We Need Some Resistance
Updated: May 27, 2020
Ronan Farrow is one of the most prominent investigative journalists in America. He helped break the Harvey Weinstein story. He was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning group. He’s the son of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow. He’s 32. And this week, he was the subject of a takedown by a New York Times media columnist.
Farrow isn’t accused of fabrication, but his thoroughness is called into question. He is accused of favoring novelistic storytelling—drama and characterization—in a form that prizes truth. He apparently doesn’t do all the work necessary to corroborate his juicy scoops. And he’s said to ignore reporting that is inconvenient to the narrative he wants to spin.
My first instinct was to wag my finger at Farrow. The good journalism student in me wanted to decry this kind of shoddy work and bemoan the degradation of investigative reporting. But I was wrong. I now stand with Farrow.
Farrow is arguably the face of resistance journalism—journalism that gives voice to people who have been wronged by the powerful. It’s a microphone for #MeToo, and, in my mind at least, it extends to the resistance against Donald Trump. It’s a necessary tool.
I say this knowing full well that resistance journalism has many flaws. It is extremely dangerous to put a megaphone in front of anyone who wants to step up to it. If reporting is not carefully corroborated, if it isn’t airtight, articles open themselves up to scrutiny. Doubt creeps in, credibility is lost. The truth becomes unknowable.
The problem is, we’ve already lost our way. One of the most manipulative and deceitful men in the world has the loudest microphone of all. So while journos and media types are busy navel gazing and eating their own, Donald Trump is feasting. While one reporter is questioning whether another reporter has crossed all of his Ts, Donald Trump is spreading conspiracy theories in half sentences and tweeting damaging hashtags in search of a crime.
In the good old days, we could spend all the time we wanted debating journalistic integrity. But these are not the good old days. This is all systems red, situation dire. Urgency has to be paramount. Fuck all this dithering. We don’t have time for that shit. You know who benefits most from “beyond a reasonable doubt”? The powerful people who can hire expensive lawyers to poke holes in legal cases. As a lawyer for Ahmaud Arbery said in response to the killers’ defense attorneys, why wasn’t Arbery given the same presumption of innocence?
I’m not advocating for the spread of misinformation. But what I am saying is that journalists should be throwing everything they possibly can at Trump. Forget the need to appear “balanced” or unbiased. Trump supporters will never trust the media anyway, no matter how thorough the reporting. Evidence of Trump bribing a foreign leader and a painstaking report by a Republican special counsel were somehow used to exonerate the president in the twisted universe occupied by Trump and his followers.
Journalism’s number one goal is to get to the truth, and the only way we can start to get there is to remove Trump from office. So, for now, let’s dispense with media columnists shooting at their peers’ feet and remember the real target. Let’s flood the airwaves and the internet with reporting that exposes Trump’s corruption. I don’t care if you only have it on background and haven’t triple checked it. Yes, there are going to be casualties with this approach, but first we have to stop the bleeding. Perhaps a sheer volume of reporting on Trump’s abuses can motivate sources to take it on the record. It can swell to a point where enough people are not only convinced to vote Trump out, but they are committed to removing him when he inevitably refuses to leave.
Ronan Farrow originally pitched his Weinstein reporting to NBC. But executives there deemed it too poorly sourced. It wasn’t rock solid enough for the scrolling teleprompters and tried-and-true formula of network news. So Farrow took it to The New Yorker, a publication unapologetically part of the resistance against Donald Trump. The reporting brought down one of the most abusive men in America and ultimately spawned the #MeToo movement. Today, Harvey Weinstein is a convicted felon sentenced by a court of law to 23 years in prison. And that’s the truth of the matter.