The allegation of “sexual assault” leveled against Aziz Ansari, published last year in the esteemed pages of something called “Babe.net,” is perhaps best remembered for being poorly reported. Such is the risk of fact-checking national news at brunch, without the guidance of an editor over the age of 25.
Back in January 2018, it was 22 -year-old Katie Way’s name on the byline in question. After a stint at Cannabis Now, Way landed a job with Vice this month.
That Way’s reputation-shattering story on Ansari amounted to reckless journalism is not just my opinion. Writers left and right came close to a rare consensus on this point. Whether they believed the reporting was simply amateur, or the allegations should never have seen the light of day, critics across the great ideological divide panned the story.
Way’s bizarre behavior amid the backlash made it all worse. The childish screed she sent HLN anchor Ashleigh Banfield, swiping at her “bad highlights,” was laughable and not exactly indicative of good professional judgment (or personal character).
I write now of Way’s transition to Vice only because her reporting was both so bad and so consequential. Like myself, a lot of writers at new media outlets are in their 20s, so it’s easy to imagine young people with access to big platforms stumbling early in their careers. Second chances are fair enough.
But Way was unapologetic, and with the benefit of 18 months’ hindsight, her story was a turning point for Me Too, validating concerns the movement was veering into dangerous territory. Her bad reporting was a very big deal.
I reached out to Vice about whether Way’s story on Ansari helped in the hiring process, but received no response. Why they would want the person behind a shoddy and shameless report that helped derail Me Too is an open question.
In Way’s career arc there’s a lesson about new media, where amateur journalists are empowered with powerful megaphones. Given the right guidance, the results can be great. Without it, the risks are very real. Alas, for the media, rewarding bad behavior is something of a vice.