Kantor's search for truth reflects well on journalism

Jodi Kantor, a Pulitzer-Prize–winning reporter with The New York Times, was selected as College of William and Mary’s 2018 Hunter B. Andrews Fellow in American Politics. She visited the campus this week, met with students and faculty and spoke at a public forum.

Kantor and her reporting partner Megan Twohey unmasked movie mogul Harvey Weinstein as a sexual predator. Their reporting opened up a Pandora’s box that sparked investigation into the conduct of several prominent personalities, ended their careers and put fresh wind into the sails of the #MeToo movement.

Kantor, a bestselling author who covered the 2008 presidential campaign and wrote some of the earliest articles about Michelle Obama, likes to point out that journalism has a vital role to play in today’s polarized world of politics.

I asked whether she ever considered the risk doing her investigative reporting about very powerful individuals.

Kantor’s and Twohey’s investigation of Weinstein took place before the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist. He served as a columnist for The Washington Post and was killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, to silence him.

Kantor acknowledged that Weinstein threatened to ruin her and Twohey’s careers, but she said what worried them most was not their own safety, but the safety of their sources. “They put their careers and much more on the line.”

Kantor graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University and later attended Harvard Law School for one semester. But the call to journalism prevailed, and she started working for Slate, where she eventually became an editor. Subsequently, she was hired by The New York Times, where she became the youngest editor ever of the Arts and Leisure section.

“Should young people choose journalism as a career?” Her response was prompt and unequivocal: “Yes, by all means. Reporting the facts and pursuing the truth is a noble profession. Journalists perform a critical public service.”

As a New York Times correspondent, Kantor covered the workplace, technology and gender. According to citations, her reporting on the class gap in breastfeeding inspired the creation of free-standing lactation stations around the country — at airports, stadiums and workplaces. Her story on the treatment of women on Wall Street and at Harvard Business School led to marked improvements and made her a champion and advocate of gender rights.

But Kantor doesn’t consider herself a promoter of any cause.

She said she sees her role as a journalist is to report the facts and let the readers draw their own conclusions and act upon it.

Politico, summed up the role Kantor has played as an investigative reporter.

“Just when it seemed that cries of “fake news” were drowning out real facts, when blatant displays of misogyny were no match for men at the highest levels of power, in came three journalists whose reporting showing that, no, men don’t get a pass when there is vast, credible evidence against them – and, yes, facts matter.”

Shatz is a Williamsburg resident. He is the author of “Reports from a Distant Place,” the compilation of his selected columns. The book is available at Bruton Parish Shop and Amazon.com.

Copyright © 2018, The Virginia Gazette
55°