Last week, many of us woke up to the news that Matt Lauer, one of Ohio University’s most widely known alumni, had been fired from NBC’s Today show after an allegation of sexual misconduct.
We let it sit. We gave it some time to process. We reflected on the industry and what it means to be women not only in journalism but also in the professional world. As an all-female executive office, the issue hits close to home for us.
Many of us were involved with last year’s coverage of the Roger Ailes accusations and what that meant for the WOUB newsroom named after him. But after his name was , the conversation of gender equality in the workplace dwindled.
Now, as allegations of sexual misconduct continue to come forward, it is important to keep those conversations alive.
We appreciate the efforts of journalism school director Robert Stewart who, with the help of Post and OU alumna and Pulitzer Prize winner Alex Stuckey, is working to develop a task force to help advise the journalism school on protecting students during internships.
But it feels as if it is not enough. Many men from across journalism were being ousted for predatory behaviors before Lauer, and it is upsetting that it took the firing of a man with an OU tie for those at the university to truly acknowledge that perhaps women aren’t treated well in journalism. While Scripps faculty are taking steps to support Today Show interns with anything they may need, the journalism school needs to offer support to those with similar experiences.
The mistreatment of women — including, if not especially, interns — is not new in journalism. Women are treated poorly in newsrooms and on assignment. (That is not to mention how women are treated poorly on the street and in restaurants and on public transit and in almost every other sphere in which women exist.) It is not exclusively on the journalism school or college of communication to recognize that, but it is their responsibility to be proactive rather than reactive. We can be doing better than we are, and that applies across the university.
Colleges and schools at OU, particularly those with internship requirements, should talk to their students about what harrassment looks like and how they can stop it if they see it, including potential steps one is facing harassment themselves. Departments should make available to students all the resources out there to help those affected. Faculty should be prepared to discuss and support students who face such things.
Most importantly, everyone needs to keep talking about what has happened in newsrooms and workplaces across the country. It is important to foster an environment of openness and to fight the secrecy that traditionally surrounds such treatment. It is difficult to fix what is happening unless those affected come forward, but it is unfair to expect them to come forward if they don’t feel supported.
For the sake of representation and coverage, newsrooms need to be better. As students at The Post and elsewhere acquire their footing in this competitive and assertive industry, we believe it’s important to recognize hard work. That’s regardless of gender, race or ethnicity. That same standard should apply to every field and career.
If starting today, no one were to ever be harassed in a workplace again, it still wouldn’t be soon enough. No one should ever be unable to do work because of poor treatment by superiors or co-workers. No one should be allowed to get away with harassing others. And no one should be afraid to talk about things he or she has experienced for fear of potentially negative consequences.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Post's executive editors: editor-in-chief Elizabeth Backo, managing editor Kaitlin Coward, digital managing editor Hayley Harding and senior editor Marisa Fernandez. Post editorials are independent of the publication's news coverage.