As a trade publication covering the book business, we at Publishers Weekly are typically focused on reporting stories that show how the industry ticks—book deals, personnel moves, acquisitions, financial results, hot books, and new technology developments are all under our purview. But the past few months have been different.
We wrote about new instances of sexual harassment in the publishing industry in our October 23 issue, shortly following the news of Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein’s many alleged transgressions. When we were writing that article (“The Women of Publishing Say #MeToo”), we imagined that it would strike a chord. We did not expect, though, that it would generate the reaction it did.
Since the story appeared, we have heard from numerous victims of harassment and sexual abuse. We have wanted to share their stories but, maddeningly, the onus in reporting these situations usually falls on the victims. Too often, these stories cannot move forward unless the victims involved take huge risks—professional and personal—to go on the record.
The difficult nature of covering the subject hit home on December 5, when we ran a story announcing the resignation of Giuseppe Castellano, executive art director of Penguin Workshop, following claims of sexual harassment by actress and comedian Charlyne Yi. The article we published was intended to be a balanced account based on verifiable facts. Not everyone agreed that it was. Some readers expressed frustration that we put too much emphasis on Castellano’s account over Yi’s.
Could we have done some things differently? Yes. Certainly the views expressed by readers haven’t gone unheard. PW is committed to running well-reported, fair stories that respect the victims of sexual harassment and abuse.
Things are moving rapidly around the harassment issue. Just as we were reporting on Castellano’s resignation, media reports surfaced that two Audible executives—chief content officer Andrew Gaies and chief revenue officer Will Lopes—had resigned amid an investigation of workplace harassment; Audible had no comment on whether the resignations were a result of the investigation.
Then came the news, in a story appearing in the New York Times, of Lorin Stein’s resignation as editor of the Paris Review. He stepped aside after admitting to a number of sexual transgressions. In the Times story, reporters noted that Stein went to the Paris Review board after learning that his name was on a list of men in media—a list generated by an online community of women—who are alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct. We have seen that list. It is largely a list of authors, editors, journalists, and publishing executives. The fact the list even exists is an indication of the depth of the problem—and the under-reporting of it.
What is clear is that sexual harassment is not new in publishing. In 1992, PW published a story titled “Publishing’s Best Kept Secret” that documented women’s experiences with harassment in that year, as well as in decades before. What is striking in comparing that article with our October story is that, though some women were deeply troubled by unwanted advances, others were ambivalent, chalking it up to being part of the job.
Twenty-five years later, there is a consensus in society and in the industry that conduct that was dismissed years ago will, quite appropriately, no longer be tolerated. And though the recent focus on sexual harassment suggests that some progress has been made in highlighting the problem, we know there are more victims out there.
We want to hear from those people and report their stories. We are committed to helping to make publishing a profession where all members are given the respect they deserve.