Press Releases

Mar 19, 2019

Power Shift Project Releases Report on #MeToo’s Impact on Media

WASHINGTON — The Freedom Forum Institute’s Power Shift Project has released a report on Power Shift Summit 2.0 which brought together more than 100 editors, reporters and experts to assess what’s changed since revelations of sexual harassment rocked the media industry.

The report, “Power Shift Summit 2.0: #MeToo and the Media One Year Later,” based on the Jan. 15 summit, highlights innovative changes in anti-harassment and workplace culture training, intentional efforts to recruit, promote and retain women and people of color, and a growing focus on safety and security in the field and online, where women and minorities are often viciously targeted.

There was also a sober recognition of how much work still needs to be done to eliminate misconduct, discrimination and newsroom cultures that foster them and to create stronger pathways to positions of power for women and people of color.

Last year’s inaugural Power Shift Summit examined the systems and silence behind the scandals and discussed solutions to create safer, more equal and diverse newsrooms. This year’s focus was on what’s changed since last year and who’s leading the way, as well as on untold stories about harassment and discrimination that still need to be covered.

“When we were in this room (last year), emotions were absolutely raw,” said Loyola University Chicago’s Jill Geisler, the Freedom Forum Institute Fellow in Women’s Leadership who moderated the summit. “The stories were new, but the story subjects were very old. Harassment and discrimination and incivility were longstanding and finally they bubbled to the surface. And maybe we are angry at a different level right now, but we are nonetheless committed.”

The Freedom Forum Institute, the programs and education partner of the Newseum, launched the Power Shift Project as an industry-wide initiative to improve the quality and future of journalism by creating workplaces free of harassment and discrimination and full of opportunity, especially for those who have traditionally been denied it.

Power Shift Summit 2.0 addressed critical concerns about the intersection of harassment and discrimination. The underrepresentation of women and lack of diversity at all levels of media organizations continues; this inequity fuels the problems of sexual misconduct and discrimination.

Participants noted that traditions and assumptions run deep. Bias in hiring and promotion continues to harm women and minorities.

“We all have to put pressure on our news organizations to say, ‘Where’s the change,’” said Sarah Glover, president of the National Association of Black Journalists. “It’s not enough just to have people of color or marginalized groups on your staff. Who is actually making the decisions?”

Creating better workplace cultures requires moving from a “compliance” approach to an “integrity” approach where daily behaviors match strong values.

“When you start talking about sexual harassment and mistreatment in the workplace, it always comes back to something more profound, which is do people, especially people who haven’t been part of your legacy organization, do they feel like they have a place here,” said Carolyn Ryan, assistant managing editor at The New York Times. “Do they have a path? That to me is the essence of why this matters. Who is the system set up to nurture and who has been left to find their way? All of that intersects and collides with this bigger question of mistreatment and misconduct in my view.”

Women and women of color, in particular, face escalating online harassment and abuse. Participants noted the tension between news organizations’ interest in promoting their work and building brands versus exposing reporters to threats and verbal attacks in the digital world.

“These are safety issues and they need to be treated seriously,” said Elisa Lees Muñoz, executive director of the International Women’s Media Foundation. “I’m moving away from calling it online harassment and calling it online attacks. Young people in particular, people under 40, are leaving the profession more quickly because of these online attacks.”

The Assignment Desk session at the summit focused on the many stories of sexual misconduct and discrimination which still need to be told through the lens of journalists who have broken stories and other experts in the room. Ideas and resources about under-covered stories across all industries are available here.

To address concerns about newsroom culture, the Power Shift Project has launched the Workplace Integrity curriculum as a unique training tool for media organizations. Workplace Integrity “Train the Trainers” workshops, led by Jill Geisler, are available to individuals in the news industry and related journalism educational organizations who will deliver the training in their own organizations. Thanks to a grant from CBS Corp., qualified applicants receive underwritten tuition and travel support to attend the workshops.

Follow the Power Shift Project on Facebook and on Twitter for the latest updates.

Clips from the program can be watched here, or explore the live blog and photos here.

About the Freedom Forum Institute

The Freedom Forum Institute is the education and outreach partner of the Freedom Forum and the Newseum. The Institute includes the First Amendment Center, the Religious Freedom Center, the Newseum’s education department and diversity and inclusion programs. The Freedom Forum Institute’s affiliate organizations include the Al Neuharth Media Center at the University of South Dakota; the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at the University of Mississippi; and the John Seigenthaler Center at Vanderbilt University. The Freedom Forum Institute is a 501(c)(3) public charity funded by generous individuals, corporations and foundations, including its principal funder, the Freedom Forum.

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Sonya Gavankar
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