WATERVILLE — Rebecca Corbett, lauded investigations editor at The New York Times, returned to the city where she cut her teeth as a journalist Friday for a screening and panel discussion of the new film “She Said.”

“She Said,” hosted by the Maine Film Center and screened Friday at the Paul J. Schupf Art Center in downtown Waterville, follows Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, the pair of journalists who, guided by Corbett, exposed Harvey Weinstein’s pattern of sexual harassment in a 2017 investigation for The New York Times.

Rebecca Corbett, left, and Colby College Professor Jill Gordon smile Friday after a screening and panel discussion of the new film “She Said.” Corbett, a Pulitzer Prize winner, began her career in journalism at the Morning Sentinel.

Corbett, in conversation with Jill Gordon, a professor of philosophy at Colby College, said Friday that the film gets a lot right about the 2017 investigation, and investigative reporting more generally.

“It’s not glamorous,” Corbett said earlier on Friday. “With some types of journalism films, particularly ones that are fictionalized, there’s a lot more exciting cloak and dagger.”

Much of the film highlights, she said, the often invisible and undramatic work behind a “big reveal” like the Weinstein case – strategizing, combing through documents and asking a lot of questions.

“The film has the power of showing who these people are,” Corbett said in an interview with the Morning Sentinel. “There is something about seeing the faces of these young women telling their story in the film that makes it very, very powerful and relevant.”


Corbett said during the panel discussion that while the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace had long been reported on prior to their investigation, “what we did was come at (the issue) with the tools of investigative reporting, to buttress it, so it wasn’t a ‘he said, she said.'”

The tools with which Corbett helped build their case were, in part, honed at her first-ever job: as an editor with the Morning Sentinel in Waterville. While working at the Sentinel, Corbett said she developed a strong sense of accountability to her readers in central Maine.

“The experience of having people walk up the front steps of the Sentinel (office) … either to tell you their story or complain about something or tell you missed something, was really important, because you weren’t insulated from your readership,” Corbett said. “I quickly learned that if we got something wrong, we would hear about it.”

Corbett was promoted to state editor for the Sentinel, but after a couple years moved on to work at a newspaper in Manchester, Connecticut, and then over 20 years at The Baltimore Sun. She joined The New York Times in 2004.

Though she now edits investigative stories of national import, several of which have won Pulitzer Prizes, Corbett said Friday that her role as an editor has always remained pretty consistent: to be both a “nag” and a “net.” Someone who doggedly fact-checks each assertion reporters make with genuine curiosity, but also — and more importantly, Corbett said — someone who always has the reporter’s back, too.

There were certain things “She Said” couldn’t quite capture about the investigation, said Corbett, for lack of time and scope. For one, the story is much larger than one man, she said. A few months after publishing the story on Weinstein (where the film ends), Corbett said a larger team of reporters including herself, Twohey and Kantor, published “The Complicity Machine” — a look at enablers of abuse in Hollywood including talent agencies, companies like Disney, and private intelligence agencies suppressing victims’ stories.

But Corbett hopes the film shows audiences, particularly those distrustful of news organizations, that “there definitely are media organizations, I think a fair amount of them, that are in pursuit of the truth and are really careful about it,” she said. “It’s really painstaking and laborious, but it can matter. It can have real impact.”

Indeed, the discussion was particularly timely, following Thursday’s news out of Los Angeles that Weinstein was sentenced to 16 years in prison for rape and assault. The disgraced movie producer is already serving a 23-year sentence for similar offenses committed in New York state.

“The truth is hard,” Corbett said. “Truth is powerful.”

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