Blogger amends vow to publish list of ‘Shitty Media Men’
A right-wing blogger and filmmaker who promised to publish the names of male journalists who were cited by female colleagues as sexual harassers on the list of “Shitty Media Men” told POLITICO on Wednesday that he was holding back, calling the men on the list and consulting with his lawyer.
Blogger Mike Cernovich had announced his intention to publish the list “in a few minutes” after obtaining it on Saturday and later identified two journalists on it and the accusations against them. The list contains the names of more than 70 men in media who were alleged to have committed acts ranging for “creepy” direct messages to rape, according to women who added their names as the list was passed around in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
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Former New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier was one whose name was on the list, according to a copy obtained by POLITICO, and he may have been its first casualty. On Tuesday, an organization supported by Laurene Powell Jobs, the philanthropist and widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, severed ties with Wieseltier over “inappropriate workplace conduct” at the magazine he worked at for more than three decades. Wieseltier had been accused of “workplace harassment” on the list.
“Shitty Media Men,” was never intended for publication and was shut down after BuzzFeed reported on its existence on Oct. 12 and noted that some of the accused hail from organizations such as the New York Times, the New Yorker, Mother Jones, and, even BuzzFeed.
Journalists have been sharing screenshots of the list for nearly two weeks, but news organizations have remained understandably skittish about amplifying the claims without any substantiation. It’s rare that news organizations can still act as a gatekeeper for information given the ability for emerging media players, perhaps less bound to traditional newsroom standards, to publish at will.
On Oct. 16, Cernovich tweeted that he’d pay $10,000 for a copy of the list, an offer most mainstream news organizations would not make given prohibitions on paying for information. Cernovich told POLITICO that a source sent him the list yet “was insistent on not accepting anything” for it. “I’m not endorsing any of the accusations contained on the list,” he added. “Rather I am reporting that others have made those accusations. It’s a tight rope to walk. That’s probably why the full list hasn’t been posted online by anyone, even me.”
Cernovich’s decision to withhold publication of the full list, at least for a while, reflects both the legal sensitivities surrounding the charges and the extent to which it could roil newsrooms. Not only are newsrooms grappling with how to report on the allegations, but some also have employees among the accused.
“We’re committed to a comfortable and safe environment for everyone, but we just are not going to comment on unsourced, 3rd-hand allegations repackaged by an alt-right blogger and Pizzagate conspiracy theorist.” Mother Jones editor Clara Jeffery told POLITICO.
Cernovich was a proponent of the bogus conspiracy theory, known as Pizzagate, that Democrats were running an underground child sex ring at a Washington pizza parlor.
One major question for news organizations is whether names on the list ought to be immediately investigated. POLITICO reached out to several publications with writers who appeared on the list, including The New York Times.
“We take such allegations seriously,” a Times spokesperson said, “and encourage any employee who believes they have been the target of misconduct to report it through one of many channels including an anonymous helpline. As a matter of policy, we investigate all complaints.”
There have been no internal complaints, and thus no investigations, against the Times staff members on the list, according to a source familiar with the issue.
Publications like New York Magazine and BuzzFeed have taken a different tact.
“New York Media takes very seriously any allegations or complaints raised regarding harassment, discrimination, hostility, or any inappropriate conduct directed toward our employees, contingent workers, clients, suppliers, or anyone we do business with,” a New York Magazine spokesperson said.
“In the case of any active New York Media employees who may appear on the ‘men in media’ list, we have reviewed whether any type of action is appropriate and have acted accordingly. It is New York Media’s policy not to disclose publicly any findings or actions taken as a result of this process so as to preserve the confidential and sensitive nature of these matters.”
The names of several writers at BuzzFeed, which was the first outlet to write about the list, appeared on the spreadsheet. On Tuesday, Lenke Taylor, the company’s chief people office sent a staff-wide memo saying, “We look into all allegations of harassment and related conduct, and act on them accordingly.”
“If you prefer to stay anonymous, we launched a tip line last year to provide that option,” he wrote. “We have confidentially investigated and acted on incidents raised in the past, both via the tip line or to us directly or indirectly.”
A BuzzFeed News spokesperson added, “"We cannot discuss specific personnel matters, but we take allegations of inappropriate conduct extremely seriously, including anonymous ones.”
According to one BuzzFeed staffer, the names on the list weren’t a total surprise to many–and that the reputations of the men named on it preceded them. “Nothing in the spreadsheet really seemed like new information,” she said. “It’s less of a big topic than you might expect.”
Part of the reason the list hasn’t roiled the newsroom, she said, is that “I genuinely do not think BuzzFeed has a cultural/harassment problem.”
The list doesn’t appear to be a complete snapshot of allegations within the media industry as it focuses primarily on New York-based digital outlets and the literary world. There are few men named who work for Washington-based outlets and television networks. And there are similar conversations playing out in other private forums in the wake of the Weinstein scandal.
Former female New Republic staffers shared their personal stories about Wieseltier over the past week on another private list.
Separate from the list, Vox Media fired editorial director Lockhart Steele on Thursday after he engaged “in conduct that is inconsistent with our core values,” CEO Jim Bankoff said to staff in a memo, amid a sexual harassment allegation against Steele by a former Vox Media employee.
Bankoff did not elaborate on the allegations against Steele, and in a staff meeting that Vox is still investigating, according to the Awl.
October 25, 2017 at 04:30PM