Alison Bass, a retired journalism professor, will be speaking about her new memoir on Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. in room 130 of Colson Hall at WVU. The memoir is titled, “Brassy Broad: How one journalist helped pave the way to #MeToo.”
Bass has a long history in investigative journalism. As one of the first journalists to write about the sexual abuse committed by powerful men, she paved a path for people to come forward with their stories.
Bass began her career at the Easton Express in Easton, Pennsylvania. Afterwards she worked at The Miami Herald, MIT’s Technology Review and The Boston Globe.
At the Miami Herald, Bass wrote stories about local government corruption, bribery, sexual abuse of children by the staff in a residential treatment center and more. Bass described these stories as “low-hanging fruit.”
Bass was not afraid to speak her mind. She describes herself as outspoken and assertive. This caused tension in the workplace.
After having a conversation with a colleague, she was told, “Alison, you have to understand, they see you as a brassy, northern broad.”
This statement stuck with Bass for years to come.
At the Boston Globe, Bass did a series on the abuse of women seeking mental health treatment and their therapists. For this, she received a Pulitzer Prize nomination.
“It’s hard to believe now, but back in the 1980s, journalists tended to take the word of health professionals over women who complained about sexual abuse, especially when those women had sought mental health treatment,” she said.
Bass’s interest in investigative journalism stemmed from childhood.
With a Jewish background, Bass’s family faced religious discrimination from realtors when trying to buy property in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
“My parents were looking to get out of the inner city and they couldn’t find any place to sell to jews. This was in Bucks County. That's when my father remembered reading about this international community,” she said.
Bryn Gweled, a community in Pennsylvania, was founded by Quakers in 1940. Defying social norms, the community lived sustainably and embraced racial and religious diversity.
In her memoir, Bass discusses the strong impact that life in Bryn Gweled had on her.
“It probably taught me how to challenge the status quo. So that may explain why, some of my bent towards investigative reporting.”
With The Boston Globe, Miami Herald and The Easton Express under her belt, Bass branched out to teaching part time and eventually found her way to WVU.
At the University, she taught and helped the next generation of journalists improve their investigative skills.
“I taught them investigative reporting to the extent where I got into a lot of trouble because some of the stories they wrote embarrassed the University,” Bass said. “But the point was that I was teaching my students how to do investigative reporting. And they choose sometimes to do stories about WVU because that's what they knew.”
In her retirement, Bass spends her time writing books. Her two previous publications are titled, “Getting Screwed, Sex Workers and the Law” and “Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower and a Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial.”
She hopes her readers understand the importance of speaking the truth and standing up for the truth.
“The point is, I would say it’s important to not be cowed by powerful institutions and powerful individuals, and particularly as a woman to speak up.”
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of Bass’ book and the location where her parents face religious discrimination. This information has been updated.