Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Ronan Farrow. A.J. Chavar for NPR

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Prominent journalist Ronan Farrow is facing a significant amount of media scrutiny for his coverage of the Harvey Weinstein case, which he originally broke in his book Catch and Kill.

New York Times Columnist Ben Smith claims that Farrow’s reporting includes inaccuracies and sensationalism that cloud the facts of the case. Farrow has denied the claims, arguing his reporting was “thoroughly reported and fact-checked.” New Yorker editor Michael Luo posted a Twitter thread challenging Smith, saying that his criticisms were “sanding the inconvenient edges off of facts in order to suit the narrative he wants to deliver.”

The back and forth has sparked a vigorous debate among journalists on all sides of the matter, spurring discourse around what Smith referred to as “resistance journalism“ and its potential to erode Americans’ faith in media institutions. Other prominent journalists defend Farrow’s work, arguing that the victims of sexual violence often minimize details in order to cope with the trauma, making it impossible to achieve a 100 percent standard for confirmation.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Is Ronan Farrow Too Good to Be True? – New York Times – 5/17/2020
He delivers narratives that are irresistibly cinematic — with unmistakable heroes and villains — and often omits the complicating facts and inconvenient details that may make them less dramatic. At times, he does not always follow the typical journalistic imperatives of corroboration and rigorous disclosure, or he suggests conspiracies that are tantalizing but he cannot prove.

Is Ben Smith’s Column About Ronan Farrow Too Good to Be True? – Slate Magazine5/21/2020
Some of the flaws in Smith’s arguments are apparent even without additional context. In one instance, Smith complains that in Farrow’s initial report on Harvey Weinstein, Farrow writes that Lucia Evans, one of Weinstein’s accusers, “told friends some of what had happened, but felt largely unable to talk about it.” Later, a friend of Evans’ who had been with her when she met Weinstein told a New Yorker fact-checker “that ‘something inappropriate happened,’ ” between Evans and Weinstein, but didn’t elaborate. Smith confirmed to me over email that he sees no inconsistencies between those two accounts.

Ronan Farrow is not a referendum on MeToo – CNN – 5/21/2020
It’s easy to see why some might mistakenly believe that getting the story out there, by any means possible, is what matters most. It’s easy to get sloppy. But we can’t; Farrow can’t. There’s too much at stake. There are too many people ready to take down the #MeToo movement to elevate and address women’s experiences of harassment and assault, which to many is synonymous with Farrow’s work, and they will if they can. 

Why this Ben Smith and Ronan Farrow story matters – Poynter – 5/21/2020
Here’s the heart of the matter for many: Farrow’s reporting and book helped bring down Harvey Weinstein, who has been sentenced to 23 years in prison for first-degree criminal sexual act and third-degree rape. So, do we care if Farrow might have cut some corners and embellished a few things?

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Glenn Greenwald on Twitter, 5/21/2020: This @CNN analyst is using her platform to defend Ronan Farrow without disclosing that she was paid by him to promote his book. These sorts of conflicts are pervasive on cable news – lobbyists and flaks pretending to be analysts while broadcasting paid messaging & hiding it

Wesley on Twitter, 5/21/2020: This will anger everyone but: Ben’s column (and, ugh, Lauer’s) raised some legit ?s about Farrow’s reporting that deserve substantive responses but also unfairly assume Farrow’s motives & baselessly advance an ill-defined “resistance journalism” narrative

Sulome on Twitter, 5/21/2020: As @ashleyfeinberg points out, the “holes” in Ronan’s reporting aren’t quite as damning as they appear to be in the critiques of them.

Jerlybier on Twitter, 5/21/2020: pitching now: Is Ashley Feinberg’s Article About Ben Smith’s Column About Ronan Farrow Too Good to Be True? DM me

Ismat Sarah Mangla on Twitter, 5/21/2020: I’m still trying to make up my mind about the Ronan Farrow stuff, and his reporting should be scrutinized. That said, I read “She Said,” and one thing that was clear to me is that Kantor and Twohey didn’t take any shortcuts; they confirmed everything they published.

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