A HuffPost report on the decision-making inside NBC tells a somewhat different story—that Farrow had several highly reportable items on Weinstein and was ready to go on air (and online) with the story but was told that:
the story had to go up to NBC News Chairman Andy Lack for approval and that the story would be under review by Steve Burke, executive vice president of Comcast and president and CEO of NBCUniversal—a highly unusual level of scrutiny, according to three NBC News staffers, who had never heard of Burke’s office needing to review a story.
Ultimately, NBC passed on the story and Farrow—with the help of the writer Ken Auletta and the editor David Remnick at The New Yorker—published his giant-killing story on Weinstein. (A spokesperson for NBC disputed HuffPost’s characterization of how Farrow’s story was assessed at the network, saying Burke was not involved.)
To outsiders, NBC’s decision seems unfortunate at best and nefarious at worst, especially when paired with its move last fall to delay the release of the Access Hollywood recordings featuring then-candidate Donald Trump boasting to network star Billy Bush about sexual assault. It doesn’t help matters that the chain of command in NBC’s decision-making process to kill a major story about the alleged sexual predation of young women reportedly featured an all-male cast. This, regardless of whatever protestations and explanations have been issued (including the defense that Farrow may have somehow been compromised given Weinstein’s relations with his estranged father, Woody Allen), is what most outsiders envision when they hear the phrase old boys’ network—a group of men acting in their own and each other’s best interests, everyone else be damned.
So it was—to much greater and possibly illegal degree—following sexual-harassment allegations involving the Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly and the Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes: Their respective indiscretions were apparently known inside the building, but the men were not held accountable until reports emerged in the press. Certain old dinosaurs were still trampling the Earth, apparently.
But for how much longer? The stories of Weinstein, O’Reilly, and Ailes may signal a death knell for this kind of culture, at least in the world of media. While the Fox News management infrastructure has in some part been rebuilt and NBC is in enough of a defensive crouch that the network, according to Oppenheim, is vowing publicly to “keep digging” and “keep pursuing these stories,” the reality is that the world of media won’t tolerate Jurassic behavior for much longer. Not simply because the American audience is decidedly less tolerant when it comes to sexual assault and harassment, but because the media itself has evolved.
The editorial power grid is increasingly horizontal, not vertical—a result of both leaner budgets and a news cycle that rewards scoops and speed over institutional process. The days of high-powered editors and executive producers sequestering themselves behind closed doors are increasingly rare. Go to any newsroom and you’ll see row after row of bullpen desks and very few offices—or even, for that matter, doors. The landscape is decidedly more democratic, more rewarding of traffic spikes than reputations kept intact.