In the past year the Jeffrey Epstein case was catapulted onto the national news radar by one newspaper, the Miami Herald, and by one reporter in particular, Julie K. Brown. The paper’s “Perversion of Justice” series came out last November, and Brown has stayed on the story ever since.
As soon as The Daily Beast broke the news that Epstein had been arrested on Saturday evening, fellow journalists and other observers credited Brown and thanked her for the tenacious investigation.
Law enforcement officials are also giving credit to the reporting. “We were assisted” by “some excellent investigative journalism,” Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said at a Monday morning press conference.
William Sweeney, the assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York office, added, “We work with facts. When the facts presented themselves, as Mr. Berman hinted at, through investigative journalists’ work, we moved on it.”
While they didn’t cite Brown or the newspaper by name, Berman said in response to a question about the Herald, “we are certainly aware of that reporting.”
Brown was in the room for the press conference. She was actually scheduled to interview another one of Epstein’s accusers on Monday. But after he was arrested, she cancelled that flight and booked a ticket to New York.
True to form, she sought to shift the spotlight, away from her own work and toward her subjects. “The REAL HEROES HERE were the courageous victims that faced their fears and told their stories,” she tweeted Sunday.
On Sunday’s “Reliable Sources,” Brown said she hopes more women choose to come forward.
“It takes a lot of courage, understandably,” Brown said. “This happened to them a long time ago, and many of them feel ashamed.”
She also discussed her reporting process. “What I tried to do, since the story ran and got all that attention, was to keep hounding away at the story. I didn’t give up on it,” she said. “You know, it’s sometimes easy to walk away and just let things happen. But I just felt that I had to keep pursuing it, and not let the powers-that-be, so to speak, the law enforcement people, the people in government, forget that these women were out there. And they’re talking and they want to tell their story and they want justice.”
In summary: “I think the hardest part sometimes of an investigation is to keep going at it, keep pecking away at it.”
Executives at the Herald and its parent company, McClatchy, have been pointing to the Epstein investigation as evidence about local journalism’s importance and vitality.
Aminda Marqués González, the Herald’s top editor, said in an email message, “Julie’s investigative series continues a tradition of award-winning journalism at the Herald that holds the powerful to account and demonstrates the phenomenal power of local journalism.”
Last November’s three-part report revealed that when Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta was a US attorney in Florida, he gave Epstein the “deal of a lifetime.” In a sweeping review of the case, the Herald explained how Acosta had made an agreement with Epstein to avoid major repercussions for the hedge fund manager, even though a federal investigation had identified 36 underage victims.
Brown was also able to interview some of the women on the record, and she has followed up with others since.
The Herald and Brown “took on immense risk in reporting this story,” Poynter Institute vice president Kelly McBride wrote on Twitter on Monday. “When journalists expose the wrong-doing of the rich/powerful, they invite a libel suit. Many rich/ powerful people would like to make it easier to win those cases, to discourage such reporting.”