The Media Today

The media today: “This isn’t slowing. It’s snowballing.”

October 27, 2017

I usually try to write on a variety of topics each week in this newsletter, but the fallout from the Harvey Weinstein revelations—in journalism and beyond—is the narrative dominating the media world. Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly may be at the center, but the real story is the steady drumbeat of allegations against figures across the industry.

ICYMI: The most annoying thing an editor can do

Less than 24 hours after Dylan Byers broke the story of five women accusing political journalist Mark Halperin of sexual harassment, the CNN journalist tweeted, “Today alone, 5 people reached out w/ sexual harassment allegations against 5 different media figures. This isn’t slowing. It’s snowballing.” Halperin’s career appears to be over after he stepped back from his role at MSNBC and watched as HBO canceled a planned adaptation of his and John Heilemann’s book on the 2016 election and Penguin Press shut down plans for the book itself. Politico’s Michael Calderone has the details.

As the number of stories of alleged abhorrent behavior by Halperin, O’Reilly, The New Republic’s Leon Wieseltier, and others continues to grow, the focus of the larger conversation is also expanding to include those who knew of this behavior yet stayed silent, and the culture that allows such behavior to go unchecked. In an excellent essay, Splinter’s Clio Chang argues that Wieseltier, for one, was always hiding in plain sight. “The revelations…raise uncomfortable questions about what the media and literary world celebrates and who we hold accountable,” Chang writes. “After all, much of Wieseltier’s character was already in the public eye—if you cared to look.

ICYMI: Prominent journalists accused of sexual misconduct

One reason such behavior persists is due to organizations’ unwillingness to address their own issues. Fox News has had a field day covering the downfall of Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein, but in a smart piece for the AP, David Bauder reports that the network has devoted just 20 minutes, 46 seconds, to the accusations against O’Reilly since The New York Times first reported many of them in April. Meanwhile, allegations against Weinstein have received 12 and a half hours of airtime since the Weinstein story broke on October 5. Credit is due mostly to Howard Kurtz, host of Fox’s Media Buzz, whose show accounts for nearly 80 percent of that coverage, but the outrageous discrepancy signals an outlet unwilling to set its own house in order.

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Three weeks after Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey brought Weinstein’s “open secret” into public view, this story isn’t going away. Below, more on what seems, with each day’s news, to be a watershed moment if not a sea change.

  • “Skepticism is wise”: In The Guardian, former NYT Executive Editor Jill Abramson writes that we should be careful before declaring a new era in workplace culture. She’s been investigating sexual harassment allegations at an unnamed media company, but has had trouble getting anyone to go on the record due to nondisclosure agreements.
  • Weinstein and Trump: Vox’s Anna North and Ezra Klein explore why Harvey Weinstein is disgraced but Donald Trump is president.
  • Shakeup at BuzzFeed: BuzzFeed is changing its approach to Hollywood reporting after identifying “holes” in its Weinstein coverage.
  • The reckoning always comes: Deadspin’s Drew Magary takes an honest look at his own history of bad behavior online, writing: “I have tried to reckon with my online past here, but I know the job is incomplete. There’s no ‘I’m sorry’ for men to offer to make everything right. There is only the action…the will to take a good hard look at the man you’ve been, and ask if that’s really the man you want to be.”
  • More allegations against Halperin: The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi spoke with nine women, one of them on the record, who had experienced or were aware of Halperin’s inappropriate behavior during his time at ABC News.
  • From the archives: Vanity Fair made Lloyd Grove’s 1995 profile of Leon Wieseltier available online for the first time.

ICYMI: The NYT tweet on books by women that “didn’t play well”


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