The media today: Political statements play lead role on Oscars night

The 90th Academy Awards showed how much can change in a year. After reporting on allegations against Harvey Weinstein opened the floodgates for women, and some men, to speak up about abuse and harassment in Hollywood, statements about progress and inclusion took center stage during the broadcast. Weinstein was a punchline in Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue, and several of the women who accused him of sexual assault and harassment stood together before the audience in the Dolby Theater, declaring that time’s up.

“There were two main narrative thrusts to the evening, one looking backward, one looking ahead,” LA Times television critic Robert Lloyd wrote in his review of the show. While the 90th edition of the awards provided a chance for retrospectives, the fallout from reporting on Harvey Weinstein meant #MeToo and #TimesUp were a major part of the broadcast. Calls for change and for more inclusion dominated speeches and presentations.

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Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek and Annabella Sciorra, three of the dozens of women who have accused Weinstein of sexual assault and harassment, shared the stage to introduce a montage about breaking race and gender barriers in Hollywood. “The journey ahead is long, but slowly a new path has emerged,” Sciorra said. Best Actress winner Frances McDormand called for all female nominees to stand, then closed her remarks by advocating for inclusion riders, requirements in actors’ contracts that provide for gender and racial diversity among those making films.

At points during the evening, the awards—which largely went as expected, with The Shape of Water taking home Best Picture—felt like a secondary affair. From Jordan Peele’s winning as the first black screenwriter for original screenplay to Kumail Nanjiani shouting out Dreamers to Daniela Vega becoming the first openly trans person to present during the broadcast, inclusion in all of its forms was a major theme throughout the evening.

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The Oscars broadcast still matters because it’s one of the only annual events on the media calendar that reliably draws a huge audience. The fracturing of any sort of monoculture means that there are few evenings when a large portion of Americans are watching the same thing. So while many of the movies celebrated with awards weren’t blockbusters, the people speaking up on stage had a huge platform to get their messages across. That the focus of their remarks was often two connected movements—Time’s Up and #MeToo—that didn’t exist six months ago, shows how much can change when women speak up, and reporters are listening.

Below, more on Hollywood’s biggest night.

  • And the Oscar goes to…: Here’s the full list of winners.
  • Credit to the journalists: “The world has changed since last year’s Oscars—and for the better,” writes The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan. “So let’s not forget what got us there: great journalism.” Crediting reporting from legacy media outlets like The New York Times, The New Yorker, and her own paper, Sullivan writes that the world will never be the same.
  • Political statements, verbal and sartorial: CNN’s Saba Hamedy has a catalogue of all the political moments from the red carpet and during the show.
  • “A consciously inclusive ceremony”: The Hollywood Reporter’s Gregg Kilday writes Kimmel didn’t shy away from the gravity of the moment, and that others followed suit in one of the most political Oscars broadcasts we’ve seen.
  • News during the commercials: ABC used the occasion to tease its upcoming interview with former FBI Director James Comey. George Stephanopoulos gets the first sit-down with Comey, which will air during a primetime 20/20 special on April 15.


Other notable stories

  • For CJR, Zoë Beery argues that edit tests, the barrier to entry for many jobs in journalism, are out of control. “As journalism jobs have evaporated, edit testing has become excessively burdensome for candidates,” Beery writes, with several tests “amounting to 20 or more unpaid hours of work per test that often yield no results.”
  • BuzzFeed’s Joe Bernstein examines Prager University, the right-wing online site that is on track for a billion views in 2018. “Its professors are some of the best-known conservatives in media, and its founder wants to put it in real schools,” Bernstein writes.
  • Media entrepreneur Steve Brill and former WSJ publisher Gordon Crovitz are launching NewsGuard, a venture designed to provide reliability ratings to various outlets. The project, writes The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi, “would cover each site’s overall track record as a news purveyor.”
  • The New York Times’s Sydney Ember profiles Phillip Picardi, the head of Teen Vogue and Condé Nast’s “26-year-old man of the moment.”
  • For The New York Times, Suhasini Raj and Kai Schultz report that Indian police have detained a suspect in the investigation into the assassination of journalist Gauri Lankesh. In CJR’s most recent print issue, Siddhartha Deb covered what the assassination of the Bangalore journalist says about media complacency in the face of Hindu nationalism’s violent rise in India.

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