NPR is fumbling its sexual harassment mess
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Giving Michael Oreskes a pass for too long
It's time for an NPR special report: "Sexual Harassment at NPR: Few Things Considered."
"Questions are being raised in the NPR newsroom about when management became aware of some of the allegations against Oreskes and why firmer action wasn't taken prior to the release of the Post's report."
That's from a story about the tawdry fall of Michael Oreskes, a top NPR news executive with an A-list journalistic pedigree, amid allegations of sexual harassment both at The New York Times and NPR. But stop. It's from an NPR story that is a product of the Lilia Stepanova School of Journalism, hereby inaugurated in honor of the young Moldovan contortionist who gained fame on "The Jimmy Kimmel Show" and "America's Got Talent."
"Questions are being raised ...." Oh, really? Well, let's thank Paul Farhi of The Washington Post — and not NPR — for raising and answering them rather more quickly than NPR.
He informs, "NPR’s senior management was aware of multiple harassment complaints by women against its top newsroom executive during the past two years but took no action to remove him from his job until news reports about his conduct appeared on Tuesday."
NPR has gained nomination for entry into the Human Resources Hall of Shame (forget being beat two days in a row on its own story) for stunning managerial ineptitude (which, come to think of it, includes a lack of basic due diligence in hiring Oreskes in the first place). Its inaction prompted Farhi's latest story, as he readily conceded last night during my outreach between innings of the World Series.
Referring to NPR women who gave him a shout, he told me, "They thought it was outrageous that this guy was making editorial decisions about (Harvey) Weinstein and harassment stories."
This was even more melancholy than my having to stare all night at a funereal Larry King, who sits in back of home plate at Dodgers Stadium, as Houston won the World Series. But I also contacted Suzanne Muchin, a corporate consultant and branding expert and co-host of a smart podcast, "The Big Payoff," which often brings up business and cultural issues involving women.
"What this shows is that the myth of 'in a culture of ___,' sexual harassment occurs is no longer a viable frame for discussion. The source of the problem isn’t about the company or industry and what it values. It’s not 'where there’s money' or 'where there’s emphasis on women’s physical appearance.' Nope. The only common denominator is men and power. Period. End of story."
"The power differential ... between a waitress and the restaurant manager ... the bank teller and branch supervisor ... the writer and publisher ... those are the only two ingredients that are needed for harassment to occur. That — and the silence of those who choose to maintain that power equation rather than do the right thing on behalf of women they work with. "
"That’s the cocktail," she said, concluding thus:
"So there’s a need to unpack the micro specifics of that dynamic. What are the common patterns of bad behavior of men in positions of power over a female employee? I want to know that story exactly. Because just like there is a 'moment of truth' that entrepreneurs identify so that they understand intimately the moment a customer decides to purchase a product, there is a moment of truth when a man in power decides he can get away with an action that he knows intellectually is wrong."
When you understand that moment, she said, and what guys like Oreskes and Weinstein tell themselves, you will start having insight into how to stop the behavior before it starts.
Until then, why doesn't OBN (Old Boys Network) — my mistake, NPR — clean house and have some of its very smart women take over. Otherwise, The Post's Farhi may wind up exhausted from taking calls from them.
Facebook, Google and Twitter in the Capitol Hill dock
The companies are subjects of a three-day U.S. House and Senate flogging. Yesterday even brought tech-friendly California Sen. Dianne Feinstein to declare: "You’ve created these platforms, and now, they’re being misused, and you have to be the ones to do something about it. Or we will."
There were many interesting exchanges on Russian advertising, the firms' relations with intelligence services, the tons of money made off the presidential campaign, data mining, privacy and relations with Russia Today. For the tech cognoscenti, here were six revealing moments on Day Two of the Capitol Hill spectacle, according to Wired.
Meanwhile, Facebook saw its share price rise after topping Wall Street's earnings expectations for the quarter. It indicated monthly users were up 16 percent, to about 2.1 billion. In case you were morally outraged by its performance at the hearing, you could turn to CNBC and hear tech analyst Mark Mahaney of RBC Capital Networks assure that 70 percent of surveyed Facebook advertisers planned to raise their spending with Facebook.
Unless some new "cost element" arose via regulation, Mahaney said, it's in very good shape. So forget the Capitol Hill theatrics, even as it elicited some unsettling realities, and just follow the money.
The Wall Street Journal and Robert Mueller
Vanity Fair's Joe Pompeo looks at the unceasing Wall Street Journal attack on Robert Mueller's investigation via its editorial and op-ed pages. And he notes how "Recode’s Kara Swisher, a Journal alum, sneered, 'I feel sorry for every decent reporter at the WSJ for this claptrap from Rupert Murdoch’s ever desiccated soul.'"
Can you defend The Journal? Perhaps. You'd make the case that it's being intentionally provocative with takes that aren't totally nuts. Implicit in some of the backlash against the paper is the notion — and it's a naive one — that the FBI is some non-political paragon of neutrality. It's not. And Mueller himself has more than a smidgen of righteousness. There is also the institutional peril — which I have seen close up — of a sanctimony that can be blinding.
And remember, too, that at all levels of government, there is the media's tendency to play the prosecutors' game. It's easier to get stories that way. The Journal may be quite short of persuasive on Mueller's probe, but it's not necessarily out of bounds.
CNN "New Day" co-host Chris Cuomo came out of the gate with editorial gusto as he contrasted Trump's "brash response" in talking about sending the New York City terrorism suspect to Guantanamo with Trump's modest response after the Las Vegas mass shooting. The new tough-guy stance "stands in such stark contrast with his refusal to address the bigger issues" after that man "opened fire on thousands of concertgoers."
Fox's "Trump & Friends" clearly thought Guantanamo a good idea. It said Attorney General Jeff Sessions was "sitting on his hands" by not designating him an "enemy combatant" instantly. It seemed aghast — or at least co-host Brian Kilmeade did — that the suspect is now "lawyered-up and Mirandized," rather than presumably jammed into a potato sack and secretly being dispatched to Cuba.
MSNBC relied per usual on the reporting of The New York Times and Washington Post, reading aloud snatches that include Trump calling the former (per usual, Maggie Haberman, who should send the guy bills for shrink services since she's so deep in his head) and projecting himself as an island of tranquility amid reports of constant White House angst due to the Mueller investigation and the Paul Manafort indictment. It was also pretty loosey-goosey in throwing out unconfirmed notions of Dad wanting to dispatch Daughter (Ivanka) and Son-in-Law (Jared) back to New York City.
Oh, speaking of Ukraine — which the media is not, other than to note that folks there paid Manafort more than $17 million, which he allegedly sought to launder into real estate and fancy clothes — does the press care a hoot these days about what's actually happening there? Remember the 24/7 coverage of the military face-off with Putin and pro-Russian separatists during the long-ago Obama years? Well, I called Ukraine expert Alexander Motyl for an update and heard that there's been huge and quiet progress there.
Dumb comment of the day
There's still most of the day left but a winner is probably Steve Cortes, a Fox contributor and former "Trump Hispanic adviser" who appeared on Fox this morning to discuss a feud between the Justice Department and California over Gov. Jerry Brown signing a bill designating the state a "sanctuary state" for immigrants.
Along the way, he equated similar support for sanctuary status by Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Chicago Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel with Southern governors in the 1950s "who flouted federal civil rights laws and President Eisenhower and President Kennedy had to intervene." Seriously? This is the same as Eisenhower sending in federal troops to enforce a court order and integrate Central High School in Little Rock? Ah, no.
Apology for a racist taunt
Cuban Yuli Gurriel of the Houston Astros got to the plate in the first inning of last night's World Series finale and tipped his batting helmet to Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish. It was an apology for a well-chronicled racist gesture and word he uttered at Darvish in a previous game. By coincidence, New York Times deputy sports editor Randy Archibold, who was raised in Panama, had already posted a short piece on the "Race/Related" blog on how Gurriel's upbringing "could be used by him to justify insisting that he had not meant any offense."
It wasn't totally convincing. Or at least not as inviting as the Astros win, which quickly prompted the Houston Chronicle online headline, "Hollywood ending! Astros beat Dodgers in Game 7 to win World Series."
Good digital news (maybe)
"Hey, journalists — some good news (finally, maybe)," writes Recode. Yes, good news, finally, maybe.
"The paper of record is getting very close to its goal of building an $800 million digital business. That’s astounding, given where The New York Times started just six years ago — embarking on an existentially fraught plan to charge readers for online access for the first time."
Poynter notes, "Net digital subscription growth from the second quarter was 154,000 — 105,000 for the basic news product, the rest for crosswords and a new cooking vertical."
There are obvious dark clouds in the vicinity, with total revenues on a steady decline the past decade and no certainty whether digital subscriptions will vaguely supplant what's lost in disappearing print circulation and the shift of ads to the aforementioned Facebook and Google. Not underscored is how digital subs and ads represent about one-third of Times revenues, so digital alone doesn't come close to funding the company. Print ad sales, which are nearly 1.5 times greater than digital ad volume, are falling almost as fast as digital ads are rising.
Yes, it's possible that digital sales can grow as fast as Recode says, but can The Times, or any legacy print publisher, grow fast enough digitally to sustain in the future what they were in the past? Or even what, in the case of The Times, is how it's sustaining (and admirably so) with a 1,300-person newsroom that does wonderful work in far more diverse areas than anybody? That's the question amid the "good news."
The new Federal Reserve chairman is not ...
Sarah Huckabee Sanders — and don't we reserve use of middle names for presidential inaugurals and mass killers? — can't be mistaken for Amy Schumer. But she wasn't bad when asked at the daily White House briefing, "Can you tell us if his Federal Reserve Chair pick is a man or a woman? (Laughter.)"
"Ms. Sanders: No, I cannot tell you that. But I can once again echo that it's not Major Garrett again today. Still consistent."
Hey, why not Garrett, the CBS correspondent? I asked him about his potential qualifications. "I graduated with two college degrees and never took a single math class. If that doesn’t qualify me, I don’t know what would."
What's generally tagged "media literacy" is a rather "in" topic for industry discussion these days and prompts a daylong gathering Monday in New York City sponsored by Reuters and the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE). There are lots of journalists and educators scheduled to appear, including CNN's Brian Stelter, Vice News editor-in-chief Ryan McCarthy and CUNY graduate journalism dean Sarah Bartlett.
There's no room apparently left to register, but here's what Steve Adler, Reuters' editor-in-chief, says about the gathering's reason for being: “More than ever it is critical for students, and all news consumers, to understand how to evaluate the constant flow of news and messages coming at them, and to apply critical thinking to help discern what deserves their attention. Good journalism helps people make better decisions. Media literacy helps readers find that good journalism.”
Want a business journalism fellowship?
The Winter 2018 McGraw Fellowship via the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism offers $5,000 a month for up to three months and there's no residency requirement. You just need a good notion of a business-economics enterprise story and five years of full-time or freelance experience. Here's how to apply by Dec. 17.
NBC's Lester Holt went out to California to interview Apple boss Tim Cook, eliciting Cook's take on tax reform and other matters. He heeded the Silicon dress code of no tie — he opted for a checked sports shirt and "Father's Knows Best" dark cardigan-like pullover — even though he hosted the actual broadcast in the standard issue dark suit, white shirt and tie. It was understated elegance, even as it manifested the chameleon-like affectation of anchors to sartorially imitate their environs, be it covering war or peace.
When I turned on the Fox broadcast of the World Series finale, the pre-game fare included journalists Tom Verducci interviewing the Dodgers manager and Ken Rosenthal interrogating the Astros manager. I briefly imagined them wearing baseball uniforms and spikes as they inquired about pitching strategy for the game ahead.
But, wouldn't you know, they were both in tie and jacket.