The Media Today

Marking one year of #MeToo coverage

October 5, 2018

One year ago, on the afternoon of October 5, 2017, The New York Times published an exposé on Harvey Weinstein that shook the entertainment world. Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey detailed Weinstein’s predatory behavior and the lengths to which he went to cover it up. Soon after, Ronan Farrow wrote a story, published by The New Yorker, that included more on-the-record allegations against Weinstein. The reports were shocking, though few could have predicted that they would not only take down one of the most prominent producers in Hollywood, but also catalyze a movement that has reshaped American culture.

“None of us knew what was about to happen,” Kantor told CNN’s Brian Stelter. “Not the team at the Times. Not Ashley Judd or Laura Madden, the first two women to go on the record.” What was about to happen, of course, was that more women would come forward, not just with allegations against Weinstein, but with stories of trauma, abuse, and harassment in workplaces across the country, giving rise to a national reckoning. Powerful men in nearly every field were exposed. News outlets dedicated resources to investigating claims that might, in an earlier era, have been ignored.

Throughout it all, there has been a constant force driving the deluge of reporting: women who have been emboldened to share their experiences because they believe that, finally, there may be opportunity for change. “One year after Weinstein, why is the #metoo discussion still so powerful and durable, lasting longer and going further than anyone predicted?” Kantor asked yesterday on Twitter as she shared an open letter from Connie Chung, the veteran broadcast journalist, to Christine Blasey Ford, in which Chung describes her own sexual assault. “Because women keep revealing horror stories.”

RELATED: As men try to come back after #MeToo, journalists weigh the size of truth

Those stories have revealed abuses within the journalism industry. From CBS to NBC, NPR to the Times, news outlets reporting on the #MeToo movement have found themselves the subject of scrutiny for behavior by men in their offices. The downfall of influential figures like Les Moonves, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, and Mark Halperin, among others, has changed who delivers our news and raised difficult questions about how their treatment of women may have affected past coverage.

The anniversary of the first Weinstein story is a chance for reflection, and it’s an opportunity to turn the focus to what’s next. CJR’s Nausicaa Renner writes that one of the most pressing questions for reporters is how to deal with the reemergence of men who have been implicated. “In journalism—which has rallied behind, and propelled, the #MeToo movement—there remains uncertainty when it comes to giving ink to men as they re-enter public life,” Renner writes. “Do we need to hear both sides, if one side is willfully regressive? How much space should journalism lend the accused?”

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In the immediate future, those questions will be considered in the context of a vote on a Supreme Court nominee accused of sexual assault. The divisive reactions to testimony by Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, however, have exposed a culture still wrestling with how to respond to women, and how much leniency to give powerful men.

Below, more on one year since Weinstein.

  • How much has changed?: USA Today’s Charisse Jones examines “what has changed at work in the year since sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein turned the words ‘me’ and ‘too’ into an unforgettable hashtag and rallying cry for a generation.”
  • A long way to go: Despite everything we know about the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, women are still not believed,” writes Roxane Gay of The New York Times. “Their experiences are still minimized. And the male perpetrators of these crimes are given all manner of leniency.”
  • Broken promises: The Daily Beast’s Amy Zimmerman explores what has changed, and what hasn’t, over the past year. “Big-name journalists chased stories that previously would have been left to the gossip blogs. Was this worthwhile, important journalism? Of course,” she writes. “Has it helped the survivors who risked everything coming forward, or had any tangible effect on the systems that facilitated and protected their abusers? Well, that depends on who you ask, and how closely you listen.”
  • The view from Hollywood: The LA Times’s Josh Rottenberg and Ryan Faughnder look at the impact of #MeToo on the entertainment industry. “A year after news broke of accusations of sexual harassment and assault against film mogul Harvey Weinstein, the aftershocks reverberate across the industry, from movie sets to casting sessions, TV writing rooms to executive boardrooms,” they write.
  • Beyond the big names: A $22 million legal defense fund is helping women hire top-notch lawyers “to pursue #MeToo-style sex harassment cases that they otherwise couldn’t have afforded,” reports David Crary of the AP. “In its early phases, the #MeToo movement was epitomized by professional women from the worlds of movie-making, media and politics who spoke out about sexual harassment. One year after its birth, as the movement remains vibrant, there are ever-growing resources to help financially struggling women, including many from low-wage workplaces, litigate their complaints,” he writes.


Other notable stories:

  • The Washington Post Editorial Board is urging senators to vote down Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, the first time the board has done so since Robert Bork was up for a vote in 1987. Kavanaugh, meanwhile, wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal reiterating his denials of the allegations levied by Christine Blasey Ford and allowing that his “tone was sharp,” and he “said a few things I should not have said.”
  • As part of CJR’s series of reports from across the country leading up to the midterm elections, Sarah Smarsh checks in from Kansas, where Secretary of State and Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach “has wreaked havoc on the voting process, making Kansas the unfortunate epicenter of a national voter-suppression crisis.”
  • Ken Ward Jr. of the Charleston Gazette-Mail was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for “revealing the human and environmental toll of natural resource extraction in West Virginia and spurring greater accountability among public and private stakeholders.” The veteran investigative reporter receives a total award of $625,000 over five years.
  • Julia Turner, editor-in-chief of Slate since 2014, has been named deputy managing editor responsible for Arts and Entertainment coverage at the Los Angeles Times. Her departure from Slate follows closely on the heels of Jacob Weisberg, the chairman and editor in chief of the Slate Group, leaving to start an audio venture.
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter Dave Anderson, a longtime columnist for The New York Times, has died at 89. “My heroes were sportswriters,” Anderson said in 2014, and over four decades at the Times, he earned his place among the best of them.
  • The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan laments the gaslighting of America by President Trump and Sarah Sanders. “Predictable as all of this is, it’s deeply disturbing. Or it ought to be,” she writes. “But it’s hard to maintain a sense of outrage, or certainty, when the lies and obfuscation just keep coming. The sheer exhaustion—understandable as it is—might be the most dangerous problem of all.”

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