The Guardian Apologizes for Its Handling of Harassment Complaint

Guardian News & Media, the publisher of the Guardian and Observer newspapers, has apologized to at least one woman for its handling of her complaint that one of its star columnists, Nick Cohen, groped her in the newsroom.

The company also told staff members that it was changing how it investigates sexual harassment complaints. The apology and the policy changes follow a New York Times investigation last month in which seven women said that Mr. Cohen had groped them or made other unwanted sexual advances over nearly two decades.

The Guardian’s editor in chief, Katharine Viner, and chief executive, Anna Bateson, wrote one of those women, Lucy Siegle, an email on Monday morning.

“We want to apologize for your experience of sexual harassment by an Observer member of staff, and for the way your complaint was handled,” the email said.

Guardian News & Media told its staff that it was changing how it investigates sexual harassment complaints, after seven women said Nick Cohen had groped them or made other unwanted sexual advancesCredit…Marco Secchi/Getty Images

Ms. Siegle complained in 2018 that Mr. Cohen had grabbed her bottom in the newsroom many years earlier. She accused the newspaper of failing to act on her complaint, saying that a senior editor had instead defended Mr. Cohen.

“Everyone should feel safe at work and in the presence of their colleagues, and the incident you describe is absolutely unacceptable,” Ms. Viner and Ms. Bateson wrote.

Going forward, company managers will no longer investigate harassment complaints themselves. “All allegations related to sexual harassment will be investigated by independent, external third parties rather than by GNM senior managers,” the company said in a message to staff obtained by The Times.

Outsiders will also handle disciplinary hearings related to any gross misconduct uncovered by those investigations, the company said.

The Guardian has appointed a consulting firm, Howlett Brown, to act as an “independent point of contact until the end of September” for anyone wishing to report any current or historic issues or “raise any concerns about GNM’s policies or culture relating to sexual harassment. The company said that last year Howlett Brown found that overall, its policies were strong.

“I feel hugely relieved and a bit elated,” Ms. Siegle said. “It’s just a massive weight off my shoulders. I feel like I can move forward, which I haven’t been able to do for some time.”

Mr. Cohen spent two decades as a columnist for The Observer before resigning in January. He did not respond to specific accusations put to him by The Times. “I have written at length about my alcoholism. I went clean seven years ago in 2016,” he said last month. “I look back on my addicted life with deep shame.”

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