Last weekend the New York Times published a 4,000-word story by Media reporter Ben Smith alleging that investigative reporter Ronan Farrow cuts corners in his journalism. Farrow is credited with founding the Me Too movement with his expose of Movie Mogul Harvey Weinstein, CBS President Leslie Moonves and his takedown of NBC Today’s host Matt Lauer. Smith, himself an investigative reporter from his years at Buzzfeed does not call Farrow a liar, but says he omits facts in his stories that weaken the power of his dramatic narrative. Fa
Wrote Smith, “(Farrow’s) work, though, reveals the weakness of a kind of resistance journalism that has thrived in the age of Donald Trump: That if reporters swim ably along with the tides of social media and produce damaging reporting about public figures most disliked by the loudest voices, the old rules of fairness and open-mindedness can seem more like impediments than essential journalistic imperatives. That can be a dangerous approach, particularly in a moment when the idea of truth and a shared set of facts is under assault.”
”NBC News’ Dylan Byers in his “Byers Market” newsletter wrote, “Smith’s column is not just an indictment of Farrow, but an indictment of all journalism that eschews the messy complexity of truth in favor of dramatic and oversimplified narratives. It should be required reading for every aspiring journalist.”
Lauer, who was fired from his hosting job for alleged sexual misconduct has ended two years of relative silence with a long article in the website Medialite. In the article he details several instances where Farrow failed to fact-check specific allegations about himself, including an allegation of rape which Lauer vehemently denies. In the article Lauer admits to the impropriety of his serial sexual relations with co-workers but insists it was consensual. He wrote “I am sorry for the way I conducted myself. I made some terrible decisions, and I betrayed the trust of many people.” He went on to provide several examples of assertions made by Farrow that did not happen as well as proof that Farrow did not attempt to fact-check the allegations.
Farrow has been at odds with NBC news for years. He worked on the Today show doing investigative pieces but the series was discontinued and Lauer says that is what made Farrow hostile towards the network. Farrow has insisted that NBC killed his investigative work on Weinstein, and it was only after NBC spiked the story that he took it to New Yorker, where it was published, and triggered the charges that were laid against Weinstein. Interestingly, when Farrow’s allegations were first published, NBC News president Noah Oppenheim dismissed Farrows suggestion that NBC was protecting Weinstein noting instead that the articles lacked fact checking—the same allegation put forward by Ben Smith and now Matt Lauer. The full text of the Lauer article is here
Meanwhile Farrow and his publishers insist that his journalism has been thoroughly vetted.