Hours after Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of rape and sexual assault by a jury in New York City, the AP published a photo essay about the corps of female journalists who supported each other through our coverage of the monumental trial.
Before the Weinstein trial, I had never stepped foot into a courtroom in my life. I had no experience as a court reporter; I’ve never even been called on for jury duty.
Each and every day for seven weeks, reporters lined up outside in winter temperatures to secure a spot inside the New York City Criminal Courthouse. We sat on hallway floors to file breaking stories, we took private phone calls with our editors in the courthouse bathroom, we raced to the elevator banks to chase defense attorneys and we blurted out questions as Weinstein whisked himself into court every day with the aid of his walker.
“Much of what the world has seen and heard about Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial has come from a core group of women journalists,” the AP wrote.
Two-and-a-half years ago, two women were prepping to publish their exposé of Weinstein’s predatory behavior that spanned decades, which would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize and ignite a global reckoning with the #MeToo movement. I was working on a different story.
I remember making the first call for my first investigative story: I cold-called a former staff member who worked for Matt Lauer and he immediately hung up on me. I panicked. As a reporter, I knew my intentions were right, and I had obtained the phone number through a trusted source, but I still couldn’t help but feel like I was violating someone’s privacy. I also panicked because I had a gut feeling this person would give Lauer a heads up about my out-of-the-blue call, and I would somehow end up in trouble — was there some sort of blacklist I’d be put on?
Two months after that first call, my editor, Ramin Setoodeh, and I broke the story and Lauer was fired.
Before our Lauer story broke, I had never worked on an investigative story. As an entertainment journalist with a decade of professional experience, my reporting up until mid-2017 largely dealt with covering the work of accomplished actors, writers, producers, directors, showrunners and executives. I had been on every red carpet from the Oscars to the VMAs, but I had never been inside a courthouse. Sure, I took my coverage of “The Bachelor” very seriously, reporting on important aspects of the reality TV landscape, like the lack of diversity on-screen or the safety measures taken on the sets of dating shows where alcohol and sex coincide. But it wasn’t until the #MeToo movement that celebrity journalists were thrown into the world of investigative journalism. Entertainment news dominated global headlines, and the lines between entertainment journalism and hard news became blurred.
I remember the first text I received after the Lauer story published. My phone lit up with a message from a female staffer inside NBC. “Omg. You did it. We are all in shock. No one ever thought this could ever happen.”
As a journalist, the goal is to tell the story, but never be the story. That’s why I didn’t quite grasp the significance when I received another message. “Seeing your name and your face on the Lauer story added another layer to the story because you’re the exact age and type of a young woman who could have been a target.”
To me, that made no sense. Despite my age, gender or place on the corporate totem pole, my job was to treat that story like any other story: report with accuracy, stand by your reporting, protect your sources, check your facts.
Yet, in every interview I participated in across various networks and radio shows, I was asked, “What was your experience like, covering this story as a young woman?”
After covering the Weinstein trial, I now understand why I was asked that question.
Having female journalists report so much of the Weinstein story is part of the story — the case is ultimately about the fair treatment of women in the workplace, after all. When I saw that the initial story in The New York Times came from two working mothers, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, I was certainly moved. (For what it’s worth, I’m equally in awe of the work of Ronan Farrow, Rich McHugh and Ken Auletta, who laid the groundwork for this story to break, nearly two decades ago. And I learned just as much from the male court reporters throughout the trial, as I did from my fellow female journalists at the courthouse.)
I feel so proud and privileged to have a platform that allows me to help project these stories into the world, and I do not take that for granted. I feel even more humbled that fearless women and brave sources have put trust into journalists to help share their stories with the public. I was the little girl who always knew what I wanted to do when I grew up — I wanted to be a journalist — which is why I’m scared to admit this, but I will: I never truly experienced the power of journalism until I was thrust into this moment. The work of so many of my journalistic peers over the past few years has resulted in real change that we are seeing put into action before our very eyes.
Every day that I walked into the courtroom in lower Manhattan, I felt like I was seeing material come to life that will be cemented in my children’s history books. That’s one of the perks of being a journalist: You get a front-row seat. Bringing our readers and viewers coverage from the courthouse was my assignment. It was my job to inform others through our trial coverage. Yet, I feel lucky to have learned so much.
If you take a look at the photos published by the AP, you’ll notice all of the journalists come from different professional backgrounds: court reporters, courtroom sketch artists, legal reporters, photo journalists, entertainment reporters, award-winning investigative reporters, trade reporters, TV reporters, producers, morning show bookers, broadcasters. Some were more seasoned than others (certainly, far more seasoned than me), but everyone was in it together.
We all listened to Annabella Sciorra’s five-hour testimony where she delivered a harrowing story of when she was allegedly raped in the early ’90s. We all sat through three grueling days of Jessica Mann crying on the stand where she struggled to explain her complex relationship with her rapist. We heard Dr. Barbara Ziv educate the jury on rape myths and behaviors of sexual trauma victims. We all watched Donna Rotunno skillfully cross-examine six women. We all took notes when the Manhattan assistant district attorneys, Joan Illuzzi and Meghan Hast, painted Weinstein as a predatory monster during their opening statements. We all saw the jury quickly shuffle through nude photos of Weinstein.
We all witnessed history together, as the jury bell rang and the clerk yelled, “Guilty.” Just this week, we all gasped when Weinstein gave a statement to the court, rambling about his confusion on the #MeToo movement and insisting that he had no special power in the entertainment industry. And all of our jaws dropped when Justice James Burke gave Weinstein instructions on how to register as a sex offender, and then handed him a de-facto life sentence.
When Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison, it felt like one of those moments — you know, when you remember exactly where you were and exactly what you were doing when you heard the news. We all have those memories, whether remembering when the first man walked on the moon, when OJ got in the white Bronco, or, for me, when the Twin Towers came crashing down. (I was getting ready for the first day of sixth grade in my Southern California hometown, wearing my new bedazzled Sketchers, and my dad ran into my parents’ room, turned on the TV and said there was a terrorist attack in his hometown of New York. Two weeks prior, we had just visited New York and taken a family photo in front of the World Trade Center. I was 11 years old, ironically, watching Lauer delivering the news on TV.)
Young girls will remember the day Harvey Weinstein was found guilty. They’ll remember the sense of empowerment they felt knowing their voice matters.
I’ll remember everything that I learned, not just about the judicial system and court reporting, but about navigating the world as a young woman.
I was 27 years old when the Lauer story broke, and I’m 29, as I’m writing this today. Needless to say, I’ve had my fair share of ups-and-downs and personal and professional uncertainties over the past few years, like any other 20-something who’s trying to build a career and manage to have a social life. The Weinstein trial kicked off the new decade, and for me, a new year when I’ll turn 30 — notoriously a life-changing decade for so many women, filled with new adventures, milestones and societal pressures. As I look back on my recent coverage, I realize the lessons I’ve soaked up by covering other people’s stories have taught me how to better make thoughtful decisions and carry myself through life, as an even stronger women. And so, I’m ready for the next decade.