149 Newsrooms Ignore Sexual Harassment Survey


149 Newsrooms Ignore Sexual Harassment Survey

The Columbia Journalism Review writes that media outlets have "fallen short on their responsibility to keep their own reporters safe'

Three weeks after the Columbia Journalism Review sent sexual harassment surveys to 149 newsrooms, not a single one of them had responded, CJR noted last week when it revealed its findings.

After the wave of sexual harassment and assault allegations against disgraced media mogul Harvey Weinstein took the world by storm in October, it didn’t take long for powerful media figures to follow suit. Longtime NBC News “Today” show host Matt Lauer was fired last week after the network received “a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.” Before Lauer, former CBS News legend Charlie Rose and former MSNBC political analyst Mark Halperin were accused of sexual harassment by multiple women  and lost their jobs.

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“At the center of this stream of breaking-news alerts is the reality that our newsrooms, committed to truth and transparency in the public interest, have long fallen short on their responsibility to keep their own reporters safe,” CJR noted. “And so the Columbia Journalism Review has set out to better understand the sexual harassment policies in place at newsrooms around the country.”

As a result, CJR — viewed as one of the journalism profession’s most trusted authorities — designed surveys in late October and distributed them to 149 news organizations by email in early November. One survey was geared toward journalists, while the other was geared toward newsrooms’ management officials and human resources personnel and another targeted media freelancers. The surveys sought to gauge how well employees understood their companies’ sexual harassment policies and procedures, as well as how the companies put together and rolled out their policies.

Although 310 newsroom staffers and freelancers replied to the employee surveys, management officials were mum.

“Our goal is to learn more about how newsrooms handle claims of sexual misconduct in an attempt to demonstrate that, as an industry, we are both able and willing to answer the same hard questions we demand of other industries,” CJR wrote. “But in three weeks, we heard back from not a single one of the 149 newsrooms we contacted to participate.”

Some of the outlets that didn’t respond to the sexual harassment policy survey include MSNBC, CBS, PBS, The New Yorker, Politico, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Huffington Post, and Slate.

“Thirty-three percent of corporate recipients opened the first email and just 9 percent clicked through to the actual survey,” CJR noted. “Some recipients opened the email multiple times; officials at The Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones opened the email a total of 11 times. The Intercept opened it six times, and The Atlantic opened it five times. Ultimately, none submitted answers.”

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CJR said its goal was to glean data on “basic editorial staff demographics” and “any existing sexual harassment policies and reporting procedures.”

“Our goal was to apply the same standards of transparency to our peers that we demand of other industries,” CJR wrote.

Although CJR was disappointed with the newsroom management teams’ lack of response, the employees’ and freelancers’ response rate offered some “illuminating” observations about workforce harassment policies and procedures. Of the 310 staffers who responded, 81 percent were female and 16 percent were male.

While 66 percent of the respondents said their employers laid out clear sexual harassment guidelines and procedures, a combined 34 percent either disagreed or strongly disagreed when asked if they understood the policies and procedures.

(photo credit, homepage image: Matt Lauer, cut out, CC BY 2.0, by Anders Krusberg, Peabody Awards / Charlie Rose, cut out, CC BY 2.0, by Peabody Awards / Mark Halperin, cut out, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore; photo credit, article image: Charlie Rose, cut out, CC BY 2.0, by Peabody Awards / Mark Halperin, cut out, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore)

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PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected].