BY CARRIE MACMILLAN
The numbers are stark.
- The percentage of women in newsroom staffs (36 percent) has remained virtually unchanged for 15 years, according to the American Society of News Editors.
- During a three-month analysis of the front page of The New York Times, men were quoted 3.4 more often than women, according to a University of Nevada at Las Vegas analysis.
- At the nation’s three most prestigious newspapers and four newspaper syndicates, women made up just 38 of the 143 editorial-page writers, according to a 2013 Gawker.com report.
When it comes to gender inequities in the media, there is plenty of material. But the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, a state agency that monitors policies and practices that affect Connecticut women, plans to explore one specific area of media coverage.
On Wednesday, the group will host a free panel discussion, “Journalism & Gender: When Women Report on Politics and Public Policy,” at the Capitol. The discussion coincides with PCSW’s annual Women’s Day celebration.
The panelists will include Jenifer Frank, editor, The CT Mirror; Daniela Altimari, political reporter, The Hartford Courant; Christine Stuart, founder and editor, CT News Junkie; Angela Carter, producer, Digital First Media; Lucy Nalpathanchil, correspondent and “All Things Considered” host, WNPR; and Susan Haigh, political writer and statehouse reporter in Connecticut, The Associated Press. Susan Campbell, columnist/blogger, Hot Dogma, will moderate.
“All of the reports that we have seen still reflect that the reporting well is male-dominated and not just in who is doing the reporting, but who decides which stories run and the angle of those stories,” said Teresa Younger, PCSW’s executive director. “Having more women at the table in media is just the same as having more women at the table in business and politics. They bring their own perspective and know how to ask questions in a slightly different way.”
For example, say a reporter is tackling a story about the high cost of child care for working families, Younger said.
“A female reporter might equate it to pay equity and how many child-care workers are female themselves,” she said. “It is women who reported on pay equity. It was women who reported on hospital mergers and what they might mean. In Hartford, we have women reporters who are the forefront.”
The commission decided to explore the topic because part of its mandate is to inform the public and members of the media on the extent of gender discrimination.
“With everything in Connecticut, we look through the lens of gender and public policy. What are the policies that will advance women and their families and their communities?” Younger said. “There are thousands of bills that pass through the General Assembly and we monitor and testify on hundreds of them.
Women make up a bigger percentage of voters. Eighty percent of purchase decisions are made by women. Ninety percent of health-care decisions are made by women. They don’t have time to participate in those (General Assembly) decisions because they are juggling so much. And less than 30 percent of (legislators) are women.”
The panel will explore whether female reporters bring different viewpoints to beats that are traditionally male, and whether gender bias in mass media affects the public’s understanding of public policy or the opinions of politicians.
While the talk on Wednesday will have a narrow focus, a report from Women’s Media Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, takes a much broader look at issues pertaining to the status of women in the U.S. media. The report, which can be viewed at womensmediacenter.com, examines women in newspapers and magazines; on radio, television and in digital media; in sports journalism; in film; and in leadership positions across all media.
“The American media have exceedingly more distance to travel on the road to gender-blind parity,” Julie Burton, president of Women’s Media Center, wrote in the 2014 report’s summary. “Data from a host of university scholars, private entities and media organizations themselves — and the true stories of women whose career trajectories these data help gauge — reflect an array of ongoing obstacles. They suggest a troubling status quo and, in some places, a slipping back in time.”
In 2013, newspapers showed a 6.4 percent overall reduction in newsroom staffing at 978 newspapers, which make up about 70 percent of the total, according to a census from the American Society of News Editors. The tally of women of color took a particular hit:
Women of Asian descent represented 52 percent of all Asian newsroom employees, down from a high of 55 percent in 2006.
Black women represented 47 percent of all black newsroom employees, down from a high of 50 percent in 2010.
Hispanic women made up 40 percent of all Hispanic newsroom employees, down from a peak of 42 percent in 2007.