Jodi Kantor, journalist who broke Weinstein story, speaks about role of press in #MeToo

During her visit to the College of William and Mary campus, Jodi Kantor spoke to students taking Introduction to Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies. COURTESY PHOTO / STEPHEN SALPUKAS

In honor of the 100th anniversary of coeducation at the College of William and Mary, an array of events have taken place or are scheduled for the student body, alumni, professors and other members of the campus community.

Monday, Nov. 12, the College hosted Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and New York Times correspondent Jodi Kantor. Kantor’s talk is part of a year-long speakers series intended to highlight successful women in different career fields.

Two events took place with Kantor visiting the Earl Gregg Swem Library for an open, intimate meet-and-greet, and later in the evening, she spoke at the Sadler Center Commonwealth Auditorium.

Kantor is well-known for her work breaking the story of Hollywood director Harvey Weinstein’s decade of sexual assault, which she worked on with her New York Times colleague Megan Twohey. The two women are currently working on a book about their process of investigating the Weinstein allegations, and the novel will include further investigations they made on the subject.

She has also worked on investigative pieces concerning Amazon’s punishing practices towards its employees, Harvard Business School’s mistreatment of women and an insight on blue-collar working mothers’ struggle to find places to lactate. Kantor also wrote a book, “The Obamas,” after covering both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. Her book specifically focused on former First Lady Michelle Obama.

“Part of the power and magic of journalism is that your work can just affect so many people and people you’ll never meet,” Kantor said.

“Part of the power and magic of journalism is that your work can just affect so many people and people you’ll never meet,” Kantor said at her meet-and-greet. “You know a really impactful story will have an impact you’ll never feel.”

According to 100th Anniversary Coordinator of Academic Events Jayne Barnard, the committee that selected the speakers for the different events wanted to pull-in some high-profile women like Kantor to speak to the student body. Kantor is also this year’s recipient of the Hunter B. Andrews Fellowship in American Politics, an award offered by the College to select politicians, journalists and scholars.

Kantor was introduced by College President Katherine Rowe, who spoke about the College’s intention with the yearlong commemoration of 100 Years of Women and Kantor’s role in contributing to that goal.

“Tonight’s Andrews Fellowship speaker advocates for change, uncovering truths in workplaces and in culture,” Rowe said. “And as we think together about the future of work at William and Mary this year, it’s especially fitting to have somebody whose had such an impact on how we think about workplaces now and going forward.”

Kantor opened her speech with a story about her and her colleague Twohey sitting in a taxi on their way home to their New York City apartments. It was midnight, and the Weinstein story was going to be published in just a few days. Both women had been up late in the night only to return home from interviews to their families, Kantor with a two and 12-year-old and Twohey with a four-month old.

In her speech, Kantor recalled how she and Twohey discussed whether their article would have any impact at all. According to Kantor, they never expected a response that would eventually be such an important catalyst of the #MeToo Movement.

Through their investigation, Kantor and Twohey began to understand the impact of their report, realizing that for decades, pop culture, and histories narrative had been controlled by men who, their investigations uncovered, had committed years of sexual assault or remained silent with knowledge that assault was taking place.

At the end of the talk, a question-and-answer session was held between Kantor and the audience. Students posed a variety of questions including, “How do you become an investigative journalist?” and “How do you approach interviews knowing these individuals may have trauma or issues with mental health?”

In the question-and-answer session, Kantor also spoke about other newspapers’ roles in continuing the investigation, as well as further investigations that need to be done on sexual assault surrounding women like those in the service industry.

Mikayla Vanhooke ’19, who attended the event, said that she found Kantor’s work important to start a dialogue on the problem of sexual assault.

“I think [the Weinstein article] really started a dialogue and to be able to have that conversation with people,” Vanhooke said.

“I think it’s really great to come and talk to someone who has been involved and coming to terms with how society covers up things going on and to talk about that is rewarding to hear as a student,” Vanhooke said. “… I think [the Weinstein article] really started a dialogue and to be able to have that conversation with people. … It’s something that is such a problem but not overly apparent to people.”

Kantor will also be speaking to students taking the Introduction to Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies course Tuesday, Nov. 13.

In addition to Kantor’s speaker event, the 100th anniversary committee will be hosting Tarana Burke, the activist who started the #MeToo Movement, on campus in the spring.


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