Rich Lieberman, whose blog about Bay Area journalists has run for 19 years, writes about industry happenings, gossip, and oftentimes female reporters' appearances. Despite the offensive nature of his blog content, Lieberman has been oft-cited as a credible source on the local news industry, and used more than once as a source by the Mercury News.
When the Mercury News was recently forced to retract an inaccurate story based on Lieberman's sourcing, dozens of women who work or have previously worked in TV and radio decided to speak out. They say he's been given undue credibility for years, all while bullying female professionals on his site.
Below is the letter they composed and published on Medium on Sept. 4:
We Are Better Than This
We, the women past and present in Bay Area media, have something to say. It is personal, it is uncomfortable, but we've learned: to be silent is to be complicit. So we will not stay silent. Not anymore.
For nearly two decades, we've been told to look the other way as a self-described media blogger - Richard Lieberman - has written disturbing and sexist things about us and our colleagues. He's pitted us against each other; posted malicious rumors and gossip about us; and presented us as objects to be ogled and mocked in exchange for clicks.
The final straw for us came last week when The Mercury News published a since retracted story about local TV station KTVU that cited Lieberman as their only source. The station news director tweeted back at the paper: "The public trusts you to tell the truth. Do better."
Do better, indeed.
While The Mercury News has issued a correction for their inaccurate report, for a reputable paper to ever legitimize Lieberman in that way by using him as a source, is to dismiss the fact that what he writes about is often misogynistic, dramatized, and, frankly, perverted.
This kind of behavior from Lieberman may come as a surprise to many, but not to any woman working in the public eye. We see it regularly in media, entertainment and politics. It's sad it's normal. But we need a new normal. And by sharing some of our own stories, we hope to shed light on the work that still needs to be done.
Lieberman uses his blog to degrade women who have worked hard to earn their positions - and creates imaginary and stereotypical cat fights between us, repugnantly pitting one female news personality against another. One blog headline declares a particular anchor "Really Thinks She's a Helluva Lot Better (and Finer)" than another female anchor at her station. Another post twists the warm relationship between two colleagues and claims the women are "at a Star Wars ego crossroads," with one wanting the other's job and the other "trying mightily to ward off the onslaught." In reality, the women he presents as scheming rivals are often each other's biggest supporters, confidantes and friends.
Other posts focus on our physical attributes, putting our hair, clothing and weight up for public discussion, dissection and derision. Lieberman wrote an entire blog post debating whether an anchor's "winnebagos" were "genuine or manufactured," and has commented on the "boob power" of another anchor. He headlined one post about a female journalist: "Boner of the Day."
Sadly, some of his readers further the sexualization and bashing of female anchors and reporters, adding comments such as "I have seen nicer legs on a table," and others that describe women as "fat," "HORSE FACE" and "garbage bags." Lieberman rarely, if ever, puts Bay Area male anchors and reporters under the same microscope of distortion.
To those who say we chose to be on television and put ourselves out in the public eye, that is true. We can handle criticism relating to our work. However, we cannot, and will not, allow predatory comments to be normalized or magnified.
Women have been told to either ignore Lieberman's comments or, in some cases, pressured to chat him up in the hopes of currying favor in exchange for more favorable coverage. Those tactics have proved to simply empower him even more.
What we have described here, at the risk of retribution by way of more vitriolic posts that inflict damage on our reputations and careers, is not the work of a journalist. It is the work of a misogynist looking for a platform and legitimacy. The Mercury News, by citing Lieberman last week, was giving it to him. And sadly, it wasn't the first time.
We have been subjects of Lieberman's harmful rumors and trolling for far too long. Even those of us who haven't been directly targeted, see Lieberman for who he is: A self styled media blogger who attempts to make a living off of demeaning female journalists. It's time that all Bay Area journalists and readers know it as well.
In this age of the Me Too awakening, Lieberman's sexist behavior is insidious, indefensible and intolerable. And it can no longer be ignored or endured.
We, the women, past and present in Bay Area Media, write this not as representatives of our companies, but as independent journalists. And we stand united. We will not be silent. Not anymore.
Amanda del Castillo
Valerie Coleman Morris