With the avalanche of sexual misconduct allegations against powerful men revealed over the past month still fresh in our minds, let’s take a moment to appreciate some truly remarkable journalism.
Since The New York Times published a scathing catalogue of sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein in early October, the news world has been set abuzz with story after story of powerful men sexually assaulting women or other men. The allegations involved highly inappropriate requests in highly inappropriate contexts, forcing women to watch them masturbate and a bevy of similarly repugnant allegations.
The past month’s allegations have hit the news industry hard as well.
The first major news media name to be stained with allegations after Weinstein was Lockhart Steele, the former editorial director for Vox Media. Steele was revealed to have “admitted engaging in conduct that is inconsistent with [Vox Media’s] core values” and has been terminated, according to internal Slack messages published by The Awl.
— WWD (@wwd) October 20, 2017
Though there was some degree of confession on Steele’s part, The Awl revealed in an update to the aforementioned article that Vox CEO Jim Bankoff later stressed in a staff meeting that the investigation was “ongoing.”
The next major news media figure to fall was former New Republic Literary Editor Leon Wieseltier, whose “past inappropriate workplace conduct” was uncovered on Oct. 24, and included unwanted advances on several employees of both the New Republic and the building in which they are operated.
Wieseltier admitted to his behavior, writing in an emailed statement to The New York Times, “For my offenses against some of my colleagues in the past I offer a shaken apology and ask for their forgiveness.”
Another member of New Republic leadership, Hamilton Fish (the former president and publisher of the magazine), has also come under fire for alleged sexual misconduct. In a memo shared with the Associated Press, he stated that the allegations caused him “deep dismay” and that “men have a lot to learn in this regard.”
He did not deny any allegations, though he also claimed not to have been informed of the specifics of the accusations.
Michael Oreskes, former senior vice president of news for NPR News, has also been accused of several counts of sexual misconduct and harassment in his time at NPR and as the Washington bureau chief at The New York Times.
Accusations against Oreskes include non-consensual kissing and extended harassment of employees. Oreskes has confessed to his wrongdoing, saying in a statement Wednesday, “I am deeply sorry to the people I hurt. My behavior was wrong and inexcusable, and I accept full responsibility.”
Mark Halperin is possibly the most public of the news media figures accused of sexual misconduct in the last month and a half, having appeared frequently on popular MSNBC program “Morning Joe,” co-hosting his own show on Bloomberg TV, and co-authoring a best-selling book.
In late October, CNN ran an article claiming that five women had accused the notable political journalist of various different sexual misdeeds, including propositioning employees for sex and grabbing an employee’s breasts against her will. Halperin issued a statement to CNN and apologized for his actions. He has been removed from his roles at Bloomberg TV and MSNBC, and a host of other media ties he had have been severed.
Unfortunately, these are not the only people accused of sexual misconduct. A full catalogue of media offenders (along with offenders across industries) can be found here.
In the midst of ongoing investigations and allegations that continue to surface, the importance of good journalism cannot be understated. Because of the industry’s hard work, workplace sexual harassment by powerful men has been placed in the forefront of the American public consciousness.
Even if one believes only those men who have admitted to their wrongdoing (as have all those mentioned in this article), the problem is clearly endemic of the American workplace — a fact long-recognized by women, but now undeniable for the greater population.
It should further be acknowledged that many of these stories are being broken by female journalists.
At The New York Times, there was investigative reporter Megan Twohey (who co-authored the initial piece on Weinstein), culture reporters Melena Ryzik and Cara Buckley (who co-authored the initial piece on Louis C.K.) and best-selling author Jodi Kantor (a co-author on both pieces).
The prominence of female journalists in reporting these allegations is particularly notable given the high representation of powerful men in journalism among those accused.
To all the journalists whose work has paved the way for our current national introspection on proper workplace conduct and general human decency: well done. Good journalism deserves a round of applause right now.