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Tackling The Gender Imbalance In News Media48:15
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A group of CNN panelists discussing the women's march in January 2017. (via Raw Story/Youtube)MoreCloseclosemore
A group of CNN panelists discussing the women's march in January 2017. (via Raw Story/Youtube)

With Ray Suarez

In the way American news business covers the world, why are the expert voices overwhelmingly male? We'll discuss.

Guests:

Adrienne LaFrance, editor of TheAtlantic.com. (@AdrienneLaF)

David Leonhardt, Pulitzer Prize-winning Op-Ed columnist at The New York Times and former Washington bureau chief and founding editor of The Upshot section for the paper. (@DLeonhardt)

Gail Evans, teaches on gender, race and ethnicity at Georgia Tech’s College of Business. Former Executive Vice President of CNN and founder of the network’s show Crier & Company, later known as CNN & Company.

Highlights:

LaFrance: "There are many systematic things that would push reporters toward male sources: there's enormous time pressure, and we live in a society where men outnumber women in many positions of leadership and reporters are often covering people in positions of power. At the same time, I believe it's important for women to be acknowledged and for their expertise to be out there. I assumed, or I hoped at least, that my work might reflect that value... and it didn't.

Fifty percent of the population is women and they are largely invisible. They are not acknowledged for their expertise, not acknowledged for their life experiences that could help us understand the complexities of the world. If our job as journalists is to help people understand the forces around us, largely ignoring women leaves out a gigantic part of the story."

"If our job as journalists is to help people understand the forces around us, largely ignoring women leaves out a gigantic part of the story."

Adrienne LaFrance

Leonhardt: "It's damaging to people's careers. If you get quoted in The Atlantic, or in the Washington Post, or in the New York Times, you then get some other opportunities. You get invited to go on a panel. And maybe someone sees you on that panel and asks you to join an advisory board for a gubernatorial campaign, and one thing leads to another.

I don't think this is a problem that starts with the journalists. I think in many realms of society, for a mix of reasons that obviously include sexism, you have more men than women — in all kinds of jobs. I don't think this is an issue of: it starts naturally 50-50 in these realms, and then journalists mess it up. I think what happens is we make excuses to ourselves. We say, 'well wait a second, it's not really my fault that I'm quoting so many men and so few women, it's because there are more men in this realm' — that's a cop out. We can do better and we can avoid making this problem worse."

Evans: "Unless you're intentional, it's difficult to stand up to the culture. And the messages in our culture, and in many cultures around the world, are that leadership, authority, and power is male.

"Behind 90% of these important men on the air, there was some woman who was the researcher, or doing the briefing paper for them, or even answering the questions when the researcher called -- but they were never in front of the camera."

Gail Evans

What we kept discovering at CNN was behind 90% of these important men on the air, there was some woman who was the researcher, or doing the briefing paper for them, or even answering the questions when the researcher called-- but they were never in front of the camera.

I think that we see a change at the networks, where there are women of substance, but we still are stuck in the place [where] women do not look like they are the commanding experts, that they are the people with the real power, that they are the leaders.

A PhD matters. But the network you have that exposes you to more people matters more than the PhD. Just having the degree is not going to shift who gets the important job, who appears on the air, etc. "

From The Reading List:

The Atlantic: (From 2016) "I Analyzed a Year of My Reporting for Gender Bias (Again)" — "We included 192 of the articles I wrote for The Atlantic last year. All in all, I mentioned 736 different people and only 165 of them were women—meaning women accounted for just over 22 percent of the unique individuals I named or quoted in my work last year. (If you look at total mentions instead of unique mentions, it’s even worse. Out of the 2,301 names that appeared in my work last year, 1,839 of them were men. That leaves just 428 mentions of women: under 19 percent of total mentions. This suggests, and we were later able to confirm, that even when I do mention women, I give men more space in my stories.)"

Medium: (From 2013) "I Analyzed a Year of My Reporting for Gender Bias and This Is What I Found" — "In all those stories on all those topics, I mentioned 1,566 men and 509 women.

Here’s another way to look at it: 52 of my 136 articles quote no women at all. Zero. And although 63 percent of the articles I wrote mentioned at least one woman — even those articles mentioned more men. Yikes.

The grim thing is, my numbers make me pretty average. Of 2,075 people I mentioned in my reporting over the course of a year, about 25 percent were women. Internationally, 24 percent of news subjects are female, according to the Global Media Monitoring Project. (Actually, most women reporters tend to do a slightly better job than men when it comes to quoting women; 28 percent of news subjects in stories by female reporters were female compared with 22 percent in stories by men.)"

The New York Times (Opinion): "I’m Not Quoting Enough Women" — "I have long felt a little lousy about the gender mix in my own work. But I’ve made the usual excuses to myself: Many of the subjects I cover, like politics and economics, are dominated by men.

When I began writing a daily email newsletter in 2016, however, I decided to try something new. The newsletter includes a few paragraphs that I write about the news, as well as some reading suggestions from around the web. And I made a simple rule: No newsletter can cite the work of only one gender. Every newsletter has to be coed.

The rule has changed my work. Without it, I would too often rely on familiar voices, most of which are male. Because of the rule, I have gone looking for a wider variety of experts. That’s not merely a matter of fairness. It broadens my worldview and improves my journalism."

For better and worse, reporters play a big role in shaping an individual reader or listener’s view of the world. Most of the people quoted as experts by journalists, on everything… science, law, politics, business — are men. Is it a stretch to assume that you, the audience, conclude that the expert voice, the voice of authority, is the voice of a man? Some reporters are consciously changing how they work to level a lopsided picture.

This hour, On Point: Challenging the smart-guy monopoly.

- Ray Suarez

This program aired on May 23, 2018.

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