By Jim Bleyer
Two women with links to the Tampa Bay Times go all in on reporting on and discussing the #MeToo movement but they develop writer’s cramp and laryngitis when it comes to relating personal experience and exposing the “jerks” they claim to abhor.
One Anita Kumar, Washington D.C.-based reporter for the McClatchy Company, worked for the Tampa Bay Times from 1996-2007. Very reliable sources familiar with the newsroom during that time period have told Tampa Bay Beat that Kumar was sexually harrassed by a male colleague during the latter part of her tenure.
Nothing was done about it. Kumar left the Times for the Washington Post. The alleged predator to this day remains on the Times news/editorial staff.
Tampa Bay Beat attempted to elicit comments from Kumar. We left three messages, two on her cell phone and one on her office phone, asking that she comment on her experience with #MeToo. We are publishing this blog piece after four days of no response.
Indira Lakshmanan, Ethics Chair at the Poynter Institute, last Wednesday participated in a panel discussion on #MeToo: Politics, Journalism, and the Workplace at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club. There, she was quoted as asserting that allowing people to be jerks amd bullies is a precursor to other bad behaviors including sexual harassment.
Contacted by Tampa Bay Beat, Lakshmanan on Friday refused to discuss her personal experiences or any knowledge she might have of a predator at the Times or any other newsroom. She angrily and curtly pointed to the well-documented misbehavior of Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose.
She did say women have left their jobs because of continued harrassment that went unpunished.
So here we have Kumar who wrote about the glaring omission of #MeToo in Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech, and Lakshmanan discussing generalities of the movement at a high-powered local forum.
Pointing fingers at predators who already have been identified and encouraging preyed upon females to come forward are only two steps in stopping sexual harrassment in the workplace.
Summoning up the courage to call out perpetrators of sexual harrassment while on the job is the real key to calling a halt to predatory behavior.
Meanwhile the Times perp walks.
Tampa Bay Beat will identify him after a reasonable period of time if the Times shucks, jives, clams up, or covers up any harrassment related to Kumar. Whether or not the Times sanctions or fires the perp remains to be seen.
Besides being soft on predatory behavior internally, the Times in its “news” reports and editorial stances urged the public to withhold judgment about sexual harrassment allegations against State Sen. Jack Latvala. This imbecilic position despite at least a half dozen staffers and lobbyists coming forward as accusers and two widely-circulated Tampa Bay Beat stories about Latvala’s history of predatory behavior.
Latvala, a longtime powerful senator who headed the Appropriations Committee, resigned in the face os a Senate investigation and law enforcement probe.