The editor-in-chief of one of Australia’s biggest newspapers has resigned amid claims he sexually harassed a colleague – just days after his publication took a major stand against that very issue.
Mark Forbes, boss of The Age, quit dramatically over the weekend after confessing that he failed to live up to the standards he – and his paper – expect of others.
According to reports in the Australian media, Forbes was at a music awards party last week when he groped an unnamed female colleague’s behind.
News filtered out among certain segments of Melbourne’s media class late last week that [The Age publisher] Fairfax was quietly conducting an investigation into the editor-in-chief, after a female journalist in the newsroom filed a complaint accusing him of having grabbed her bum at the work function.
By Friday afternoon, media outlets had asked about the incident, Fairfax said the editor-in-chief had been “stood down” pending the completion of the investigation.
The temporary measure soon became permanent as Forbes emailed a resignation message to his staff.
The allegation is acutely embarrassing as it comes after The Age took a major stand on harassment of professional women in the Australian workplace.
The newspaper ran extensive testimonials from women mistreated in their line of work, and wrote a strident editorial condemning the “manifold disgrace” of gender inequality.
'This is a reminder to all that our dealings with all women must be respectful & equitable at all times.' https://t.co/mQ0QOTKKNe
— Georgina Dent (@georgiedent) December 5, 2016
The piece, which Forbes would have been intimately involved with publishing, demanded more government action to end workplace harassment, and demanded that the media “unstintingly shine a light” on abuses.
Within a week, Forbes was explaining to his own staff that it was he who had fallen short.
An email sent round the newsroom said:
As EIC of The Age, I must uphold all the standards which we would expect in others.
I acknowledge and accept that I have not done so. Whatever the circumstance, even a single lapse of judgement in upholding these standards should have serious consequences. Accordingly, I believe it is untenable to remain as EIC.
There has since been suggestion that it was more than a “single” lapse, with a second reporter coming forward to complain Forbes had leered at her breasts and made suggestive comments in the office.