Guardian News & Media, the publisher of the Guardian and Observer newspapers, has issued an apology to a woman for mishandling her complaint of sexual harassment against one of its prominent columnists, Nick Cohen. The company has also announced changes in its approach to investigating such complaints. This comes in response to a recent investigation by The New York Times, in which seven women accused Cohen of groping them or making unwanted sexual advances over nearly two decades.
In an email to Lucy Siegle, one of the complainants, the Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, and chief executive, Anna Bateson, expressed their apologies for her experience and the mishandling of her complaint. Siegle had reported in 2018 that Cohen had groped her in the newsroom, but the newspaper allegedly failed to take appropriate action, with a senior editor reportedly defending Cohen instead.
As part of the policy changes, the company will no longer have internal managers investigate harassment complaints. Independent, external third parties will now handle investigations into all allegations of sexual harassment. Additionally, external professionals will oversee disciplinary hearings for cases of gross misconduct uncovered during the investigations.
To facilitate reporting and address concerns, the Guardian has enlisted the consulting firm Howlett Brown as an independent point of contact until the end of September. This step aims to encourage individuals to come forward with any current or historical issues or raise concerns about the company’s policies or culture regarding sexual harassment. Howlett Brown had previously reviewed the Guardian’s policies and deemed them strong overall.
Lucy Siegle expressed relief and a sense of liberation, stating that she can now move forward after carrying the burden for some time. Nick Cohen, who worked as a columnist for The Observer for two decades before resigning in January, did not respond directly to the specific accusations mentioned in The Times’ inquiry. He acknowledged his past struggles with alcoholism and expressed deep shame regarding his addicted life.