Magazine article Nieman Reports

Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey on the Meticulous Reporting and Hard-Earned Trust Behind the Harvey Weinstein Investigation: The New York Times Reporters Discuss Gaining Sources' Trust, Journalism versus Activism, and the Limits of #MeToo Journalism

Magazine article Nieman Reports

Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey on the Meticulous Reporting and Hard-Earned Trust Behind the Harvey Weinstein Investigation: The New York Times Reporters Discuss Gaining Sources' Trust, Journalism versus Activism, and the Limits of #MeToo Journalism

Article excerpt

In the fall of 2017 The New York Times published Jodi Kantofs and Megan Twohey's explosive investigation into the sexual harassment and abuse allegations against film mogul Harvey Weinstein. During their book tour for "She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement," they spoke at the Nieman Foundation in October in conversation with curator Ann Mane Lipinski.

Before the Weinstein investigation, each of the two reporters already had deep experience telling stories that made a difference. At the Chicago Tribune, Twohey did two investigations that led to new laws. She uncovered untested rape kits gathering dust in police storage and she detailed the cases of sex-abusing doctors who were continuing to practice. One doctor went to prison because of her reporting. "There was uniform outrage once you were able to obtain the truth," she sajs. "One of the reasons I kept doing investigations was that, of all the journalism I had done, it felt so satisfying, especially to the victims."

Kantor's work at the Times in recent years has focused on investigative journalism about women in the workplace. Her reporting on the punishing algorithm that was used to schedule workers at Starbucks helped spark a fair scheduling movement that has led to new laws and policies. Gender also was a theme of her reporting on Amazon's treatment of its whitecollar workers. Talking to Amazon workers about breaking their non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) was good preparation for the Weinstein investigation.

Secrecy turned out to be a big part of the Weinstein story. Twohey notes that Weinstein was able to prevent company officials and lawyers from scrutinizing his behavior. "I think this raises questions for the boards of companies everywhere and the executives in power everywhere: What does it look like when you allow the boss to basically act with impunity?" Edited excerpts:

On the game-changing Bill O'Reilly story Jodi Kantor: Following President Trump's election in 2016, I spent a long time worrying about what story I could do that could possibly be equal to the moment. Then what happened is that Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt did the Bill O'Reilly story.

That was the story that changed everything. I know that, in the public imagination, it can seem like, "Oh, yeah, Bill O'Reilly. That was, like, a hundred sexual harassment stories ago."

Honestly, it was a game changer and deserves to be remembered as such, for two reasons. One is that the idea that a man as powerful as O'Reilly at a conservative network could be fired, not for these allegations piling up because Fox had known about that, but fired for public exposure by journalists of these claims, was totally shocking.

Also, what Emily and Mike did was essentially invent a new way of reporting on that stuff. So often in journalism, the fact that somebody had settled meant that you couldn't write about it. They essentially reverse engineered the settlements, and they eventually figured out that O'Reilly and Fox paid $45 million to women to silence their claims.

All of a sudden, we had a new playbook for how to do these stories. The editors came to me and to several other reporters and said: "What other powerful men in American life should we look into?"

On gaining sources' trust

Kantor: There was a point in the summer of 2017 where Megan and I wrote a joint bio to send to actresses, because we were trying to send the message that we were not entertainment journalists, we were coming from impact-oriented backgrounds.

Megan Twohey: When you're making a case to somebody whether or not they should go on the record, I've always said, "We can't change what's happened to you in the past. If you work with us and we publish the truth, we might be able to protect other people. We might finally be able to bring about accountability."

Kantor: It was really helpful to be able to show people that Bill O'Reilly story and then the story that Katie Benner did about the women in Silicon Valley. …

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