National Newsrooms Asked by Journalism Review About Sex Harassment: Zero Replied!

What once began as a “drip…drip…” of Hollywood sexual harassers, rapists and their accusers since the outing of Hollywood magnate Harvey Weinstein, the floodgate has opened to not only include Hollywood men, but also notable male journalists – the biggest name so far being the Today show’s Matt Lauer – the latest casualty of their very own wandering hands.

Since numerous allegations and implications have started taking over the very own newsrooms that first reported on the groundbreaking Weinstein scandal, media outlets across the country have been forced to take a hard look at their own environment and how they treat their employees. Trying to find out what exactly newsrooms across America were doing to help create an open and safe work environment, the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) designed two surveys - one for journalists and one for the HR professionals and senior management of newsrooms. Not to forget freelancers, another survey was issued to include them.

They declared "At the center of this stream of breaking-news alerts is the reality that our newsrooms, committed to truth and transparency in the public interest, have long fallen short on their responsibility to keep their own reporters safe."

Although many of these journalists took the time to answer the survey, not ONE of the 149 newsrooms that were contacted filled out the survey. One would think, given the political climate of sexual harassment in the workplace, at least one of these newsrooms would’ve taken the initiative to answer.

CJR writes:

“Our goal is to learn more about how newsrooms handle claims of sexual misconduct in an attempt to demonstrate that, as an industry, we are both able and willing to answer the same hard questions we demand of other industries. We wanted reporters to tell us how well they understood their employers’ formal policies. Were they given a paper or electronic copy of a sexual harassment policy upon hire? Were they required to attend sexual harassment training? If they wanted to file a complaint of abuse, would they know how to do so? We wanted newsrooms, similarly, to tell us about their formal policies. CJR staff members disseminated the staff and freelancer surveys on social media, on our website, in journalism-related online forums and groups, through email listservs, and among our own friends and formers colleagues. We sent the management survey to 149 news organizations by email.”

A sampling of the 149 news organizations are as follows:




The New Yorker

Harper’s Magazine


The Atlantic

The New Republic

The Economist


The Intercept


Bleacher Report

The New York Times

The Wall Street Journal

The Chicago Tribune

The Indianapolis Star

The Arizona Republic

Detroit Free-Press

San Jose Mercury News (CA)

The Las Vegas Review-Journal

New York Post


The Hollywood Reporter

New York Magazine

The Guardian

USA Today

Huffington Post

Incidentally, over the time of three weeks, only staff and freelance journalists took part in the surveys:

“Their responses were illuminating. Sixty-six percent of participating staff journalists said their companies had clear sexual harassment policies—a good sign. But just 21 percent strongly agreed that they understood those policies. Twenty-two percent said they disagreed when asked if they understood their newsroom’s policy, and 12 percent strongly disagreed…Most staff journalists said they attended sexual harassment training as part of a new employee orientation, but 73 percent said that they’d never been required to attend sessions outside of orientation where policies were formally discussed.

And a whopping 96 percent of freelancers said the newsrooms with which they work had never shared copies of their sexual harassment policies with them. None of the 20 freelancers who said they physically worked onsite in newsrooms at least three times per month have ever been given copies of harassment policies… it comes as no surprise that 80 percent of freelancers said if they wanted to report an instance of sexual misconduct involving newsrooms they work for, they would not know how to do so. For nearly 90 percent of freelancers, a typical work contract included no language regarding company sexual harassment policies, or details about what protections, if any, the company extended to its freelance and contract workers. Thirty-nine percent of participating freelancers said they do not feel safe in their work with news organizations.

Staff journalists reported better numbers:

“Thirty-four percent of staffers strongly agreed when asked if they feel safe at work (another 35 percent answered “agree” and 11 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed). But a sobering 53 percent of participants still said they either didn’t know how to file a report, or were unsure if they would know how to do so, suggesting that media organizations are failing to adequately communicate with their employees…Forty-one percent of staff journalists said they’d personally experienced sexual harassment in a newsroom (67 percent of which did not report the incident to HR), and 28 percent said they’d witnessed another journalist being harassed (82 percent of which didn’t report the incident to HR). Among freelance reporters, the numbers were 47 percent and 33 percent, respectively…”

It's a little odd when reporters are afraid to report on their own hostile work environments. 

Please support NewsBusters today! [a 501(c)(3) non-profit production of the Media Research Center]


Or, book travel through MRC’s Travel Discounts Program! MRC receives a rebate for each booking when you use our special codes.

Melissa Mullins's picture