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Journalist says she started notorious list of allegations against men in the media

CNN logo CNN 1/11/2018 Rob McLean
a man standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera © Twitter.com

A journalist has come forward to say she was the person who started a high-profile list of men in the media industry who are alleged to have acted inappropriately toward women.

In a first-person account published late Wednesday by The Cut, a New York Magazine website focused on women, Moira Donegan said she initially compiled the "S***ty Media Men" spreadsheet in October.

"The anonymous, crowdsourced document was a first attempt at solving what has seemed like an intractable problem: how women can protect ourselves from sexual harassment and assault," Donegan wrote.

CNNMoney wasn't immediately able to reach Donegan for comment.

Her spreadsheet drew widespread attention after news reports detailing accusations of sexual misconduct by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein sent shock waves through the media and entertainment industries. (Weinstein has denied allegations of non-consensual sex.)

Donegan said she started the Google document as "a place for women to share their stories of harassment and assault without being needlessly discredited or judged." But the situation spun out of her control in a matter of hours as word spread and more and more women anonymously added to the list.

"It spread much further and much faster than I ever anticipated, and in the end, the once-private document was made public," she wrote. The spreadsheet ended up containing allegations against dozens of men.

Related: 2017: A year of monumental change in the media

It also had real effects.

"Eventually, some media companies conducted investigations into employees who appeared on the spreadsheet; some of those men left their jobs or were fired," Donegan noted.

But Donegan also said that the document also had flaws and that she was "incredibly naive" when she started it not to anticipate what the ramifications could be. The list's anonymity made it a potential forum for false accusations, she wrote, saying that was "a concern I took seriously."

"The spreadsheet only had the power to inform women of allegations that were being made and to trust them to judge the quality of that information for themselves and to make their own choices accordingly," Donegan wrote.

The document also had a huge impact on her own life, Donegan wrote.

"I lost friends: some who thought I had been overzealous, others who thought I had not been zealous enough," she said. "I lost my job, too. The fear of being exposed, and of the harassment that will inevitably follow, has dominated my life since."

Donegan didn't specify what job she lost. She is listed on the site of the New Republic as a former assistant editor of the magazine. She has also written for publications like the New Yorker and the London Review of Books.

"While we don't comment publicly on the specific circumstances around any employee's departure, we can confirm that Moira Donegan was employed by TNR for just over six months in 2017. We can also confirm that she did not leave because of the spreadsheet," a spokesperson for the New Republic told CNNMoney.

Related: Hollywood execs name Anita Hill to lead anti-harassment effort

Donegan's decision to come forward appears to be an attempt to get out ahead of a story that would identify her as the list's creator.

She said she was contacted by Katie Roiphe at Harper's in December about an article on the feminist movement. She said she later learned -- via a Harper's fact checker -- that Roiphe's piece identified her as, in the words of what she says was the fact-checker's email to her, "a woman widely believed to be one of the creators" of the list. Roiphe has denied that she intended to name Donegan without Donegan's consent.

When word leaked out about the planned Harper's piece, it created a controversy of its own.

"People who opposed the decision by Harper's speculated about what would happen to me as a result of being identified," Donegan wrote. "They feared that I would be threatened, stalked, raped, or killed. The outrage made it seem inevitable that my identity would be exposed even before the Roiphe piece ran. All of this was terrifying."

a screenshot of a cell phone © Provided by CNN

But she said the experience of creating the list also made her realize the power that women can wield.

"The women who used the spreadsheet, and who spread it to others, used this power in a special way, and I'm thankful to all of them," she wrote.

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