Behind the Weinstein story coverage


This week, one of the most popular news reports is about Harvey Weinstein. One of the richest, most famous and influential film producers of the 20th century has been accused of sexual assault for more than 30 years.

The Weinstein Company fired Weinstein, its co-founder, on Sunday after The New York Times released an investigation uncovering multiple allegations confirming he had engaged in sexual harassment. For decades, the producer was paying off sexual harassment accusers.

There is extensive coverage of the whole topic by The New York Times. The allegations uncovered by the newspaper came from actresses as well as former employees of the Weinstein Company and Miramax, the previous company that Weinstein and his brother founded. This list includes Angelina Jolie, Rosanna Arquette (Pulp Fiction) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Emma.)

What is most interesting from the article to me, aside from the stories of these brave women and the amazing portraits that illustrate them, is the fact that the newspaper was dealing with a stunning blow to a huge producer. A personality who is known for defining American film and supporting liberal causes. The dilemma: Should we be the first ones to speak up and tell the story? To publish or not to publish.

Even though his alleged behavior became something like a Hollywood open secret and a public rumor, do we think that some of these women would have spoken up if The Times didn’t publish the story? I think that once again, as many of the decisions journalists need to make every day, the issue lies in a matter of principles. So what is our duty as communicators?

A journalist needs to make moral decisions day by day. If we take a look at the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics we realize there are some principles every professional communication needs to practice.

As the SPJ mentions in its statement, that “ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity.” However, what is its limitations of the code and who states them?

Certainly, the story on Harvey Weinstein was a tremendous “risk” worth taken. Although it is difficult to release a shocking article on someone that famous and influential, the duty of a journalist is to report the truth to the public.