When I learned that the two journalists who broke the Harvey Weinstein story would be writing a book about the process leading up to publishing that monumental piece, I knew right away I wanted to read it. Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey won the Pulitzer Prize for this reporting, and now they've chronicled that experience in She Said.
This book was fascinating on so many levels. First, as a PR person, I spend at least half my day, every day, pitching reporters. She Said brings you behind the scenes, into The New York Times offices, where Kantor and Twohey have countless conversations with their editors and colleagues about how to get more sources on the record, which stories to include (and how much), what exact date and time to publish and more. You feel like you're right there in the conference room with them.
In one of the more tense moments, the reporters and their editor are trying to decide how long to give Weinstein to respond to the allegations before printing the story. On Page 150, "Presenting findings was standard journalistic practice, the right way to treat any story subject, even a completely untrustworthy one. But the group could not settle on how much to time to give Weinstein to respond. They would need to provide him with a deadline: Here's how long you have until we publish. But once Weinstein knew what the Times planned to published, he could pressure women into recanting, intimidate others into contradicting their accounts, or try to undermine the accusers. He could leak information to another outlet, to blunt the story's impact, or preempt publication by rushing out some sort of statement of contrition. The journalists had to protect the victims - and the article."
The authors also detail their attempts to get many A-list actresses to agree to be quoted in the story: Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd and the star of the Miramax universe during its glory days, Gwyneth Paltrow. Paltrow's piece of the puzzle was particularly interesting because if she agreed to go on the record, she would bring down the prestigious reputation of Miramax and the Weinstein Company, but at the time she was being pressed to participate, her website goop was under fire. The press were having a field day ripping apart the expensive items goop was trying to promote as part of wellness for women.
When it was finally time to hit "publish" on the piece, Kantor, Twohey and Rebecca Corbett (their editor) knew they were about to change everything. It was Thursday, October 5, 2017 and the headline read, "Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades." They had done it. After months of phone calls, in-person meetings, travel all over the world to meet with victims and a tense round of back and forth with Weinstein and his legal team, the truth was out.
One of the crazy things that you learn in the book is that Kantor and Twohey almost didn't partner up on this effort. In July 2017, Twohey came back from maternity leave and Corbett sat down with her to talk about her options. On page 42, "On July 5, Megan returned to the Times, undecided about what to cover. On that first day, Rebecca Corbett spelled out Megan's options. The first was to return to Donald Trump. In the final months of her pregnancy, Megan had started scrutinizing Trump's company and ties to Russia, turning up his pursuit of a Trump Tower Moscow during the presidential race and other questionable dealings. The second was to join the investigation of Harvey Weinstein. Jodi was still eager for Megan to join her. Was she interested?"
What follows, is nearly two full pages of Twohey weighing the pros and cons. Ultimately, "Megan pulled up a seat at Jodi's cubicle and got to work."
In addition to sharing the full account of the Weinstein investigation, the authors also describe their experience reporting on Christine Blasey Ford and her testimony against Brett Kavanaugh. That is a smaller portion of the book (about 10%), but again, you come behind the curtain to hear what was really going on. For weeks, it seemed like Blasey Ford would not agree to come to Washington D.C. and would not agree to speak publicly. That she ultimately did, was nothing short of a miracle.
I devoured this book. I found myself choosing to read instead of watch TV (which is rare for me) because I was so gripped by their storytelling. I hope the book is optioned for film. I could see it being something like the movie Spotlight, about the team at The Boston Globe that exposed the sexual abuse in the Catholic church.
This book is getting a ton of buzz, as is Catch and Kill, journalist Ronan Farrow's account of his reporting on Harvey Weinstein. I haven't decided if I will read that one too. If you've finished it, please let me know what you thought of it.
*Photo of Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey courtesy of WBUR.