By Sierra Sizemore
Torey Van Oot is a free-lance writer, reporter and editor out of Minneapolis, Minnesota with bylines in Refinery 29, Teen Vogue and Glamour Magazine. Before a career path change to free-lance reporting, Van Oot was a contracted writer for Refinery 29 in Brooklyn, New York. She has appeared on CNN in regards to a political sex scandal and received a Center for California Studies award for best political blogging.
As a free-lance reporter, she often receives tips and assignments from editors looking for an outside voice to produce a story. Van Oot produces her own stories and ideas, however, her article “For Women in Congress, the State of the Union is a #MeToo Moment” was brought to her by an editor at Glamour Magazine. According to Van Oot, it’s important for journalists to break news, enhance a story or figure out a unique angle. The State of the Union piece specifically falls under the last category in that she was working to find a voice or opinion that was not as prominent.
“For me, it’s about finding a story that no one else has or that’s going to be different,” Van Oot said. “I look for unexplored angles or compelling characters. I look at narrative arcs to see how much access I may have to the people or things I need to write about in a compelling and interesting way.”
The article revolves around the challenges women face as full-time members of the United States Congress in American society. The expose specifically discusses sexual harassment claims and those female legislators affected by the acts in question. Van Oot reached out to many congresswomen, both Democratic and Republican, however, the Republican representatives were unwilling or unable to give quotes for this piece.
“I really wanted to include the voices of Republican women,” Van Oot said. “My assumption is that they would’ve said, had they participated in this story, is ‘This is a symbolic gesture (referencing the all-black dress-code at the State of the Union) and we’re going to do other things to address this issue.’”
Van Oot discussed the ways journalists can give justice to victims in the future. As reporters, it is important to listen to the primary voices, but also to look outside the box and truly give an outlet to all parties involved.
“There’s a level of kindness, compassion and thoughtfulness that should always come with our reporting when talking to people who have gone through traumatic experiences,” Van Oot said. “I do think it’s really important to be mindful when talking to people and to be understanding of what people are going through when they are sharing such traumatic stories with you. Part of doing that justice is being upfront and honest with them about what you’re going to need to do as part of the reporting.”
Van Oot brought up the point to ask survivors about their next line of action and to make sure they have a support system to fall back on. When reporters tell a sensitive story, it is important to assure that the sources or subjects of the story are not negatively affected by the story that is being told. Journalist’s jobs are to give voice to the voiceless, however, they are required to follow the voices who want to be heard and will contribute considerably to the article in progress.
The article written for Glamour Magazine, mentioned in earlier graphs, was not predominantly controversial. Though it was shared multiple times on Twitter, the piece did not receive any kind of negative feedback from its intended audience.