The Media Today

The media today: Press autopsies of Harvey Weinstein’s ‘open secret’

October 12, 2017

As the coverage of Harvey Weinstein’s downfall enters its second week, difficult questions are being asked about how he got away with abhorrent behavior for so many years. Soon after The New Yorker published Ronan Farrow’s explosive exposé featuring testimony from several women and audio of Weinstein captured during a 2015 NYPD sting, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked why the story hadn’t appeared on NBC, where Farrow is a longtime contributor.

Over at The Daily Beast, Lloyd Grove has a deep dive into the circumstances that led to that decision, with sources painting contradictory portraits of why and how the story was spiked at NBC. What’s clear is that Farrow began reporting almost a year ago, and that he had made significant progress on a major story, even if it wasn’t completely ready to run. At some point this summer, NBC allowed him to look elsewhere for an outlet to publish the story, and The New Yorker’s David Remnick was happy to take it on.

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“What happened at NBC is a media world mystery,” writes CNN’s Brian Stelter in his look at how the network was scooped on a major story for the second time in a year. (NBC had access to the infamous Access Hollywood tape before it was leaked to The Washington Post.) One source told Stelter that Farrow received a “stand down order” over the summer, even though he had already interviewed several accusers and had the NYPD tape in hand.

NBC News President Noah Oppenheim attempted to address the questions swirling around his organization at a previously scheduled staff meeting on Wednesday, saying, “The notion that we would try to cover for a powerful person is deeply offensive to all of us.” Oppenheim said he was proud NBC had “launched” Farrow on the story, and that executives simply didn’t feel it had all of the elements needed to go to air.

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The controversy surrounding NBC’s decision to kill the story is only one piece of the larger issue concerning why it took so long to reveal Weinstein’s “open secret.” A powerful man with deep connections in the journalism world, Weinstein managed to manipulate, spin, and attack those who crossed him, using the press as a cudgel.

This is a media newsletter, so it’s easy to get lost in the minutiae of how the story came together and who gets credit or blame. But in the midst of that discussion, it’s important not to lose sight of the central issue: the pervasive and too-long-ignored culture of abuse by men in positions of power. “The media piece of this is a conversation that can unfold over time,” Farrow told CNN’s Tapper yesterday. “I truly do think it’s very important for us to stay focused on the women.

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Below, more on the fallout from the Weinstein story.


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