Telling the Truth

I remember the voice of Walter Cronkite from the television, my dad in his green chair, his legs crossed leaving a triangle of space for me to snuggle into with the obligation of my silence while he watched the CBS Evening News. Mr. Cronkite delivered the evening news for nineteen years starting when I was seven years old. His voice was heavy with integrity, and he held his emotions in check until November 22, 1963, at 2:38 PM Eastern Standard Time, when he removed his glasses and struggled with composure to confirm that President Kennedy was dead.

I have seen that reel of tape play when we discuss how providing the news is dramatically different in this era as compared to the days of Walter Cronkite. The news was originally founded on the principles of not requiring cost recovery, without corporate control, without bottom lines, the truth an absolute necessity. The News is a business now, is so-called entertainment and oftentimes fictional and certainly can no longer be trusted for the truth from all its many providers.

I rewatched the 1999 film The Insider, defined as the fictionalized account of a true story, based on 60 Minutes coverage of the tobacco industry and whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand. Wigand, with a Master’s and a PhD in Biochemistry, exposed the tobacco industry, namely Brown & Williamson, for the addition of harmful chemicals such as ammonia into its tobacco blend, with disregard for the known dangers for consumers. 60 Minutes was gagged by Corporate Power, supressing Wigand’s interview. Producer Lowell Bergman kept fighting to find a way to bring Wigand’s testimony to light and to re-instate Wigand’s integrity that had been shattered, which he did. Bergman resigned from CBS after the Wigand issue finally aired and went to the New York Times as an investigative correspondent, where he won a Pulitzer Prize for public service.

The battle continues against such giants who think their power is limitless, who do business as though they are untouchable. Harvey Weinstein was one of these said giants, who operated under the assumption that his power and might, his ability to make and break careers, especially those of young women just starting out, was unstoppable. He was stopped and the reporting of the New York Times and The New Yorker helped bring him down.

I watched She Said, “a biographical drama film” based on the 2019 book written by New York Times’ investigative journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, exposing the truth of Harvey Weinstein and his abuse of power and sexual misconduct. The film opened with Twohey’s exposure of Donald Trump’s sexual “impropriety”, to use a benign term, of a young woman willing to be named. He went on to be elected President of the United States, while she was shamed and harassed.

Following on the heels of the She Said book was the documentary film of Ronan Farrow entitled Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes, consisting of six episodes, released by HBO in 2021. The film provides visual evidence of Farrow’s journey to expose how predators, such as Weinstein, were and are protected by police, by broadcasting giant NBC, and the tactics used to silence victims, all of which is included in his book, Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators, published in 2019.

Rich McHugh, a fellow investigative journalist working with Farrow, resigned from NBC because of the NBC’s silencing of Farrow’s investigation of Weinstein, citing The Insider for his inspiration to become a journalist and his subsequent resignation to uphold his own integrity and the legacy of truth he wanted to leave his four young daughters.

Eighty-seven accusers came forward after the October 5, 2017, release of the New York Times piece on Weinstein and the October 10, 2017, release from The New Yorker. The conversation continues, though change isn’t always visible. The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls was released June 3, 2019, stating, “that persistent and deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations and abuses are the root cause behind Canada’s staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA,” yet we have a lot of work yet to do.

In all the above cases, it took the courage of ordinary people to come forward, to put their lives on the line, to tell the truth, to create change from which we all benefit. It is about reclaiming power. The Me, Too movement, founded by activist Tarana Burke in 2006, has grown and continues to build, as seen when Alyssa Milano encouraged women in 2017 to share their experience of sexual assault and harassment.

I felt a moral obligation to watch these programs and learn from them. I think of young girls and women who have been silenced by sexual violence, whose life’s path was permanently altered and who continue to live with the truth no one wants to hear. If one in four women/girls will experience sexual violence, it is quite likely … one is standing next to you.