Ronan Farrow, the son of actress Mia Farrow and embattled director Woody Allen, is one of the original journalists to blow open the allegations of sexual harassment and assault against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. His report in The New Yorker detailing the accusations of the first women to publicly accuse Weinstein of heinous behavior helped ignite the #MeToo movement. But, as he told Loyola Marymount University’s Class of 2018 this weekend, though he himself is a part of the mainstream media, he learned during the experience of writing his bombshell Weinstein report that the media can quickly become “instruments of suppression.”
“I wanted to take a moment to talk about what it’s like trying to do work you believe in *before* the moment of impact,” Farrow told the audience. “I’ve talked a little about challenges I faced reporting my stories on sexual violence. How the systems commanded by those powerful men I mentioned earlier came crashing down on me too. And how people I trusted turned on me. And powerful forces in the media world became instruments of suppression.”
Those “powerful forces in the media world,” he said, have created “vast systems that conspired to keep reporting on sexual assault quiet for so long.”
Farrow suggested that while he will expose those “vast systems” more in the future, his goal for the commencement address was to talk about something everyone could relate with in every field: The struggle before the success. For him, that struggle took the form of his own former news organization, NBC, refusing to back his investigative efforts and his book publisher dropping him, refusing to read “a single page” of his manuscript.
“[T]he reality is my career was on the rocks. And as a result of my tackling this story as doggedly as it did, it fell apart almost completely,” he said. “There was a moment about a year ago when I didn’t have the institutional support of my news organization. My contract was ending. And after I refused to stop work on the story, I did not have a new one. My book publisher dropped me, refusing to look at a single page of a manuscript I’d labored over for years.
“I found out another news outlet was racing to scoop me on the Weinstein story, and I knew I was falling behind,” he continued. “I did not know if I’d ever be able to report that story, or if a year of work would amount to anything. I did not know if I would let down woman after brave woman who had put their trust in me.”
He also faced lawsuits from powerful figures and threats to his safety so serious he felt compelled to move. “I had moved out of my home because I was being followed and threatened,” he said. “I was facing personal legal threats from a powerful and wealthy man who said he would use the best lawyers in the country to wipe me out and destroy my future.”
For his commitment to the Weinstein story, Farrow was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2018. His former employer, meanwhile, has been rocked with a series of #MeToo allegations.
Farrow’s most recent work includes yet another bombshell piece about now-former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat and “#MeToo champion who is accused of abusing women. About three hours after publication of the piece on Monday, Scheiderman resigned, though he denies the allegations.