The New York Times Says Something about Sexual Harassment

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The news has been busy. Journalists have necessarily been glued to their Twitter accounts for the next declaration about foreign policy or other legislative overhauls in 280 characters or less, and then...Harvey Weinstein happened. These sexual assault allegations (while not the first made against a man in power — ahem, Mr. President) were soon followed by another. And another. And another. Compounding so quickly, reporting on “misconduct” dominated media outlets for weeks, as more women spoke up, and more men were named.

It was a flurry that revealed the fissures of Hollywood’s rose-colored glass bubble. Then, #metoo took this spark and created an inferno-like social movement, as women everywhere and in every industry shared their experiences. Leading Hollywood men were replaced, and executives ousted. Before long, political leaders were exposed. Some political leaders were forced to step down — others were endorsed anyhow.

The New York Times reported the news. All of it. Then in a spot that debuted during 2018’s Golden Globes, the newspaper had a comment about the content it had been sharing and why.

Attributions are among a journalist’s most pivotal tools, adding commentary that can shape an article’s narrative, and sources that can provide breaking insight. Leveraging the commonly used “He said, She said,” the ad slowly builds, repeating the four words like a seesaw until “She said” duplicates and dominates the screen. Then: “The truth has power. The truth will not be threatened. The truth has a voice.”

In one way, the ad demonstrates what we’ve all been forced to recognize: as one man refutes, a whole lot of women say otherwise. In another way, the ad spins the tired narrative (often times, allegedly, perpetuated by the media) of sexual assault being nothing more than a “he said, she said” on its head, instead acknowledging that maybe what “she said” (and she said, and she said) is the truth. It’s a poignant, declarative point of view, speaking to The New York Times’ ethical standards: producing content of high integrity that fulfills the public’s trust.

The newspaper takes a stand in the final messaging, seemingly engaging the once-frustrating-and-now-comical "Fake News!" proclamation tacked onto any...unfavorably accurate reporting about the current administration. So while the content thoughtfully positions The New York Times as the voice of truth, the copy also comments on those trying to hide it. We report the truth, and we give voice to those speaking it, the spot implies. We are journalists doing our job, regardless of the threats to do otherwise. It also seems to welcome — perhaps encourage — the women who’ve already bravely spoken up and those who may be wanting to do the same.

Both smartly and simply addressed, and perfectly, purposely introduced during the Golden Globes, The New York Times’ campaign illustrates a quiet, slow-burning change in power — the power of truth.