Volume 41, No. 2, Spring 2013
Female Journalists to Hollywood, News Sources: What About Us Donít You Get?
Sometimes, women in journalism must feel the need to look at the calendar to make sure it really is 2013.
Two new web sites are offering us insights into what sources, and Hollywood producers, think of women of the press. The Tumblr site, Said to Lady Journos, allows visitors to post comments made to them as they went about their reporting chores, with a reference as to who and in what context the remarks were made. They’re all appalling, but some of them are breathtaking in their tastelessness and stupidity:
“You don’t know what you’re talking about, so it doesn’t matter.”
Male editor to female copy chief at a campus paper when the copy chief expressed concerns about a pro-pornography editorial. (So much for younger men being more enlightened.)
“You know, these sunglasses enable me to see through clothes.”
Police officer to a young female police reporter as he moved his head to look up and down her body
The tacky comments, come-ons and put-downs can happen anywhere, but Washington may be ground zero for discomfort for women journalists. Marin Cogan, in a piece for The New Republic, observed that “the reporter-seductress stereotype persists, in part because some men in Washington refuse to relinquish it.”
Of course, Hollywood loves sexual tension between characters, and movie after movie has conveyed that this is the natural order between journalists and their sources. Technology has updated the contact platforms, but the basics haven’t changed, writes Neda Semnani in The Week.
“Journalism is one of the few jobs Hollywood has always let women do,” Semnani says. “Since the start of the talkies all the way through today, ‘female journalist’ has been a classic archetype in film and television. But whereas being a female reporter was once synonymous with tenacity, superior intellect, and wit, today's fictional female reporter serves as shorthand for new media reporter/blogger: young, naïve, and morally bankrupt.”
Sustained Push for More Female Bylines, Reviews, Opinion Showing Results
Don’t break out the champagne yet, but thanks to the work of those who have been calling attention to inadequate representation of women in print, there is evidence of progress among some publishers.
VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts keeps careful track of authors, their book reviews, and who reviews them. They have pursued the likes of Harpers, The Paris Review, The New Republic, New York Review Of Books, Times Literary Supplement, The New Republic and The Nation, and sadly, find them wanting in the attention they give to female authors and reviewers. The needle simply doesn’t move much at all, VIDA says, regardless of how much disapproval and disappointment is conveyed to the editors. Read more of this interesting analysis at http://www.vidaweb.org/vida-count-2012-mic-check-redux
Other efforts that are paying off are also described in this issue of Media Report to Women.
Lessons from the Afterlife: Yvonne Brill’s NYT Obit
You have to be some special sort of big shot to rate an obituary in The New York Times. So it was no surprise when scientist Yvonne Brill was celebrated with a NYT obit March 30.
But the celebration turned sour for many because of the way Brill’s life was framed in the article’s first two paragraphs:
She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. “The world’s best mom,” her son Matthew said.
But Yvonne Brill, who died on Wednesday at 88 in Princeton, N.J., was also a brilliant rocket scientist who in the early 1970s invented a propulsion system to keep communications satellites from slipping out of their orbits.
Readers everywhere hit the ceiling, deluging the Times with complaints that asked why Brill’s proficiency in domestic life trumped her singular professional achievements in that all-important lede paragraph – the one that helps readers decide if they should keep reading that article. The times made changes that can be seen at http://www.newsdiffs.org/diff/192021/192137/www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/science/space/yvonne-brill-rocket-scientist-dies-at-88.html
Media Report to Women provides more analysis of how these missteps could and should be avoided in reporting on the lives of women.
Pro or Con, Comments About Female Political Candidates’ Appearance Are Damaging
In a survey on media coverage of women candidates’ appearance, conducted by Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners and Robert Carpenter of Chesapeake Beach Consulting, the research used actual quotes about women candidates from media coverage of the 2012 elections and demonstrates that when the media focuses on a woman candidate’s appearance, she pays a price in the polls. This finding held true whether the coverage of a woman candidate’s appearance was framed positively, negatively or in neutral terms. A second survey, a simulation of the impact of sexism in campaigns, conducted by Lake and Leslie Sanchez of the Impacto Group, simulated a campaign situation similar to those experienced by real candidates and found that where a woman candidate has already been attacked, sexist coverage further diminishes her vote and the perception that she is qualified. The reports can be downloaded at http://www.nameitchangeit.org/pages/4824
Research in Depth: Soap Operas Diminish Sexual Consent by By Ming Lei, Stacey J.T. Hust, Weina Ran, Cunbo Ren, and Emily Marett
Research in Depth: The Kardashian Phenomenon by Amanda McClain
Commentary: Pitching the “Women’s Market” by Sheila Gibbons
Plus News Briefs, People, and Books, Flicks, etc.!
Media Report to Women has hard copies of back issues dating to its founding in 1972. Indispensable for research!