Friday, June 5, 2015

Women in the Media: Still MIA

One giant leap for man, several small steps backward for women journalists.

I knew it was bad at the New York Times, but what I didn't know is that female reporters wrote fewer than one-third of the Paper of Record's bylined stories last fall. These articles, moreover, were largely of the family, health and culture varieties. Few women at the Times and other major outlets report on politics, technology, war, and the economy. Politically correct publishers may have relegated the sexist "Woman's Page" to the dustbin of history, but it still exists in the various Mommy blogs and Style sections. Even Oprah Winfrey's pseudo-feminist network features shows directed mainly by men.

"Media in all platforms are failing women," writes Julie Burton, president of the Women's Media Center whose fourth annual report on the status of women in communications professions was released this week.

Coverage of the presidential elections is even more heavily dominated by men. Between two-thirds and three-quarters of the stories on the campaigns are being written and reported by males. So do you think this is where all the sports metaphors are coming from? The macho description of Obama's lame-duck status as his "fourth quarter" and narratives comparing politics to a horse-race are big clues to the barely suppressed sexism rampant in every article and broadcast segment, even those reported by the few token women working under male bosses. The two men to every one woman ratio  has been standard across the media spectrum throughout the millennium. The only exception is in online news blogging, where women can effectively hire themselves. Slightly more than 40 percent of independent blogs are run by women.

The report gave outstanding grades to only three of the major news outlets, based upon their employment rolls containing at least as many women as men: the PBS News Hour, with its two women anchors; the Huffington Post, and the Chicago Sun-Times.

Burton concludes,
 With the 2016 presidential election already under way, this is especially problematic.We hope that one good result of releasing these discouraging numbers will be that media can take a hard look at their newsrooms and make changes to improve the ratios in their reporting. Media companies should establish goals for improving their gender diversity and create both short-term and long-term mechanisms for achieving them. They should ask themselves why their newsrooms aren’t 50 percent women and what steps they need to take to get there. And if they aren’t asking themselves these questions, then that’s a problem.
Welcome to the New Same Old Normal, Baby!


Pearl said...

Another step forward is the article by Ed Snowden being shown on the front page of the NYTimes followed by strong comments of support by most of the readers. Here's mine:

The NY Times is growing up and I congratulate it for posting this important column by Edward Snowden today. We need men and women of courage to expose the corruption festering in our Ship of State which is creating an aura of fear, intimidation, violation of privacy along with many other transgressions to what is left of democracy in our country. Political and social truths have been locked away in order to allow the powers in charge to bully worried citizens who dare to speak honestly. There is a feeling of change in the air and we should be deeply indebted to heroes like Edward Snowden and others who risk their lives and futures in order to warn us of malfeasance at the highest levels. The future is beginning to look more and more interesting and exciting in the deepest sense.

Karen Garcia said...

Sorry, I don't think that the Times' face-saving publication of Snowden's op-ed lets it off the hook regarding its inbred sexism, classism and ongoing pro-govt propaganda, not one single bit. The Gray Lady simply doesn't want to look like a stick in the mud after so many other outlets, both here and abroad, have published similar columns and interviews by and of Snowden on the anniversary of the Big Leak. Not for one minute do I believe that the Times actively solicited Snowden's op-ed. It is by no means an "exclusive." It by no means absolves the media of caressing the govt rather than challenging it.

The day that the NYT editorial board strongly condemns the Obama administration and its whole duopolistic cohort will be the day that I might start believing that this government media tool is finally "growing up."

Pearl said...

Karen: By allowing Ed Snowden's article which I believe was not censored or abbreviated was a powerful statement which encouraged some very strong comments by readers who DID condemn the administration. I think you expect too much from the NYtimes and by publishing it on the front page they allowed, if even cowardly, the readers to speak out. There may be members on the editorial Board who might have had to fight to even get it on the front page and should be encouraged by various responses like mine.
At least they permitted comments which are often not allowed in other similar situations and I still think it is a step forward (if even a baby one) which had a very strong response from readers. Hopefully, this will encourage more 'brave' publishing decisions in future. The mood of the readers can influence what they publish or comment on in the paper and encourage some of the more courageous reporters to speak out more. And where is Krugman on this issue?

Meredith NYC said...

Karen, thanks. Less than 1/3 of NYT bylined stories are by women? Wow. A wee bit better than 2 women vs 9 men regular op ed page columnists. Op eds especially need to show a range, since they are opinion, not reporting. See my post and DW’s reply on this from May 30.

Karen, just about any of your paragraphs are more informative and incisive than any columns by Dowd or Collins, and than many of the men, a lot of the time.

I finally compared the NYT to Washington Post’s columnist index which showed a bigger total lineup than the Times, including 6 women on op ed page alone, not counting local or blogs.
They are Ann Applebaum, Ruth Marcus, Katrina Vandenheuval, Catherine Rampell, Cathleen Parker, Jennifer Rubin.

Across the political spectrum, yes, but their seriousness and knowledge makes the Times women look like a high school opinion page. Actually junior high---more snark.

I don’t read them all, and wouldn’t agree with them all, but they are serious. Applebaum and Van denheuval are very impressive.

Rampell used to be with the Times economix blog I think. I recall her column---called “What Do Doctors Earn in Other Countries?” That’s a serious topic, with plenty of data, which would be beyond the Dowd and Collins.

I was struck by Ann Applebaum on TV, a brilliant conservative, debater, expert on Russia, foreign editor and world university lecturer. She debated on TV re Russia today, teamed with the world chess champion, author/activist Kasparov, against the eminent Princeton authority Stephen F. Cohen and Vladimir Posner, veteran journalist and media commentator on Russian TV. Most impressive.
Just imagine Dowd or Collins even being interested in any substantive issues, much less debating them with experts like that.

The Times does have serious, expert women writers but not as op ed regular columnists--Linda Greenhouse and Gretchen Morgenson in business, among others.

Obvious that Dowd and Collins are token op ed ladies-- superficial and juvenile, who belong in the Style/gossip section. They’d even bring that standard down. They are obviously in a separate category from the men columnist. This can’t be an accident, many decades after the Times was sued for gender bias.

So, which one is the sexist at NYT, Rosenthal, op ed editor, or Sulzberger, publisher? How many years b4 Rosenthal retires? What do the other women at the Times think of this? Is it a prestige thing? I am puzzled.

Collins is a compulsive jokester who can’t write a serious thought on any topic. When Dowd called the president Barry she reached her peak of cute snark. With 2016, she’ll be a compulsively venomous scandal hawk, focused on bringing down icons. Some find this stimulating. When she ate those pot brownies it didn’t seem to mellow her a bit.
Does the Times think they’d lose readers with a more representative cast of women writers from so many choices out there?
Any thoughts?

voice-in-wilderness said...

We also have to look beyond just a match-up of women and subject matter, to see if they are qualified. For example, the NYTimes had Catherine Rampell writing on economics when she was barely out of Yale. Fortunately she moved on to the WashPost, though I can't tell just how she was replaced, for better or worse. As an aside, the NYTimes has some bad habits on economics reporting that affects all their staff -- for example, none of them seems to be allowed to report on U6 unemployment, just the monthly Administration ritual with the U3 number.

Karen Garcia said...

The sad part is that both Dowd and Collins are perfectly capable of writing deep, nuanced pieces. They occasionally do so, breaking out of their strictly defined molds. I remember particularly Dowd's interview with James Risen and Collins's serious pieces on gun control. These are few and far between, however.

Collins fulfills her duty of making Times readers laugh at the Klown Kar and inviting reader-commenters to join in all her light hilarity. Dowd fulfills her function of inviting Times readers to chauvinistically attack her "girly" writing as shallow and vicious. Frankly I don't care that she calls Obama "Barry." I have done so myself on occasion... which I suppose also makes me shallow and shrill. Sometimes I think Dowd is there simply click-bait, reduced to a parody of herself.

Pearl said...

The best women's voices come from the progressive publications such as Truthout. Many are not familiar names or of celebrity status, but their writings reflect high quality and serious research information. I am sure they may have sent in their scripts to the mainstream press but were not allowed in the door.
Several progressive women who are lawyers have written excellent analyses of the legal ramifications of many decisions made by the current administration not seen elsewhere and very informative.
Of course, like Karen's columns, they do not get the kind of attention needed by the public who read the mainstream press which is a monopoly and reflection of the more conservative points of view, resulting in a state of censorship.

Meredith NYC said...

Karen, you're right, those 2 women are perfectly capable of writing better, and it's satisfying when Dowd may hit a bulls eye that I think needs hitting. And all kinds have a place. But why doesn't the Times branch out and get a range of op ed women writers instead of just this category...that's what puzzles me. The men are a range. How about some better click bait?

Pearl said...

NYT: Taxing Wealthy and Cutting Pentagon Makes Senator Sanders "Unelectable by Naiman.

Look up this article in Truthout which strongly criticizes the NYTimes as well as Bernie Sanders along the lines of recent comments on Sardonicky.

(I can't forward it on my new computer yet - some improvements to be made yet)

Bill said...

And I want to say that as soon as women have enough guts to get out of commercials/ads in magazines and on TV - sex sells, right? And they pay you lots so you can buy lots of shoes - (and I'm not Emily Nussbaum so I don't get paid to watch TV all day and then write about it) then maybe I'll listen to this stuff without laughing.

Sports metaphors? Who cares? TV? Who cares? It was ok to watch "Mad Men" and to lament that it's over but it's not ok that it wasn't woman-created? Who cares? Women? Put your money where your mouths are. And remember: vote for Hillary Clinton because she's a woman!

Pearl said...

Karen: who is the woman on staff at the NYtimes who would write interesting articles you would call our attention to and then would be whisked to the search section? I can't remember her name especially since I have not seen anything from her lately. What has happened to her and is she still active behind the scenes?

Meredith NYC said...

My nyt comment to Frank Bruni's Hillary column today wasn't published for some strange reason.

I said....
This column is like a TV reality show. All personalities and hyped up drama.
“Clintons facilitate a thrilling scenario only to pollute it.” Please pinpoint the thrill exactly. Wow, is that purple prose for a purple electorate who are can’t decide if they’re blue or red?

If the Clintons are operatic, the punditocracy like Bruni takes charge of enhancing the production. Bruni is the lighting designer in this one, bathing the political stage- set in lurid tones, the better to sell tickets. And create buzz.

Here’s the climax of this overproduced operatic column:
“It’s definitely true that Hillary is like Nixon in her sense of aggrievement and her deep suspicion of the press,” Thomas told me, though he hastened to add, “Nixon ultimately was a darker figure.”

Which one is darker! It’s the big question for this week. The twits can tweet their responses, and manufacture a political ‘trend’. Then we’ll get a column on that next time.
Readers deserve better.

Pearl said...

I think the woman I mentioned of the Times is Margaret Sullivan who was very outspoken and whose articles weren't allowed to linger on the front page. She might know some answers to your concerns and comments about women writing for the NYTimes.

Pearl said... Section: The Public Editor

Margaret Sullivan is the readers' representative. Her opinions and conclusions are her own. Her column appears at least twice monthly on the Sunday Op-Ed pages.

Pearl said...

A Short Blast of Optimism About Democracy and The Press

A timely column by Margaret Sullivan in the NYTimes

Pearl said...

A reader's comment to her article (above).

New England3 days ago

Ms. Sullivan is right to praise the re-introduction of the value of the relationship of the press with courageous insiders willing to sacrifice their livelihoods to the cause of truth and transparency.

What I find both sad and ironic, is the degree to which the press has allowed ideology and and agenda to become more important.

I, and likely many other readers, would be pleased to see Ms. Sullivan discuss this subject with the Managing Editor and and the bureau/section editors and to report on her findings.

Karen Garcia said...


I think it was the word "twits" that did you in with the censorious Times moderating team. But I loved your comment. I, for one, refused to participate in yet another Hillary Times commenting board. The discussion usually consists of the Nose-Holder/Lesser Evilists defending Hillz against the GOP (remember the Supreme Court and be vewy vewy afwaid!!!!!!) and is largely devoid of any substantive policy discussion. (I would rather write my own annoying Hillary posts, thank you very much!)


Besides the excellent Margaret Sullivan the other "buried" female columnist whom I greatly admire is Gretchen Morgenson. She does a weekly Sunday business opinion piece which should be prominently featured among the other Sunday regulars, but is not.