tv National Book Festival - Gail Collins No Stopping Us Now and Megan... CSPAN September 26, 2020 7:00pm-7:48pm EDT
book tv has several hours of coverage coming up tonight and tomorrow night as well. including live call-in opportunities. tonight you will have the chance to talk with "new york times" columnist gail collins and pulitzer prize-winning historian john beauchamp. that is all coming up along with authors melinda gates, colton whitehead, and many others. follow-up on social media at book tp is our handle to get a full schedule update. : : :
both incredible authors and writers and journalists and i cannot wait for you to hear what they have to say. i mentioned that i'm the executive director of the women's suffrage centennial commission, the commission is a very proud sponsor of the national books festival this year, we are the sponsor of the fearless women trail, which is featuring authors who are fearless just like gail and megan also books and stories about women throughout american history. it's just really a privilege to be here in this place today with these two women. i'd like to start us off with some brief introductions for gail and megan and then we will kick it off. megan is joining us, she is the author of "she said: breaking the sexual harassment story that helped ignite a movement". she is a pulitzer prize ãb pulitzer prize-winning investigative reporter with the new york times.
gail is also from the new york times, she joins our staff in 1995 on the editorial board, later became an op-ed columnist, in 2001 she was appointed the editorial page director. she's here today to discuss her book, which i have right here behind me, megan, i'm get a hold your book up too. here we have gail's book "no stopping us now: the adventures of older women in american history". should we get started, ladies? >> sure! >> sure. >> all right. i'm going to kick us off with kind of an easy one. megan, we will start with you first. would you tell us a little bit about your book "she said" and how it came to be? >> megan: the book that i co-authored with my colleague jodi kantor, another investigative reporter at the new york times, came about
because after we broke harvey weinstein story in october 2017 we watched with wonder as the dam broke and women all around the world came forward with their stories of sexual harassment and abuse. watched with wonder as the "me too" movement really spread around the world as we saw this global reckoning over sexual harassment and abuse. we really felt like we had an obligation to continue reporting and to take readers behind the scenes of this investigation that had helped spark this reckoning. so much of investigative reporting takes place behind the scenes and is confidential and we really wanted to take readers, give them a front row seat to the first hushed conversations we had with our resources from famous actresses to women who worked in weinstein's company, we also
wanted to report into what had happened on the weinstein side. we realize that in that first story we have been able to piece together some of some aspects of the puzzle of how this powerful men had been able to get away with abusing and harassing women for decades but in reporting this book we were able to help illuminate so many other factors that have explained how he was able to do that. the institutions and the systems that had enabled sexual harassment and sexual assault. not just in the case of weinstein but so many other industries here in the united states. >> host: just so you know, as a reader of your book, you absolutely do what you set out to do. as i was reading through those pages i felt like i was falling your journey of investigating that story from start to finish and it was gripping, it was
gripping the whole way through. gail, would you tell us some about your book, what it's about, and how it came to be. >> gail: i want to say first that i've written a bunch of books now about history but it's a real playeal privilege t here with megan who made history. >> so nice to be with you gail. [laughter] >> host: do you two know each other? you both work at the new york times. do you know each other in that space? >> we have passed and met but in a whole different area of the building. >> yes. >> gail: with a range like that because of ã [indiscernable] we don't get nearly as much chance to hang out with the newest side. >> megan: this is different for
us. >> host: gail, tell us about your book. >> gail: i wrote a book a while back in which i ran across a letter from one of the early american columnist, writing back and asking for people to please send them the women so they could get married and have families and that they wrote, the women must be a good character and under 50 years of age. i thought, wow. [laughter] they are not that picky back then, suddenly i remembered ãfrom the 70s bã they started out saying, these days 25 is getting to be very old i thought, wow, we went from 50 is young to 25 is old. that's how i got started on the whole looking into what it was like to be an older woman at different points in american
history and what they got away with and. >> host: i love having the two of you in conversation with each other for this panel because what you both really get at, your books are about women's experiences and women's lives. both throughout american history and now. there is that common thread that runs through both of these books and if you are larger work that both of you do. i think putting you in conversation with each other for this dialogue is perfect. let's pivot a little bit. megan, your book is really about your investigation of the "me too" movement, about harvey weinstein, for people who haven't read your book at, could you talk us through a little bit about why did you and jodi decided to write this book? what sparked the idea of, we need to put this down on paper,
we've done our investigative reporting that, as gail said, made history and change the world, why put it together into a book? >> megan: one of the reasons was that we realize that, as i mentioned, we realized that when we broke the weinstein story we had learned a fair amount about this powerful producer and his decades long history of harassing and abusing women but really understanding more of how that ãbhow is it that powerful men in this country have been able to get away with that year after year, decade after decade. we really felt an obligation to report further into those questions. to report into the question of complicity, how was it that weinstein worked, weinstein ran some of the most prestigious phone companies and powerful film companies in this country,
miramax and then the weinstein company, we realized that these companies had glimpses of this, the bosses privation, including weinstein's brother, bob weinstein, the cofounder of these companies and work side-by-side his brother for years. and the board of his company. we really wanted to report into the question of complicity when people get glimpses of wrongdoing, what do they do in response, harder they try to stop it or do they look the other way. we wanted to report into these secret settlements that have been used, weinstein we were able to piece together a financial trail of payoff that weinstein had made over the years to silence as many as 12 women who came forward with allegations against him. there was this one moment in the investigation when i was on the hunt for a woman who we
thought had been sexually assaulted by him when he was a young assistant working as a young assistant in his company and i drove to a family home of one of her family members had a home outside new york i drove up there was like a handwritten note i was going to give this family member 's making the case for why she should talk to us and the woman herself actually answer the door and she said, oh my gosh, i can't believe you found me in the second thing she said, i've been waiting for this knock on my door for 25 years. yet she was legally prohibited from telling me what had happened to her like so many women in this country who deal with sexual harassment and assault she's been advised by her attorneys her best option was to take money in exchange for silence. we really felt an obligation to try to explore more of the secret settlements on what they meant and how they've allowed predators to cover their tracks.
it was clear that there was much more of the weinstein story that needed to be told as basically an x-ray into abuse of power in this country. then we also realized that we wanted ãbwe never could've predicted the way that the "me too" movement was ignited following ãbthat our story had played a role in this "me too" movement being ignited. we knew it had come to mean so much to so many people so we really wanted to give people ã ãwe wanted to take people inside the new york times newsroom and into our partnership as reporters and to watch journalism in action and see how you built an investigation like this that can have such a huge impact. >> reading her book i was reminded that you all basically through your reporting of this, we take it for granted now but following the paper trail of these nondisclosure agreements. that wasn't done before you all figured out it was a way to prove the pattern of behavior.
in reading her book i was reminded of something that now seems obvious and clear and of course how the investigation happens, but that was just a few years ago you all uncovered something very important. >> i would actually, i do a little bit of a correction to that which was that we were actually taking a playbook that had first been created by our colleagues who brought bill o'reilly story. >> that's right!>> bill o'reilly was $400 million in secret settlements to women who had come forward with allegations against him. these were women who were locked into silence for the secret settlements. emily and mike were able to basically piece that financial trail of payoffs together and when they were ãbwhen those stories were published the impact was immediate.
bill o'reilly, perhaps the most famous and powerful figure and conservative media, was fired from fox news something that had seemed unthinkable just nights before. it was the moment of the new york times where the editors and reporters came together and asked the question that might seem now quaint, which is there other problem for figures in america that have abused women and covered it up. that was really how the weinstein investigation began and we were really fortunate to be able to draw on some of the tactics they used but we were in consultation with family throughout our investigation saying we are about to get trying to get these wanted to talk what you think we should do. we were really grateful to be able to draw on the previous reporting. >> that's another theme between the two books is really giving voice somewhere where women's voices had been taken away. gail, i'm reminded of that in your book that often times with
women, women have a very couple get a relationship with aging. that society has handed to us on a very dicey silver platter. your book really speaks to that and speaks to the power of that and the beauty of that and the comp located in so that. could you talk a little bit about what was it like to research that topic and to bring life to this topic? >> i think when you do this stuff you just read and read and read for a while. you kind of fall in love with different people in your story. you want to figure out more about them, tell more about them. one of the ones ã [indiscernable] the thing that fascinated me what she came up in an era where women were dying to talk about abolition
and rights of women to vote and they weren't allowed to because the idea of women speaking in public was regarded as so shocking like a sexual thing. any time women would try to speak in public they would throw things at her like she was a horror, ruin her reputation so they didn't. what she figured out was, i am old, i am a grandmother, look at my gray hair, very old, i can't possibly be a problem, right? what she had gotten that safer if you're all there is a woman to go out and do things, not the same kind of shock. she was trained across the country ãbhe had a million adventures. she spoke to a million different people. i just love the way she figure that out. >> i love that. and the executive director of
the women's suffrage centennial commission, suffered history of course is very important to me, especially this year with everybody out there listening this year is the 100 year anniversary of the 19th amendment and women's right to vote. a very important milestone in american democracy. gail, you talk about elizabeth cady stanton, you talk about carrie chapman catt, you talk about alice paul, you talk about sojourner truth, you talk about several suffragists, one of the things i love about elizabeth cady stanton, as a mom myself, she had babies on each hip, babies around her skirts, she was still just bold, radical woman her whole life. can you talk a little bit about the investigation and the research you did and the writing you did about the suffrage movement in your book. >> gail: it came up a lot. you find it in a lot of different places. i've been thinking about it a lot this week of course, it
came up again. you've got to have income of your own, there's one thing that what i read in history that's taught me is that women who can bring in money, women who make money for themselves and their families have a whole different status in life than women who are confined just to be in housewives and mothers. it wasn't there doing for stock and different things they went along and moved to cities but i wonder this about the sexual ã ãthe fact that right now since the 1970s there's been this transformation of the economic
role of women in america, it was in the 70s that suddenly because of one thing or another married middle-class couples no longer support their lifestyle with one income and women had to think about working their entire life not ideological purposes, just to meet the standard of living they wanted. once you got to that point and once they ãbthe woman also have to go into the workplace they are expected to end in positions and relation to men that they never were before. i don't know if in the entertainment business there been that much interaction between men and women. working behind the scenes 40 years ago. and updates a danger as well as a great lesson. is that right?
>> i think not just the work, not just our women in some ways that might be stating the obvious but not just our women working on taking on paychex but what positions are they holding within various industries. and trying to figure out how it was with the weinstein, and 2015 and 2015 it was actually one of the rare moments when at least one allegation against harvey weinstein burst into public view when this model this model from italy had reported to a work meeting at his within hours of leaving had gone to the new york police department and said, i was just sexually abused by the producer, they want charges brought at the time but there were headlines and so we knew that the weinstein company, the other executives in his company
and the board of outsiders overseeing the company were aware of that. in the course of our reporting we realized in that year they also learned of other allegations that there was actually a junior executive in the company who actually submitted a scathing mental outlining all this alleged harassment and abuse by weinstein. that the board saw and so what are they do that year? they renewed his contract they renewed weinstein's contract and to try to figure out how something like that could've happened i always thought it was very interesting to note that the board of weinstein's company there was not a single woman on that board. i always wondered, yes there were women working in the company, even women working at high levels, but nobody on the
board, no women on the board. what would that have looked like over the years that there had actually been women on that board who read those memos who saw those headlines? >> at such an important thing to think about, women and our voices and what spaces we occupy and power, both your books have an undercurrent of the dynamics of power at play for women in the world and how much that matters. megan, could you talk a little bit about the reception of your reporting and the reception of your book? >> megan: it's interesting, ãb when we started the weinstein investigation we knew there had been other journalists who had tried and failed to do the story read also learned closer to the end that roman pharaoh was also working on the story and close to the finish line as well.
so there were times when we would be knocking on women's doors and contacting sources people who'd worked in weinstein's companies or otherwise in his orbit and there were people who said, you are not the first reporter we've talked to there's other journalists who have shown up on our doorstep. some people said not only did they show up on our doorstep but we talk to them. only to watch those stories, those reporting efforts, die. come to a screeching halt. we heard time and again. weinstein is so powerful he's gonna find a way to tell your story, he's gonna barge into the new york times he's going to people just didn't have a lot of faith about the story was going to ever actually make it into print. we said listen we can't speak to the experiences you've had with other journalists or other news organizations but we want you to know when we show up on your doorstep we are showing up with the entire support of your
times behind us. after the publisher aware of the stories and weinstein was in fact contacting them he was one of the many things he was doing to try to stop the investigation but we as an institution were committed to if we were able to nail the fact if we were able to get information that was publishable then we were going to do that. i think, that doesn't mean we had any expectation of what would happen after that after we will able to publish the facts there was this couple nights before the story was published jody and i have been working around the clock we finally left work i think around midnight and shared a cab back to brooklyn and it was in that rare quiet moment that we turned to each other and i think i was the one who said to her, do you think anybody's actually can read the story? we were sort of so in the midst of the trenches we couldn't quite see what we had or we
were just so focused on trying to cut through everything weinstein was trying to do to stop the story, which we would later learn included hiring former israeli spies who adopted fake identities to try to ãbi think our starting point was this pride that we got there like that we were like thank goodness because the prospect of having heard all those stories of harassment and abuse and the fear that we would join the ranks of journalists who had seen that and heard those stories and not been able to publish was like too much to bear, we were so terrified of that. for us upon the story being published, the reception internally was like we got it. at least we were able to accomplish that but in terms of the fact that within days, within the several stories, with within several days of the
story being published weinstein was fired from the company, that was our first indication, this might actually have an impact with regards to him. in terms of having a broader impact on the sort of culture and, that was something we started to also see in those first several days when our emails and phones were flooded with women who were coming forward with their own stories of harassment and abuse, not necessarily in the hollywood but way beyond. for reporters who had for any journalist who's worked on the stories of harassment and abuse to know how hard it is to try to extract those and bring them to light this idea that all of a sudden like the river had reversed and there was no like this whole stream of information coming to us and people starting to step forward and then also the moment a couple weeks and when i finally had a moment to go on my facebook page and started to see my own friends and family
and colleagues sharing their stories directly under the "me too" hashtag. it was something i will never forget, it was so moving. certainly something that we just never could've imagined. we certainly didn't predict. >> i worked for many years at a crisis advocacy center working with survivors of sexual assault and as i was reading your book i thought a lot about those experiences. that is such a micro a one on one working with victims. what you were doing was that kind of work on such a macrolevel. when i was doing that work it was a lot of responsibility. it was heavy, that was heavy work. as i was reading your book i saw a lot about what that must have been like for you and jodi to have been entrusted with those within stories to be
entrusted with their hope, with their fears, and then of course in the moment you don't know that all of society is really depending on you too to get the story out there and make change in the world. i thought a lot about that while i was reading her book. you mentioned a minute ago could you talk a little bit more about what the weight ofof this feel like for you. you reported on a lot, what did the weight of this story feel like and what it did me to get them into the world?>> megan: you are right that there was a weight,, it felt like a grave responsibility, not only the women who share their stories with us and then women who share their stories and then the women who went on the record. that was a small number. we were kind of carrying the
stories of a fair number of women at that point and especially the ones who were to be going on the record and having names associated with it. that's when you got the huge responsibility those of the people opening themselves up to everything that can happen. i remember reporting on women who would come forward with allegations against then candidate trump and the death threats they experienced and having people on fox news take aim at them and to have president trump threatened to sue them. i was very aware that going on the record and putting yourself out there like this for the women who agree to these sources and go on record of these stories is not done lightly. it's really you can come with real risk so it is absolutely
if you look at those landscape of reporting that i've done and i think i can speak for jody as well, this was one where you really did feel, people will often ask us especially when they learn that there were these spies, former spies who'd been who were on our trail and trying to stop us there were these powerful lawyers like david boys and others were threatening to sue us. people asked us, were you ever afraid for yourselves? we always say, no, we went. as investigative reporters at the time you wake up the reason we get out of bed in the morning is to hold powerful people to account. and expecting you will engage in a certain amount of tactics to try to stop you prevent scrutiny. the real fear was not for ourselves but somehow the woman
working with us on the story were going to be harmed or suffered as a result. that made publishing all the more important oftentimes the best protection for sources is to have the story out for public view because there is so much more that somebody like harvey weinstein can do behind the scenes, trying to stop an investigation, but once it's in public view and he's the one in the hot seat, it becomes much more difficult for him to go after the people who have sort of bravely spoken out. >> gail, i'm going to pivot to you in a way that there's not really any connection to the question i'm about to ask you. [laughter] we keep talking about harvey weinstein for the rest of the session but, gail, i have so many questions i want to ask you. gail, you have written several
books, you wrote for the new york times for i think close to two decades. you are on the pulitzer prize board, i was wondering if you could speak a little bit to anybody who may be listening who is an aspiring author and then, megan, i would ask you the same question about being a aspiring journalist. anybody listening who might be an aspiring author and a aspiring journalist, could you speak to what advice would you have for young women looking to you in the career that you had in the stories you've managed to put down on paper. what advice would you have for young women who see this and want to do what you've done. >> gail: one other slightly off band, back in the 70s women started filing around the
country, suits to get more representation and work to get more promotions, to get considered the same way that men were. and at the times it happened in the 70s too. and the 80s. in all of these instances, the women who filed the suits were never the ones who got the award because they been there a long time, they hadn't been promoted. they weren't the most popular always. what happened was, when the suits were won, when companies came to realize the importance of the sexual diversity, people like me who were the next ones coming in through the door. enormous opportunities because all those other women had made the companies ready and eager to have that kind of diversity and the women who really did it for us never get as much celebration as they could.
that whole behind thing is so important to remember. >> and you were the first woman ãb you are the first woman to be appointed as the editor of the editorial page of the new york times. so you were in there breaking down doors shattering glass ceilings. >> it's true, you have to be to go beyond the chatter to do whatever it is you need to do to make it work. one more diversity story about how people like me got this done. i was on the editorial board, i was a columnist, ãbcame in and said to me, working to change every thing around, i'm going to ask we want you to become the editorial page editor. i said that's a crazy idea. i haven't had that much
experience doing stuff like that. the first one it just seems like it should be somebody with a lot more background. he just looked at me and said, this is possibly the last first woman's thing that can be available for a while, if you want to be the first woman, unless you are planning to become the baseball commissioner, this is the time you've got to do it, take this job. [laughter] >> i think that's good for young people to hear too that i think probably most people suffer from imposter syndrome, as we call it today, where you feel, i think women especially feel like maybe you are not quite qualify for that thing maybe you need a little more experience. and most men don't suffer from imposter syndrome. it's really us and we feel it.
but we are ready and we are there and we dig in and do the work. you get to be the first editorial page editor as result. >> the one thing i tell women the stuff i did earlier on i covered the state capital in connecticut for weekly newspapers, it's ridiculous. i learned so much because i had to work so hard trish was my partner for about 20 hours a day, 25 papers little stories about all the things going on and they weren't great stories you get to a point where you are just used to doing stuff where you've got the basic skills and you can't sort of demean those basic skill learning times maybe not the most exciting and creative things you will ever do it's really important still very comfortable with your work. megan, i'm gonna shoot a
similar question to you because i think one day there's going to be a movie about what you've done here and angelina jolie is in a play you and there's gonna be a lot of women in this country who are going to say, how can i be an investigative journalist like megan and jodi, how do i do this? how do i write wrongs, how do i bring powerful people down. for anybody who is watching this, who's looking at you and saying, i want to do that i want to be that i want to have that kind of impact on the world, what advice, what lessons will you have for them? >> i would say, for one, it's interesting to hear gail talk about her time working in maryland, did you say? connecticut. i spend time, i too spent time working in ãbmy first newspaper job was at the milwaukee journal sentinel i worked in a suburban bureau almost like a rural bureau of
the milwaukee ã [multiple speakers] >> that's great! [multiple speakers] >> megan: i learned ãbpeople will refer to this as like paying your dues and i think that's one way to look at it, another thing to look another way to look at it is just always be looking for the jobs you are going to learn the most. and where you are forced to work hard and to learn and to grow and when you are starting off those that don't necessarily ãbi may say that's rarely going to be ãb that's rarely probably good to be starting out in a place like the new york times or in a ãb
there are jobs that come with prestigious titles and with prestigious organizations, employers but i really do believe and i really do feel like when i was squaring off against harvey weinstein ãb when he barged into the new york times uninvited the day before the story was going be published with his powerful lawyer by his side, i not only took that meeting but was not intimidated by you in the slightest because of all the interviews that i had done over the years going back to the small town administrator in racine county wisconsin who was somebody even though he was a public official didn't think he had to answer questions from a
reporter at his office would literally hang up the phone on me when i called and i had to figure out how to get answers and how to get him on the phone and how to hold him into account and so i just think there is no ãb100% echo gail and say that there is no substitute i think, to become if you want to become an investigative journalist, if you want to just do good journalism period, there is no substitute for taking the kind of jobs where you are just like on the ground doing the work in developing those reporting and writing muscles that are going to serve you well because when it came to not just weinstein but in some of the tougher interviews with trump when i went to interview him about the women who had allegations of sexual misconduct against him and he was calling me a disgusting human being and screaming at me at the phone, there is no part of me that was rattled in these interviews because of the experience i had had as a cut reporter working
in some of the non-glamorous places just doing the work. >> i think it's good for people to hear too that even in the midst of this world changing reporting that you are doing, you weren't sure any of it was gonna stick much less start a movement. i think that's important for people to hear that you do the good work, you dig in and you hope that it has the impact you hope it will have. that doesn't stop you from doing the good work. you do it because it's the right thing to do. >> megan: you do it with the hopes that not that it's going to bring attention to you but that it's gonna bring attention to the people you are writing about that harvey weinstein is going to get fired from his company and that those women who participated in the story will walk away thinking that was the right thing to do that did hold power to account it
did make a difference. >> i'm going to take us to our last question, i can't believe our time is already up, this has gone by so fast i could talk to you both for the rest of the evening. to wrap us up here, the national book festival this year, this is the 20th anniversary, which is such a phenomenal milestone and just really speaks to how much this festival resonates with folks across the country and how important it is to have a space to get together and share ideas and sit with like-minded people and think about new things. the theme of this year's festival is "american ingenuity" and wondering before we wrap up if i could ask you both just to speak to that beam of american ingenuity, how does it relate to your book, how does it not relate to your book? what does that mean to you that
phrase that is their power behind that for you? gail, could we start with you? what does american ingenuity, how does that connect for you? >> it's sort of a freedom because in this country once you get to a position where people notice the way the history and the country has gone, think of all the women who did all the stuff they got no credit for whatsoever over all of our history and all you can do is just remind people of who all these other people were and go back on most tracks and think about them. and and then that's all there
is. >> megan, how about for you, american ingenuity? >> megan: if i think about, when we were doing the weinstein investigation, i guess another one of the reasons we wrote this book, to go back to one of your original questions, is because i think that there is no question that in doing the weinstein reporting we saw a lot of darkness. we reported into a lot of darkness, we reported and we got a very close look at abuse of power and sexual violence and how powerful people are able to cover that up. but this was ultimately i think another one of the reasons we wanted to write the book was that at a time when the country can feel so polarized and when
the very notion of truth feels like it's collapsing, this is also an example of how brave sources, this is a real testament to the power of brave sources and journalism and how facts can win. i think it was also ushered in to watch what happened in the year that followed and is still happening to see that in some ways we were doing just using the same investigative techniques that journalist has been using for years and years and years but to see victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault be able to kind of step up into a new space in this country and use journalism to help bring about change, i think was like was so inspiring to watch and participate in. american ingenuity i would certainly say that applies to both of you in the work that
you've done. thank you so much gail and megan, for joining me for this conversation, to everybody ãb to everybody who is watching the national book festival this weekend, we are so glad that you are taking part in these conversations. these are amazing books, please check them out. i encourage you, there is so much in these books about women's lives and women's stories and in this centennial year where we are really celebrating women's history this is a moment to learn, this is a moment to listen and this is a moment to engage in women and our lives and to just really look at each other and be grateful for the work we've all done and look to the next 100 years and think about the work that we still have left to do. gail and megan, thank you so much for joining us today,
thanks everybody. >> thanks so much for having us. >[instrumental music] joining us live on booktv as part of our coverage of the national book festival is new york times columnist, former op-ed editor gail collins. her most recent book is called "no stopping us now: the adventures of older women in american history".