A Forbes.com contributor says he has resigned after an interview he posted with a women's rights leader was pulled from Forbes' website without his consent. The former contributor told Media Matters he “strongly disagrees” with the editors' reasons for the removal.
Tom Watson, who contributed paid columns each month to the Forbes.com Social Ventures blog, posted a column on Monday, April 27 with the headline, “Sexism And The Media: As Election Heats Up, Are We Nearer To Tipping Point For Equality?”
The center of the piece was an interview with Jamia Wilson, executive director of Women, Action & the Media, which Watson describes as “a nonprofit organization dedicated to 'building a robust, effective, inclusive movement for gender justice in media.'” Watson and Wilson discussed sexist media coverage of Hillary Clinton, the power of “Networked feminism,” and “the need to create and improve newsroom standards about how sexual violence is discussed in the media.”
“I think that the story, the interview with Jamia Wilson, was important, especially the timing of it given where we are,” Watson told Media Matters on April 29. “I do think this is the most important feminist election cycle in U.S. history, win or lose, and I think it's important to step up and comment on that.”
Watson said the column was posted at Forbes.com on Monday night, but removed the next morning. (A Google cache version shows the column on the Forbes site that evening.) He said editors informed him via email Tuesday that it had been pulled, but never asked for his consent.
“They took down a post of mine that I felt was worthy of my Social Ventures blog and I couldn't live with that so I resigned,” Watson said. “They told me that they had done it [via email]. I was at a faculty meeting at Columbia University, where I teach part-time, and I saw it come in. It kind of wrecked my day.”
Watson declined to reveal which editors informed him of the column's removal, but said he was told that “it was outside the parameters of my beat.”
He described his beat as “covering social entrepreneurship, non-profits, philanthropy, start-ups and digital activism space.”
Asked to comment on Watson's claims, Forbes Senior Manager of Corporate Communications Laura Daunis said via email, “Forbes felt the post was off topic and not aligned with the entrepreneurship channel's mission.”
After Forbes.com pulled the column, it was posted on Medium, but with this tagline at the end announcing Watson's concerns and resignation:
Note: I have resigned as a contributor to Forbes.
Yesterday, I posted this interview with Jamia Wilson of Women, Action & the Media, a nonprofit organization dedicated to “building a robust, effective, inclusive movement for gender justice in media.” I consider her work, and that of feminist organizers everywhere, to be vitally important to the field of social entrepreneurship and to public life.
The editors found it inappropriate for the section of Forbes I have contributed my Social Ventures column to for the last three years and they removed it this morning. I strongly disagree with their decision and we have parted ways.
Despite this, I appreciate the audience and platform Forbes provided, and am grateful for the opportunity to write about social entrepreneurship, citizens movements, new nonprofit models, and philanthropy. That conversation will continue elsewhere.
Thank you all for supporting my work, it is deeply appreciated.
The same note appeared on Watson's personal blog.
Watson had penned earlier columns that related to feminism and politics which are still on Forbes.com, including a piece on Hillary Clinton's impact on women in politics last month and another column in January on women in leadership. He said this is the first column of his removed by editors at Forbes.com.
“It was something I felt, from my own perspective and my own self-respect, I couldn't stay after,” Watson said about his resignation. “I don't want to make a huge issue of it, they're a big outlet, they have their goals and aims, they certainly have the right to publish whatever they want to publish and I am looking to move onto other things.”
He later added, “The topic of the story is so important and so current that any objections they made about it being outside my beat, I strongly disagree with. That is, in the end, why I had to leave ... Nobody will stop me from being a journalist and from writing about the stories I think are important.”