Can We Finally Discuss Sexual Harassment In the News Business WELL Beyond Fox News?
Editor’s Note: This piece was submitted with the understanding that we would not reveal any personal details about the author, other than the description at the bottom of the article
The raft of news surrounding Fox News — in particular it’s allegedly toxic environment for women —has been, by any measure, a huge story in the cable news ecosystem. But as someone who is currently working in the television news business, I can tell you that the culture of sexual harassment isn’t just limited to the Fox News offices. In fact, its a problem rampant throughout the entire business.
Fox News sounds like it was terrible place for many women to work. I never worked there myself, but the tone set and executed by Roger Ailes sounds like an anachronistic stereotype of gross old men hitting on ambitious younger women. Particularly for the attractive women, it appears it was either come up with an avoidance strategy or succumb in some way shape or form. What a horrible way to live in your workplace.
So whatever the motivations of the Murdochs, I was thrilled to see changes afoot at Fox in response to the airing of its truly dirty laundry. But I’m also increasingly concerned that those leading the public charge to bring down the Fox fiends are driven more by a desire to punish Fox for its politics than for its perversion. After all, where is the effort to purge other news networks of their sexism and harassers? I say this as someone who has seen that harassment up close. From well known hosts and anchors — some with very different political opinions from those at Fox — to top news executives, the sexual harassment wasn’t just widespread, it was well known.
To be clear, it sounds like the problems at Fox may have been more pervasive but as well-known news producer Shelley Ross, who has worked at high levels at many of the networks, said in an interview “It’s everywhere. It’s everywhere I worked.”
So why aren’t any of those other news titans being held to account for their actions? Why isn’t the Fox purge leading to a more pronounced domino effect? Probably for the same reason that I demanded that this piece be published anonymously. People like me remain petrified that the potential personal cost far outweighs the societal benefits. Yes, I might be helping some young woman avoid harassment in the future by naming names, but my career is going well and I fear this would come to define me. It’s a maddening and unfair choice.
That is why Gretchen Carlson deserves so much credit for creating the crack that all those other women would eventually break through. Was her case the strongest and most egregious? Not even close, even if you believe every allegation in her suit. But the fact that she was the first to really go after the seemingly omnipotent Roger Ailes, publicly, knowing she would be smeared and attacked, will always lead me to admire her temerity and fortitude.
Think about what happened with Bill O’Reilly, it was only after he was fired that a cascade of on-air personalities came out to allege disturbing experiences with him. It is beyond difficult to be the first to go public, to know that your life will be dissected and twisted. I’m ashamed that I don’t have the guts to be that person. But I am hoping that maybe just raising this issue will lead someone with more moxie than me to come forward to hold some of these others responsible too.
The writer is currently working at a large company in the television news business
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.