Editorial: Evidence vs. effects: implications of the journalistic process

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On Oct. 5, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey published an article in The New York Times detailing decades of rape and sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. A name that should be familiar in the Hollywood sphere, Weinstein is a film producer and co-founder of Miramax Films and The Weinstein Company, which is responsible for films such as “Pulp Fiction,” “The King’s Speech” and “Good Will Hunting.”

Weinstein’s career and reputation have rightfully been destroyed. No formal charges have been filed as of publication, but Weinstein was terminated from his own company and ousted from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. When the most recent article finally broke, up-and-coming actresses at the time who have now become household names — Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow — were among those who came forward.

In light of these revelations, hundred of thousands of people have begun to use #MeToo to give people the sense of the magnitude of the issue, an idea put forward by Alyssa Milano on Twitter. Women — and men — listened to her rally cry and sacrificed their privacy to move a necessary dialogue to the forefront of the public eye. Their stories are harrowing, but unfortunately these stories are not the first.

In a 30-year pattern of abuse that included extensive threats and even violence, Weinstein continuously got away with his crimes. Rumors of his sexual harassment and assault were known as one of Hollywood’s worst kept secrets. The New York Times and The New Yorker struggled to produce enough evidence to publish a story in the past.

Crimes like Weinstein’s should have been revealed decades ago, before more women were victimized

For this case, the journalistic process delayed public knowledge of Weinstein’s extensive and ongoing harassment. When handling sensitive, and possibly incriminating, cases such as these, the process is more important than the result. While The New York Times and The New Yorker took years to develop professional and substantiated articles, people have questioned the ethics behind keeping stories like these under wraps while facts are being gathered.

Crimes like Weinstein’s should have been revealed decades ago, before more women were victimized. Whether or not an article published earlier would’ve stopped further harassment will always be an issue. But doing that and not having enough information to back up accusations leads to bigger problems, both legally and reputationally.

Weinstein’s downfall is a public example of what happens when crimes like this are not ignored. Journalists at two respected newspapers took the time to invest in the issue and investigate it properly, giving a voice to those who for decades had remained silent.

As a student publication responsible for ensuring that voices of the Muhlenberg community are heard, we will not shy away from publishing stories that make people uncomfortable.

 

 

 

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