Media and Women

I was recently asked by the local chapter of the American Association of University Women to participate in a panel discussion on women’s role in journalism and the 2016 election. Preparing for that panel led me to some gloomy conclusions. (Yes, I know this blog has been getting more and more gloomy as the election season drags on..Sorry about that.)

Obviously, women’s roles and participation in media have both improved over the past decades; today, women anchor television news programs, pen op-eds, have bylines and author blogs. That increased media visibility accompanies other notable improvements in our various roles across the economic terrain.

That said, in my view, any discernible “differential” impact on the media landscape has been swallowed up by the far more consequential changes to that landscape generally. Any effect of an increase in female journalists has been more than countered by the massive losses–the hemorrhaging– in what has been called “the journalism of verification.”

In today’s surfeit of fluff and “click-bait,” celebrity has more influence and range than credibility or gravitas. So we have a buffoon (to put it as kindly as possible) running for President and a media environment in which lunatics like Ann Coulter and Shawn Hannity have as much or more influence as respectable reporters and editorial writers, male or female.

My conclusion to the earnest all-female audience at the panel discussion: I don’t think we can examine the role of women in journalism when we have lost journalism to “infotainment.”

And that reality doesn’t even address the unbelievable misogyny that has made Hillary Clinton virtually unrecognizable–a misogyny that has gone largely unchallenged by reporters of both genders who are worried more about generating twitter followers and “clicks” than about accuracy and context.

If Obama’s Presidency and the Clinton campaign have taught us anything (and that is a real question), it is that the emergence of leaders from previously marginalized groups (blacks, women) generates increased hostility from those who were previously privileged. Much of the opposition to President Obama has been shameful and nakedly racist; Hillary Clinton has been vilified ever since emerging on the political scene for failing to be “properly” feminine and deferential. Most of the vitriol lobbed at both of them has had little or no relationship to their actual flaws and/or missteps.

Although I applaud the notion of more women journalists–not to mention more female lawmakers, CEOs, and law firm partners– I doubt that such an increase will immediately or in the mid-term usher in a dramatic change from that still-sexist reality. Progress will continue to be incremental and–for some of us–agonizingly slow.

Actually, at this point, I’d happily settle for more real journalists–of any gender.


  1. Amen to more real journalist and amen to your understanding of the vitriol toward Hillary Clinton and the President. We have gone too long not facing this.

  2. You just reminded me that I follow you but it has nothing to do with you being a woman. I follow you because you make me think and you’re smart. I forgot all about you being a woman until you mentioned it. lol.

    Indeed we need real journalism and unfortunately, the main stream media in the US is full of infotainment media. Just have a look at Fox or CNN…it’s full of women posing as journalists. I’m so glad that Fox is blocked in Europe but Sky News has that right wing bent to remind me.

    Just keep doing what you’re doing and hopefully in the next decade or so, we’ll get the Fairness Doctrine back and people like Rush and media like Fox will disappear.

  3. Faux News seems to require all of their “journalists” to be under forty, long-haired and blonde. It is hard to make the case that they are hired for their political acumen. Thank goodness for the pros on PBS, and Rachel Maddow.

  4. The lack of investigative journalism by either gender has become the “infotainment” Sheila referred to. The Indianapolis Star and News has always been Republican based; years ago there was a Star reporter, Kathy Johnston, who was so “investigative” in her job that I was told to cover all work when she was in the office. She was adept at reading upside-down print and seemed to know where to look for local government information (otherwise known as “news”) and didn’t submit her columns till she had researched in depth. She was one who spent almost three years, along with reporter Gerry Lanosga of the Indianapolis News, researching information regarding Goldsmith hiding Mayor’s Office employees in other departments to make his office budget appear to be an improvement over Mayor Hudnut’s administration. I had moved to Florida so missed their reports or why they were no longer employed by the Star and the News. Goldsmith was married to the granddaughter of Eugene Pulliam, owner of both the Indianapolis Star and Indianapolis News so it was surprising that their reports or any other negative Goldsmith reports were published.

    Stephanie Wang, journalist at the Indianapolis Star, has reported in depth regarding Pence’s RFRA and the effects on this state. The fact that RFRA only applies in 11 major Indiana cities who have local laws preventing LBGTQ discrimination is news that seems to be lost in the current Trump/Pence election news. The remainder of this state operates without that protection but we have seen no statistics regarding problems or support for a large specific segment of the Indiana population. Will that be brought out in tonight’s debate?

    I missed the Gubernatorial debate last night but the article in the Star this morning didn’t mention the importance of that element of RFRA, pro or con. The reporter (not journalist) was James Briggs; RFRA was a primary issue as expected in this debate, core information should have been part of it. With Stephanie Wang as co-author or submitting a second column to remind us of the actual facts involving Pence’s personal RFRA, the original and the rewritten versions. Women are relegated to “the back of the bus” in too many areas of importance; women like Sheila Kennedy should be at the forefront in the media today with so many “women’s issues” at stake. I was sorry when she was no longer published in the Indianapolis Star because she reached a wider audience to keep us “in the loop” politically, socially, locally, nationally and regarding local conditions at all levels. Do any of you know of any other blog providing the information she produces daily for her readers?

  5. Sheila:

    “Although I applaud the notion of more women journalists–not to mention more female lawmakers, CEOs, and law firm partners– I doubt that such an increase will immediately or in the mid-term usher in a dramatic change from that still-sexist reality.”

    I would strongly suggest that the STILL-SEXIST REALITY needs to be dealt with now not later. It’s only a SYSTEM. To fail to do so now with the SEXIST-REALITY out there for everyone to see will be a blunder of monumental proportions and the election of Hillary Clinton as President will do probably just as much harm to the nation as would the election of a Donald Trump.

    Feminism might never have another chance like Donald Trump has provided.

    By the way, my long time companion, Barbara, is recognized as one of the great feminists. I know what I’m talking about.

  6. The worst thing that has happened to our society is the 24 hour news cycle. It would be interesting to analyze just how many actual news items are covered in the cycle. I don’t have the patience to do it myself, but it would be an interesting class project, if I had a class to assign it to.

  7. Peggy; I just posted a comment on a Facebook post featuring last night’s Dancing With The Stars – aka DWTS – stating I understand it being posted on Facebook. I do not, and never have, understood why this program and others are considered and reported as of national importance on TV newscasts by major channels. Especially now; during this life-and-death struggle for America and much local news being skimmed over with no followup regarding outcome.

  8. What we need in this country is liberal media which is of course what the reason for the need says we already have too much of. So make more money regardless of the impact on others media stares like a deer in the headlights and says nothing offensive to anyone and counts the regressive words and the progressive words and makes sure that the counts are even. Of course all of the while they paint the scariest most dramatic portrait of the world in order to maintain ratings.

    So that brings us to Don the con.

  9. Not that either were women, but good show on last night on PBS Indepenent Lens, Best of Enemies . 1968 first televised debate between 2 intellectuals Vidal Gore & Will Buckley. I think it’s interesting how Buckley loosing his cool, ultimately was the reason many say he lost the debate. Also interesting how Vidal was portrayed to be glib because he was ultimately the better debator. I see parallels to our first presidential debate. What frustrates me is that our media undercuts Clinton’s clear victory, because she actually showed her elation that she was winning & that the buffoon was taking the bait & running.

  10. Copied from your post:

    “the emergence of leaders from previously marginalized groups (blacks, women) generates increased hostility from those who were previously privileged”

    This sums up so much of what is wrong in our country. I cringe when women (those who are shamelessly ignorant) condemn any woman that is attempting to obtain a position of leadership, whether it be in government or private industry. Those are the women who have been brainwashed by misogynist men.

  11. Strange coincidence today’s blog mentions the role of woman in Media but at the same time there is the counterweight of infotainment, a lack of verification and a lack of investigative journalism.

    Trinh Thi Ngo, better known as Hanoi Hannah died. “GI, your government has abandoned you. They have ordered you to die,” she said in one of her on-air appeals in English during the (Vietnam) war. “Don’t trust them. They lied to you, GIs, you know you cannot win this war.” As a combat veteran during the Vietnam War (draftee type) there is more than a kernel of truth in what Hanoi Hannah said.

    Today, there is a template for the readers or actors or actresses on CNN, MSNBC and FOX, starting with being physically attractive. Then we have certain news that if filtered out.

    Native American have gathered in No. Dakota, in what has been described as the largest gathering of Native Americans to protest the Dakota Access pipeline. Very little is being reported on this event, this is a stark contrast to the hours and hours the Bundy’s received by the McMega-Media.

  12. A lot depends upon geography since, as I tell my elder daughter, I could be arrested for driving while white if in the Congo. Women, like blacks, are victims of structural discrimination, and were not well-served by the adoption of the Christian Bible by early Christian bishops who chose what “books” were to be canonized into a bible and what ones were not. I once heard a pastor say that such bishops had the equivalent of a high school education. Right wingers today are using such anti-woman language as biblical commandment now some 1,800 years later as though nothing has happened in the interim. I think they are comfortable with the status quo and will use anything available to keep a good thing going (for them). Examples of such continuing prejudice are legion, including but not limited to equal pay. Another primitive example can be found in Trump’s notation that women are “pigs,” which takes us back further than even the bible notes. Perhaps we need a Third Council of Nicea to take a look at what has and has not happened since 381 A.D.

  13. Pingback: Media and Women
  14. Last night, the reporters from the NY Times who received the Trump tax returns anonymously deposited in their mail box were invited on TV to explain what they did next. Were the returns bogus? Was the information accurate? Had the Times been set up to fail with manufactured information?

    It was a delight to hear serious reporters describe how REAL journalists investigate and verify or discount information. In their case, they were able to track down Trump’s tax preparer from 1995-96 who is now long retired and living in Florida. The reporters met with him and were convinced he was the tax preparer when he was able to explain anomalies on the return (why two numbers on one line of the return didn’t line up with the rest) and verify his preparation of it.

    When the two print reporters were interviewed on TV, they were unlike TV journalists – no sensationalizing, no spinning, no make-overs to get that TV ‘look’ – just the facts. How refreshing.

  15. Sheila, this statement confuses me: “the emergence of leaders from previously marginalized groups (blacks, women) generates increased hostility from those who were previously privileged.”

    Which groups are previously marginalized? Certainly not blacks; women are somewhat less marginalized then they used to be, but previously marginalized? and previously privileged? Do white males now fear being stopped by the police, that they might be dragged out of their car and beaten or worse? Are they getting loans that don’t reflect their credit ratings? (and so on and on and on).

    I will say that anyone of any group who isn’t at least firmly middle class is getting screwed. The men are just on top of the women and the blacks, and the LGBT folk. They’re not really that much higher up the hierarchy, just as poor whites in the south before the civil ware were much closer to the blacks that they oversaw than to the wealthy landowners who gave them a bit more privilege so that they would not unite with the blacks and overthrow the system.

  16. There ya go again. I’m a misogynistic racist because I don’t agree with your politics? What will my conservative mother say? I didn’t care much for Bill Clinton’s politics either, but nobody constantly accused me of being anti sexual predator or a red neck is.

    But, hey, I’m with you on the journalist thing.

  17. Put me on record that a black President has increased violence against black people in general, not just racist verbal attacks on the president himself, and a female president will, I am gloomily confident, do the same for women. But the only way on is through.

  18. This is off topic but I’m so upset I don’t know where else to turn. I just watched the Vice Presidential debate, and to hear the people on MSNBC praising Mike Pence for his wonderful handling of the debate and his obvious (to MSNBC commentators) fitness as the Republican presidential candidate for 2020 has made me almost physically ill. I feel like I’m losing my marbles. Someone talk me down, please.

  19. Gloomy. The easiest thing to do is nothing. This is standard regressive policy. The hardest thing to do is progress.

    Let’s do it anyway. Let’s make progress. Let’s face what’s wrong and change it.

  20. I fell asleep last night before 10:00 but, both Kaine and Pence were speaking fast making it difficult to keep up with closed captioning. I was disappointed in Kaine’s frequent interruptions, ala Trump, and Pence’s lack of truth regarding conditions in this state which reflects on his ability to control at the national level. Much of what I could keep up with appeared to be scripted. The article in the Star today (10/5), written by Maureen Groppe, contained more details than the article by James Briggs regarding the Gregg/Holcomb/Bell debate on Monday night. Women are more detail oriented than men for the most part.

    Neither debate included the much touted (but useless) Indiana budget “surplus” while our infrastructure crumbles beneath and around us, the public education system continues putting our tax dollars into private (primarily religious) schools and the public transportation system is still lacking where most needed. These are not only local issues; they are also problems at the national level as President Obama has repeatedly tried to improve the jobless rate by providing jobs repairing the national infrastructure and improving public education systems.

    The presidential campaign is still disappointing on both sides; I won’t include the “third choice” between Libertarian and Green parties for obvious reasons. Their poll numbers in case you aren’t aware of them.

  21. Pete,

    “The hardest thing to do is progress. Let’s do it anyway. Let’s make progress. Let’s face what’s wrong and change it.”

    Facing up to a harsh political reality might be a good first step. Like with a young child, learning to walk can be an arduous task. But learning to walk has to be undertaken for the child to progress.

    It’s like the catstrophic hurricane Matthew bearing down on Jacksonville. You can’t sit around and do nothing. You have to take all the evasive action that’s available. To do nothing would be infantile.

Comments are closed.