MeToo movement deserves greater coverage

The national and public conversation about sexual harassment started for many with a New York Times notification on their phone that linked to a story, written by Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, that detailed instances of abuse and sexual misconduct at the hand of powerful producer Harvey Weinstein. Much of the public conversation has been built on the backs of powerful reporting done by hardworking journalists and the testimony of brave men and women that fuel these stories.

But journalistic institutions have not always pursued such reporting as avidly as they perhaps ought to, sometimes in the interest of not wanting to make powerful enemies, or shying away from stories they deem as too controversial. Notably, NBC passed on Trump’s “pussy” tape, which eventually was published by Access Hollywood. Months later, they passed again on Weinstein story though it was brought to them by their own contributor, Ronan Farrow, and, according to Farrow in an interview with MSNBC, there had been “multiple determinations that it was reportable.”

Additionally, focus in coverage has leaned toward celebrities accused of sexual harassment. Many of the actors wearing black and Time’s Up pins at the Golden Globes had either worked with people being accused of sexual harassment or had faced sexual harassment allegations themselves. An abstract commitment by public figures to end a culture that they themselves are perpetrating does little to affect the actual systemic issues at play. The Time’s Up organization itself, and many of the actors involved, were careful to make it clear that the problem did not begin and end with Hollywood, with activists such as Monica Ramirez, who works to defend the rights of migrant workers, Tarana Burke, activist for women of color and founder of the #MeToo movement, and Marai Larasi, who works to combat gender-based violence, brought as dates by actors affiliated with the organization.

Though much of the public attention has centered around stories that involve the rich and famous, some of the most powerful reporting that this movement has spawned has focused on the pervasive problem of harassment and sexual assault that touches workers on the factory floor at Ford or in the hospitality industry or in public housing. Though these stories may have received less attention, they highlight the potential of good journalism to expose issues that may be harder to cover because they are systemic, or affect people with less of a societal voice.

Sometimes, there is question about whether stories should be covered at all, markedly, the story about a questionable sexual encounter involving actor and comedian Aziz Ansari. One of the most outspoken critics was The New York Times staff editor Bari Weiss, who, in an opinion piece, called the article “arguably the worst thing that has happened to the #MeToo movement.”

Arguably the worst thing that could happen to the #MeToo movement would be to stifle the coverage that has prompted so much reevaluation on a societal scale. It is possible to argue that reactions may not always be proportional, or that the movement, like most that happen on such a large scale, may lack some nuance, but recent examples have seemed not to have borne this theory out. Consequences have differed depending on what is alleged, and have ranged from mild public shaming to legal moves. Moreover, refusing the public the chance to even be allowed to dissect and classify these instances does them a disservice. The role of journalism in this movement is to place well reported newsworthy stories in the public forum while keeping a commitment to high-quality reporting.

At the sentencing this past week of Larry Nassar, doctor and pedophile, Assistant Attorney General Angela Povialitis claimed that without a 2016 story in the Indianapolis Star, and the courage that it took for survivor Rachael Denhollander to contact them, Nassar would still be working as a doctor. Stated Povialitis, "what finally started this reckoning and ended this decades-long cycle of abuse was investigative reporting." Such is the power of diligent reporting at this moment.