Talk highlights impact of the #MeToo movement on media and politics
For women reporting on politics in the era of #MeToo, there is relief that a decades-long problem of entrenched discrimination and sexual harassment in Washington is getting the public scrutiny it deserves, said speakers at a Yale-sponsored event. But, they added, there’s also recognition that the fight for equal treatment, equal pay, and equal representation is only beginning.
At the Yale Summer Session talk called “Women in Media: Reporting in the #MeToo Movement,” Kasie Hunt, Capitol Hill correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC, and Elise Jordan ’04 B.A., TIME Magazine and NBC News contributor, discussed sexual harassment, the changing political landscape, and navigating the news industry with Eileen O’Connor, vice president for communications at Yale.
Jordan discussed how women in their 20s just starting their careers face uncertainty over what constitutes acceptable behavior and how to gain access akin to their male colleagues. “#MeToo was impactful in giving a public standard for young women to look to,” she told the audience.
O’Connor, who had a long career in journalism with ABC News and CNN before becoming the deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, asked if the sexual misconduct focus of #MeToo might be preventing broader conversations around inclusion and implicit bias.
“The conversation about sexual misconduct needed to be had,” Hunt responded. “The impact of it is still not fully understood. Where will it lead us? Will it change the culture?”
The speakers talked about the sea change they were witnessing in politics, in which a record number of women are running for Congressional House seats — a phenomenon called “the pink wave” — and how the #MeToo movement played a role both in the women’s decision to run and the approach of their campaigns.
“Candidates now don’t have to mold themselves a certain way to get elected,” Hunt said, citing outsider candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old Democrat who upset 10-term incumbent Joseph Crowley in the Democratic primary in New York. “They’re talking about their struggles with debt, with having children. The #MeToo movement has given energy to that segment of candidates.”
In terms of the ongoing assault on truth and news organizations, the speakers said they are seeing both partisan divisions and reason for hope. Jordan, who was raised in a small town in Mississippi, says she understands the perspective of red state voters. She notes that she’s been traveling and gathering information from 50 focus groups about what the electorate is thinking and has learned many are using Facebook as a primary news source, where “the news tends to be less accurate and more conspiratorial.”
But, she adds, Millennials are much savvier about their news consumption. “That encourages me,” she says, adding that “the war on truth and facts is more important than anything else. When we lose the ability to have objective truth, we have a huge problem.”
Hunt admitted she went into journalism with an idealistic purpose, with the understanding that those receiving the news would accept it was being delivered in good faith. “That doesn’t seem to be true anymore,” she said.
But the #MeToo era has also brought with it a new “radical transparency,” Jordan noted, adding, “You see the groundwork of reporting being attacked. There’s an attempt to kill the messenger before a story comes out. But the story will come out. And victims are starting to be believed for the first time in modern history.”