Stuff's #MeToo media campaign promises care, but attracts critics

by Colin Peacock / 12 March, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - MeToo

Alison Mau on the cover of the Sunday Star Times launchng the #MeTooNZ campaign. Photo / RNZ

Inspired by #MeToo campaigns abroad, broadcaster Alison Mau and publisher Stuff are urging New Zealanders to blow the whistle on sexual assault and harassment at work.

What was described as the "worst kept secret" in Wellington’s legal circles was certainly news to the rest of the country when online outlet Newsroom revealed serious sexual misconduct at law firm Russell McVeagh last month. It's reported on several incidents involving several lawyers at the firm over a seven-year period. 

Dame Margaret Bazley will now review Russell McVeagh, the Law Society is looking at new ways of investigating complaints, and most law schools have withdrawn from the firm's internship and law clerk programmes and sponsorships have scrapped.

All that this was kicked off by the investigative journalism of Melanie Reid and Sasha Borissenko at Newsroom.  

Individual lawyers have also given the story more legs such as former litigation lawyer Olivia Wensley who went public last week with her own experience. Among her suggestions for fixing this was an anonymous tip-off service victims or witnesses could use to notify the Law Society.

The same day broadcaster and Sunday Star Times columnist Alison Mau announced a service where people can report direct to her and publisher Stuff.

Ms Mau said she was inspired and encouraged by a former a colleague in Australia - journalist Tracey Spicer - who kicked off an investigation into sexual abuse in the media and entertainment industry there last October.

By last Monday, Ms Mau said hundreds of women had been in touch with stories she described as "heartbreaking". 

Ms Mau told Mediawatch she will respond to every person who gets in touch before any individual's stories are passed on to journalists. 

"This is my gig and at the moment I am marking out the stories I am intending to follow. Stuff has made it clear they are at arm's length but will give me the support that I need,' she said.

Stuff’s chief editor Mark Stevens told Mediawatch two journalists - Cecile Meier and Michelle Duff - will work closely with Ms Mau. 

"That can be dialed up depending on need and outcomes. It could change at any time. Beyond that, we have support from Stuff senior editors right through to administration support," he said.

In an article launching the campaign Ms Mau said there will be "a triage system" to assess people's complaints. 

"(We will) help survivors lay a police complaint if that's what they want to do  . . . and to access specialist counselling."

This is a commitment that goes beyond normal newsgathering, but Mark Stevens said Stuff can handle it. 

"This is not the only project we have underway where we have undertaken to offer people support. It isn't unusual, though it is a big commitment," he told Mediawatch.

Stuff's chief editor Mark Stevens and Alison Mau. Photo/ Claire Eastham-Farrelly

"It is not so different to the care shown by investigative reporters especially when it comes to sensitive issues like these," said Ms Mau.

"I've talked to reporters who have worked like this. There are very few who 'run and dump'," she said.

What’s the actual goal of the Stuff MeTooNZ campaign?

"This is about achieving change. For individuals who suffered while their persecutors prospered. And to make this country, its institutions and its workplaces safer for those who dwell here," stuff.co.nz editor Patrick Crewdson and Sunday Star Times editor Jonathan Milne wrote in a joint editorial published in the paper last weekend. 

"It may be too soon to say whether Me Too and the related Time's Up movement will achieve the lasting cultural change of the civil rights movement or the sexual revolution. But it's not too soon to realise confronting sexual misconduct is a defining issue of our time," they wrote.

Not everyone in the media is onside.

On Newstalk ZB last weekend, former TV journalist turned media-trainer Janet Wilson rewound to before the civil rights era and sexual revolution. She said it reminded her of McCarthy-ism in the US in the 1950s.

In the New Zealand Herald and on Newstalk ZB Mike Hosking condemned #MeTooNZ as "tacky, tabloid" newsgathering designed to create clickbait.

"I can tell Mike Hosking there are easier, cheaper ways to draw clicks. Big time-consuming investigations like this is not one of those."

"There is a big difference between getting a story tip and publishing a story. The part in the middle is the journalism. There will be rigorous reporting before we get to that point. The basic fundamentals of journalism will put paid to Mike Hosking's concerns," he said.

When launching the campaign, Ms Mau said she wanted to hear from anyone with a story to tell in any profession or industry where “it seems this kind of criminal behaviour is rife.”

"There are certain male-dominated industries that have a problem. I can see that clearly just from the first 100 or 150 emails and messages I got," said Ms Mau.

"I'm looking first at organisations or companies showing systemic problems with harassment and have been like that for years. We are concentrating on those because... the perpetrators are still in place and people are in danger, " she said.

This article was originally published by RNZ.

Latest

Are FitBits a boon for your health – or a threat to your privacy?
107343 2019-06-20 00:00:00Z Health

Are FitBits a boon for your health – or a threat t…

by Donna Chisholm

One in five New Zealanders owns a fitness tracker, but what effect do they have? Donna Chisholm investigates.

Read more
Larry Smarr: The world's most self-measured man
107358 2019-06-20 00:00:00Z Health

Larry Smarr: The world's most self-measured man

by Donna Chisholm

A US computer scientist who has been monitoring the state of his health for nearly two decades says he’s healthier now than he’s been in 15 years.

Read more
The most common scams – and how to avoid them
107425 2019-06-20 00:00:00Z Tech

The most common scams – and how to avoid them

by Joanna Wane

"Dear Beloved Friend"....

Read more
The National get in touch with their feminine side in I Am Easy to Find
107163 2019-06-19 00:00:00Z Music

The National get in touch with their feminine side…

by James Belfield

As The National announce two intimate theatre shows in Auckland, James Belfield reviews their brave and collaborative new album.

Read more
German violinist Carolin Widmann brings her daring style to NZ
107272 2019-06-19 00:00:00Z Music

German violinist Carolin Widmann brings her daring…

by Elizabeth Kerr

The award-winning musician will make her NZSO debut playing Stravinsky’s only violin concerto.

Read more
In defence of NZ Rugby boss Steve Tew
107277 2019-06-19 00:00:00Z Sport

In defence of NZ Rugby boss Steve Tew

by Paul Thomas

Naysayers may rail against rugby’s continued “corporatisation” under Steve Tew, but he’s given them plenty to applaud as well.

Read more
How New Zealand's community newspapers are bucking the trend
107362 2019-06-19 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

How New Zealand's community newspapers are bucking…

by Venetia Sherson

Community newspapers are bucking the trend, as enterprising new owners breath life back into them.

Read more
What filmmaker Andrea Bosshard learned from her goldsmith father Kobi
107381 2019-06-19 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

What filmmaker Andrea Bosshard learned from her go…

by Ken Downie

Filmmaker Andrea Bosshard inherited a creative streak from her goldsmith father Kobi but he also taught her an important life lesson.

Read more