The organizers of the Eddie Adams Workshop (EAW) today announced they will work with anti-harassment experts and others to institute more safeguards against sexual harassment, create new procedures for handling reports of harassment, and do more to raise awareness about the EAW’s “zero-tolerance policy” for sexual misconduct. EAW’s announcement, posted today on the EAW website and emailed to EAW faculty and advisors, comes a week after Columbia Journalism Review reported that six past EAW attendees had witnessed or experienced “inappropriate behavior from photographers and editors participating in the workshop as instructors.”
Mirjam Evers, the workshop’s executive producer, and Alyssa Adams, co-founder and board member, told CJR that before the 2017 Workshop, they wrote a new code of conduct that included a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment. Adams also told CJR that the workshop had not communicated how attendees could report violations of the policy. They also said they had not established a procedure for handling harassment complaints, or for protecting complainants, but were working on measures.
In the statement they released today, Evers and Adams say that in creating the code of conduct, “We were trying to be proactive and raise awareness about this important issue.” However, their statement says, “We failed to fully realize our vision. In addition, we did not adequately define what a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy really meant or how to implement such a policy—especially when we receive anonymous allegations.”
According to their statement, Adams and Evers plan to implement a new policy before the next Workshop, which takes place in October. They are working with legal experts, past attendees, board members and anti-harassment experts “to help us implement important changes. These include
• Create a more transparent zero-tolerance policy;
• Set in place stronger harassment awareness through programming and a prerequisite anti-harassment webinar;
• Implement an on-site reporting process (in-person and electronic) for allegations of misconduct; and
• Restructure the workshop program format.”
They also promise to hire a legal advisor to oversee “real-time reporting protocols.”
The Columbia Journalism Review article, which covered the problem of sexual harassment throughout photojournalism, cited detailed allegations about incidents reported to have place at the Workshop between 2013 and 2015. In 2015, following a report by an attendee that photo editor and EAW faculty member Patrick Witty had harassed her during the Workshop, EAW organizers decided not to invite Witty back to the Workshop the following year. In January 2018, Witty left his job at National Geographic, shortly after the magazine began a sexual harassment investigation.
According to CJR, a female volunteer reported last fall to EAW organizers that in 2014 “a well known photo editor” on the EAW faculty had asked her “to go to the hotel room of a famous photographer.” The photo editor, not named in the article, remained on the EAW faculty after the incident, and in March 2018 was appointed to the EAW advisory council, according to CJR. Evers and Adams declined to comment on the editor’s appointment.
Before the publication of the CJR report, past EAW attendees had publicly and privately called on EAW to do more to create a safe environment for students and volunteers. They received no response from EAW.
In February, for example, photographers Justin Cook and Daniel Sircar published an open letter to the photo industry in which they asked “preeminent organizations like EAW to lead by example.” They circulated a petition addressed to “workshops, conferences and leading organizations in photojournalism,” demanding that “the culture of silence and corporate policies that enable predatory behavior be changed.” It received more than 450 signatures. Cook told CJR an EAW board member contacted him via Facebook after the petition was circulated, but never followed up.
Five months later, Adams and Evers now state, “We value and respect our relationships with the Workshop community and are committed to change that creates a more professional atmosphere that discourages misconduct and fosters learning and collaboration in a safe, supportive and inclusive way.” The full statement can be found here.
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