The media today: Oscars coverage in the #MeToo era

As the entertainment world prepares for the industry’s biggest night, there is an expectation that coverage of the 90th Academy Awards will be different than in previous years. The fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandal has roiled Hollywood, raising questions about a system that allowed abuse and harassment by powerful men to exist as an open secret.

Changes to industry coverage have already taken place, with trade publications like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter unearthing stories of abuse within the Hollywood system with impressive focus. In January, The New York Times’s Style Editor Choire Sicha penned an explanation for how the paper would approach awards season, writing, “Now that the curtain is finally being lifted on some of the grimy underbelly of Hollywood, we feel it’s more important than ever to not treat awards shows as silly things for silly people.”

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“The Oscars are coming at a time when institutions and corporations are facing pressure to wade into controversial topics that in the past they may have tried to avoid,” writes Variety’s Ted Johnson. “The question isn’t so much whether politics will be part of the Oscars, it’s how these issues will be presented and how often is too often for them to be raised during the evening.” In the past, various winners have chosen to use their Oscar speeches to embrace political causes, but with sexual harassment in the spotlight, along with a national debate over gun control and a polarizing figure in the White House, it’s safe to assume that this year’s show will be especially politicized.

The awards shows leading up to Sunday’s broadcast have seen a focus on activism and wardrobe statements, but the Oscars present a larger audience for those intending to address political issues. And this time, the focus will be on how journalists cover those statements and contextualize the events in addition to whose names are in the envelopes.

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Of course, the Academy Awards are just a single night of celebration for an industry that has a lot to reckon with. Coverage will focus on the statements because of the huge audience the evening provides, but come Monday morning, the real work of journalists continues: to depict the systemic challenges in Hollywood.

Below, more on the lead-up to Sunday night.  

  • Eyes on the red carpet: How will stars respond to the presence of E!’s Ryan Seacrest, a red carpet fixture who was recently accused of sexual harassment? Some celebrities have already spoken about their plans, as The Washington Post’s Elahe Izadi reports.
  • Awards shows fuel Time’s Up growth: Variety’s Claire Coghlan looks at the role awards season has played in expanding the reach of Time’s Up, an initiative intended to fight sexual harassment in Hollywood and across a variety of industries. In the two months since its founding, the legal defense fund has already heard from 1,700 women in over 60 industries, according to
  • Speaking of Weinstein: Days after announcing it would begin bankruptcy proceedings, The Weinstein Company has reached a $500 million deal to sell most of the studio’s assets. The buyer, according to Variety’s Gene Maddaus, is an investor group led by billionaire Ron Burkle and former Small Business Administration chief Maria Contreras-Sweet.
  • How much has changed?: After the Golden Globes, Vulture’s Jen Chaney wrote that the coverage hadn’t changed all that much, but subtle details showed “a tiny bit of progress may have been made.”


Other notable stories

  • Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey acknowledged yesterday that his company “didn’t fully predict or understand the real-world negative consequences” of its platform. In a refreshingly honest tweetstorm, he pledged to build “a systemic framework to help encourage more healthy debate, conversations, and critical thinking.” But fixing the problem is harder than acknowledging its existence, as Wired’s Louise Matsakis writes in her piece on what a “healthy” Twitter would even look like.
  • FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver’s data-journalism site currently based at ESPN, is expected to be sold soon, reports The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Mullin. The site has reportedly been losing $6 million annually, and ABC News, The Athletic, and The Atlantic are in the running to acquire it ahead of the 2018 midterm election.
  • A big shakeup at Texas Monthly comes just over a month after CJR’s Alexandria Neason published a look at the ethical “gray zone.” Rich Oppel, who was named ombudsman last month, will take over for Tim Taliaferro as interim editor in chief in May.
  • CJR’s Meg Dalton looks at the spate of Obama legacy projects, from podcasts to biographies to documentaries, recently debuting. Dalton writes that Obama is “inching back onto the global stage, whether he wants to or not, as popular culture relives his path to the presidency and also the legacy he left behind.”
  • The first issue of Vanity Fair under Radhika Jones’s leadership includes an editor’s note that promises “to interrogate the culture’s most powerful players and hold them to account.”

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