Some bloggers like me

The web is full of sassy, smart publications focused on feminism, gender and the portrayal of women in the media, but the most useful resource I’ve found so far is a subdued blog maintained by a California graduate student and a high school teacher in Baltimore. It’s called The Gender Report, and it’s focused on studying the role of women in digital media.

The site launched in 2011 after its founders attended a talk on gender inequalities at a college journalism conference. They left wondering what role women will play in digital news:

Where was the woman’s voice? The woman’s byline? Or for that matter, where were the men in family leave policies, or stories focusing “women’s issues”?

The site mixes original research with aggregation for page after page of useful information. During its first full year of operation, The Gender Report found that women were routinely underrepresented as sources and writers in online news stories. There’s also a directory of outside research on related topics and a weekly list of suggested readings.

The Gender Report is also part of a trend in academic research, one that’s merging the strengths of the social web with the rigors of scholarly research. This practice is common in the digital humanities, where researchers use high-tech tools to collaborate and to present their findings.

From sob sisters to girl bloggers

Rosalind Russell plays reporter Hildy Johnson in the 1940 film 'His Girl Friday.' Souce: Wikimedia Commons
Rosalind Russell plays reporter Hildy Johnson in the 1940 film ‘His Girl Friday.’ Souce: Wikimedia Commons

Hildy Johnson chased down stories for a newspaper. Murphy Brown worked out of a cable station. And, as Poynter’s Mallary Jean Tenore wrote in this piece, today’s fictional, writerly heroines tend to toil away on blogs.

Tenore’s story reminded me of The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture, a project by USC Annenberg to document fictional journalists through the ages. The backbone of the project is a searchable database full of fun tidbits, but it also makes for an interesting study in how technology and evolving gender standards are changing perceptions of female journalists.

One of the first female characters in the database is a woman who dresses as a man to work as a reporter in a 1874 novel. It wasn’t long, though, before women were working openly as journalists in books, movies and TV shows. As USC journalism professor Joe Saltzman writes, fictional female reporters were more socially acceptable than the real thing during the first half of the 20th Century:

Practically every major actress of the period showed up in tailored coat and pants to fight the males in the newsroom, to assert her individualism and independence… and to become one of the few positive role models working outside the home.

Saltzman goes on to describe the origins of the term “sob sister” — a label given to female reporters because they were often handed tearjerker assignments as opposed to hard news. The sob sister concept, he says, has persevered over the decades:

The 21st-century images aren’t all that different from the images of the sob sisters of the past – if a woman is successful, it means she has assumed many of the characteristics of the newsman, losing her femininity in the process. Or, in most cases, she stays tantalizingly female and uses her womanliness to get to the top. It’s still mostly a no-win situation. For every positive image of a successful female journalist in film, TV, novels and short stories, there are a dozen stereotypical clichés.

More resources from Twitter

Since leaving my staff job at the Concord Monitor last summer, I’ve struggled with how to reshape my use of Twitter. At the paper — where I helped maintain a couple of political blogs — it was easy: All presidential primary. All the time.

Launching this blog has forced me to reconsider who I follow and to organize my connections into lists — including this one focused on women and journalism. Some feeds, like @GenderReport and @womensmediacntr, deal directly with the topics addressed by this blog. Other accounts, like the one maintained by Ms. Magazine and this one from Bitch Media, deal with broader cultural questions of gender.

I’ve also included some smart, insightful writers like Soraya Chemaly who, according to her bio, says “feministy things about gender absurdities in media, religion, pop culture & politics. Out loud.” Other pithy tweets come from media critic Jennifer L. Pozner and author Jessica Valenti.

The most useful feed, though, belongs to the Journalism and Women Symposium. Many tweets are focused on the group’s activities, but there’s also a fair bit of pertinent industry information.



What I’m reading

Preliminary thesis reading.
Preliminary thesis reading. (Credit: Meg Heckman)

As I said in the previous post, there aren’t many websites focused on gender and online news. There are, however, plenty of organizations that monitor women and media. Quite a few communications scholars have also written journal articles and — as you can see in the accompanying photo — some books on the topic.

I’ve already mentioned The Gender Report and the blog maintained by the Women’s Media Center. Here are a few other sites I visit regularly:

These sites are listed in the blogroll on the right side of the homepage. As I find more worthwhile sources, I’ll add them there.