Muse Reporting on the arts and culture

Filling the mainstream media gaps

Media | When holding the powerful accountable, less is becoming more
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 11/08/19, 03:23 pm

A video leaked earlier this week of an ABC News anchor ranting into a hot mic showed once again how smaller independent news outlets are outshining the mainstream news media. On Nov. 5, Project Veritas, a nonprofit media watchdog group, published the footage of Amy Robach lamenting that ABC quashed her story on Jeffrey Epstein, the late billionaire accused of sex trafficking minors.

“I’ve had the story for three years,” Robach said to someone off-camera in the video. “We would not put it on the air. First of all, I was told, ‘Who was Jeffrey Epstein? No one knows who that is. This is a stupid story.’” Project Veritas said Robach made the remarks in late August, shortly after an NPR report criticized ABC News for not airing an interview it did with Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s accusers.

Authorities arrested Epstein in July on charges he ran a sex-trafficking ring that targeted girls as young as 14. Federal prosecutors said a network of Epstein’s associates recruited the girls to have sex with him and his celebrity friends. Giuffre accused Britain’s Prince Andrew, the middle son of Queen Elizabeth II, of having sex with her when she was 17 on a plane owned by Epstein. In the Project Veritas video, Robach said Giuffre, previously known as Virginia Roberts, had photos to back up her claims.

“The palace found out that we had her whole allegations about Prince Andrew and threatened us a million different ways. We were so afraid we wouldn’t be able to interview Kate and Will that we—that also quashed the story,” Robach said in reference to Prince William, who is the queen’s grandson and second in line for the throne, and his wife, Catherine.

On Tuesday, ABC News and Robach issued statements denying almost every claim Robach made in the video. They said the story did not air because it didn’t meet their journalistic standards. They also said they continued to work on the story and had produced a documentary and podcast that would air next year. Robach walked back specific accusations she had made against former President Bill Clinton (a known associate of Epstein’s) and Prince Andrew, saying, “I was referencing [Giuffre’s] allegations—not what ABC News had verified through our reporting.” She characterized her hot mic comments as “a private moment of frustration.”

ABC is not the only network in hot water for its decision not to run with a story about sexual abuse. Last month, journalist Ronan Farrow published a book detailing how NBC News refused to air his bombshell report exposing movie mogul Harvey Weinstein as a serial sex abuser. Farrow’s story ran in The New Yorker in 2017 and, along with reporting by The New York Times, kick-started the #MeToo movement.

Farrow claimed in the book Catch and Kill and in an interview with Variety that big corporate news outlets did not embrace reporting on sexual assault because of fears their own dirty laundry would be exposed. Some of the women who spoke out in the #MeToo movement accused NBC Today show anchor Matt Lauer of sexual harassment and said the network knew about it and did nothing. Lauer was fired in November 2017, and NBC denies it had foreknowledge of his behavior.

“What the book lays out is this pattern in the media world of what happens in an organization, whether it’s CBS or NBC … has a pattern of concealing the problem of sexual violence rather than addressing it,” Farrow said. “And [that pattern] makes them vulnerable to efforts to distort their news coverage.” The pattern might be continuing—on Thursday, the New York Post’s Page Six site reported that ABC had tracked down the former employee who the network believed leaked the Robach tape to Project Veritas. The woman had gone on to work for CBS, and that network fired her after ABC identified her. Former NBC and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly released an interview with the woman, identified as Ashley Bianco, on Friday.

Where big media have dropped the reins, independent, web-based organizations such as Project Veritas are picking them up. This week, Charisma, a magazine for Pentecostals and charismatics, published a report on habitual sexual misconduct by comedian and viral video star John Crist. Crist admitted his transgressions and expressed remorse in a statement to Charisma.

In the article, Charisma editors said they, too, were reluctant to publish a story exposing the sins of a high-profile male entertainer, but for different reasons: “Some evidence suggests certain Christian leaders have been aware of Crist's behavior and—through inaction—let it continue unchecked. This is why Charisma believed it necessary to warn the body of Christ about what Crist has been doing behind the scenes. To be candid, our editorial team does not relish being in this position. … Above all, we believe the body of Christ must police itself and has an obligation to protect the innocent and vulnerable among us.”

Netflix Netflix Director and actress Genevieve Nnaji in Lionheart

Out of the running

Nigeria’s first-ever submission to the Oscars got scratched because the language barrier wasn’t big enough. Lionheart, from Nigerian actress and director Genevieve Nnaji, tells the story of a woman trying to save her sick father’s company from ruin. Netflix released it in January. It got positive reviews from critics and audiences and was selected by a Nigerian committee as the country’s submission to the Academy Awards for best international feature film. But the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences disqualified it because it does not meet the category requirement of having mostly non-English dialogue, The Wrap reported on Monday.

Like most West African nations colonized by the British Empire, Nigeria’s official language is English. Most Nigerians speak at least one of the hundreds of ethnic languages in the country, too. Lionheart has about 10 minutes’ worth of dialogue in the native language Igbo, but the rest of the film, like most public communication in Nigeria, is in English.

The film can still qualify for any other Oscar category. But some, including Nnaji, are upset, saying the move delegitimizes the movie as a representation of Nigerian culture.

“We did not choose who colonized us,” she tweeted. “As ever, this film and many like it, is proudly Nigerian.” —L.L.

Twitter/OHSUKnight Twitter/OHSUKnight Avi Gupta

Paying it forward

An 18-year-old Jeopardy! champ donated $10,314 of his winnings to support pancreatic cancer awareness and early detection. Avi Gupta, a freshman at Columbia University, won the $100,000 grand prize in the quiz show’s teen tournament in June. He donated to the Knight Cancer Institute in his home state of Oregon. In a video posted on Twitter on Nov. 1, the first day of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, Gupta called host Alex Trebek, who is being treated for the disease, “someone I’ve looked up to my entire life.”

“It was a dream come true earlier this year to finally join him on the Jeopardy! stage,” Gupta said. He told KATU-TV of Portland, Ore., that the amount of the gift included a reference to the mathematical constant pi, which begins with the digits 3.14, and symbolized his lifelong love of learning math.

Trebek announced his cancer diagnosis in March. Initially, the treatment appeared to keep the cancer at bay, and he returned to host another season of Jeopardy! In September, he said he needed more chemotherapy because his “numbers went sky high.” He has hosted the show for 35 years but told CTV last month that he might have to quit soon as his illness affects his on-air skills. —L.L.

Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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  • OldMike
    Posted: Sat, 11/09/2019 01:32 pm

    A free society governed by laws applied equally to all depends on a well-informed populace. But when the media itself is corrupt and biased, it is difficult to gain the information needed to hold powerful miscreants accountable. 

    That is the situation we find ourselves in. 

  • Doug Olson
    Posted: Sat, 11/09/2019 02:54 pm

    Good morning, "OldMike",

    You are absolutely and totally correct in your assessment of the news media!! They broadcast the news stories that benefit their political or business (making $$) agenda. Then they use their own media to justify their own wicked and evil actions!! The time is coming when they will be judged by the Lord God for their sin!