Op-Ed: CRS Faces the #MeToo Movement
a tree falls in the forest Country Radio Seminar officials schedule seminars about sexual harassment, and no one is around to hear it no one really attends, does it make a sound difference?
On Feb. 5-7, 2018, the annual Country Radio Seminar (CRS) took place in Nashville, Tenn. The event brings radio programmers, DJs and country music industry executives from across North America to Music City to attend workshops and seminars, meet with labels and new artists ... and party with friends and colleagues. This year, CRS officials chose to address the ongoing social conversation about sexual harassment, misconduct and assault in the workplace with a workshop that, while well intentioned, was poorly attended, didn’t effectively serve its audience and didn’t measure up to the importance of the transformative culture moment facing country radio, the entertainment industry and our nation as a whole.
Billed as "A Conversation About Harassment," CRS 2018's harassment workshops -- both of which were scheduled for Wednesday (Feb. 7), at 11AM and 2PM -- were led by Shelley Greenwald, a New York-based attorney who specializes in employment practices and leads workshops geared toward managers and human resources employees. CRS officials explained the workshops as an opportunity to "answer questions individuals might have as it pertains to the topic, including how to recognize harassment, how to avoid it and what to do about it."
However, only about two dozen people -- nearly all women -- attended Greenwald's morning workshop; per another reporter, even fewer people -- this time all women -- showed up in the afternoon. And rather than being industry-specific, the 50-minute workshops focused on the power imbalances inherent in working relationships between managers and their reports, and discussed the importance of maintaining professional boundaries and being respectful in all interactions.
"We feel it's really important to offer that kind of training for people who might not have access to it," Country Radio Seminar board member Beverlee Brannigan tells News Channel 5. CRS organizers, Brannigan explains, were hoping to target smaller radio companies where HR resources are limited.
Everyone in the sparsely populated room on Wednesday morning could correctly identify that an innuendo-laden conversation between two co-workers is inappropriate (one of the examples in Greenwald's PowerPoint presentation). But what do you do when you're an artist and receiving messages like that from strangers on social media? Or when you're a DJ talking to a record company executive backstage at a show and things get uncomfortable? Or ... well, insert any number of scenarios here.
Even if organizers weren't targeting the artists, their management teams, media members and those from larger companies, they were some of the ones attending and asking questions. When an artist in CRS' morning harassment seminar asked about dealing with unwanted, sexually driven advances on her social media pages, Greenwald again stressed the importance of keeping her personal and professional personas separate -- which isn't helpful, or largely even possible, for an artist. Those on the media and record label side have it a bit easier -- their jobs don't depend on fans who want to get to know them personally -- but spending time with artists and business contacts in non-traditional business settings is still de riguer.
To News Channel 5, Country Radio Broadcasters (CRB) Executive Director Bill Mayne stated that they "do not tolerate in any shape or form any sexual misconduct, any improper behavior," and that conference organizers try to guarantee attendees' safety by working with hotel security and a private security team. And although Mayne says he "[is] not aware of one police report, one complaint filed with the hotel or with CRB office," Rolling Stone Country's recent story about misbehavior within the country radio world -- not to mention conversations among attendees -- indicates it's not that sexual misconduct isn't happening in the country music world, it's that it's not being reported.
Although the country music community has largely remained isolated from -- or, perhaps more accurately, silent during -- the wave of allegations coming to light in this post-Harvey Weinstein world, Austin Rick's accusations against publicist Kirt Webster and that Rolling Stone Country story make it clear that the industry isn't immune. But the industry is different, specifically from a more traditional "corporate America" environment, and offering a one-size-fits-all-style training isn't going to work here.
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