New York Times media reporter Emily Steel made the following comments in the newsroom on Monday after learning that her stories on Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly were part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning entry in the public service category:
On April 1st last year, Michael Schmidt and I published our investigation exposing how Bill O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox had paid millions to settle sexual harassment allegations against him. The story was the culmination of eight grueling months of reporting, convincing sources to disclose the details of ironclad confidentiality agreements. Mr. O’Reilly’s lawyer told The Times that we were creating a story where none existed. And the previous year, Mr. O’Reilly told me that if I did anything he found untoward he would come after me with everything he had.
About two weeks after our story ran, the Murdochs fired the King of Cable News. And a whirlwind of a year later — after extraordinary reporting by so many fearless Times reporters from Investigations to “The Daily” to The Upshot to Business Day — it’s not an understatement to say that the world has changed and that journalism really matters.
Women found the courage to share their stories, and the world listened.
I am so humbled by this extraordinary honor and overwhelmed with gratitude.
Thank you to New York Times subscribers and the Sulzberger family for your continued commitment to supporting journalism’s loftiest ideals: holding the powerful to account and giving a voice to those silenced.
Thank you to Dean Baquet, Matt Purdy and Bill Brink for remembering the story of Andrea Mackris, who sued Mr. O’Reilly in 2004, and assigning Mike and me to re-report her case. When we found a much bigger story, you encouraged us to follow the money, creating a solid foundation of reporting upon which women could tell their stories and be believed. You recognized the power of this story.
Mike, you are the most tenacious and creative journalist I know. Thank you for your persistence in figuring out how we could move beyond those rumors that we had scribbled on a whiteboard into a solid story we could get into the paper. It’s been such an honor to work with you.
Thank you to my parents for encouraging me to dream big, supporting me in pursuing those dreams, telling me when I went off to college that I needed to learn how to cop an attitude but also reminding me to be kind.
To my fiancé, Dan, over these 20 months, you’ve listened to me interview sources in my sleep. You’ve taken me to listen to jazz, see art and play pool when I was completely overwhelmed and heartsick by listening to stories of harassment and abuse. Your encouragement and never-ending support kept me going. I love you.
And, most important, my deepest thanks to the sources who picked up the phone when we called, opened the door when we knocked and decided to go on the record after I showed up at a Pilates class. Thank you for trusting us with your stories. Thank you for sharing experiences and documents and nuggets of information that allowed us to follow the facts and report a story that became bigger than any one of us. I am astounded by your bravery. This award is for you.