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Investigation finds sexual harassment in photojournalism field

Journalists have been leaders in the #MeToo movement, publishing articles that have brought the problem of sexual harassment to the nation's attention.

But have news organizations been providing safe harbor for harassment in their photojournalism departments? A recent investigation by the Columbia Journalism Review raises that question, and the findings prove that no industry is immune to sexual harassment.

Key findings

CJR's investigation, in which they interviewed more than 50 people, revealed:

  • Sexual harassment is common within the industry
  • Two internationally known male photojournalists who were involved in serial harassment
  • A prestigious collective of photojournalists that ignored harassment complaints
  • A highly regarded photojournalism education program, when faced with complaints, did nothing

The investigation also discovered that women of color are particularly vulnerable. Two reasons were cited:

  • Women of color are less likely to belong to private networks used by women in the industry to warn each other about harassers, and
  • Women of color have more to lose by speaking out because they are already part of a marginalized population

Why is harassment prevalent in photojournalism?

CJR cites three root causes of sexual harassment in photojournalism:

  • The field is dominated by men. For example, only 14 percent of the photographers at the Associated Press are women.
  • Older, established photojournalists use events and workshops to gain access to and exploit young female photographers. Many of the veteran male photographers at the events are in power positions, serving as faculty at the workshops.
  • The industry's increased use of freelancers reduces individual accountability. 

With the rise in the use of freelancers, the CJR report says photo editors and veteran staff photographers control assignments and wield tremendous influence over the careers of women freelancers.

What are the solutions?

Women photojournalists say two things must happen to solve the problem:

  • Individuals within the industry must hold perpetrators accountable for their actions
  • Leadership at all levels of photojournalism must commit to making it a safe place for women

Photo agencies, for example, could choose to not represent photographers who are known abusers of women.

Do you have questions?

If you have any questions about sexual harassment in the workplace, contact a lawyer who have experience in this area of the law.

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