Margaret Sullivan writes: So, now that the dam has burst on sexual misconduct at media companies, we’re good, right?
Don’t believe that for a moment.
The appalling behavior that’s been in the headlines for weeks isn’t going to stop just because some high-profile men have fallen from grace.
Yes, maybe, after this month of eye-popping revelations about influential media figures such as Bill O’Reilly, Mark Halperin and Leon Wieseltier, news organizations will do a better job of taking internal complaints seriously. For a while.
And maybe high-powered men will keep their pants zipped and their hands to themselves so that they won’t lose their positions atop the totem pole. For a time.
The revelations do matter. But something deeper — more difficult — has to happen, too.
Media companies have to address the deep-seated gender inequality that’s at the root of this mess.
“It shouldn’t be forgotten that sexual harassment is often more about abuse of power than sex,” wrote former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, who with journalist Jane Mayer chronicled Anita Hill’s sexual harassment claims against Clarence Thomas during his 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings in their book, “Strange Justice.”
When Abramson was top Times editor — the first woman to hold that coveted post — she promoted talented, qualified women so that half of her “masthead” was female. Good thing she moved fast; Abramson was fired after less than three years.
That kind of equity makes a difference. Having a critical mass of women decision-makers, rather than a token presence, allows ideas to bubble up and voices to be heard in new ways. This is, of course, true for racial diversity, too.
It’s rare, though — and not just in media-management ranks. [Continue reading…]