Entertainment: Ronan Farrow Is Still Hunting for the Truth - Mia Farrow's adopted son (✝27): suicide - PressFrom - US
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Entertainment Ronan Farrow Is Still Hunting for the Truth

21:55  08 november  2019
21:55  08 november  2019 Source:   shondaland.com

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Ronan Farrow standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Shondaland spoke to the journalist about his new book, © The Washington Post - Getty Images Shondaland spoke to the journalist about his new book, "Catch and Kill," and what it really took to expose the alleged misdeeds of some of Hollywood's most powerful men.

Imagine you’re a reporter who came across an explosive story about sexual harassment, rape, and brutal intimidation perpetrated by one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. You had volumes of evidence, dozens of sources corroborating these claims, and this story could empower others and bring justice to not only that man’s victims, but survivors of sexual violence across the globe.

Now imagine that your employer — one of the most influential news networks in the nation — was actively trying to kill this story. Add to that, you were being stalked, threatened, gaslighted, and many of the people you expected to have your back, actually let you down.

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This is the chilling picture that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Ronan Farrow, depicts in his new book, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, which tells the true story of the investigative journalism that broke open the entertainment industry, helped hold one of Hollywood’s most brazen alleged predators accountable, and exposed a shadowy network of complicity by those around him.

The journey that led to Farrow’s award-winning reporting was riddled with challenges. According to Farrow, his former employer, NBC News, thwarted his and producer Rich McHugh’s efforts to report on Harvey Weinstein’s accused predation at almost every turn. This finally caused Farrow to take his reporting to the New Yorker, and both Farrow and McHugh were eventually ousted from NBC News.

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In Catch and Kill, Farrow discusses how NBC News — like Weinstein — used non-disclosure agreements to silence victims of sexual harassment. In the book, Farrow also reports on disturbing allegations of sexual assault from former NBC News reporter Brooke Nevils against Matt Lauer (he denies her claims), who was on the Today show for nearly two decades before his firing in 2017.

In the wake of Catch and Kill’s release, NBC News president Noah Oppenheim — whose alleged attempts to bury Farrow's reporting is detailed thoroughly in the book — railed against the journalist in a letter, stating Farrow is engaged in an "effort to defame NBC News” and "is clearly motivated not by a pursuit of truth, but an axe to grind."

The importance of Farrow’s reporting can’t be understated, but he wasn’t alone.

On October 5, 2017, New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey were the first to break the story of sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein, and the secret settlements that he used to cover them up with the aid of lawyers, like Lisa Bloom and David Boies. Five days later, Farrow published a seven-thousand-word article for the New Yorker detailing Weinstein's alleged criminal acts. Combined, the two pieces signaled a death knell for Weinstein’s once formidable reputation, and heralded a new chapter in a global reckoning against sexual violence.

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For Farrow, these stories of violence and intimidation hit close to home. Farrow's sister, Dylan Farrow, accused their estranged father, famed filmmaker Woody Allen, of sexually assaulting her when she was 7-years-old, a charge Allen denies. Still, Weinstein and his lawyers tried to exploit Farrow's family drama in an attempt to discredit his investigative work.

"It was also quite lacerating on a personal level, because you’re working so hard to do a meticulous and fair reporting job, and then suddenly all of these issues that have nothing to do with it – and that are personal and painful – are being thrown at you, like my sister’s assault. It’s a dirty move," Farrow told The Guardian.

But the reporter didn’t take the easy way out, and his decision to stay the course and do what is right — as well as the determination from Kantor and Twohey — helped to wake a sleeping giant, giving life to a movement that is changing the world.

Recently, Shondaland spoke with Farrow about his new book, Catch and Kill, why he kept following the story when so many others tried to stop him, and how he copes with constantly hearing about and reporting on — sexual violence.

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Ronan Farrow holding a sign posing for the camera: Ronan Farrow arrives on the red carpet for the Time 100 Gala at the Lincoln Center in New York on April 23, 2019. © ANGELA WEISS - Getty Images Ronan Farrow arrives on the red carpet for the Time 100 Gala at the Lincoln Center in New York on April 23, 2019.

Nylah Burton: In the book, actress Rose McGowan says many of her co-workers wouldn't look her in the eye after they found out what Weinstein had done to her. And you also wrote of a time when NBC News wouldn't air a story about pedophilia because they said it was "too dark." Why do you think our society often refuses to look these horrific things in the eye?

Ronan Farrow: Very often when we're presented with hard truths, the easiest path is the path of least resistance. And that's incredibly tempting to take. There are tons of moments in Catch and Kill, where you see people acquiescing to that easy temptation. People like Noah Oppenheim, the president of NBC News, saying "Is this really worth it?" I get that analysis. I understand where it comes from. To an extent, it's a calculus we all make when we decide whether to report on a story.

But I also think it's equally important to recognize when you're looking at a hard truth that is worth the fight. That was very clearly the case here. And I'm honored anytime someone comes to me with a tip or a piece of evidence about something newsworthy, even if it does mean taking something other than the path of least resistance.

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NB: Sexual assault and all forms of sexual violence are about power. How do you define power?

RF: Power is an interesting and loaded word, that can mean a lot of different things in a lot of different contexts. In my reporting, in the context of some of the people and institutions accused of either committing or facilitating crimes, power is a platform that can be used for good or abused.

In the cases of the brave sources who had spoken to me and the whistleblowers who have come forward in so many of my stories, a different kind of power comes into play. I have been so inspired to see how people with none of those conventional forms of power and none of these platforms or privilege, have in many of my stories become important voices that have affected change. I think moral leadership is its own kind of power.

To the extent that I am able, in my work, to play a role as a conduit for those kinds of voices, I do think that is a certain kind of rebalancing of power and something that I am honored to be a part of.

NB: You're a lawyer; you graduated from Yale Law School at the age of 22, passed the bar, and worked in government. But despite that, in the book, you describe enduring what I would describe as a kind of legal gaslighting. Your former employer had lawyers telling you bogus information about things you could and couldn't report on. Harvey Weinstein's lawyers were sending you threatening letters, accusing you of defamation to try to scare you into backing down. How did your legal education help you to persist in writing this story? How did it help guide you along this journey?

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RF: I love a question about being a lawyer that's framed positively, rather than just being a mean lawyer joke. [Laughs] But you know, I think that a lot of the reporting I do lays it bare why there are so many lawyer jokes, and reveals how many lawyers use a precept of our profession — access to representation for everyone — as a cover for immoral behavior.

But also running through my reporting are stories of great lawyers, like the whistleblower attorneys who helped Igor Ostrovskiy.

The legal profession can do a lot of good in the world. For my part, I really have found it useful as an investigative reporter who is constantly undertaking journalism that pits me against nefarious legal operations that are designed to suppress information. When I am getting threatened by powerful interests — who are able to deploy some of those lawyers who will work against the public insurance if the price was right — it's extremely useful to be able to separate the specious arguments and the real ones.

I have also found that the other lawyers around me defending the reporting makes a huge difference. I think Fabio Bertoni, the general counsel of the New Yorker is one of the great media lawyers of our time. There's these fantastic scenes in Catch and Kill after months of my saying, "Hey, now I don't have your depth of legal experience, Kim Harris [the Executive Vice President of Comcast Corporation and General Counsel of NBCUniversal]. But I'm pretty sure that that argument about tortious interference isn't real and is in fact famously specious," and then getting laughed off. But then going to The New Yorker and having Fabio Bertoni say there's absolutely no case law to support the idea that there are judgments against news organizations acting in good faith in cases like this.

The moral of all of this is that good lawyering can make or break good journalism. And I am glad that I've had a more in-depth understanding of the legal issues that underpin so many of my stories.

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NB: And why did you decide to make the transition from working in government (in the Obama administration) to working in journalism?

RF: Well, it wasn't really linear, because I had been doing a lot of writing and even some television before I went into government. But I always felt very aware of the various ways in which I was privileged and that I looked and sounded like — in most respects — someone who our society is used to looking at and hearing from, not a marginalized voice. I was keenly aware of my responsibility to pay that privilege forward, and try to elevate voices that were more marginalized.

When I was traveling and doing humanitarian work in places like Darfur, I tried to take that opportunity to do these heavily reported pieces, many of which focused on the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and the toll it had taken on that region, [through] conversations I had with women in those refugee camps. In a lot of ways, that was a precursor to the investigative reporting I later did.

NB: Speaking of Ostrovskiy, by the way, he's interesting because he is this character throughout the book that starts off feeling really dangerous and scary. You know, he’s following reporters and sources. Then, there's this switch that happens where he becomes a protagonist by agreeing to be a whistleblower against the illegal spy firm [Black Cube, which Farrow’s reporting revealed was engaged in illegal surveillance tactics] he worked for. In the epilogue, he says that as a Ukrainian who grew up under the shadow of the USSR, where the news was controlled by the powerful, he didn't want that to happen in this country, and that's why he decided to speak out. Why do you think that his story is so important to the lessons in Catch and Kill?

RF: As much as Catch and Kill is about crimes and misconduct and cover up, it's also about the bravery of sources and whistleblowers who step forward in all kinds of situations to expose the truth. And there's a number of moments on which the plot that unraveled in the book turns, that are about those kinds of reversals where people on the inside of something that they have moral compunctions with, say "Enough. I'm going to talk about this publicly."

You have people like Rich McHugh, my producer at NBC, who refuses orders to back down and ultimately goes public about it, losing his job in the process. And you have Igor Ostrovisky, who I think really embodies that archetype of the conscientious objector, who puts a lot on the line because he believes in the free press and he doesn't want to be a part of depressing it.

Ronan Farrow wearing a suit and tie: Ronan Farrow speaks on stage at the American Magazine Media Conference. © Ben Gabbe - Getty Images Ronan Farrow speaks on stage at the American Magazine Media Conference.

NB: In the wake of the Weinstein revelations, and many other Me Too stories, a cultural debate sprang up, about how we as a society should go about forgiving or providing redemption to these predators. What are your thoughts on that?

RF: I'm a reporter, not an activist or a commentator. I have a lot of admiration for activists and commentators who take the facts investigative reporters put out into the world and translate them into social change. From my standpoint, I have this one narrow job of just interrogating the facts as rigorously and fairly as possible.

And as far as that job goes, every case is profoundly different. My reporting has tended to focus on serious violent crime. I think that it's appropriate that there have been conversations about criminal repercussions in some of those cases. There are other important conversations happening about subtler, but still important, abuses of power. I think it really depends on the specific case, what the remedy should be and what the consequences should be for individuals and institutions, and what role — if any — forgiveness and rehabilitation might play.

NB: I interviewed Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey from The New York Times about their book on breaking the Weinstein story, She Said. She Said and Catch and Kill cover a lot of the same topics, but the difference between the two books is night and day because Kantor and Twohey had a lot of support from The New York Times. But NBC News was actively trying to discourage you and bury this story. How did it feel when you finally took this story to The New Yorker?

RF: I think I described that moment in the book as being like a lab animal who is placed on real grass for the first time. Suddenly I was among real journalists who weren't colluding with a hostile subject of the reporting. They looked at the same information, and said, "My God. We've got to work as fast and as hard as we can to get this story out."

I think it's a powerful example of how I couldn't do this alone.

I needed that incredible general counsel in the New Yorker, Fabio Bertoni, and the incredible editors there, including David Remnick and Dierdre Foley Mendelson. They were all united in caring about journalism and caring about the truth. And it's really inspiring that places like The New Yorker and The New York Times, where leadership is committed to the truth and doesn't yield to powerful interests, exist. I think in our democracy, we all benefit from the fact that those places exist.

NB: Your book details a stunning amount of alleged sexual assault and sexual harassment at NBC News, which wasn't dealt with properly. After the release, a lot of the employees at NBC Digital decided to begin unionizing so that they could fight back against discrimination and sexual harassment, and have the right to speak their minds. How does it feel to know that your work is helping inspire people at your former workplace to stand up for themselves?

RF: The book is, in many respects, a love letter and a tribute to fellow journalists. A lot of their stories are included in it, and that includes the many, many great journalists at NBC News who were in many cases, sources for the book. Since the book has come out, we've seen this wider community of journalists at NBC express anguish and frustration over this. They were lied to repeatedly.

There are systemic problems, and a set of leaders that dug in and refused calls from those journalists in their company for investigation and change. And that fits the pattern that we've seen in response to a lot of my reporting. When I reported on CBS News, there was the same initial period of people digging in and refusing calls for change. And in so many of these cases too, I've been inspired to see how people within the institutions I report on and especially journalists push back on that and demand action.

You know, [that's] Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow at MSNBC corroborating the reporting...

And journalists are now unionizing [at NBC News.] That is immensely fulfilling to see and gives me hope. Ultimately the lesson of Catch and Kill that I hope people walk away with when they close the back cover of the book is that sources won't shut up and reporters won't stop digging for the truth.

NB: You are reporting a lot of difficult stories about sexual violence that I think have a particular importance to you because of both your painful family history and the fact that you genuinely care about addressing these issues. How do you practice self-care while you're reporting or after you're done reporting on these difficult topics?

RF: Well, thank you for asking that. I feel like this is a micro-version of the instance a couple of weeks ago where Meghan Markle got asked if she was okay and everyone said, "Oh, that's right. Why didn't we ask her that earlier?" That's very kind of you.

And the answer is, I'm fine. I probably don't focus sufficiently on wellness, though. I've been in this incredibly privileged position to have a lot of leads coming in all the time and have, as you've seen, gone rapidly from one story to another. That's an honor and not a position I'll necessarily always be in. So I felt an important sense of responsibility to act on that and help shine a light on some of these dark places. That said, we all have to exercise self-care. Eventually my partner will probably force me to take a vacation. [Laughs]

And you know, even though the work I do is incredibly intense at times, I always remind myself that it is more stressful and intense for the sources that I'm talking to. Also, I'm aware at all times of the fact that I am really fortunate to live in a country where I can do reporting like this and have it be intense and stressful, but not life-threatening in the way that it is for so many reporters in Pakistan or in Russia or in so many other places. So the perspective helps me through it, and the bravery of the sources at every turn helps to keep me driven.

NB: Yeah, self-care is important, but I don’t always make enough time for it either.

RF: I will say that I do pray regularly. I wasn't raised super religiously, in an organized sense. But I do think philosophically, the idea of stepping outside of yourself and kind of having a moment of meditative calm where you try to focus on the bigger picture and not just your own B.S., to sort of reset your priorities — that's appealing to me and has been helpful to me psychologically in moments of great anxiety.

NB: I can definitely identify with that. I'm Jewish and when I'm feeling anxious, connecting to community and faith is really helpful for me.

RF: Yeah, I could stand to explore that part of my life more. I was raised Catholic, but have a wider perspective on faith and am open to multiple disciplines and structures in that respect. But with whatever tools that you were given, I do think that sense of joining arms with other people to focus on problems that are bigger than yourself can have tremendous value. And obviously that in no way exonerates the various institutions of organized religion that have played a bad role at various points in history as well. But I think there's a lot of good to be said about the effect that it can have on people's lives.

NB: Why do you think it's so important to show the public how reporters are targeted when they attempt to speak truth to power, especially now in these divisive times?

RF: Well, that's just it. We're living at this moment where authoritarian rhetoric gets weaponized against the free press and you have the president running around trying to call reporters "the enemy of the people." That is an old tactic for consolidating power and has an ugly history behind it.

It's really important to remind people, especially at a time like this, that the free press is one of the most important institutions we have for upholding our rights and our democracy. And people should be informed and people should have access to information. As Igor Ostrovskiy says in Catch and Kill, the powerful shouldn't control the press.

That means we all have a responsibility in our professions to clean house and hold ourselves accountable and to the highest standard. But it also means I think we should be doing exactly what we are doing at this moment, which is doubling down on good fact-checked reporting. I hope that this book is a tribute to the importance of the profession and why it is enshrined in our Constitution as the only specifically protected profession. There's a reason for that. It's important.

Nylah Burton is a Washington D.C. based writer. Follow her on Twitter @yumcoconutmilk.

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NBC staffers harbor doubts about network's leadership over handling of Weinstein, Lauer cases .
Rachel Maddow's extraordinary MSNBC segment on Friday — covering the allegations in Ronan Farrow's "Catch and Kill" that are roiling NBC News — gave voice to other staffers who have concerns about management. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); Maddow also interviewed Farrow on Friday night, ending a two-year period when he wasn't booked on any NBC-owned channels. Questions about NBC are coming back to the forefront.

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