Carol Liebler, professor of communications, co-authored the paper, “#MeToo in the Newsroom: Image Repair and Allegations of Sexual Misconduct” with Wasim Ahmad of Quinnipiac University and Qi Ni of Syracuse University. The paper was published in Journalism Practice.
This study examines how—and the extent to which—news organizations covered allegations of sexual misconduct in instances of their own employees being caught in the #MeToo spotlight. The study applies Benoit’s image repair theory to investigate what repair strategies—if any—were reflected in the news coverage. It also examines media self-criticism, exploring whether organizations engaged in self-reflection. Content analysis of 138 news items published April 2017–October 2018 included coverage of 55 accused journalists at 33 organizations. In all, 35% of news organizations did not produce any stories about their accused journalist. For those that did, news stories emphasized corrective actions and attempts to reduce offensiveness. Accused journalists were sourced more frequently than their accusers, with the former denying allegations in 42% of stories. Accused journalists also employed the strategy of attacking their accusers. Organizational self-criticism or reflection was evidenced in just over one-third of the stories.