“She Said” tells an important story about trauma-informed reporting

To kick off the semester, SMU’s Divisions of Film and Media Arts and Journalism invited students, faculty and alumni for a screening of the 2022 biographical drama “She Said,” followed by a conversation about trauma-informed reporting.

The film follows journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, played by Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan, on their New York Times investigation into the sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

The story they uncover would be the catalyst for the #MeToo movement and inspire a shift in the American perspective on sexual assault and rape culture.

But “She Said” isn’t about the movement or any other aftereffects of Twohey and Kantor’s story. Instead, it focuses on the women’s meticulous day-to-day reporting and their sensitive, compassionate approach to learning and telling the survivors’ stories.

Director Maria Schrader and screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz avoid any and all embellishments. The movie is honest and straightforward, depicting the survivors’ statements with somber realism and never shying away from depicting the toll that reporting takes on Twohey and Kantor.

Photo credit: Lauren Villarreal

While the movie shows the journalists shifting through court settlements and building relationships with their sources, it also captures Kantor having difficult a conversation with her daughter about rape and Twohey coping with postpartum depression. Mulligan and Kazan excellently relay the support the colleagues come to find in each other.

The inclusion of Twohey and Kantor’s struggles alongside their commitment to their sources truly makes the film feel like it’s made by women for women. The relationships the journalists share with the women who go on record also echo the same sentiment and offer a stellar example of effective trauma-informed reporting.

The empathy between the reporters and their sources made the story as impactful as it was. Stella M. Chavez, an award-winning KERA immigration and demographics reporter, shared after the screening how important and relevant this connection has been in her reporting.

“When I do those interviews, when I talk to people like that, you can see the pain they’re experiencing, maybe the trauma that they experience,” she said. “I don’t think you’re human if you don’t feel something when you’re interviewing people who’ve been through something. If you go into this business, you will find that there are many more things that connect us to other people than divide us.”