Statistically significant? No. Fantastic? Yes.
(This post is from Organ Stories, a blog I’m using as the backbone of a multiplatform storytelling experiment about the world of organ transplantation.)
Journalism — for all its noise and faults and angst — is a beautiful practice, one that often renews my faith in humanity. Take, for instance, Jim McHugh, the guy in the photo accompanying this post. Jim is pretty typical: he lives outside of Boston, has a couple of kids and loves the Patriots. Five years ago, he did something extraordinary when he moved to Indiana to improve his chances of getting a liver transplant.
That’s why he become the central figure in a story I filed a few days ago for Word of Mouth Radio.The piece explores a phenomenon called transplant tourism, a growing trend of patients moving do different regions or, less often, overseas to get the organs they need to survive.
Jim shared the details of his health and the challenges of his temporary move to honor his organ donor and raise awareness about transplantation. Like so…
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According to this 2010 LA Times story, News Anchor Barbie was the 125th career-themed doll released by Mattel. The play set pictured above includes a camera, a microphone and a press pass. There’s also an online game that lets users help Barbie prepare for the morning newscast. Wardrobe selection, alas, precedes story budgeting.
Too often, stories about female newsmakers are focused more on gender than news. This, according to journalist Christie Aschwanden, is especially true in science writing:
Campaigns to recognize outstanding female scientists have led to a recognizable genre of media coverage. Let’s call it “A lady who…” genre. You’ve seen these profiles, of course you have, because they’re everywhere. The hallmark of “A lady who…” profile is that it treats its subject’s sex as her most defining detail. She’s not just a great scientist, she’s awoman! And if she’s also a wife and a mother, those roles get emphasized too. …
We don’t write “Redheads in Science” articles, so why do we keep writing about scientists in the context of their gonads? Sexism exists, and we should call it out when we see it. But treating female scientists as special cases only perpetuates the idea that there’s something extraordinary about a woman doing science.
There is, however, hope. Aschwanden provides several examples of stories that emphasize the science, not the fact that the scientist is a woman. You’ll find links to those pieces in her excellent story.
The “lady who…” phenomenon isn’t limited to science. It happens in politics, sports and business, too. Miss Representation, an organization working to eliminate sexism in government, describes a good litmus test in this article about gender-bias in political coverage:
(It’s called) the reversibility test. In short, if you wouldn’t normally see a certain story frame for a male politician in the publication you are reading, then it shouldn’t be used for a female politician. Simple as that.
Do you have any examples of “lady who…” journalism? Share them in the comments below.
Career adjustments are almost always laced with stress, especially when they’re made within the context of modern journalism. So when I started grad school last fall, my list of worries was long: figuring out the T, finding enough freelance clients to pay the bills, taking tests and — when it’s all over — finding a job in journalism education.
The one thing I didn’t have to fret over, though, was remembering how to cite research papers. My brother-in-law’s partner is a philosophy professor, and he introduced me to a digital citation tool called Zotero. It won’t, alas, keep track of which professors like the Oxford comma and which consider it an affront to the English language, but Zotero is a great way to organize the many books and journal articles I’m reading these days.
What sets Zotero apart from other citation managers are its social features, including one that allows users to create shared libraries. Here’s one I’m putting together about women, journalism and digital news. You should be able to see a list of publications — it’s short now, but there are more titles to comes — add comments, and download documents. It’s also compatible with most RSS readers.
What other publications should I include?
This great story about women in music journalism makes a strong case for why technology has the potential to help close the media gender gap.
As author Joe Rivers explains, music writers have historically been mostly men, but the web is giving aspiring journalists of both genders new ways to build their reputations:
If you wanted to be a music writer forty years ago, what would have been your route to success? Most likely it would have involved attempting to live the rock n’ roll lifestyle, developing contacts and a personal connection with the movers and shakers of the music industry, and the gumption to doss down in London wherever the story was. That’s not to mention having a Y chromosome, which was practically a pre-requisite. Nowadays, it’s how you utilise the internet to fit what you want to do, and your genetic makeup is going to have far less of an impact on whether you succeed.
Let’s hope that’s true.
Here’s an interesting detail from the 4th Estate Project, a group that uses data to monitor media trends. The project amassed oodles of numbers from coverage of the 2012 elections.
As you can read here, men were used as expert sources far more often than women. But, when the researchers focused on stories from National Public Radio, they found something interesting:
There was a huge discrepancy in the sourcing patterns between men and women journalists at NPR… While men NPR journalists quoted men 80% of the time and women 20% of the time, women NPR journalists quoted men 52% of the time and women 48% of the time. This is a dramatic difference, and suggests that NPR women journalists are doing their part in trying to change the culture of sourcing in new stories. Interestingly, NPR women journalists stand out in this regard as compared to their counterparts in print or broadcast. We did not see the same discrepancy when looking at the sourcing patterns of men and women journalists working in either print or broadcast.
Talk to me.
I mean it. The issues addressed on this blog — gender roles, media stereotypes, the influence of technology on journalism– are big and complex. Making sense of them will require an open, diverse conversation. To get us started, I put together a video that ponders one of the bigger questions on my mind lately: If most journalism students are female, why are women chronically underrepresented in newsrooms?
For more on the statistics referenced, read this post from earlier this year.
Thank you to the students who sat for interviews… and to the campus Dunks for handing over an extra plastic cup without any questions.
I’ve written a lot on this blog about the persistant underrepresentation of women in all kinds of journalism. There are myriad reasons why, but a new Tumblr called “Said to Lady Journos” illustrates one part of the problem: Women who ask tough questions tend to bring out some people’s inner jerk.
A sampling of comments on the Tumblr:
“Can I be your Clark Kent?” — said to female reporter at a Republican victory party.
“Well, what about being a publicist? Have you thought about that?” — male reporter giving career advice to a female intern. (This guy may explain statistics like these.)
Here’s one that’s misogynistic and racist:
“Cute little thing, but shouldn’t you be running a 7-11 or something.” — said to a female reporter of Indian descent.
Thanks to Poynter’s Mallary Jean Tenore for pointing out the Tumblr. Her must-read piece includes a fantastic Storify of reactions from Twitter users.
(For the record, most of the people I’ve dealt with as a reporter have been utterly professional, but there have been exceptions — like the cop who once told me I looked like “a kindergarten teacher with a notebook.”)
As Andrew Sullivan’s recent solo venture demonstrates, journalists with the right kind of digital street cred can cash in on their individual brands.
Sullivan parted ways with the Daily Beast at the end of last year, launching his political blog behind a metered paywall. The move seems to be paying off. Mashable reports that he’s made more than $600,000 so far, and PaidContent predicts that similar persona-based news organizations might become more common:
There are a number of other bloggers and columnists who could arguably pull off a standalone, Sullivan-style model:New York Times foreign correspondent Nick Kristof, for example, has a huge following through social media like Twitter and Facebook and is a popular author…Other columnists at the NYT and similar mainstream outlets like Tom Friedman or Ezra Klein could probably make a go of it, as could some writers such as Felix Salmon at Reuters.
These guys are great journalists, and it would be interesting to see any one of them launch a solo venture, but why are there no women on this list? Ann Marie Lipinski, the curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, posed a similar question on Twitter. It led to an insightful exchange with author Nicco Mele:
The End of Big is a soon-to-be-released book by Mele that examines how the social web is shifting power from organizations to individuals. His argument is exciting to anyone who sees the web as a place to cultivate a diverse chorus of voices. But it’s also pretty frightening when we consider that many women trying to make a name for themselves online are as likely to be critiqued on their as looks as they are for their ideas.
Women may also find it harder to build the kind of professional identities suitable for standalone ventures. Last year, just 25 percent of guests on Sunday morning political talk shows were female, according to the latest report by the Women’s Media Center. That same report found that male experts were used as sources far more than their female colleagues, and men continue to write the majority of op-ed pieces.
The above example of Kara Swisher is a good one. She’s the co-executive editor of AllThingsD.com. What other savvy female journalists have the right stuff to strike out on their own?