They wrote the book on #MeToo, plus Sarah Sanders on ‘Fox & Friends’ and Steve Kroft retires

Your Monday Poynter Report

September 9, 2019
Category: Newsletters

This is the Poynter Institute’s daily newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here.

Good Monday. Let’s dive right in with a more detailed look at one of the biggest news stories in recent history.

The story that started a movement

On Oct. 5, 2017, an explosive story appeared in The New York Times. Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey wrote that movie producer Harvey Weinstein, one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, had paid off sexual harassment accusers for decades. Immediately, other women came forward with accusations against Weinstein, and then against other powerful men. The #MeToo movement was born.

In their new book, “She Said,” Kantor and Twohey tell the inside story of how their reporting changed the world. Two reporters with no real ties to the Hollywood scene chased down and wrote an on-the-record story about rumors that had circulated around Weinstein for years. They write in the book, “We watched with astonishment as a dam wall broke.”

The book, which will be released Tuesday, is getting rave reviews, including a glowing one from Washington Post book critic Carlos Lozada, as well as from The Times’ Susan Faludi.

Lozada called it an “instant classic,” and added, “The book is packed with reluctant sources, emotional interviews, clandestine meetings, impatient editors, secret documents, late-night door knocks, toady lawyers and showdowns with Weinstein himself. The cumulative effect is almost cinematic, a sort of ‘All the President’s Men’ for the Me Too era, except the men are women, and they don’t protect the boss, they take him down.”

“She Said” includes behind-the-scenes details of how the Pulitzer Prize-winning story was put together, giving journalists and non-journalists a lesson on the incredible reporting it takes to produce such a story.

In her review, Faludi wrote, “Kantor and Twohey take us through the time-consuming, meticulous and often go-nowhere grunt work that’s intrinsic to gathering evidence, winning the trust of gun-shy victims and maneuvering past barricades that block the path to a publishable article.”

At one point, even their editor worried that all Kantor and Twohey were going to end up with was a bunch of off-the-record stories about hotel encounters that could never be published. There was another instance when Weinstein, while being questioned by the Times, threatened to take a watered-down version of the story to another news outlet. In other words, he could have scooped the Times on its scoop. But the two reporters kept digging away. Their reporting, along with the courageous testimonies from dozens of women, led to one of the biggest stories of our generation.


Harvey Weinstein in 2017. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

Biggest revelation

The part of “She Said” that is garnering much attention ahead of its release is just how many people tried to protect Weinstein. That includes Weinstein lawyer Lisa Bloom, the daughter of attorney Gloria Allred — an advocate for women who once represented one of Weinstein’s accusers.

The book found that Bloom promised Weinstein she would discredit his accusers, including actress Rose McGowan. In a memo obtained by Kantor and Twohey, Bloom wrote, “I feel equipped to help you against the Roses of the world, because I have represented so many of them.” She added that she would start a “counterops online campaign to push back and call her out as a pathological liar. … We can place an article re her becoming increasingly unglued, so that when someone Googles her this is what pops up and she’s discredited.”

Bloom has since apologized for representing Weinstein. She addressed the issue again on Sunday, tweeting:

“While painful, I learn so much more from my mistakes than my successes.

To those who missed my 2017 apology, and especially to the women: I am sorry. Here are the changes I’ve made to ensure that I will not make that mistake again.”

She then attached her apology from two years ago.

More about ‘She Said’ …

Kantor and Twohey are scheduled to appear this morning on NBC’s  “Today” show — their first live interview ahead of the release of their book. In addition, actress Ashley Judd, one of Weinstein’s accusers, and Rowena Chiu, a former assistant at Weinstein’s Miramax production company, also will appear on this morning’s “Today” show.

Kantor and Twohey also appeared on Sunday’s “CBS Sunday Morning.”

TFW Marty Baron’s got your back


President Donald Trump last month. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Last week, The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker wrote a critical story of President Donald Trump’s “lost summer.”

In response, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham and deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley wrote about The Post’s “lost summer.” (It also appeared as an op-ed in the Washington Examiner.)

Then Trump weighed in Saturday, tweeting:

“The Washington Post’s @PhilipRucker (Mr. Off the Record) & @AshleyRParker, two nasty lightweight reporters, shouldn’t even be allowed on the grounds of the White House because their reporting is so DISGUSTING & FAKE. Also, add the appointment of MANY Federal Judges this Summer!”

Typically, newspapers ignore such Trump attacks, but this was different. Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron fired back at Trump in a statement:

“The Washington Post is immensely proud to have these two superb journalists on staff. Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker have consistently demonstrated their integrity in covering the White House. We stand fully behind them and their important work. The president’s statement fits into a pattern of seeking to denigrate and intimidate the press. It’s unwarranted and dangerous, and it represents a threat to a free press in this country.”

Watch until the end?

Late Sunday night, Trump went on a Twitter rant about criminal justice reform, taking shots at musician John Legend and his wife, model and TV personality Chrissy Teigen, for appearing with Lester Holt on “NBC Nightly News.” Holt spent last week on “Justice For All,” a reporting project about prisons and the life of prisoners. Holt was blasted by Trump for not crediting him for signing the First Step Act, which reduces sentences of non-violent offenders in federal prisons.

But during a special on Friday night’s “Dateline,” Holt specifically mentioned and showed a clip of Trump signing the act.

Investigative journalism 101


Eric Trump, the son of President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

There was another dustup between a Trump and the media over the weekend, but this one didn’t involved Donald. It involved his son, Eric. In an attempt to embarrass a reporter, Eric Trump ended up embarrassing himself.

Eric tweeted out a letter that Washington Post Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Fahrenthold sent to a member of the Trump organization. Eric wrote, “These are the tactics used by the @WashingtonPost. @JeffBezos – you should be very proud…”

In the letter, Fahrenthold introduced himself, told the person how he could be reached to talk anonymously or on background, and explained how to send documents if the person ever wanted to do so. Apparently, Eric Trump thought there was something wrong with this, but he was quickly schooled on Twitter. The HuffPost did a nice job collecting the responses.

Pass the salt


Fox News contributor Sarah Huckabee Sanders is introduced by co-host Steve Doocy for her initial appearance on “Fox & Friends” on Friday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

In her Fox News debut on Friday, former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told “Fox & Friends” that she still sometimes gets hassled when she’s out in public. Not so much in her home state of Arkansas, she said, but in New York City, such as when she’s out at a restaurant.

“What I always find interesting is 99 percent of the people that come over to say something negative and to attack you are women,” Sanders said. “And I find that very startling from a group of people that claim to be the champions of women empowerment.”

Sanders likes to point out that she’s only the third woman and first-ever mom to hold the position of White House press secretary, but she told “Fox & Friends” that she doesn’t say that to the women who verbally accost her.

“Usually what they’re looking for is a reaction,” Sanders said. “I always find it’s best to nod, smile, and say thank you for your time and walk on, because I don’t want to engage in a fight.”

When “Fox & Friends” co-host Steve Doocy said, “But you’re out of the administration,” Sanders said, “I am, but they still see me as someone who is a very pro-Trump supporter. I’m not going to change my position.”

A leaving legend


“60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft in his office in New York in 2017. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Longtime “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft officially retired from the show Sunday after 30 years. In a tribute, he was interviewed by Lesley Stahl, and the show looked back at some of his best pieces.

Kroft also appeared on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” where he told host Brian Stelter that what still makes “60 Minutes” so effective is that the show can dedicate more time to investigative pieces and interviews than many current news shows.

Over the past year, “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager was fired over accusations of inappropriate conduct. Also, CBS replaced the head of the entire network, the head of CBS News and the head of “60 Minutes.” Stelter smartly asked if some of the issues impacting CBS News had anything to do with Kroft retiring.

“Not really,” Kroft, 74, said. “It had very little to do with that. I made the decision really about a year ago that this was going to be my last season.”

Kroft said he plans on still working in TV news, perhaps producing hour-long projects and documentaries.

Hot type

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

Upcoming Poynter training:

Want to get this briefing in your inbox? Sign up here.

Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

Comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.