OLD Media Moves

How NY Times biz reporter Steel got sources to trust her

April 27, 2017

Posted by Chris Roush

Emily Steel
Emily Steel

Kaitlin Menza of Marie Claire profiles New York Times journalist Emily Steel, the media business reporter whose recent stories led to the departure of Bill O’Reilly from Fox News.

Menza writes, “In her more defeated moments, Steel found inspiration—in an instance of life imitating art imitating life—in the movie Spotlight. ‘I would listen to what Rachel McAdams would say. She would say things like, ‘The words are really important.’ And when we’re telling these stories, the details are really specific,’ she says. She tried mimicking McAdams’ character, Sacha Pfeiffer of the Boston Globe. ‘I’d say to sources, ‘I know it’s hard and I know it’s scary, but we need to know. We need to know.”

“Steel put in the time to get those sources to trust her. ‘I think my editors thought I was crazy because I would spend two or three hours on the phone at a time, just to make people feel comfortable and get them to talk. But that’s what it took,’ she says. ‘When you’re talking about something that’s so sensitive like sexual harassment, you can’t just call somebody up and say, ‘What happened to you?’ You need to make them feel comfortable.’

“Her biggest get was Wendy Walsh, a regular O’Reilly Factor guest who says she was propositioned by O’Reilly in 2013 and penalized when she rebuffed him. ‘I thought she was so important because she could go on the record, since she didn’t have a settlement and wasn’t silenced by it,’ Steel says. (Other women who had previously alleged abuse against O’Reilly were unable to share their stories as a condition of their settlements.)

Read more here.

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