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Vol. 35, No. 3, Summer 2007

‘Placeblogs’ Emerging As Key News,
Information Sources for Women

Long poorly served by newspapers wedded to traditional definitions of news, women are seizing the day in creating online information sites abuzz with “hyperlocal” news and commentary.

They’re launching “placeblogs,” community-based web sites formed as “fusions of news and schmooze,” says a 2007 report by J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism at the University of Maryland. Some placeblogs are adjuncts to daily newspapers seeking a stronger relationship with people (and advertisers), but even more are independent operations, many founded by women attuned to the hunger for connection within communities.

“Women, as we know, can juggle a lot of tasks, work hard, turn copy fast, and are good listeners to the community,” Jan Schaffer, J-Lab’s executive director, told me.

Their creations have the potential to offset longstanding deficiencies in the way news organizations depict women and the amount of attention they give them and their accomplishments.

YouTube/CNN Democratic Debate: Disappointing
Number of Questions from Women, Bloggers Say

The novel format of YouTube and CNN’s joint production of the Democratic presidential candidates’ July 23 debate intrigued, informed and entertained, but the number of questions posed by women was disappointing.

In her analysis on the blog Real Women, Real Voices (the blog of the National Women’s Editorial Forum), Rachel Joy Larris says that just 11 of the video questions chosen featured women.

“Out of the 39 viewer-submitted questions aired by CNN, 28 featured men speaking,” Larris says. “One question, #33, showed four clips, two women and two men.”

Prior to the debate, the National Women’s Editorial Forum had urged women to submit questions, noting that of the first 200 submissions, only 34 were from women.

Among the 28 questions posed by men, three focused specifically on women. One man asked Barack Obama about his blackness and Hillary Clinton about her femaleness. Another asked candidates if women should have to register for the draft as men do. And a third asked Clinton if she would be taken seriously by leaders of Arab and Muslim nations.

Viewers have until mid-September to submit videotaped questions for the Republican candidates’ debate to be aired by CNN Sept. 17.

Read Larris’s report and other comments about the debate at http://realwomenbackstory.blogspot.com.


“One Sunday, as I struggled on the elliptical machine, I glanced up at NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ on a nearby TV and I was stunned. Host Tim Russert was interviewing not one but three bright female journalists in a roundtable discussion about the war in Iraq,” wrote Alicia C. Shepard in the Newark Star-Ledger (May 27, 2007). I remember thinking: ‘This is so cool.’ Then I paused and realized that my tiny moment of pride at my gender’s success in breaking into the Big Time political talk arena was so remarkable only because it is so rare.” Shepard knits together a number of studies, many reported here in MRTW and linked on our web site, that show how very underrepresented female viewpoints remain on opinion-shaping news and public affairs programs.

A frank and important article by Judith Matloff in the Columbia Journalism Review (May-June, 2007) describes the danger of sexual abuse for journalists covering violent areas abroad. “Groping hands and lewd come-ons are stoically accepted as part of the job, especially in plaxces where western women are viewed as promiscuous,” Matloff writes. “War zones in particular seem to invite unwanted advances, and sometimes the creeps can be the drivers, guards and even the sources that one depends on to do the job.” Women rarely complain, Matloff says: “The compulsion to be part of the macho club is so fierce that women often don’t tell their bosses.” Read the full piece at www.cjr.org/on_the_job/unspoken.php

The retouching of magazine covers continues unabated. Upon launching in May, the Gawker media blog, Jezebel, promised $10,000 to the first person who could produce a pre-retouching photo of a cover celeb. On July 16, Jezebel published the winning photo, along with the “after” cover photo, of Redbook’s cover of singer Faith Hill. Hill appeared minus her crow’s feet and with new, narrower body contours, and apparently extra hair. Snarky and dead-on commentary about this practice of turning women into Tussaud’s figures in order to promote some standard of beauty unattainable for anyone without an airbrush is at http://jezebel.com/gossip/top/the-annotated-guide-to-making-faith-hill-hot-278978.php

“Where have all the girls gone?” That’s what Advertising Age writer Nat Ives asks in his July 16, 2007, article on changing readership patterns among teen and young women magazine readers. He wrote after Jane magazine was closed and the launch of Cocktail Weekly was scrapped, events that suggested, at least to some, that young women’s loyalty to magazines could be eroding. Ives says that the Internet and magazines exist side by side for some teens and young women, and for others, everything is online. “Young women’s attention is being diluted by new media properties and refocused toward social media,” Ives says. Still, magazines’ reach remains powerful – declining among 15-17 year olds but solid – 92% penetration – among 18-24 year olds.

Commentary: Women and Media -- Still Like Gazing Into Funhouse Mirrors

Research in Depth: Television Consumption and Young Women’s Expectations of Sexual Timing

Research in Depth: Ignoring International Women's Day -- A Case Study of U.S. News Coverage, 2005

Plus News Briefs, People and Book Reviews

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