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Newsrooms Obligated To Report On Internal Harassment

U.S. Department of Defense

The #MeToo movement has just been named Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” and it’s led to a lot of powerful, important journalism.

But it’s also forced media organizations to look within themselves, because a lot of the accusations are coming from their own newsrooms.

Well-known journalists like Bill O’Reilly, Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer are gone, as are several significant names within public media, including Mike Oreskes, the former head of NPR News and John Hockenberry, the former host of the Takeaway.

“If you had told me a year ago that (news organizations) would be throwing men out for sexually harassing women, I would have laughed out loud,” said Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. 

She said like any industry, news organizations are places where sexual harassment by men in positions of power can and does happen. But media should shine a brighter light on itself.

“Journalism is different because we are the people who hold others accountable,” she said. “We have a particular obligation to look in-house and see what’s going on internally. And it turns out it’s not a different picture."

The climate inside the newsroom also could be a factor in why sexual harassment is so prevalent, McBride said. Journalists cover a lot of tough stories, and it’s a place where crass language and gallows humor may be more accepted. It’s also an industry that continues to be led predominantly by men, she said.

Some organizations, such as NPR, have been particularly aggressive in reporting about in-house allegations involving their journalists, McBride said. But, that’s not the standard held by all.

“Some newsrooms do the bare minimum, and we see that most often. Some newsrooms aren’t covering their own story at all, even though they are covering other stories. It’s sort of is a big elephant in the room when you see them talking about other journalists on TV that don’t work for them, when you know there’s internal stuff they are dealing with,” she said.

“But it is the climate of the media we live in today that there are widely varying standards of reporting.” 

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