Sheila Nevins called for an end to ageism while accepting an award at Cipriani in midtown Manhattan on Thursday afternoon. Nevins, an executive producer who stepped down as president of HBO Documentary Films earlier this year, has spoken out about issues related to aging and other hot-button industry topics and is the author of The New York Times bestseller, “You Don’t Look Your Age…and Other Fairy Tales.”
At the Mirror Awards, which is hosted by the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University to recognize excellence in media industry reporting, Nevins spoke about her feelings on retirement and aging during a brief speech (“nothing’s too short,” she quipped when taking the mic) that she ended by reading her phone number aloud to the room.
“I want to talk about ageism, and then I’m going to get out of here. I am at the moment retired and I thought that would be a good thing. Except then I looked it up, and it said — among other things, like gardening and cooking, none of which I know how to do — it also said that I would be able to do all the things that I was never able to do,” Nevins said. “Well, I’ve been able through work to do all the things I ever really want to do. Not wanted, but want. And so I will say that the word retirement should be replaced and ageism should be a new frontier for us. Come on, we can think. Maybe I don’t know your name, but I know what you’re about. Anyway, my number is…”
Awards for Best Profile went to Lois Parshley of Pacific Standard; Best Single Article/Story went to The New York Times’ Jim Rutenberg (“I picked the wrong day to start day drinking,” he quipped while accepting the award); Best Commentary went to Politico’s Jack Shafer and Tucker Doherty for “The Media Bubble Is Worse Than You Think,” and Best In-Depth/Enterprise Reporting was shared by The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow and a team of New York Times reporters for the two outlets’ explosive reporting on Harvey Weinstein.
In keeping with the big themes of the past year, two new categories were created: Best Story on Fake News, which went to Amanda Robb for her stories in Rolling Stone and Reveal, and Best Story on Sexual Misconduct in the Media Industry, which went to Amy Brittain and Irin Carmon for their Washington Post story on Charlie Rose’s sexual misconduct.
Carmon used the win to call the media industry out on its systemic complicity.
“I think there’s a temptation to think that the last few months have been about individual men, that it’s about a handful of bad apples and if we get rid of them we will stop a cycle of harassment and abuse. But it’s not true. The stories that we’ve been doing are actually about a system,” she said. “The system has lawyers and a good reputation and it has publicists. It has the perfectly reasonable explanation about what happened. It has powerful friends who will ask ‘is this really worth ruining the career of a good man [over] what one woman says, what four women say, what 35 women say?’ Indeed, the system is sitting in this room, some more than others. The system is still powerful men getting stories killed.…It took seven years from the time I found out about Charlie Rose until Amy and my story was published. So the larger story about how this behavior persists in our industry will also take time, but if we are going to earn the trust of our readers and our viewers, we have to tell the truth about ourselves. I know there are a lot of people in this who are committed to that, and we’ve only just begun.”