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NYT Critique of Ronan Farrow’s Reporting Practices Faces Backlash

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Photo by Mary Inhea Kang for The Washington Post

  • The New York Times published a piece criticizing investigative journalist Ronan Farrow for sourcing ethics and other potential errors.
  • Both Farrow and his employer, the New Yorker, defended his work and said the claims made by writer Ben Smith were untrue.
  • An editor for the New Yorker also said they gave a defense of Farrow to Smith for the piece, but it was not included.
  • While some thought the piece had interesting points about what Smith called “resistance journalism,” others thought Smith made the same mistakes he accused Farrow of making and called his attack unsubstantiated. 

Ben Smith’s Story

In his latest piece, New York Times media columnist Ben Smith took aim at investigative reporter Ronan Farrow, accusing him of poor sourcing ethics. 

Farrow, who has become a household name in modern journalism, has gained praise for his of #MeToo era exposés. He even won a Pulitzer Prize for helping unearth allegations of sexual assault against media mogul and convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein. 

Because of this, the column, titled “Is Ronan Farrow Too Good to Be True?” made waves throughout Twitter on Monday, one day after it was published.

Smith first starts calling Farrow’s practices into question with a piece he wrote for the New Yorker in 2018. The article discussed the potential that records about Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s lawyer, had vanished from a government database. 

“Two years after publication, little of Mr. Farrow’s article holds up, according to prosecutors and court documents,” Smith wrote. “The Treasury Department records on Michael Cohen never went ‘missing.’”

“The records were simply put on restricted access, a longstanding practice to prevent leaks, a possibility Mr. Farrow briefly allows for in his story, but minimizes,” he continues. 

Smith adds that the source, John Fry, an IRS analyst, later pleaded guilty to illegally leaking confidential information. He claims that now-disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti had been encouraging Fry to share the story, but was not mentioned frequently in Farrow’s piece. 

Smith also analyzed Farrow’s Weinstein coverage and alleged that not enough was done to corroborate a rape accusation from a source named Lucia Evans. The story claims that Evans told her friends what happened but was largely unable to talk about it. Smith, however, says that one of her friends later told a prosecutor that she did not confirm a rape accusation, and only that “something innapropriate happened.”

Evans ended up telling NYPD detectives her encounter with Weinstein was consensual, which led to charges being dismissed. Weinstein was found guilty in other cases and is scheduled to be tried in more. 

Smith also tackled another alleged sourcing issue in Farrow’s book Catch and Kill, which recounts the obstacles he has faced in reporting on sexual assault in the media industry. Much of it details his Weinstein investigation, including claims that NBC News tried to suppress it. Smith’s column takes issue with a source used in Farrow’s coverage of Matt Lauer, the former TODAY Show host who was fired after allegations of sexual assault. 

In Catch and Kill, Farrow says an NBC employee assaulted by Lauer told a producer what happened after the alleged incident. The book’s fact-checker told Smith that this producer was not called for the story. The producer also told Smith that the book did not layout that moment the way he remembers it happening. Farrow stood his ground.

“I am confident that the conversation took place as described and it was verified in multiple ways,” he said to Smith.

Criticisms About Journalistic Themes

In addition to critiquing specific sources and examples throughout Farrow’s catalog of work, Smith also analyzed the core of Farrow’s reporting, and the themes portrayed in his stories. 

“But Mr. Farrow brings that same inclination to the other big theme that shapes his work: conspiracy,” Smith writes. “His stories are built and sold on his belief — which he rarely proves — that powerful forces and people are conspiring against those trying to do good, especially Mr. Farrow himself.”

Here, Smith is specifically saying that a major theme in Catch and Kill suggests that Weinstein blackmailed NBC executives to kill Farrow’s story about him with threats to expose Lauer. Smith says this is a “conspiracy” that threads the book’s narrative, and he alludes to conspiracies numerous times when discussing Farrow’s work. 

“He delivers narratives that are irresistibly cinematic — with unmistakable heroes and villains — and often omits the complicating facts and inconvenient details that may make them less dramatic,” Smith also added. 

One of the most talked-about segments of the piece says Farrow’s work “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,” Smith continues. 

Farrow and The New Yorker Respond

On Monday, some jumped to Farrow’s defense. Michael Luo, the New Yorker’s digital editor posted a thread on Twitter supporting Farrow.

Luo said that Smith makes the same errors he accuses Farrow of: “sanding the inconvenient edges off of facts in order to suit the narrative he wants to deliver.”

“We provided detailed responses to Ben that contradict the narrative he wants to tell. They didn’t make it into the column, so I’ll outline some of them here,” Luo added before defending Farrow’s report on the missing documents about Michael Cohen.

Luo said the story “accurately reflects what was known at the time. And, after reviewing the records that are now available, it still holds up. We continue to stand by it.”

He said Smiths claim that Farrow “minimized” the idea that the missing documents may have been restricted was untrue, as seven government sources were interviewed on the matter, and the notion of restriction is mentioned at the top of the fourth paragraph.

Luo also stood by Farrow’s Weinstein reporting and use of Evans as a source. He claimed that Evans’ friend never contradicted her account, and that in the piece, the New Yorker notes that some aspects could not be confirmed. 

“That the friend later said something different to prosecutors does not make our reporting any less diligent,” Luo stated.

“We take corrections seriously and would be happy to correct something if it were shown to be wrong. But Ben has not done that here,” Luo said, closing his thread. “We are proud of @ronanfarrow’s reporting, and we stand by it.

Farrow retweeted this thread and shared some thoughts of his own. He took issue with  Smith’s claim that Catch And Kill focuses on a conspiracy that Weinstein blackmailed NBC out of reporting on allegations against him.

“Ben claims a central theme was whether Weinstein threatened NBC with Lauer info. Not central, and not what the book says,” Farrow wrote. “The book establishes a pressure campaign against NBC, including talks between Weinstein and executives as they told me and my producer to stop reporting.”

He also says that in terms of information on Lauer being a factor, he did not go beyond what sources told him. 

Story Sparks Conversation About Journalism

In other corners of the internet, Smith’s column for the Times was met with mixed reactions. Some journalists sang praises of Smith’s work. NBC News’ Dylan Byers said it might be the most important media column he has ever read. 

The Times’ Jonathan Martin said every reporter and aspiring reporter should read it. 

On the other hand, much of the internet slammed the piece, accusing both the Times and Smith of hypocrisy. Farrow was a top trend on Twitter on Monday as many were quick to share their thoughts on Smith and the piece.

Smith has been the subject of journalistic controversy himself. As the former Editor in Chief of BuzzFeed News, he published the unverified Steele Dossier in January of 2017. Some thought he should not be the person to criticize Farrow’s journalistic integrity.

Others thought Smith’s column did not arrive at his point. Emily Birnbaum, a reporter for Protocol, referenced the section where Smith accuses Farrow of going after disliked voices, and asked if any of the people Farrow has exposed actually meet that definition.

Smith’s remarks about “resistance journalism” struck a particular chord among many writers, with many disagreeing with the use of the phrase here. 

“But let’s not allow a story like this distract us from the fearless, risk-taking take-no-prisoners journalism we need in 2020,” said Will Bunch, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquire. If “resistance journalism” exists, then let’s have more of it, not less.” 

Others believed that the notion of resistance journalism is worth criticism and analytical thought, but that Farrow is the wrong example. 

Others also questioned the Times’ motivation in publishing this story. Some Twitter users had a field day speculating that Farrow could be working on a piece about someone the paper wants to protect. 

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (Vanity Fair) (The Wrap)

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Jake Paul Denies Sexual Assault Allegations

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  • YouTuber Jake Paul is denying allegations that he sexually assaulted TikToker Justine Paradise in the summer of 2019.
  • Not only have I never had any sexual relationship with this individual, but this claim is solely a manufactured accusation and a blatant attempt for attention during a highly visible fight week,” Paul wrote in a statement Tuesday.
  • He added that he plans on pursuing a defamation of character case “to the fullest extent of the law.”
  • Paradise, who posted a 20-minute video Friday accusing him of assault, has rejected claims that she lied for attention and said all she wants is an apology.

Jake Paul Denies Allegation

YouTuber Jake Paul denied allegations that he sexually assaulted TikToker Justine Paradise and said he will pursue legal action against her.

Paradise posted a 20-minute video on Friday claiming that Paul sexually assaulted her in the summer of 2019. She said Paul brought her to his room, where they began kissing, but claimed that she signaled she was uninterested in going any further. She alleged Paul then said, “If nothing is going to happen, then what’s the point?” before unzipping his pants and forcing her to perform oral sex on him.

“He was on top of me and like, holding my head into him,” she said in her video. “Like I couldn’t even tell him not to…He didn’t ask for consent or anything.”

Paul first denied the allegation on Tuesday in a statement via his attorney, Daniel E. Gardenswartz.

“While others have already begun to debunk the claim alleged against him, our client categorically denies the allegation and has every intention of aggressively disproving it and pursuing legal action against those responsible for the defamation of his character,” Gardenswartz said.

“Our client believes that any false allegations diminish the credibility of those who have truly been victims of misconduct.”

Paul Accuses Justine Paradise of Seeking Attention, Financial Gains

Paul then shared a statement of his own on Twitter, where he again denied the claim and said he takes the topic of sexual assault seriously.

“Not only have I never had any sexual relationship with this individual, but this claim is solely a manufactured accusation and a blatant attempt for attention during a highly visible fight week,” he wrote, referencing his upcoming match against UFC star Ben Askren.

“This individual is directly using the attention from her social media posts and video to promote her adult content website and Amazon shopping list,” Paul continued. He added that he plans to pursue a defamation of character case “to the fullest extent of the law.”

“At the time of her story I was in a relationship, and as someone who was a momma’s boy growing up, I respect women and mothers more than anything. I most certainly have never laid a finger on a girl without their consent.”

“I will fight this to the end to prove my innocence,” he wrote

Paradise Responds

Paradise responded to his statement on her Instagram story. She specifically criticized Paul for accusing her of lying in order to get gifts and other financial gains. 

“I wasn’t even aware that I still had an Amazon wishlist,” she wrote. “I just checked and there were literally six items on it.”

“I am not looking for gifts or money,” she continued. “I made it very clear that all I wanted from him was an apology. And for him to stop doing this to people.”

She also claimed that since posting her video, a minor came forward to her and shared a similar experience with Paul. She provided no further details about that interaction but encouraged other women to speak to her if they had also been assaulted or harassed by Paul.

See what others are saying: (TMZ) (People) (The Washington Post)

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Jake Paul Accused of Sexual Assault By TikToker Justine Paradise

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  • In a YouTube video shared Friday, TikToker Justine Paradise accused massive social media star Jake Paul of sexually assaulting her in July 2019.
  • She claimed he brought her to his bedroom while she was visiting his home and forced her to perform oral sex on him after she expressed that she did not want to engage in sexual activity.
  • Paul has not issued any statements about the allegations or responded to Rogue Rocket’s request for comment.

Jake Paul Accused of Sexual Assault

YouTuber Jake Paul has been accused of sexually assaulting TikToker Justine Paradise during the summer of 2019. 

Paradise posted a 20-minute YouTube video on Friday detailing her accusation. Paul has not yet responded in a public statement to her claims, and his team has not responded to Rogue Rocket’s request for comment. 

Paradise claimed she met Paul in 2019 after a mutual friend, identified in the video by the pseudonym Michael, invited her to hang out one day. He sent her an address to go to, and when Paradise got there, she was surprised to learn it was the Team 10 House, the mansion Paul purchased for his social media collective. She claimed that when she got there, she had to sign an NDA and have her photo taken.

She said that during her first visit to the house, she and Paul barely interacted but he still asked for her number before she left. She claimed that she and Paul would sometimes text each other and she ended up going back to the house a handful of times over the course of the summer to hang out. 

She stated that on her other visits, she still barely spoke to Paul even though he would text her from across the room or other parts of the house. She described this as “awkward” but thought Paul might not know how to initiate conversation with girls because she saw so many constantly flocking towards him. 

Their dynamic allegedly changed one day when, according to Paradise, Paul grabbed her and kissed her. She said she was okay with this, though she felt slightly uncomfortable that he did so in front of a room full of people. On a separate occasion, though, Paradise claimed he crossed the line.

Paradise alleged that on the night between July 19 and July 20, she and others were hanging out at the house when Paul grabbed her hand and started walking around with her, which she thought was “cute.” She said he then took her to his room, but she did not necessarily view this as something that inherently meant they would have sexual relations. 

“People have brought me to their rooms before and I’m their friend and they’re literally just trying to show me their room,” she explained in her video. “Or they just want to talk to me away from the crowd of people. Or sometimes they are trying to do something sexual but if I say no, they respect it.” 

Details of Allegation

She said that they first were chatting, then started dancing, and then started kissing before he moved things to his bed. She stated that she wanted to just keep it at kissing and thought he would understand. 

“Normally, everybody respects me when I don’t want to do sexual things, so I thought it was fine if I went in his room and I thought it would be fine to kiss him because I thought he would stop if I didn’t want to do anything else,” she said. 

She claimed Paul would place his hands on her body, or move her hands onto his, but that she rejected those advances by moving their hands off of each other. She also alleged that Paul likely knew her refusal to touch him was a signal that she did not to go any further, as she claimed he responded by saying “If nothing is going to happen, then what’s the point?”

“What’s the point?” she continued, “I don’t know? I don’t know, maybe I can be one of your friends. Maybe I can just be someone that you kiss.” 

Paradise said she was shocked by his response as no one had ever responded to her that way before, so she felt incredibly uncomfortable, but she claimed that Paul’s actions did not stop there. 

“This is the point where, if what he wanted was sex, he sees he’s not going to get it, this is the point where we would just go elsewhere, go back downstairs where everyone is,” she said.

Instead, however, Paradise claimed that Paul stood up, undid his pants, and forced her to perform oral sex. She explained that she felt especially violated because she views oral sex as incredibly intimate and has only done it with two or three other people, but she did not know how to make him stop.

“What am I supposed to do? He was literally…I was still laying down,” she said. “He was on top of me and like, holding my head into him. Like I couldn’t even tell him not to.”

“He didn’t ask for consent or anything,” she continued. “Like he knew I didn’t want to do anything with him because he said ‘If nothing’s going to happen what’s the point?’ And then he just shoves himself in me.” 

Aftermath of Alleged Assault

Paradise said the assault did not last very long, but she was left feeling confused in the immediate aftermath. She claimed that once it was over, he insisted that they needed to leave his room and go to the studio in the house, where everyone else was hanging out. She added that he got frustrated and slightly aggressive when she said she wanted to take time to collect herself and fix her hair before other people saw her. She described this as a big change in personality for Paul, because he had apparently been very friendly with her before this incident. 

Paradise claimed that once she rejoined the crowd, she told her friend Michael about what happened. He called the situation “horrible” and stated he would talk to Paul himself. She claimed she ended up spending the rest of the night at the Team 10 House and provided Snapchats of herself with a puffy face from crying with a location tag in Calabasas as evidence. She also shared other pictures she took at the house and other text messages allegedly exchanged between her and Paul. 

She said that Paul never contacted her again after this night, even though she attempted to reach out to him to talk about what happened. She added that she was unsure if her friend Michael reached out to Paul, but if he ever did, Paul never apologized. 

“Honestly, I don’t think it was anything significant to him,” she explained in the video. “Like I said there was a different girl with him every day, I don’t even know if he would remember me.” 

Paradise claimed she has thought about this incident nearly every day since it happened. Her intent in posting the video was to reach out to Paul so he can learn about what he did to her and how it made her feel. She also asserted that she feels a lot of men do not change their bad behavior unless they are called out publicly. 

Paradise said she wants her video to serve as a warning to other girls who might find themselves in a similar situation. She addressed the fact that some people may not believe her and accuse her of doing this for clout, but insisted she just wants to tell what she feels is an important story. 

“Am I doing this for attention? Yeah, I do want attention on this,” she explained. “Because it’s a problem that’s real and deserves attention.” 

Responses

On Friday, her video became a popular topic of discussion on Twitter. Many pulled up TikToks she had previously posted, including one where she mentioned a YouTuber assaulting her and having to sign an NDA. Some also shared an update to that video, where Paradise claimed she was talking to a reporter about the situation. 

Other major creators, including YouTuber Trisha Paytas, uploaded Paradise and other survivors for speaking out, and urged people to take the accusations seriously.

“I’m glad victims are comfortable speaking up more and more,” she wrote. “This disgusting behavior should be put on blast – predators, rapists need appropriate punishments and not just “being cancelled” temporarily and back on a pedestal the next month.”

For his part, Paul has been posting his usual content on social media to promote his upcoming fight. Many people are urging him to respond to the accusations. 

See what others are saying: (Dexerto) (Daily Dot) (Unilad)

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New Streaming Metrics Highlight Staggering Gap Between Male and Female Gamers

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  • Valkyrae and Pokimane are the two most-watched female gamers in the world, bringing in 12.2 million and 6.8 million hours of watch time in the first quarter of 2021, respectively.
  • The data comes from a new report by Stream Hatchet, which also showed that streaming remains a heavily male-dominated industry despite recent increases in the number of female gaming streamers.
  • On its list of top 100 streamers ranked by hours watched, Valkyrae and Pokimaine were the only two women included, placing 27th and 98th.
  • For comparison, the top streamer overall was xQc, a male variety gamer who raked in over 73 million hours of watch time.

Valkyrae Leads Female Streamer List by Giant Margin

Female streamers like Valkyrae and Pokimane have each amassed millions of followers and have become household names in gaming, but a new report shows that women in the industry are still affected by a massive gender gap. 

In its findings for the first quarter of 2021, Stream Hatchet, which tracks metrics among gaming streamers, found that Valkyrae easily topped the most-watched female streamers chart with 12.2 million hours of watch time across Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming. That’s a leap of double from the 6 million hours that she brought in during the third quarter of last year.

Pokimane followed Valkyrae as the second most-watched female streamer during Q1 of this year, with 6.8 million hours viewed.

Men Dominate Overall Streamer List 

Still, the report makes clear that “the male/female streamer gap is… substantial,” as Valkyrae actually ranks 27th if both male and female streamers are grouped together. Pokimane falls farther down that same list at the 98th spot. Of the top 100 streamers, they are the only two women on the list.

In fact, just looking at the overall top 10 streamers for most hours watched, the numbers showcase a staggering divide. 

For example, variety streamer xQc topped the list with over 73 million hours watched. Other popular streamers such as Ludwig and Shroud came in lower on the top 10, but both were still very well above the 20 million hours mark.

One factor that could explain this massive discrepancy is the fact that, historically, the gaming sphere has been dominated by men. In 2017, it was reported that over 81.5% of all Twitch users were male, despite the Entertainment Software Association estimating that 41% of gamers are female. 

By 2019, the percentage of female users on Twitch grew to 35%, with male users making up the other 65%. No statistics have been published regarding the makeup of non-binary users on the platform. 

One interesting note with this report is that for the top gaming V-Tubers, the opposite seems to be true: Women overwhelmingly dominate the sphere. One female Twitch V-Tuber even saw an astronomical growth of 274%.

As Stream Hatchet noted, “Most VTubers broadcast in Japanese or Korean, and as a result, there are strong similarities between VTubing and Anime.”

Generally, Streaming Has Surged

More generally, Stream Hatchet reported that live streaming audiences have continued to “skyrocket.” In fact, between January and March, the number of daily hours watched increased 80% from the same timeframe last year.

Twitch also dominated as the top streaming platform, with 8.8 billion hours watched compared to YouTube’s 1.4 billion hours and Facebook Gaming’s 1.1 billion hours. 

See what others are saying: (Dexerto) (GameRant)

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