As more sexual harassment victims come forward as part of the #MeToo movement, Press Forward wants to develop solutions for the media industry.
Launched in December 2017, Press Forward is a nonpartisan and independent initiative, created to stop sexual harassment and assault in newsrooms. The goal is to explore the root causes of such behavior and address the unintended consequences, such as why women are leaving the industry. The initiative also wants to produce an industry blueprint that can offer recommendations across the board and a code of conduct that can be scaled to other professions.
Carolyn McGourty Supple, technology strategist and management consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton in San Francisco and Press Forward chair, said, “We have data to support this isn’t just a network news issue; we know toxic cultures and sexual harassment are occurring in national and local newsrooms across mediums, and it changes the trajectory of the careers for both women and men. We need to study it further to understand the extent and total impact to individuals, and put forward thoughtful solutions.”
Many of the Press Forward founders have their own stories about sexual harassment in the workplace, which motivated them to team up with groups like the International Women’s Media Foundation and TIMES UP, to tackle the issue.
Dianna Burgess, founder of Pierce Burgess Media Group in London and a co-founder of Press Forward, said, “The status quo does not cut it anymore. We have new norms as a society, in terms of what is acceptable, and the way with which we are conducting ourselves in the workplace.”
The founders, along with an advisory board made up of media professionals, such as Gretchen Carlson, Ted Koppel and Jake Tapper, came up with a five-point plan of attack: new training programs and guidelines, an industry blueprint, thought leadership, a six month cultural assessment in newsrooms, and an online presence at thepressforward.org. The group also wants to raise awareness and education through town hall discussions, design sexual harassment training specifically for newsrooms, and work with TIMES UP to raise funds for a legal defense fund.
“If journalists are reporting on these issues and holding other industries to account, we hope news organizations will take leadership and show how they’ve dealt with it,” McGourty Supple said. “That will hopefully show the public that the media will indeed serve them and live by the transparency they call for with other democratic institutions. We understand that we won’t be the change, news organizations will be. So we really want to partner and work with them to explore solutions.”