The Media Today

The media today: The ‘Silence Breakers’ moment is far from finished

December 7, 2017

It’s a moment of reflection in the midst of a still-developing movement. Two months after several women came forward to tell The New York Times’s Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey the story of Harvey Weinstein’s years of harassment and abuse of women, setting off a reckoning that has spread across several industries, Time has selected “The Silence Breakers” as the magazine’s “Person of the Year.” The cover story states that “this reckoning appears to have sprung up overnight. But it has actually been simmering for years, decades, centuries.” And news breaking yesterday proved the moment is far from finished.

Less than a week after former host John Hockenberry was accused of sexual harassment and bullying by several women, WNYC, New York’s flagship public radio station, placed longtime anchors Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz on “immediate leave” as the company investigates accusations of inappropriate conduct. New York Public Radio president and CEO Laura Walker is facing scrutiny over her leadership of a workplace where sexual harassment and intimidating behavior from male hosts allegedly ran rampant. As was the case with reports against top editors at NPR, the public broadcaster’s management has floundered in its response to allegations even as journalists on its editorial side have admirably covered those in their own newsroom.

In the literary world, Lorin Stein, the editor of the influential Paris Review, resigned amid an internal investigation into his conduct with female employees and contributors. Stein’s name appeared on a list of “Shitty Media Men” that was circulated among women journalists in the wake of the first Weinstein story, and in his resignation letter he acknowledged “an abuse of my position.”

As story after story breaks—in media, film, and politics—there’s a temptation to celebrate the work of journalists for (belatedly) exposing an insidious issue the culture. But CNN’s Jake Tapper yesterday offered a note of caution. “I don’t think news media should pat ourselves too hard on the back for ridding our newsrooms of high profile sexual predators,” he wrote on Twitter. “With few exceptions (@NPR most notably) the reporting that felled the accused was by different outlets. Big scoops in our midsts—ignored.” Tapper notes that The Washington Post exposed Charlie Rose, not CBS. The New York Times reported on Bill O’Reilly, not Fox. Even The New York Times, which has done great work on this topic, was scooped on allegations against Glenn Thrush by Vox.

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And as Time’s cover makes clear, it’s important to remember where the real courage lies. The stories that have led to this cultural moment have been broken by reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, CNN, Variety, and other outlets, but occasionally lost in the celebration of those journalists and the opprobrium heaped on the men they’ve exposed is the bravery of dozens of women (and some men) who have come forward.

Below, more on “The Silence Breakers” and the movement they ignited.

  • Full circle: Following up on the story that blew the lid off this issue, The New York Times has a quintuple-byline story on the way Weinstein relied on relationships across industries, including journalism, to protect him from allegations of harassment and abuse going public.
  • Political impact: Three weeks after Leeann Tweeden first accused Al Franken of sexual assault, the Minnesota senator is expected to announce his resignation today
  • First person: In The Guardian, former WNYC host Adaora Udoji writes of her “scarring” experience hosting The Takeaway with Hockenberry.
  • Let’s Talk: With the threat of gender-based violence for female journalists in the news, from sexual assault to the tragic murder of Kim Wall, the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma produced a video featuring Christiane Amanpour, Alexis Okeowo, and other female journalists discussing personal boundaries and safety for women in the field.
  • Taking action: CNN’s Brian Stelter writes about a new advocacy group, founded by women who accused Mark Halperin and Charlie Rose of harassment and abuse, that aims to “move the needle forward and create a safe work environment for all women in the workplace, beginning with the newsroom.”


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Correction: A previous version of this post misidentified one of the WNCY hosts who has been suspended. He is Jonathan Schwartz, not Jason. 

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