It just keeps getting worse

It just keeps getting worse.

In the span of just a few hours on Monday, New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush and CBS/PBS broadcaster Charlie Rose joined the ever-growing dishonor roll of high-profile male journalists publicly accused of sexually harassing their female colleagues.

That Hall of Shame includes Mark Halperin, Michel Oreskes, Jann Wenner, Leon Wieseltier, Matt Zimmerman, Bill O’Reilly and the late Roger Ailes of Fox News, and many others across the media landscape we’ll never know because they are not famous or prominent enough to warrant a news story.

And this is far from over. I predict we’re going to hear a lot more stories of powerful media men taking advantage of their positions of prominence to perform unwanted acts of sexual aggression toward younger (often much younger) men and women at a point in their careers where they are the least powerful, the least influential.

How many smart, talented journalists have our industry lost because of sexual harassment? How many have left our profession, their careers cut short, because they could no longer tolerate the unwanted advances of a boss or co-worker? We’ll never know, and that might be the worst part of it all.

So what can we do? As SPJ ethics chairman Andrew Seaman wrote earlier this month, we need to create a culture where would-be harassers are too scared to act on their worst instincts.

As Seaman points out, the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics calls on journalists to “expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations” and to “abide by the same high standards they expect of others.”

Here are a few other ways that might help rid journalism of the scourge of sexual harassment:

  1. Demand that your newsroom, no matter its size, has a sexual harassment policy on the books.
  2. Insist that the sexual harassment policy be acknowledged in writing as having been read by every single employee.
  3. Urge your HR department or newsroom leaders to host annual sexual harassment training for all employees.
  4. Establish a peer-support network of employees, outside the chain-of-command, that can be a go-to place for victims of sexual misconduct and that’s trained to bring reports of sexual misconduct to those who might be able to make it stop.

Meanwhile, I’ve requested that all of SPJ’s regional conferences this spring host a discussion about the issue of sexual harassment in newsrooms. And I’m urging SPJ chapters to sponsor an event about what to do when encountering sexual harassment on the job.

Hopefully these discussions – inside and outside the newsroom – can help purge the predators and protect the respectable practitioners of journalism.



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