly preoccupied by some other things at one point, you may recall,” Baron noted. He said the paper’s coverage of those “other things” — i.e. Bezos’s costly divorce — was robust, uninhibited, and uncensored. “We had no special access,” he said. “We gave him no special treatment.”

The same thing, he said, has always gone for coverage of Amazon: “He has never quashed a story or suggested a story or anything like that,” Baron said. During many of his visits to Washington, Bezos didn’t even drop into the Post to say hello. The Post is once again profitable, and Bezos is reinvesting those profits. “Obviously, he doesn’t need the dividends,” Baron said.

When he took the reins, 580 people worked in the Post newsroom; soon there’ll be nearly twice that. Hundreds vie for openings there, but with formerly great papers in other cities stripped bare, Baron observed, certain positions — political reporters, foreign correspondents — are hard to fill.

He called the plight of smaller newspapers “the biggest crisis in American journalism,” one to which he plans to devote some of his retirement time. “I don’t think we can lose hope,” he said, noting that, not too long ago, the Post and New York Times faced equally dire predictions. With the right formula or investor, he said, the troubled New York Daily News might also rebound. “There’s certainly room for a good strong New York news organization, which the New York Times isn’t,” he said.

He declined an invitation to comment on the stormy departures of Times editorial page editor James Bennet and reporter Donald McNeil. “Oh, God. I’m not sure I want to get into the New York Times’s controversies, to tell you the truth,” he demurred. “I’ve had plenty of my own to deal with.”

For all the investigations he’s shepherded, Baron said, the “Spotlight” probe was his most personally meaningful, “simply because it had such a direct impact on ordinary people, people who had no power whatsoever, who were unable to grab the attention of law enforcement authorities, politicians, and the press.

“We all know that journalists are supposed to be investigating government and politics,” he said, “but it’s really important that we also investigate other powerful institutions in our society, and the Catholic Church was then the most powerful institution in Boston and in New England and one of the most powerful institutions in the world.”

Friends of Baron’s told him that “Spotlight” failed to capture his wit, though he confessed he hadn’t felt very funny at the time. “I was a newcomer to the Globe and to Boston, I was called an outsider, I was treated like one, and I felt like one,” he recalled. It has all the makings of a sequel. This time, Baron could play himself. And give himself some better lines.