Option 3: Lessons About The Practice Of Journalism And The News Media Industry From “She Said” By Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
In their book, She said: Breaking the sexual harassment story that helped ignite a movement Jodi Kanto and Megan Twohey explores how cases of sexual harassment and intimidation of women has been normalized at the workplace for ages. Despite the advances and progress that women have made over the years, they have had to withstand humiliating and denigrating experiences with little or no course for redress (Kanto and Twohey 1). Women of all cadres from the distinguished female scientist to the waitress in out favorite diner, have endured distressing situations despite sexual harassment being against the law. For several years, they have watched their assailants get applauded, without facing any dire consequences (Kanto and Twohey 1). However, the exposure of recent sexual harassment scandals exposed by the media has laid bare the magnitude and the endemic reality of the issue. Individuals in power have managed to curtail their inhumane treatment of women, among them including Harvey Weinstein, Brett Kavanaugh, and the United States president Donald Trump, to mention but a few (Kanto and Twohey 4,14). Therefore, news media industry is powerful that can not only raise public awareness on power abuse and the moral patriarchal rot in organizations.
She Said- Book Content
She Said is a book by Jodi Kantor and Megan Towhey which covers decades of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and assault against both junior employees and A-list actors (Kantor and Twohey 7) . He is the co-founder of “The Weinstein Company”, and one of the most influential and powerful Hollywood producers. Weinstein rose to prominence in the entertainment industry by turning small films into major hits, and as a result of astute promotional ability. He instigated the careers of many megastars, and won about five Oscars throughout his active years. Weinstein was also politically active and raised funds for democratic candidates such as Hillary Clinton. Although rumors of sexual harassment followed Weinstein no complains were made on record as reported by the authors.
The story begins with Rose McGowan, an actor, turning down an interview with Kantor after she had alleged publicly that a Hollywood producer had raped her, she however withheld his identity (Kantor and Twohey 8). Twohey and Kantor had constantly met women who declined talking to them not only out of fear or intimidation, but the possible risk of financial ruin. Gradually, the journalists realized Weinstein’s sexual harassment had been concealed by gagging clauses, accompanied by pay-offs (Peters and Besley 458). The gagging clauses were further accompanied by absurdly strict terms which prevented accusers from hearing the stories of other victims, and sharing the allegations with their family, spouses, or the media (Ence 165). Finally, as different women narrated their encounters on sexual harassment, Twohey and Kanto started realizing, it was not possible for all these women to falsify their experiences, especially because fundamental similarities in details often emerged (13). It is nearly impossible for numerous persons to invent similar details.
Consequently, the authors cover the Kavanaugh hearings, which illustrates the how easy it is for men in power to cover up cases of sexual harassment or assault. It revealed the shortcomings of the justice system in addressing the accusations levelled against reputable individuals. According to Kanto and Twohey, Brasey Ford turned from a victim to a casualty of the growing backlash on women who expose their perpetrators. Her encounter in seeking justice demonstrates the futility of filing charges of sexual assault against men in power. The only assistance she could get would end up being politicized, thus masking the truth despite
Towards the end of the book, Twohey and Kantor explain how they came up with the idea of gathering women who had been victims of sexual assault. Their primary intention was to find answers to the fundamental questions regarding the sequence of events that occurred after speaking up and their views regarding everything that happened (Kantor and Twohey 249). In most of the cases, it became apparent that most of them were facing different challenges when the harassments occurred. Twohey and Kantor have more than enough evidence and are convinced that Weinstein is a serial abuser, but they still need more evidence before printing the story. Eventually, Irwin Reiter, a senior executive from Weinstein’s company decided to break his silence on matter by sharing Laureen O’Connor’s memo, and disclosing about the sums of money that were disbursed to various women to Kantor (Kantor and Twohey 104). It turns out Weinstein paid off women in a bid to silence them, this ultimately became evidence for the veracity of their claims.
She Said- How The Book Was Received And Controversies Surrounding It
She Said was received as a brave book that brought to light various systematic truths that some were aware of, but afraid to speak up. To most readers, it stood out as the best non-fiction story they had ever read, and it is one of the best journalism books. The book depicts a culture that fosters/enables sexual misconduct, consequently, sparking the #MeToo movement (Cobb and Horeck 489). The movement, in turn, prompted the media to take stories on sexual harassment more seriously, and also helped the women abused by Weinstein to file formal charges against him (Jaffe 80). Most importantly, within days after its publication, the book stirred a plethora of stories about sexual abuse and harassment from women who had suffered for years in silence trusting and hoping that people would finally understand their stories with no judgement (Cobb and Horeck 489). Consequently, numerous men from all socio-economic status were outed for harassment or mistreating their coworkers (Jaffe 80). Until today, the #MeToo movement remains a source of commonality and solidarity for sexual harassment victims.
Gwyneth Paltrow, one of the key informants, was at the time facing a public relation crisis, and was concerned that the Weinstein story would be perceived as a fake exposé should she go on record as a sexual harassment victim in the Weinstein company (Kantor and Twohey 61). Paltrow successful company Goop was under scrutiny for lying to consumers about the $66 vaginal egg product. This “jade egg” saga slowed down Paltrow testimony. Twohey and Kantor also note that Paltrow initially did not want to take part in She Said as she was privately concerned that her employees alongside with her might not be able to face any more controversies (Kantor and Twohey 61). Paltrow explained that she had about 100 employees working for her, and who depended on the income to raise their children and pay mortgages, and having more controversies surrounding her might harm them.
Uncovering The Allegations About Weinstein
It was difficult for Twohey and Kantor to uncover the allegations about Weinstein. The authors had to start their investigation by locating former employees of Weinstein and Miramax. Initially, some employees were scared of speaking up due to fear of retaliation and Weinstein volatility (Kantor and Twohey 20). They were worried that Weinstein would ruin their lives once he discovered their identity. Moreover, many of the employees also said that Weinstein’s associates intimidate and confront those that defied him, and they dreaded that they could also be targeted (Peters and Besley 458). Multiple sources claimed that Weinstein often boasted about sending items about those who spoke ill against him in media outlets. Several sources pointed to the Gutierrez’s case, and how negatives items pertaining to her sexual history were planted after she reported to the police. The items rapidly began appearing in gossip pages in New York and impugned on her credibility. The reporters were eventually able to uncover multiple allegations from female employees about Weinstein’s inappropriate behavior, patterns of retaliation and threats, and payoffs for remaining silent about sexual harassment.
Obstacles The Authors Faced When Obtaining, Verifying, And Publishing Information
As earlier stated, the authors underwent a difficult time trying to persuade Weinstein’s sexual assault and harassment victims. There was a period where Twohey and Kantor drafted a joint bio and sent it to actresses to convince them that they were impact-oriented journalists, hence their experiences will be taken with utmost seriousness. After listening to the allegations made by the former female employees, the authors took them seriously as they had initially promised and were set on a vigorous verification process (Kantor and Twohey 31). First, the authors decided to engage with Lanny Davis, a public relation person hired by Weinstein, on the background. Twohey and Kantor thought it would be valuable to hear out Davis, based on their experience persons with information to hide often sell themselves out by accident. On their first background interview, the authors were able to make him speak up on the secret financial settlements that had been made. Ultimately, Davis provided useful information that was incorporated into the story.
The Weinstein story required significant evidence in order to be published: ideally records accounts, and written financial and legal proof. The quest for the latter proof accompanied by overcoming obstacles thrown by Weinstein and his associates, the legal system, and a corporate culture is what makes the book an instant investigative journalism classic. The verification process is full of clandestine meetings, emotional interviews, and unraveling secret documents (Farrow 11). In this case, the verification process mainly evolved around tracking the financial settlements made between the perpetrator and victims of sexual misconduct. The financial settlements were not only enabling impunity, enforcing silence, and pernicious, but also created reporting avenues (Farrow 11). Complex transactions like the one Weinstein made to his victims can hardly be kept secret as these kinds of agreements involve large sums of money, negotiations, and lawyers. Therefore, it was inevitable that other agents, colleagues, friends, and family members found out. Whereas Weinstein thought that the financial settlements could prevent the story, they actually made the story.
The authors encountered obstacles while trying to get the information to the public. The book points out delay tactics from Weinstein and his team. As the book’s publication date neared, about 5 of Weinstein’s lawyers including Charles Harder, Lisa Bloom, Lanny Davis, and David Boies continually requested for additional time to respond from reporters (Kantor and Twohey 143). After the response deadline passed, Harder threatened to sue the New York Times for defamation in an 18-page memo, and further requested for additional 14 days to respond. Moreover, Harder described the former female employees providing information to the reporters as disgruntled, and having ulterior motives. He requested preservation of the information provided by the sources, as according to him the statements were basically defamatory and false (Kantor and Twohey 144). The New York Times perceived this as “legalistic bullying”.
No ethical issues are evident in the story. The authors protected their sources, at numerous points in the story the authors could have rushed to print their story and it would have still made headlines and boost circulation and traffic of the New York Times. However, these claims would have been easily dismissed by a lawyer eventually destroying the reputation and lives of the female employees who had entrusted their testimonies to them. Moreover, the authors also patiently waited on the response of Weinstein and his team although it was evident that they were delaying the book’s publication. The authors are at the foreground of the narrative. Twohey and Kantor provide the reader with immediate information they are actively seeking about the characters presented in the story. Details are offered through narrative, description, character actions, dialogue, and that what readers mainly concentrate on. As a result, the book provides readers with in depth and current information as they follow the Weinstein’s story.
She said is a powerful illustration of factors that make journalism impactful. Twohey and Kantor take readers through the meticulous, time consuming, and thorough work that is required or intrinsic to gaining the trust of victims, gathering evidence, and maneuvering obstacles that hindered their paths to publishing the article. The authors not only exposed Weinstein but also his associates and the system that kept him safe at the expense of his victims. In the process, they also reveal a legal system which promises justice to its people but often comes up too short. She said further proves journalism and news media can persuade, educate, and help persons form opinion. Most importantly, it portrays journalism as an overseer of abuse and excess use of power by powerful individuals and the government. Furthermore, Twohey and Kantor commitment and dedication are pivotal to the #Me too movement, this further illustrates that there are millions of viewers and readers globally are relying on the media to offer fact-based, honest, authoritative reporting that shed light on issues on public interest.
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Cobb, Shelley, and Tanya Horeck. “Post Weinstein: gendered power and harassment in the media industries.” (2018): 489-491.
Ence, Jonathan. “I Like You When You Are Silent: The Future of NDAS and Mandatory Arbitration in the Era of# MeToo.” J. Disp. Resol. (2019): 165.
Farrow, Ronan. “Harvey Weinstein’s Secret Settlements.” The New Yorker 21 (2017).
Jaffe, Sarah. “The collective power of# MeToo.” Dissent 65.2 (2018): 80-87.
Kantor, Jodi, and Megan Twohey. She said: Breaking the sexual harassment story that helped ignite a movement. Penguin, 2019.
Peters, Michael A., and Tina Besley. “Weinstein, sexual predation, and ‘Rape Culture’: Public pedagogies and Hashtag Internet activism.” (2019): 458-464.