(updated) My Interview With Nick Schroeder, Editor, Portland Phoenix
QUESTION: In your column last October ("Sexual harassment is about power, which women still lack" on 10/22/2017), you write:
“A new poll shows that nearly a quarter of women at work experience unwanted and inappropriate sexual remarks and gestures by men who have influence over their careers. Worse is that reporting the behavior has no negative consequences for the offender. But the real kicker is that most often, women who report sexual harassment – like they are supposed to – are punished for doing so” and
“The baggage of dealing with a dysfunctional co-worker on top of the even more punishing Human Resources bureaucracy (allegedly equipped to deal with complaints) is like wearing a ball and chain around your leg while running the 100-yard dash. The sheer nonsense of it takes even the most talented employee’s eye off the ball. Being sexually harassed at work is like being forced to breathe bad air. You suffocate whether you complain about it, or not.”
How does the present scenario (involving Jessie Lacey, Kevin Thomas and Maine Media Collective) not meet the criteria you've articulated six months ago...Could you walk me through how you arrive at your present take from the principles you wrote about in October?
RESPONSE: I view the world through the lens of a civil rights lawyer. Justice and due process demand a system that is rigorous and legal claims are tested through cross-examination and the rules of evidence in search for the truth. Lacey didn’t report harassment at work or file a legal claim -- she wrote an essay and published it. The purpose of journalism is also to find the truth and those who publish stories should reasonably expect scrutiny. Vetting Lacey’s #metoo essay for its value in advancing the cause of justice and women's rights is an appropriate thing to do given the consequences -- as is distinguishing between what is trifle and what is unlawful harassment or abuse.
QUESTION: Following up on a passage in your column last Sunday that suggested that a reasonable jury might find Jessie Lacey to be "a little fragile," etc., were you aware that Kevin Thomas had been arrested on a domestic violence charge months prior to that incident and, without getting too deep into this hypothetical trial, would that have changed your perspective?
Update: On 6/6/18 Nick Schroeder clarified that the premise of this question as written -- that Kevin Thomas was arrested on a domestic violence charge months prior to the Lacey incident -- was based on information he read in a 2010 blog post by Colin Woodard that was originally reported in the Forecaster.
RESPONSE: If Kevin Thomas committed domestic violence or sexually harassed employees at work he should absolutely be held accountable.
My life’s work has been advocating for justice and equal opportunity and I believe all causes are advanced by vigorous and civil debate. There is an art to meaningful disagreement that gets lost on Twitter and the nuances of #metoo and white privilege in the Trump age are hard to parse on Facebook. The critique of Lacey’s essay was not personal. I hope she keeps writing and strengthening her story. I hope she writes a strong essay in response to my column instead of engaging hoards of haters online. The #metoo movement is big enough for differences of opinion and its importance demands critical exploration.
QUESTION: Is there some connection you have with Susan Axelrod? Not trying to hack at you here, but related to Q #1 and #2, I'm trying to understand what would bring you to this position. My uninformed guess is that there's someone(s) on the inside who's trying to keep their job(s), and that you're close with their line of thinking. Not in some unethical way (everyone in Maine is two degrees away from everyone else, after all), but in a way that others can't exactly see.
RESPONSE: There is nobody “on the inside” of MMC I’m looking out for and I don’t know Susan Axelrod personally at all -- our time overlapped briefly when she worked at the Press Herald. On 5/29/18 after my column was published Axelrod was one of several people who sent me a short email about it.