A culmination and continuing questions in the #MeToo era

Nearly 12 years ago, Philadelphia magazine published the first investigation into sexual assault allegations against famed comedian and hometown hero Bill Cosby. The story detailed accusations by Andrea Constand, who worked for the Temple University women’s basketball team, noting that Cosby had so far avoided any repercussions. “His lawyers have gotten it pushed to the back burner, down to a simmer, and maybe it will amount to nothing, yet there is also the possibility that it will bubble up to destroy him,” the magazine’s Robert Huber wrote at the time. On Thursday, after years of similar accusations by dozens of women, Cosby was finally held responsible for his actions, found guilty of drugging and assaulting Constand by a Pennsylvania jury.

The long road to Cosby’s conviction was pitted with belated attention from media outlets. Gawker deserves credit for resurfacing allegations against Cosby in 2014, but it took a male comedian, Hannibal Buress, calling out Cosby from a Philadelphia stage later that year, for the narrative around Cosby to truly shift. More women spoke out, and coverage shifted, with New York magazine publishing a memorable cover of Cosby’s accusers in July 2015. The mounting allegations against Cosby were cause for reflection among journalists who covered him, with The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates offering an indictment of his own reporting on Cosby in the years following Constand’s initial charges.

RELATED: Sexual harassment in the newsroom: An oral history

By the time the verdict was read on Thursday, the public view of Cosby had fully shifted, but that it took more than a decade, and a previously hung jury, to get to this point, is notable. Since the reporting on Harvey Weinstein inaugurated the #MeToo moment, dozens of powerful men have faced swift consequences once they have been named. Cosby’s conviction, one of the first criminal cases of the new era, is a stark reminder of how different things were in the recent past. The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan writes that Cosby’s conviction may feel like another data point in a rapidly changing world, but she notes that it was years in themaking. “The seismic change that seems so sudden didn’t happen overnight,” Sullivan writes. “And the verdict that centered on one brave woman’s truth-telling required the courage of hundreds.”

While the Cosby verdict reflects a culmination of one case, NBC faces renewed questions on its handling of sexual harassment allegations. The Washington Post’s Sarah Ellison reports on new allegations against former NBC Evening News anchor Tom Brokaw, who former correspondent Linda Vester accuses of making unwanted advances toward her on two occasions in the 1990s, including a forcible attempt to kiss her. Brokaw denied the allegations in a statement to the Post.

Ellison writes that despite the network’s termination of star anchor Matt Lauer, NBC “is facing a wave of internal and outside skepticism that it can reform a workplace in which powerful men such as Lauer were known to pursue sexual relationships with more junior women.” She spoke with 35 current and former NBC staffers to paint a picture of an organization still reckoning with the fallout from that decision and the culture that allowed Lauer to act in reportedly inappropriate ways.

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In the wake of Lauer’s exit, NBC News President Andy Lack promised to publicly share the results of an external investigation into the network’s handling of sexual harassment claims. Ellison notes that it has been five months with no word on that report, though the network said the review is nearing its conclusion.

Former Today host Ann Curry spoke with Ellison on the record, telling her that the most important question is “Do you have a system that allows those who feel they have been victimized to air their complaints without fear they will lose their jobs? I don’t know a company that does.”

Below, more on Cosby, NBC, and the current state of the #MeToo era.


Other notable stories

  • The Montgomery Advertiser publishes a striking front page today, listing the names of more than 300 lynching victims on the morning that the National Memorial for Peace and Justice “We were wrong,” the paper’s editorial board writes in an accompanying piece. “The Montgomery Advertiserrecognizes its own shameful place in the history of these dastardly, murderous deeds.
  • President Trump called into his favorite show on Thursday morning, providing a half-hour window into his thought process. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple makes the case for Fox & Friends, arguing that the morning show “may well have revealed the closest public approximation of the late-night cellphone version of Trump.”
  • Politico’s Michael Calderone looks at what it’s like to cover the Trump White House amid a deluge of news and controversy. “There’s no question that we’re all exhausted,” The New York Times’s Peter Baker tells him. But, Baker adds, it’s necessary to “stop and remember this is an extraordinary story and is something we’re going to be talking to our kids and grandkids about.”
  • CJR’s Mathew Ingram writes that the British parliament hasn’t given up quite yet in its goal of getting Mark Zuckerberg to testify regarding the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The Facebook CEO faces continued questions around the globe over his company’s handling of private user data, and Europe offers a tougher regulatory climate than the US.
  • After previously reconsidering its omissions from the obituary pages, The New York Times is now looking back at its coverage of the AIDS crisis. Admitting that the paper’s record is “checkered at best,” six current Times staffers examine where coverage fell short, and what lessons can be learned from the failures.
  • For CJR, Marie Doezema profiles a French nonprofit housing refugee journalists from countries including Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Morocco, and Kazakhstan. “In a national and global context of increasingly right-wing, xenophobic agendas, the Maison des Journalistes should serve as a beacon,” Doezema writes.

ICYMI: America’s role in a ‘climate of hatred’ for journalists

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Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.