What Newsrooms Have Learned — And Need To Change — In The Wake Of #MeToo

By Heidi Stevens Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Heidi Stevens reports, a recent report highlighting lessons learned by newsrooms from #MeToo includes that a "Focus on sexual misconduct alone is insufficient. Harassment and discrimination are inextricably linked together."

Chicago Tribune

For two years in a row, more than 100 newsroom leaders from across the country have gathered to discuss what they've learned in the wake of #MeToo revelations that rocked the media industry, and just about every other industry.

The Freedom Forum Institute, a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to defending the First Amendment, released a report highlighting some of the key lessons from this year's meeting, held in mid-January. They include:

"Focus on sexual misconduct alone is insufficient. Harassment and discrimination are inextricably linked together."

"The underrepresentation of women and lack of diversity at all levels of media organizations continues; this inequity fuels the problems of sexual misconduct and discrimination."

"Sexual harassment and misconduct constitute just one form of illegal discrimination. Attention must be paid to all forms, including racial, ethnic, gender, and age."

"There are still many stories of sexual misconduct and discrimination that need to be told. Stories about systemic failures, vulnerable workers in low-wage industries and gender inequity in dangerous environments aren't well covered."

"#MeToo doesn't just equal white women," Sarah Glover, National Association of Black Journalists president, told the group. "We really have to break out of that thinking immediately."

Glover urged journalists to use "Surviving R. Kelly," the documentary that aired in early January, as an invitation to examine whether they're listening to all voices in their communities, not just those with power and wealth.

"That was a really good learning moment about how there are many stories in our communities and society at large that we probably are not spending enough time on," Glover said. "It's a good takeaway to go back to your newsroom and say, 'What is the R. Kelly moment in our community that we are not paying attention to?' "

Listening to all voices requires, first, being trusted to bear witness.

Journalists, the report concluded, should be trained in trauma-informed reporting in order to understand the psychological effects of trauma and learn to interview and write about sources in a way that doesn't exacerbate it.

Listening also requires proximity. As Aminda Marques Gonzales, executive editor of the Miami Herald, put it:

"We don't want to cover our community like a foreign correspondent just landing in an exotic locale and discovering the natives."

The report urges newsrooms to consider how they handle #MeToo stories that don't have a superstar at their center.

"Are we telling stories of those whose voices have traditionally been muted?" the report asks. "Are we looking beyond the rich and powerful to communities of the disenfranchised and vulnerable? Who tells the stories of pervasive sexual violence against women who work in low-wage jobs as janitors, agricultural workers and hotel housekeepers?"

The meeting and the report are by and for journalists. But the ripple effects are far-reaching. The voices you hear, the stories that are amplified, what you know about the world you live in and the people you share it with, all of that's influenced tremendously by the media and how we do our jobs.

This report strikes me as good news. Progress. A sign that the #MeToo movement, launched more than a decade ago by activist Tarana Burke, built upon in the wake of Harvey Weinstein, is about a whole lot more than just ridding workplaces of bad apples and bad behavior.

It's about making sure power is more evenly distributed in our culture. It's about making sure power isn't abused. It's about honoring the humanity of all people, not just the ones whose lives look just like ours.

Let's keep going. ___ Join the Heidi Stevens Balancing Act Facebook group, where she hosts live chats every Wednesday at noon.

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