When the media protects the powerful

Ronan Farrow's bombshell new book illustrates an insidious trend among the nation's news networks

Harvey Weinstein.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Stephanie Keith/Getty Images, Wikimedia Commons)

In his new book Catch and Kill, Ronan Farrow claims that NBC News obstructed and ultimately killed his investigation of Harvey Weinstein's history of sexual assaults. He alleges that company executives, particularly NBC News president Noah Oppenheim, prevented the Weinstein story from going to air in order to cover up former Today show host Matt Lauer's own similar crimes. As Farrow maintains, Weinstein threatened to go public with Lauer's long list of sexual assaults should NBC run anything about him. Farrow ended up taking his story to The New Yorker, which published the devastating account two months after he left his job at NBC, and the piece eventually earned the wunderkind investigative journalist a Pulitzer Prize.

NBC News executives, of course, are disputing the bombshell allegations. But Farrow's book illustrates the industry-wide problem of news organizations protecting those in power, a practice that has significant ramifications for how media outlets cover the biggest news, especially American politics. The saga serves as a reminder that networks ought to reckon more deeply with how their relationships with the powerful, whether in Hollywood, Washington, or elsewhere, affect their handling of sensitive news items and their commitment to unbiased investigative journalism, no matter where a story takes them.

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Neil J. Young

Neil J. Young is a historian and the author of We Gather Together: The Religious Right and the Problem of Interfaith Politics. He writes frequently on American politics, culture, and religion for publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, HuffPost, Vox, and Politico. He co-hosts the history podcast Past Present.